How to Negotiate When Buying a Motorcycle

How to Negotiate When Buying a Motorcycle

If you want to learn how to negotiate the best deal when buying a motorcycle, you’ve come to the right place. Negotiation is an important part of the motorcycle buying process. It may seem intimidating to some, however, negotiation is simply the process of communication between buyer and seller.

Negotiation can be tricky because it requires a delicate balance between being firm and compromising. If you let the seller’s demands override your own or refuse to compromise entirely, you have not negotiated properly. 

If negotiation is done properly, in the end, both parties will feel like they’ve won. Think of negotiation like a dance. You give a little, you get a little. Try not to step on anyone’s toes. And charm also never hurts! 

To see our tips on how to negotiate when buying a motorcycle, continue reading below.


Before you begin the negotiation process, there are a few steps you must complete first. If you don’t do your homework, you will be ill-prepared for negotiation. 

For example, if you don’t know the motorcycle’s value, you may be swindled into paying more than it’s worth, or you could miss out on an incredible deal. This leads us to our first to-do. 

1. Define your budget.

Always create a budget before communicating with a seller or dealer. If you don’t know your budget prior to negotiating, you risk agreeing to a price that you cannot afford. 

When determining your budget, you should think about the additional costs associated with a motorcycle purchase, such as safety gear, shipping, accessories, fees, taxes, etc. Also, keep the ongoing expenses in mind, such as gas, insurance, maintenance and repairs. 

Divide your budget into three different categories/amounts: your ideal/lowest offer, reasonable offer and maximum offer. 

  • Your ideal/lowest offer is the lowest possible amount you believe the seller would agree upon. But be reasonable. You don’t want to lowball the seller.
  • The reasonable offer is an amount above your ideal offer, but it’s below the most you are willing to pay. 
  • Your maximum offer is the most you are willing to pay. Within your budget, of course.

2. Look up the value of the motorcycle. 

You should always know the market value of the motorcycle you’re interested in. Kelley Blue Book® and NADA Guides® are two free resources you can use to look up current motorcycle values; both retail (listing) and trade-in.

The typical listing price is how much a motorcycle would cost someone if they bought it at a dealership. You can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 less when buying a motorcycle from a private seller. The trade-in value is how much a dealer would pay for someone’s pre-owned motorcycle when they purchase another one at their dealership.

For example, the typical listing price of a 2014 Harley-Davidson® Road King® is $13,204. Whereas, the trade-in value is $9,760. 

The typical listing price is more than the trade-in value because when a dealership buys a used, traded-in vehicle they’ll likely need to make repairs before putting the bike on the market. 

3. Select two or three motorcycles. 

Remember, you have options. First, begin your motorcycle search. Start by selecting the make and model you’re most interested in. Then, compare each bike’s price and condition. Lastly, narrow down your selection to two or three sellers/dealers selling that bike. Choosing three bikes of the same make and model will give you a more accurate comparison. 

The cost of each motorcycle should be between your ideal/lowest offer and your maximum offer. You can pick one motorcycle per budget category and then make a more detailed comparison once you speak with each seller/dealer.

4. Create a plan. 

Now that you have gathered the information you need, you can create a solid plan. Your plan should begin with texting, emailing or calling the sellers/dealers to let them know you are interested. 

Don’t make an offer immediately, if you don’t know much about the bike. The listing description may not list every detail. 

Ask a few questions about the motorcycle, first. Then, based on the information they provide and the information you’ve gathered, you can make an offer. If they counter, have a plan to either stick to your offer or increase it. 

Your negotiating approach will depend on the demand for the bike. If there are many interested buyers, the seller will likely take the highest offer. However, if they are having difficulty selling due to low demand, you can lower your offer. 

When buying at a dealership, negotiation is still an option. In this case, call the dealer first and ask for more details. If interested, set up an appointment with the dealer and negotiate at the dealership face to face. 

All in all, try to think of each possible scenario and create a plan for each circumstance. We will discuss specific negotiation tips in the section below. 


It’s important to complete the preparation process above before moving on to negotiation. The more prepared you are, the more successful you’ll be in getting a deal you’re happy with.

1. Speak with multiple private sellers/dealers.

Now that you’ve selected two or three motorcycles, reach out to each seller/dealer. If you reach out to them at the same time, you can compare offers in real-time. This may also give you leverage, which we will discuss further in negotiation tip number three.

Another reason it is important to speak to multiple sellers/dealers is, if you buy a used motorcycle, each one will be in a different condition. 

One bike could have minor scratches, another could have a worn leather seat. Or, the damage could be more significant, such as a dent on the gas tank, lack of overall maintenance or mechanical issues. 

It’s also possible that one of the bikes in your top three is out of state. Meaning, you would have to deal with shipping, which you may be trying to avoid. 

In any case, if you speak with more than one seller/dealer, you’ll have options. 

2. Put your best foot forward.

Present the best version of yourself when speaking with sellers/dealers. What they think of you and how they feel about your encounter will play a factor in the negotiation process

This is especially true for private sellers. It never hurts to be cordial. Remember, many people are emotionally invested in their motorcycles. Some riders want to make sure their bike is going to a good home.

It goes without saying that one should not let emotions dictate their purchasing decisions. But, as human beings, it’s impossible to completely separate emotions from the buying/selling process. Feelings will be involved on a subconscious level, at a minimum. 

Keep in mind that the seller is vetting you. If the offers are tied the seller could simply choose the person that seems the most trustworthy or is the most likable, courteous and responsive. 

3. Bring down the price.

As a buyer, you want to pay as little as possible. But your offer should not fall too far below the motorcycle’s value. 

If you plan to buy from a private seller, remember, their bike holds sentimental value. You don’t want to offend the seller by lowballing them. This could cause you to miss out on the bike you’ve been eyeing for a while. 

And while you’re looking for a good deal, remember that if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. If the asking price is unusually low, it’s most likely a scam

You can use any or a combination of the strategies below to negotiate a lower price. 

Use a third-party pricing source. 

If the motorcycle is above the typical listing place, ask the seller/dealer why? You may ask if any additional gear, parts, upgrades or features are included in the purchase price. 

You can also ask if the price reflects the bike’s pristine condition or the amount of work they’ve put into it. However, it’s likely that nothing will justify a price that high, especially if the bike is used. 

If this is the case, you can inform the seller of Kelley Blue Book value and make an offer similar to that price.

The Kelley Blue Book value represents a motorcycle that is in good condition or better and has typical mileage. You can decrease your offer if you feel the listing price doesn’t reflect the motorcycle’s condition. Just don’t forget to explain your reasoning.

Mention how long it’s been for sale. 

If buying from a private seller, check the listing for the date it was posted. On average, it takes 67 days for a motorcycle to sell on ChopperExchange

If the motorcycle has been listed for several months or more, it’s likely the seller hasn’t had many buyers show interest. This means that they may accept a lower offer than they would have initially. 

You could make an offer you think they can’t resist. If they decline, ask the seller what offers they have typically declined. It’s likely that they’ve been lowballed repeatedly. 

You could make an offer slightly above that number. If they decline again, mention that you noticed how long their bike has been listed, then stay firm. 

You can also use a similar strategy if you are purchasing a motorcycle outside of riding season, which is in the spring and summer. 

Check for mechanical issues.

Check the description to see if the motorcycle has any mechanical issues or significant damage. However, it is possible that the seller omitted this info from the listing. 

You should ask to see the bike in person or ask for a video of them starting the bike and letting it run for a few minutes. If you are willing to buy a fixer-upper, you can attempt to lower the price based on the condition of the motorcycle.

Make a cash offer.

You could also make an all-cash offer. Ask the seller if they would accept a lower offer if you paid entirely in cash. If they are open to this, ask them for their new asking price. 

Don’t worry if you don’t come to an agreement immediately. Continue to communicate. Sellers tend to be more flexible when negotiating a cash offer. 

Inform the seller, if you need to consider other options. 

Furthermore, if you notice that the seller is eager to make a deal with you, you are likely the closest they’ve gotten to a sale. If you find yourself in a counter war and aren’t willing to increase your offer, you could mention that you are considering purchasing this make and model from other sellers. 

Be honest and transparent. Let the seller know that you would like to buy their bike, but will respectfully have to consider other options if they decline your offer. They may fold and agree to take your offer. 

As we mentioned in section one of negotiation, when you speak to multiple sellers at once regarding the same make and model, you can compare options in real-time. This could also give you leverage because each seller is now aware that only the seller with the best deal will get the sale. 

4. Increase your offer. 

If the motorcycle you want is in high demand, it’s likely the seller will be accepting the best offer. In this case, you want to make an offer that is competitive. One that you believe is higher than other offers. 

However, your first offer should not be your maximum offer. If you offer at the height of your budget and the seller counters, you are out of options. Therefore, you want to offer a couple thousand dollars below your maximum offer. 

They may accept your initial offer. If they don’t, you can bump up your offer to your maximum offer. State that this the most you are willing/able to pay. 

Even if your offer is not the highest, the seller knows that there are risks if they decline. 

  1. It’s possible that the buyer with the highest offer reneges. 
  2. During that time, you could’ve found a better deal. 
  3. The seller would risk selling to a different buyer for less than what you offered. 
  4. If your offer was the only one, they risk not receiving another offer at all. 

5. Close the deal. 

If you are adamant about purchasing a motorcycle, don’t be shy, close in on the deal. It’s common to think that you must be pushy or aggressive, but this is also false. However, it is important to be assertive, communicate clearly and remain firm. 

In retrospect, it’s also important to know when to compromise. Know when it’s best to increase your offer. If you have your eyes on a motorcycle that is hard to come by, there may be many interested buyers. Increasing your offer will make you stand out from the crowd. 

6. Stay firm. But, also know when to walk away. 

If you are reaching your maximum offer, stay firm. You set a budget for a reason. If you and the seller are at your wit’s end from never-ending, back and forth negotiation, it’s safe to say it’s time to walk away. 

Not every negotiation ends in a purchase and that’s okay. This is why you will speak with multiple sellers. Every situation is different. 

In Conclusion 

Make sure you have all the information you need prior to the negotiation process. Knowledge is key and preparation is power. If you do your research and create a plan using the tips above, you are one step closer to buying the motorcycle you want for a price within your budget. 

In short, the steps to the negotiation process are as follows:

  1. Create a budget.
  2. Look up the motorcycle value. 
  3. Select two or three motorcycles of the same make and model.
  4. Create a plan.
  5. Speak with the sellers/dealers. 
  6. Bring down the price or increase your offer, depending on demand. 
  7. Close the deal or consider other options. 

Do you think negotiating is worth the time and effort? Do you think there’s a difference between negotiating and haggling? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

3 comments on “How to Negotiate When Buying a Motorcycle”

  • A very good article. Always do your homework. I’ve discovered used bike prices at dealers are always very high according to KBB. My first motorcycle was 9 yrs. old. The dealer was asking almost the new price. I knew that because I checked. So, knowing the dealer has to make a fair profit, I calculated what I thought would be a fair starting price. I mentioned to the dealer the asking price was almost the new cost, then I made my first offer. The dealer countered with an offer only $100 above what I wanted to pay. I said, “Done deal”. I was being treated fairly so I wasn’t about to ruin the negotiation over $100. As the article says, both parties should feel they achieved a good outcome.

  • Great article and thank you for the chronological tips. Personally, I can’t stand the negotiating process. In fact, I loathe it! But I realize it has to be done. One of the things that has worked for me is getting the dealer to throw in some service related items (oil change, 6,000 mile tune-ups, etc.) or possibly, even accessories. The reason this works so well is because the dealer only incurs a “wholesale” cost to those items yet you are getting the value of the “retail” cost.

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