Buying & Selling

10 tips to sell a motorbike quickly

This advice is part of our ‘Seller’s Pack’ a series of tools to help you get the quickest sale, a fair deal, minimum comeback and maximum peace-of-mind when you are selling your motorbike.

The other tools in the pack are:

The bike seller’s checklist
Avoid getting ripped off when you sell your bike
The bike seller’s Sale of Vehicle Certificate

If you’ve had a few bikes over the years and not wanted to lose money over a trade-in deal, then you’ve undoubtedly experienced the pain that is ‘selling a used bike privately.’

Selling a bike privately is hard. Just at the moment you decide to sell so will everyone else who has the same spec, miles and even colour as you. And then there are the buyers, universally out to try and buy the bike for less than it’s worth, right?

It’s no wonder so many of us trade a bike in, losing 15-20% of its value in the process, or we give in to the dodgy ‘we buy and bike’ ads in the back of magazines.

But it needn’t be painless. Following a few simple rules, many of which are pinched directly from the methods dealers use to increase the value of their stock, you can give yourself a good chance of moving the bike on quicker.

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Tip 1. Exposure, exposure, exposure

The more places you make your bike sale visible, the more chance you give yourself of getting a buyer’s call. Ignore anyone who says seeing the same bike on multiple sites shows desperation – they’re not buying your bike. You need exposure to as many people with a wallet full of cash as possible.

You don’t have to spend money – they are plenty of bike-related groups on Facebook where they actively encourage people to list their bikes. The Bike Bay is pretty much nothing but bike ads.

AutoTrader Bikes and eBay Motors give you the best chances of selling a mainstream bike quickly. Yes they cost money (unless you’re selling a bike worth less than £1000, in which case it’s free on Autotrader), but these sites drive massive numbers of eyeballs on your ad. It’s also free on Gumtree if you’re not boosting your post, but you might want to do that anyway as your ad can quickly disappear in the volume of ads.

Swallow the costs – every month that goes by could be costing you £200 in depreciation or extra running costs anyway, so if you have to spend a little to get a quicker result, it could actually save you money.

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Tip 2. Special bike, specialist ad

If you’re running something a little special, like a heavy-spec track bike or a cafe racer, go for sites and Facebook groups that cater to people into those types of bike. You’ll probably have more success than a mainstream site like Autotrader Bikes or Gumtree.

Specialist bikes are OK on eBay, where you get a lot of people like me who while away many pleasurable hours looking for something unusual and end up buying Z650’s that still in the garage for two years… Their money is as good as anyone’s and a sale is a sale.

If you’ve properly messed around with the bike to the extent you could say you’ve ‘built it’ get it on the Bike Shed (free). If it’s really special they’ll also consider putting it in their central London diner/bar/shop/barbers/motorcycle club place.

Tip 3. Talk it up

Take a tip from the pro’s. You cannot give enough description about your bike (unless it’s Autotrader Bikes, where you are limited to the number of words in an ad).

Craft your description – the longer the better. Give as much detail about:

The bike’s spec
Your usage of the bike
Service history – provide photo’s of stamped service books and receipts if you can
Where and how it’s been kept

Don’t be afraid to waffle on a bit (within reason), as it shows you are passionate and knowledgeable. More so than the next ad which might simply be ‘long MOT, FSH.’ If you were a buyer, which bike would you prefer to go and see?

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Tip 4. Talk it down when you have to

‘First to see will buy’ is great. If it’s true.

For a while now prospective buyers have been able to look up a vehicle’s MOT history, including advisories, at www.check-mot.service.gov.uk/.

I just looked my main bike and happily noted that the only advisory in five years was ‘Exhaust noisy.’ Exactly why I bought it, actually.

Any deviation from the story the MOT advisories tell could trip you up and give the prospective buyer warning signals about your story. Look up the history yourself so you can refer to it. Being able to show a related receipt for the work is even better – proving you’ve not been skimping on maintenance.

Tip 5. Small details matter

If you were buying a used bike, what would be the first things you’d look at? And that’s how you need to think when you’re selling a bike – like a buyer.

Make sure the visible mechanicals pass muster – fork seals, tyre tread, chain slack, indicators, brakes and running lights all working. A small failure here could let down the sale as it’s a sign of poor maintenance. The least you can expect is a chipping of the price and worse case is they could walk away – shame when it takes only a few minutes to check and lube a chain or replace a £2 brake bulb.

At the very least do a TMC.

Dealer’s tip: A scruffy number plate can make the whole bike look scruffy too. For the sake of £15, a shiny plate won’t let the bike down.

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Tip 6. Get the timing right

If you have no choice but to sell at the wrong end of the year – Autumn through Winter – then that can’t be helped.

But if you can hold off until Spring then then price you’ll get may be not much different and the sale process will be potentially much quicker.

If you are auctioning the bike rather than going down the classified route then there are key times for your auction to end. The golden time is Sunday evening after 7pm – that’s when buyers are most likely to be around.

Next best, according to eBay are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings between 7pm and 9pm, so these are the times you should be posting your ad to as they normally run for 7 days. Absolutely avoid the dead zone of after midnight and Friday and Saturday evenings when people are out.

Tip 7. Get it valeted

Unless you are a ‘I’m up for a Sunday with a toothbrush cleaning the ignition barrel’ merchant you will never get the bike as clean as spending £50 on a valet. And having sold may vehicles over the years, I promise you, this is the best money you will spend getting your bike sold. You’d probably have to spend as much as that on cleaning materials if you did want to do it yourself.

It’s stretching it a bit to say a detail valet will make even an old dog look like a great bike, but it will go halfway to giving a prospective buyer a boner.

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Tip 8. Price it right

A bike or indeed any secondhand item is only worth as much as someone is prepared to pay. It’s why eBay has done so well – the winning bidder only pays as much as the next highest bidder.

If you get no calls, you’ve priced the bike wrong. Every bike out there has a buyer. I don’t just mean don’t price it too high – if a bike is too cheap that also sends out warning signals.

Don’t be tempted to price it high in order to give ‘money off’ when they strike a deal. Unless it’s a rare bike, you won’t get any calls in the first place.

Do your research on what equivalent bikes are selling for and price it bang in the middle of that market. Buyers will see the bike is priced right and that won’t get in the way of the other signals they are looking for, like the right colour, branded end-cans, Ohlins shock etc.

With modern bikes especially, unless you’ve done 5,000-10,000 miles more than the average for the year, I don’t think you need to price for miles. What’s an extra 2,000 miles (unless that’s near a service schedule limit)? Just because your bike has done 3,000 miles less than the average, to my mind and a great many other buyers, it’s not worth an extra £700. I’d rather have the cheaper bike. Obviously, if your bike has done 15,000 miles more than the average you do have to price that in.

Mods can be tricky to price in. I know that my R1 was a steal because it has so many non-factory modifications it was making the insurance a nightmare for most buyers. When I come to sell it, the wavey discs, shorty levers and other nonsense are coming off to be sold separately, making the bike more affordable for the next rider.

You’ll probably get a premium for a neat Two Brothers system or a full luggage set on a tourer, but other non-factory mods are hard to recover value from, especially if they load up insurance quotes for the buyer.

If you are at the wrong end of the selling season price the bike accordingly. For every week the bike doesn’t sell consider dropping the price by £25-50. You could even try stating that in your ad’s description, revealing a Dutch auction-style approach where a buyer may think they’ll miss out if they don’t act now.

On some sites dropping the price slightly each week could keep bumping you higher up the list of bikes, if the buyer has set their search criteria to display by lowest price first.

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Tip 9. Be flexible

You’ve fettled it to within an inch of it’s life, priced it spot on, ‘wasted’ a whole night placing ads and posts and you’ve now got a buyer making the right noises. After all that hard work the last thing you want to do is ‘give the bike away,’ right?

You’re not giving it away. That’s only in your mind because the real value of the bike is what someone is prepared to pay.

So don’t let them walk away if you are arguing over £50. If they are trying to kick you for £1000+ then obviously kick them back. Where it hurts. Serves them right for being so cheeky.

One of the hardest aspects of selling a vehicle after actually getting someone to look at it is letting go of the ‘fair price.’ Accept that some people need to have a bit more of a bargain than you ideally wanted.

Take the reduced offer or be more flexible on what you can include in the deal. If you’ve taken crash bungs off thinking they’d be good for your next ride, mentioning you can throw them in and maybe a tank of fuel could be the tipping point to a handshake.

Tip 10. Don’t be messed around

If you are looking for a quick sale don’t be delayed by messers. These are the people who will turn up, spend a lot of time poking and prodding the bike, wearing you down until they either walk away never having intended to buy anything (it’s a nice morning out for them) or they’ll use the technique of spending up to three hours priming you for a sure sale, only to drop a viscous price reduction on you at the very end – after three hours you’re ready to give in, right?

A good way to weed out some, but not all messers, is to make it clear that you are happy to let them take the bike on a test ride but only on receipt of full cash payment and after signing an agreement that if they have an accident they automatically own the bike. Insist on seeing adequate insurance cover if you can.

Try and conduct as much of the sale during the telephone call beforehand. Tell them the history, the known faults if there are any and if it gets to the point where they want to know if they can have a bit of a deal, be straight and try and agree a price. Then it’s up to them to turn up, confirm it’s a straight sale and seal the deal.

On the day itself just be straight, friendly and honest. Any sign that you are hiding anything or not being clear will either ensure they walk away or make the sale difficult to get across the line.

Finally, be as fair as you can. If you didn’t get a service done and the front end pads are low, let them haggle the extra £50. You just want to get the bike sold, the money in the bank and the next bike bought.

You are buying another bike, yes?

Get yourself sorted:

Download Biker and Bike’s Sale of Vehicle Certificate – it will give potential buyers extra peace-of-mind that you are conducting a fair sale.

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