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Bike buy & sell
How to Sell a Motorcycle – Complete Guide 
Are you getting ready to list your motorcycle for sale? Maybe you’re ready for something new or you’re moving and don’t want to take it with you. Maybe you’re just ready to cash in on an investment or a motorcycle you’ve put time into fixing up.
Selling a motorcycle isn’t difficult, but it does require some prep work and careful consideration. There are many ways to sell a motorcycle today, whether you do it locally or take advantage of the large pool of buyers online. Here’s a step-by-step guide covering how to sell a motorcycle for top dollar and as quickly as possible.
Before you actually list your motorcycle for sale, you’ll want to take a few steps to make sure it’s in the best possible condition and show it in the best light. Here’s a quick look at cleaning and photographing your motorcycle and noting any damage that potential buyers will want to know about.
Clean Your Motorcycle & Perform Touch-Ups
Would you buy a motorcycle caked in dust and road grime? A dirty bike often looks like a poorly maintained bike to a potential buyer. One of the easiest things you can do to sell a motorcycle quickly and for top dollar is giving it a good clean before you list it or show it to buyers.
Preparing your motorcycle for sale requires more than a quick rinse. You’ll want to spend a weekend actually detailing your bike and making minor repairs. Here’s where you should focus your attention.
Clean Your Motorcycle
Start with a thorough wash before proceeding to the next steps. Use hydrogen peroxide to remove grime and bugs without damage to your paint job. Make sure your motorcycle is cool before washing it and use the right polish such as ICE Turtle Wax. WD40 can be helpful for removing gunk and it’s safe for metal and plastic.
Remember: this is more than a quick rinse after a ride. Pay attention to overlooked areas like under the seat, gunk around the battery, and surface rust.
Fix Dents, Scratches, and Scuffs
Unless you aren’t concerned about getting top dollar, or you’re selling a starter bike, take the time to repair minor damage. Scuffs can usually be buffed out. You can usually repair minor scratches, nicks, and dents, too. This may require a little investment, but it can increase the appeal and value of your motorcycle.
Clean the Brakes
Rusty, residue-covered brakes don’t make for the best photos of your bike. You can use furnish polish on the centers of the brakes and a Scotch-Brite pad to give the outside a nice shine. Use a specialized brake cleaner to remove residue. Here’s how to do an easy caliper overhaul to give the next owner a smooth ride.
Get a Tune-Up & Inspection
Run your motorcycle against the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s inspection checklist. Make a note of any failings to notify potential buyers or have them repaired. This is also a good time to give your motorcycle a tune-up to make sure it’s in the best possible condition for sale.
How to Photograph Your Motorcycle Like a Pro
The photos are the first thing potential buyers will notice about your motorcycle listing. Do you want your motorcycle to stand out from the thousands of other listings? Without the right techniques and quality, even the most stunning bike will barely garner attention from buyers who are scrolling through listings.
You don’t need to invest in professional photography equipment to get winning photos that help sell your motorcycle. Here are some tips to get pro-level shots that make your bike stand out.
Consider the Lighting
It’s best to photograph your motorcycle outdoors late in the evening or early in the morning when the sun is low and less harsh. Overcast skies are also ideal for lighting.
Consider the Background
Position your motorcycle in front of something with contrasting color and without too much heavy lines. Avoid “busy” backgrounds like wrought iron fences, telephone poles, or other vehicles. Good options include garage doors, brick walls, and open fields.
Get Shots from Many Angles
You’ll definitely want to get the basic angles including the front, right, left, and back. After that, shoot the details. Get some close-up shots of the tank, seat, motor, and bars. Don’t be afraid to try unusual angles and get plenty of detail so buyers can see the work you put into cleaning and maintaining your motorcycle. One of the best angles to capture is from lower to the ground with the camera at headlight level.
Note Any Damage or Factors that Affect Quality and Performance
By this point, your motorcycle should be clean and you should have gone through a comprehensive checklist to detect any obvious problems with the motorcycle. It’s best to be as honest and upfront as possible about any known defects or cosmetic issues with the motorcycle. Not only does this protect you legally; it allows potential buyers to make an informed decision. It also helps you accurately value your motorcycle for sale.
As a general rule, you are only required by law in most states to disclose major known issues and be honest when a potential buyer asks questions. However, we recommend disclosing everything you know about the motorcycle.
Make a note of issues in your listing and when meeting with potential buyers about:
Any history of accidents
Known after-market parts
Cosmetic damage (and include photos)
Parts you have replaced and the estimated age
It isn’t just damage that affects the value of your vehicle. Try to view your motorcycle as a disinterested third party and remove your emotional attachment. If it has a custom paint job, consider the condition, quality, and level of appeal to most buyers. If it’s very good and has broad appeal, it may add a bit to the value. Otherwise, you may want to reduce the value for a custom paint job.
Best Places to Sell Your Motorcycle
You have many options for selling a motorcycle, even if you live in a small market without many potential buyers. As a general rule, you’ll get the most money for your motorcycle through a private sale. If you have a rare, vintage, or valuable motorcycle, a motorcycle auction or show may be the best avenue to maximize your sales price.
As you consider the best place to sell a motorcycle, the first decision you’ll want to make is whether you want to sell your motorcycle online. Listing your motorcycle online comes with many perks:
You can dramatically increase your pool of potential buyers
You increase the chance of selling your motorcycle quickly
It’s a convenient solution
You can find an audience for a specialty motorcycle that may not appeal to a large group of riders
There are drawbacks to listing a motorcycle online. You’ll need to be on guard against scammers. One of the biggest drawbacks is you will probably need to contend with motorcycle shipping as the buyer will likely be far away. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds, though!
You’ll also need to figure out a safe payment arrangement, but there are plenty of good options. PayPal can be a smart choice, especially if you are selling on eBay, as long as you ensure the payment qualifies for seller protection. This protection will require signature upon delivery for a sale over $750. You can also turn to Escrow.com, a licensed escrow service. There is a fee for this service which you can calculate quickly here.
Here’s a look at your best options for selling your motorcycle with a quick overview of popular platforms.
One of the simplest options for selling a motorcycle online is an online marketplace. Here are the three most popular general marketplaces that allow motorcycle listings.
eBay: Sell a motorcycle through a local classified ad with no fees or a fixed-price or auction-style national listing.
Craigslist: Post your motorcycle in your city or make your classified ad visible outside the area. The fee for a motorcycle ad is $5.
Facebook Marketplace: Sell your motorcycle locally or shipped through Facebook. Users in your targeted area can see ads for your motorcycle and message you directly.
Online Motorcycle Marketplaces
If you’re going to list your motorcycle for sale online, a dedicated motorcycle classifieds marketplace is usually the best bet. You’ll find the largest pool of potential buyers, whether you have a starter bike, a fixer-upper, or a high-end or vintage motorcycle.
Cycle Trader: One of the largest power sports marketplaces in business since 2011. There are more than 400,000 motorcycles listed on the site. A basic listing is free but premium listings are up to $50.
CycleCrunch: Dedicated to motorcycle classifieds, CycleCrunch was founded in 2012. It was launched as a sister site to ChopperExchange with over 15,000 motorcycle listings and a base for local buyers. There is a one-time listing fee but no commission. Listing price ranges from $37 to $137.
ChopperExchange: This is the largest classifieds site for American V-Twin motorcycles and it was launched in 2003. It features over 20,000 new and used American V-twin bikes. Pay a listing fee of $37 to $137 with no commission.
AutoTrader: This is one of the leading motor vehicle classifieds sites with cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and more. A motorcycle listing is $39 to $129.
Don’t be intimidated by a motorcycle auction! While some auctions are designed for antique, vintage, and rare motorcycles, you can even sell entry-level motorcycles at auction. The most well-known and largest motorcycle auction house is Mecum. Check out our complete guide to buying and selling at Mecum’s motorcycle auctions!
Many dealerships buy and sell pre-owned motorcycles. However, don’t expect to get top dollar. Similar to selling a car to a dealership, expect to get a lot less than you would through a private sale because the dealer will want to sell it again for a profit.
You might have luck selling your motorcycle at a show. This is a good option for letting potential buyers see your bike in person. Try searching for upcoming motorcycle shows in your area and find out the rules. There may be prohibitions about selling.
What Paperwork Do I Need to Sell My Motorcycle?
Make sure you have all the paperwork you need to make your motorcycle sale go smoothly. You’ll want to prepare the following before listing your motorcycle for sale, if possible.
Service History Records
You don’t need to provide records of repairs, maintenance, and inspections to the buyer, but it’s definitely helpful. These service records can make your motorcycle more attractive to a potential buyer by showing it has been carefully maintained.
Just like when selling a car, the title is absolutely necessary to sell a motorcycle as it determines ownership. The title is necessary for the buyer to register the motorcycle in their name and get a license plate.
If you own your motorcycle outright and have no lien, transferring title to the new owner is typically as simple as signing it in the designated areas. If you have lost your title, you will need to request a duplicate from your state’s motor vehicles department.
If your motorcycle still has a loan, you will need to request the payoff amount from the lender and make arrangements to have the title sent to either you or the new owner. The title will only be released when the loan is paid in full. The lender may be willing to send the title to the buyer, but remember that both parties must sign it when it arrives.
Bill of Sale
A bill of sale protects the buyer and seller. This bill of sale isn’t necessary if you have the title with no lien, but it’s always a good idea. This document is essentially a sales agreement that outlines the details of the purchase and identifies the parties involved and the sales price. You can customize and download a bill of sale through LegalZoom.
Vehicle ID Number (VIN)
You’ll want to provide potential buyers with the motorcycle’s VIN so they can verify the year, make, and model and even check the bike’s history if they want. By looking up the VIN, the buyer can check if it’s been in an accident or had major repairs to make an informed purchase and get peace of mind.
It’s perfectly safe to include the VIN in a listing.
You can find your VIN on your title, motorcycle registration, or insurance card.
Additional Costs and Fees for Selling Your Motorcycle
There may be several fees you will face when you sell a motorcycle. Most of these costs are incurred by the buyer, but they may be shared.
When someone buys a used vehicle and lives in a state with a sales tax, there will be a tax that must be paid, typically when they apply for the new title. When purchasing a vehicle from a private party or online if the vehicle is out of state, there will typically be a use tax. A handful of states do not charge sales tax on cars, but other states charge between 3.5% and 10%.
It usually costs less than $80 to have a motorcycle titled to the new owner. The buyer generally pays the transfer fee to apply for a new title. In some states, this is very time-sensitive. In California, the title transfer fee is $15 for a pre-owned vehicle plus a $60 registration fee. In Texas, buyers must pay a $28 to $33 transfer fee.
License Plate Transfer
The cost to transfer a license plate is usually around $15. If the buyer wants a new license plate, they will pay around $60.
Shipping Your Motorcycle to the Buyer
Unless you’re selling your motorcycle to a local buyer, you will probably need to consider how you will ship the bike to the buyer. Shipping a motorcycle isn’t as difficult or expensive as you may imagine!
The cost to ship a motorcycle will depend on many factors like the distance, weight, and shipping method. You’ll probably want to pay a bit extra for enclosed transport which offers the most protection. This will give you and the buyer peace of mind that the bike will arrive in the same condition.
You can find out more about motorcycle shipping costs in our complete guide.
There are some unique aspects to consider when shipping a motorcycle to a buyer. The motorcycle shipping company likely won’t handle items like the title and keys. You can ship these separately to the buyer. It’s usually a good idea to use an escrow company to protect both buyers. An escrow company protects the seller from losing the motorcycle without payment. The buyer is protected if the vehicle does not arrive or isn’t as advertised.
In most cases, the buyer will be the one to arrange shipment details and pay the cost of shipping a motorcycle. However, you will need to work with the buyer to make sure the motorcycle is ready for transport at the designated time and place. You may find it easier to arrange for the motorcycle to be dropped off at a shipping company’s nearest facility.
Understanding Shipping Factors
It may help to understand the many factors that can affect the cost of shipping a motorcycle. You can work with the buyer to determine the right type of transportation and choose a trustworthy motorcycle transportation company.
Transport type. Enclosed transport is more expensive, but it offers superior protection compared to open transport which leaves your bike exposed to the elements.
Oversized or heavy motorcycle. Shipping rates are generally based on a standard space of 4’x9’.
Mileage. It isn’t just the distance that affects your price; certain transportation routes are more affordable even if they’re longer mileage.
Pick-up/drop-off location. Door-to-door delivery is convenient, but it may cost more than having the motorcycle delivered to one of the company’s warehouse locations. Discuss this with the buyer.
Fuel surcharges which consider the cost of gasoline.
Express shipping will add to the cost.
Motorcycle insurance which is always recommended, especially when shipping a motorcycle to a buyer.
Final Tips for Selling Your Motorcycle
As you get ready to list your motorcycle for sale, take these last tips to make the process as smooth and easy as possible.
Meet Buyers in a Safe Location
If you are going to meet a local buyer, always do so in a safe, public location. Avoid meeting a stranger alone if you can help it.
Disclose all Information
To protect yourself from legal liability and ensure buyers are making an informed decision, make sure you disclose everything you know about your motorcycle. Even if there’s something wrong with your motorcycle, you can still find a buyer – as long as you’re honest. Buyers have a right to know exactly what they’re buying. Disclosures also protect you if something turns up wrong with the motorcycle later.
Watch for Red Flags
Always watch for red flags of a scam when selling a motorcycle, whether you’re selling locally or online. Only accept payment through safe platforms that offer you protection. This is why an escrow service is so helpful. Fake mobile deposits, fraudulent ACH transfers, intentional overpayments by money order or check, and chargebacks can be expensive and even result in the loss of your motorcycle.
If you are going to accept payment in person, only certified funds or cash should be accepted. For large-dollar sales, consider meeting at the buyer’s bank and having them cash a check and turn it into a cashier’s check. Escrow is best for out-of-area transactions.
If you’ve settled on selling your motorcycle online or at auction, trust Federal Motorcycle Transport to get your bike safely to the new owner. We make it easy to transport your motorcycle across the United States with competitive pricing, fast shipping, and over 30 years of experience. Request a free instant motorcycle shipping quote today to get started.