There are two kinds of people who love old motorcycles: those who buy their dream bike and keep it for decades, and the wheeler/dealers who flip bikes, upgrade or practice some other form of horse tradin'. Consider yourself lucky if you are the first fellow. If you're like most of us on ChopCult, being the horse trader is probably more your style.
This Chop Cult Six-Pack seeks to shed some light on how to sell your bike when you decide it's time. Everyone is a self-apointed expert when it comes to buying stuff, and we'll let some some wise old sage address that issue down the road. Today's lesson is about stackin' em deep and sellin' em cheap… or hopefully not so cheap.
1. Be Frank. No, not Frank Kaisler—you'll never be that cool. I mean frank, as in "tell the truth." This doesn't mean telling a story about everything that's ever gone wrong with a machine. Pointing out a few weak spots in a bike goes a long way towards showing a buyer that you know what you've got and you aren't afraid to be up front about it. It's really easy to get caught bullshitting, so don't do it. Writing a six-word ad on Craigslist that says "Pan runs great need to sell" tells me two things: A) You are full of shit, and B) you think I'm stupid enough to believe you. Same with phone conversations that include the seller's line, "Just come check it out." Smart buyers know this is usually a waste of time. Save everyone some grief by describing everything you can in detail (i.e: missing title, trans pops out of second, not really rideable, tons of repop parts, etc.) Likewise point out the good stuff that may not be obvious ("I spent a month of my life getting this Linkert dialed, this frame is straight, I have these receipts," etc). The more details you share, the more likely you will get contacted by people who can read and are not surprised when they see the machine in person.
2. Quality photos. If you don't consider yourself a good writer, compensate for this shortcoming by shooting as many clear photos as possible. Drag the bike out of the garden shed and into the daylight, and park it in front of a simple background: the garage door, a brick wall, that sort of thing. Cellphone snappies of your bike parked next to your old lady's Christmas decorations does not inspire confidence. Some people won't read your words, but anyone with a slight interest will look at every photo. Shoot both sides of the bike so a buyer can see the profile/stance. Shoot close-ups of both sides of the engine and trans so valuable components and obvious flaws can be seen. Highlight the good stuff and disclose any negatives. Take this step seriously and buyers will take you and your bike seriously. Good pics will weed out many buyers who would otherwise be disappointed when they show up, which might just blow your valuable Saturday when you could be out riding the wild thunder instead of sitting around the house waiting for another Craigslist flake to show up.
3. The Price is Right. Do your research. If you are trying to sell your '92 Sportster, search ads for similar bikes on CL, eBay, the various boards, etc. and see what prices others are asking. The ability to do good research has never been easier, and if you are reading this you already know how to use the innerwebs for something other than porn. Just because you owe $6,000 on your Sportster or that's how much your ol' lady's boob job is gonna cost doesn't mean anyone will pay it. Go back about two weeks on CL and call on a few similar bikes. You'll probably find the ones at the high range are still available and any low-priced bikes either have other issues not listed in the ad or the seller is a dipshit who can't keep appointments with potential buyers. Price yours accordingly and be willing to drop a couple hundred to get the roach sold. Putting it up on eBay for 10k in hopes of some douche paying it will likely result in you paying to list your ad over and over, only to come down to a reasonable price in the end. The biggest part of deciding on your selling price is knowledge. Knowing what you've got and what it's worth. A high-end, valuable older bike, even with good photos, good descriptions, magazine features and famous names attached to it, will likely require patience. There are only so many buyers who can play that game and you may have to fish a while to find them.
4. Hold the line. Once you've decided on your bottom line, stick to it. Promise yourself that you won't dip below this amount for at least two weeks. If you are under pressure to sell, you may have to go the extra mile and agree to deliver it, paint to suit, throw in some extras, or lower your price. If you priced it right to begin with and live in a big market, any bike under 10k should sell in less than a month, unless you're simply asking too much. If it's got sentimental value or you owe the bank for it, you may have to reconsider. If you conclude that it's time to drop your listing price, delete your old ads. Nothing makes you look like a chump like four CL ads dropping the price $100 every other day.
5. Do the work. You've got to merchandise your sale. It's obvious, but not everyone does it. Basic retail merchandising works, even when the bike is a basketcase. First, take a look at your selling environment. If it's in your garage, clean up before the buyers roll in. No one is likely to shell out good green for a bike that was built or maintained by a slob. My first thought when I see an old bike parked in a filthy garden shed is this: "how hard can I grind this guy—he obviously doesn't take pride in his equipment." If your place is a dump and there is no way around it, park it at your OCD friend's house. By "doing the work" I also mean answer the phone, return emails, make yourself available for appointments and keep them. Being a flake chases off people with cash. You have to be accessible to sell. For the right money you might also offer to deliver the bike or otherwise go out of your way once you are sure the dude is serious. The easier you make it on the buyer, the more likely he is to give you money, and that's the point.
6. Earn your reputation. Rip off a couple locals and see how well you do in the future. You might make a buck today, but no one will trust you tomorrow. Thanks to the Internet, the used motorcycle market is a really small world, and it's easy for people to flame shitbirds when deals go sour. People judge you by your previous actions. If they've seen you around and know others who've had good dealings with you, there is a much greater chance they will pull the trigger and send you to the bank smiling. If they see you asking way more than an average part is worth on some forum over and over, they are going to automatically smell a rat when they see you post a bike for sale. If this part seems fuzzy to you, re-read #1.
In the end, horse-trading is a fun way to forward your own personal agenda, which is to ride and work on cool motorcycles, whether they are worth hundreds of dollars or tens of thousands. The process is the same - be honest, merchandise your bike, price it fair and make it easy for the interested party to say yes and be happy about it after the fact.