Bike trader Scott Redmond has bought and sold hundreds of motorbikes and spare parts over decades of wheeling and dealing. In recent years, his deals have moved from back street lockups to Internet auction sites, so who better to give us some tips for buying bikes online…
The way that we buy and sell motorcycles is changing. It’s now all a far cry from the days when we would scan the small ads in the MCN and then put our trust in a seller’s verbal description on the phone before setting off with an envelope full of notes.
The Internet is the go to place for those wanting to sell their bikes. eBay started the trend around 20 years ago and whether you’re a serious buyer or just day dreaming, it’s the first port of call to see what’s on the market. The virtual deal can be an extremely painless and straight forward process and there is also the potential for it to become a nightmare. Here are a few points that should help you to experience less of the latter:
- Do your homework. If there’s a certain model that you want to buy look and learn what the market price is. Dealers rarely offer a bargain, but they offer peace of mind and you can’t have it all ways. Some folk will only ever buy from a shop, while others will happily surf the private ads which is where the real sharp deals lie in wait.
- Use eBay. It allows you to search past sales and it’s the only true guide to what bikes are selling for. Pay particular attention to those that were sold via an auction rather than a classified listing. Auction sales tend to finish with a more realistic representation of where the market is.
- Shop local. It makes concluding the transaction far quicker and easier. You can also get to view the bike before auction end, plus it’s an opportunity to check the paperwork and the seller out. Is the bike in their name? At that address? Do they have a garage full of motorcycles? Are they a part time trader? There are lots of them about.
- Ask lots of questions. If something doesn’t look right challenge it. Keep communications friendly, especially with the written message. Being polite costs nothing. If your seller doesn’t respond in the same tone don’t let it put you off, not everyone realises that it’s not how it’s written, it’s how it’s read.
- Ask for good photos. eBay allows the seller to upload a dozen images for free, but it’s amazing how many sellers upload photographs that do little to show the true condition of the bike. The ‘ask the seller a question’ allows buyer and seller to exchange photos too. If you want a close up of the paint, exhaust or any other part of the bike, ask for one.
- Classified listings often carry the seller’s phone number, use it! Pick up the phone and call them, quiz them about the bike and get your questions answered. Auction listings can be trickier to obtain a seller’s contact number. eBay frowns upon the exchange of phone numbers on an auction listing and their software will pick up if a seller passes you their number. The reason for this is because for many years deals were concluded outside of eBay. This resulted in eBay losing out on their lucrative end of auction selling fee.
- Check out the seller. Doing your homework doesn’t just relate to the bike, check the seller out too! Look at their feedback, is it all positive or are there some negatives showing up? Read the comments, check their other items out. Are there several bikes listed? These are all clues to see if your seller is a genuine private seller or a trader masquerading as an ordinary punter.
- Traders love eBay. Sometimes they will advertise a bike with a sky high price, although more so with older classic bikes. People mistakenly think that this is what a certain model is now worth, but it isn’t! Some of these listings live on for years.
- Always check any potential purchase out via a HPI check. If the registration number isn’t visible in the photos ask for it. Traders will have checked any bike before buying it, although it’s more the private listings where you need to do your checks. Double check that the seller is holding the current V5 and service history, plus spare keys.
Bidding for a bike on an auction listing is an exciting experience, though you must stick to these simple rules to avoid getting carried away:
- Set yourself an absolute maximum limit. If you do end up in a bidding war then you need to stick to your budget. It’s amazing how one more bid can often go so badly wrong and leave you with buyer’s remorse.
- If a bike isn’t local, factor in the cost to go and fetch it. Research one way train ticket prices, van hire prices and double check before auction end that the bike is on the button and ready to go.
- Never go too soon. Most auctions run over a week or so, watching the item means you can keep an eye on the bidding. It also allows eBay to ping you a message a day before the listing ends. This is followed up by another that’s sent with 15 minutes to go (which is when all the action happens). You are not alone though, other eager buyers will be in the shadows ready to place their bids.
- Placing your bid should be done within the last minute or, if you’ve got faith in your Internet signal, hang off until the last 20 seconds. If your upper limit is £1,000 it’s always worth tapping in £1,011, this is so that if someone else goes in with a straight £1,000 bid, you will win it!
- Unlike mail order purchases where Paypal makes the most sense, cash is king when it comes to paying for your new bike. Sometimes a seller might demand a deposit via PayPal. This is often because they’ve had a bad experience in the past. It’s not an eBay rule so you are within your rights to decline their wants.
Facebook is fast becoming the new place to buy and sell. Their Marketplace allows sellers to flog anything and the vehicles section is one of the most popular. Away from Marketplace there’s no end of selling pages, but some are better than others! If you’re looking for classic bike pages like the VJMC, the buying and selling pages are a great starting point. Bikes offered here are often owned by VJMC club members. Bargains are rare but piece of mind is pretty much guaranteed. There are pages for most makes and models and also selling groups though ‘buyers beware’ rules are still the same. Other popular classified sites include Gumtree, Bike Trader and Motorcycle News.
Whatever method you take always remember the basics and if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is!