We counted over 120 ATV and motorcycles bought and sold between CYCLEPEDIA staff members. You do something that many times and you’re bound to learn something. We’ve compiled the following notes to help you buy, sell or trade your next ATV, motorcycle or scooter. Let us know if we’ve missed something.
Before you sell that ATV, motorcycle, scooter or UTV there are some things you should consider. If you want to sell your vehicle quickly at the best possible price you need to be ready. Don’t let some small detail screw up your big sale.
Condition – When you are talking with a potential buyer on the phone or writing your advertising copy be honest about the condition of your vehicle. If you know something is wrong describe what is wrong in detail or fix it before ever listing the vehicle for sale. Be up front about that engine oil leak and adjust your price accordingly. If there is a structural issue that you know about and you willingly cover it up – aside from being a dishonest and shameful thing to do you could open yourself up to a lawsuit or depending on whom you are dealing with – a swift ass kicking. Don’t make people drive an hour to look at your vehicle that was not as described. Include as many photos as possible with your ad. When you are upfront about what is wrong with your vehicle you don’t give any leverage to a potential buyer. A conscientious buyer will try to pick apart everything they can and use any faults to get the price down – be proactive and preserve your negotiating power by being truthful. If you are selling your vehicle on a site like Ebay where there is a feedback and rating mechanism it especially important to accurately describe the vehicle to protect your reputation and rating.
Where to advertise? Auction sites like Ebay, Local and National Classifieds sites like Craigslist, local newspapers and trader type publications found in local convenience stores. Consignment at a local dealership. Place the vehicle in a high traffic area with a store bought FOR SALE sign and include your phone number, year, make, model and your price. Lock it up so it doesn’t grow legs and walk away. Tell all your friends the vehicle is for sale and ask if they know anyone looking to buy whatever it is you are selling. Bring your vehicle to races, shows, events where you’ll find like minded people. Barber shops, grocery stores, colleges and many small businesses will often let you place an advertisement up on a wall or window. Include a phone number where people can reach you and answer the phone when they call. Change your stupid voicemail message (loud music or you acting like a goofball) and keep it professional. If you sound like a fool people won’t want to deal with you.
Are you willing to trade? – To avoid a flood of questions about trades – let people know if you are willing to trade or not. Unless you are willing to trade for guns, electronics, tools, or other vehicles I highly suggest you you make it clear with some wording such as: NO TRADES – otherwise you may find yourself answer queries from wishful thinkers wanting to trade you their broken-down, rusted old Chevy S-10 truck for your brand new shiny vehicle. Don’t be rude to people that want to trade – they may know someone who is looking for what you have – you may find that you are interested in something they want to sell. Conversation often opens the door to opportunity. If you do want to trade but are not sure how to compare apples to oranges use KBB.com to get accurate Blue Book values. That way you can get a baseline number for each vehicle in the trade – you’ll get a better idea of how fair the deal really is.
Photos – Use the largest, clearest photos whenever possible. Get details of the tires, engine, plastic, cockpit area. Shoot some video and post it online – YouTube is filled with ads and a great place to upload a video. By accurately describing the vehicle you will gain the trust of potential buyers and there will be less headaches over items not as described. By accurately describing your vehicle up front you’ll know where your pricing is right based on your response rate. We’ve said it already but when buyers show up they will have accurate expectations and less leverage for negotiating the price down. Take extra photos so you can switch out images in your ad to make it look fresh.
Title – Do you have the paperwork for this vehicle? Find it before you list your vehicle for sale and make sure it is properly filled out. Put it in a safe place so you can find it when a buyer shows up with cash. Don’t let a missing title or incomplete title ruin a sale. Some vehicles such as ATVs, dirtbikes and scooters may not be issued titles in some states. In this case draw up a Bill of Sale and include as much information about the sale to protect yourself. Be sure to mention the vehicle is sold AS IS and WHERE IS. This way you are upfront that there is no warranty and that the vehicle is sold where it sits.
Service Records – Dig up some kind of service records to prove you have properly cared for the vehicle. Now might be a good time to put some kind of log together. What kind of oil have you used? What kind of filters? Where was the work done? How often was the work done? Mention any non-routine repairs. The CYCLEPDIA My Service Record software is free and lets you track all your maintenance records. See: http://www.cyclepedia.com/cyclepedia-my-service-records/
Pricing – Be realistic and do your research. What have other vehicles of the same type in similar condition sold for? You can check completed auctions on Ebay.com or Kelly Blue Blook at kbb.com. Don’t be afraid to call sellers of similar vehicles in the classifieds and ask them what they sold their vehicles for. If you price your vehicle right you’ll get more interested buyers and stand a better chance of selling your vehicle quickly. If you change the price in your ad after a week – change out the ad title and description to mix it up – that way it will look like a different vehicle and make you look less desperate. Some buyers can smell a motivated seller and will use it to further push you down on the price.
Running Condition – Road test the vehicle before buyers come out to see it. Is the battery charged up? Is there fresh gas in the vehicle? Do the brakes and clutch work properly? Are all the fluids topped off? Do all lights work properly? Test everything and fix little things BEFORE your buyer shows up. If something only costs $10 to fix then spend the $10 and fix it. Again, buyers are looking for reasons to pay less. Don’t give them the opportunity to pick your vehicle apart.
Wash it! – Clean the vehicle of all mud, rust, dirt and grime. First impressions are important and reflect on how you have cared for the vehicle. If you don’t want to deal with cleaning then hire someone to come and detail your vehicle for you.
Are we all Adults? – Be careful when selling a vehicle to persons under the age of 18. Protect yourself by making sure the buyer is an adult otherwise insist that an adult sign a bill of sale. Ask for proof of identification. Avoid the phone call from that angry mom who didn’t give her son permission to buy your dirt bike and now wants his money back.
Negotiating – Some people will want to negotiate a price over the phone or by email. You can use this to your advantage if the vehicle is completely as described. All too often a buyer will offer a price on the phone and then try to haggle once they are parked out front with their truck and trailer and wad of cash. If there is nothing for the buyer to pick apart you’re in a good place to stand firm on the price negotiated over the phone. Generally we’ve had better luck getting the buyer to come look at a vehicle in person and negotiating in person. Do your pricing research as stated above and you’ll know where you stand in comparison to similar vehicles. If the vehicle is a hard model to come by or is really popular don’t be too quick to give it away. We realize the thought of haggling makes some people cringe while others thrive on it. Either way do your research so you have a foundation on which to negotiate and you’ll create less stress for yourself and sell that vehicle as quick as possible.
Permission to Sell – This sounds silly but have you given yourself permission to sell your motorcycle? You know that inanimate thing that lives in your garage that you are so fond of? Have you come to terms with your emotions of selling your baby? Please don’t be that pathetic seller who says “I really don’t want to sell it and I might change my mind if you don’t take it.” Really? Do us all a favor and don’t list your bike for sale until you are ready to sell it. Go for a ride and see how you feel when you come back. There are some bikes that just shouldn’t ever be sold. Don’t tease the rest of us.
Time Limit – You know the old trick used on blind dates? The one where you get your friend to call in the middle of it and check in? That way you can bail if she is telling yet another story about her cat. The same goes for selling a motorcycle. Have a friend call you 30 minutes into the meeting and ask how things are going. This is not a bad idea for your personal safety when dealing with strangers and cash. The buyer may even get the impression that someone else is calling about the vehicle and feel a sense of urgency to act. Use the call to wrap the meeting up or just check in.
Condition – Ask specific questions about the vehicle cosmetics, running condition, and any modifications before you come look at it. Ask this question: “Is there anything at all wrong with the vehicle?” and write down the answers you get. Chances are they will leave something out and you can use this as leverage to get the price down.
Storage – Has the vehicle been stored indoors? If bolts are rusty and the handlebar controls and bodywork are faded chances are it has been stored outdoors. Adjust the price accordingly or keep looking for a better cared for vehicle. Ask to see where the vehicle is normally stored. Are there oil stains around where the vehicle is normally parked?
Photos – If you have not yet seen the vehicle in person ask for more photos before you go. Don’t waste your time driving to look at a vehicle that has been abused. Many private sellers have a psychological bond with their vehicles – they see past the scratches, dings and dents. Get clear, large photos so you can see for yourself before you waste your time. Excellent condition to one person may be fair condition to the rest of us.
Price – There is nothing wrong with trying to negotiate price down over the phone or by email. The seller may be afraid to lose you and may be willing to come down a little just to get you out. This should be your first round of negotiation. Cite Blue Book values or what you’ve seen other vehicles of the same type sell for. Print out examples of blue book pricing, completed auctions or other ads. Tell the seller you are going to look at another vehicle and show them the ad – tell them the price. It may be all they need to adjust their price down for you.
Service Records – Does the seller have service records? Ask what kind of oil they used? What kind of filters? Where was the work done? How often was the work done? Any non-routine repairs? Without service records to back up the seller’s claims you are flying blind.
Friend – Bring a friend to help look the vehicle over while one of you talks up the seller. In many cases the seller has a psychological connection with their vehicle and they will feel better about sending it to a good home. Buy bringing a friend to run interference with the seller you can look at the vehicle without interruption and focus on finding any faults.
Time of Day, Time of the Year – It is always best to look at a vehicle in daylight. If you must come at night bring a plug in drop light and an extension cord, bring a flashlight. Take your time and look everything over with the light. Typically you’ll find better deals when the weather is cold and nobody is riding. Demand for motorcycles is down and the seller has less interested parties. If you plan to buy a bike this coming summer why not start looking in the winter? Chances are you won’t find what you are looking for right away so consider it research. While you are educating yourself you might find a great off-season deal.
Title – Does the seller have a free and clear title? Is the title marked salvage or flood damaged? We’ve bought beautiful bikes that were flood damaged only to find that every nook and cranny was filled with water and the bike needed to be completely diassembled. The amount of work required to make it right is usually not worth it. Does the mileage on the odometer and the title jive? If anything is wrong consider walking away or negotiate the price down accordingly. If there are issues with the title and you are patient and good with paperwork you may be able to remedy the situation and get some real savings. Most buyers don’t want to deal with DMV anymore then they have to. In some states ATVs, offroad vehicles and even scooters do not require titles so the seller may not have one- insist on a Bill of Sale to prove you bought it. Get the sellers name, address, phone number and drivers license number. Include the VIN and the year, make and model of the vehicle on the Bill of Sale.
Check Sheet – This is the check sheet we use at CYCLEPEDIA when we buy used vehicles. Print it out and take it with you the next time you look at buying a new or used ATV, motorcycle, scooter or UTV.
If the engine is warm – take your time to look at the bike and let it cool down as much as possible. Once cool start it up. Does it start fine when cold?
Find the air filter – is it clean?
Do the brakes work as they should? Check front and back brakes for proper operation. Are the master cylinder reservoirs filled to their proper levels? Does the fluid look clean?
Check the amount of material left on the brake pads – do they need replacing?
Start the vehicle and turn the bars from left to right – does the engine RPM change? If so there may be an improperly adjusted or routed throttle cable indicating that the bike may have been tampered with.
Pull the clutch in and shift into first gear – does the bike stall from a dragging clutch? The clutch may need adjustment or replacement.
With the engine off check the crankcase oil level. Is the oil filled to the proper level? Smell the oil – does it smell burnt? Is the oil clean looking?
Look inside the fuel tank – is there any rust or corrosion? Does the gas smell old?
If equipped check the petcock valve and carbs for any fuel leaks.
Does the bike idle properly?
Does the choke work properly?
Is the drive chain adjusted and lubricated properly? Do the sprockets look worn or damaged?
Check the tire pressure. If it is incorrect the vehicle may have been sitting for some time or it may indicate how well the seller cares for their vehicle.
Check spokes for tightness.
Check operation and adjustment of front and rear suspension. Is there any binding or noise?
Check the wheel bearings.
Inspect all electrical components for proper operation and adjustment.
Does the headlight work properly? Check the HI and LOW beams.
Check the taillight and stoplight. Do both front and rear brake switches work?
Do the turn signals work both front and rear?
Do any additional running lights work?
Check the horn.
Check the engine stop switch.
Does the starter turn over without hesitation?
Check all instruments such as tachometer, odometer and speedometer.
Check turn signal indicator lights, HI and LOW beam indicators, neutral indicator lights.
Bring a battery tester if you have one – check the battery with the vehicle turned off.
Is the battery charging system working? Test it.
Check that all nuts, bolts, and other fasteners are secured.
Are there any recalls for this vehicle? Check with the manufacturer and read what you can online.
Test Ride the vehicle and note any noises, handling issues or performance concerns.
Does the transmission shift easily?
Does the clutch function properly?
Does the vehicle accelerate smoothly and without hesitation?
Does the vehicle cruise at speed smoothly?
Does the vehicle handle properly – are there any issues with stability or during cornering?
Does the vehicle stop properly and smoothly?
Does the engine idle and when the throttle is blipped does it return to a smooth idle. Does the engine idle properly when it warms up?
Is the key the original and is there a spare? Does the same key fit the steering lock, fuel tank, helmet lock and ignition?
Engine compression should be checked. If the seller will let you connect a compression gauge up – do it and you’ll have a good idea of the health of the engine top end.
Check tire wear. Are the tires worn evenly and are they within spec.
Are there many aftermarket parts on the vehicle – are the original parts available?
Does the seller have the owners manual, service manual and original tool kit?
Check the coolant level on water cooled vehicles.
Do the steering head bearings function as they should? Any noises or irregularities?
Get under the vehicle and check for cracks in the frame – check high stress points.
What else? Share your comments and suggestions.