Buying a Motorcycle, Part 2: The Buying Process

[photo of actual bike for sale from]

What do you do when you see that perfect “find” on Craigslist? The only way you can know if it’s a great “find” is if you did your research, know how much the bike is worth (Blue Book), know how much you’re able to spend (factoring in taxes, insurance, gear, and any repairs the bike might need in the coming weeks)… What do you do next? Here are the Top Ten Tips on making the buy:

1. Assume that the bike will sell quickly

Don’t expect to call in several days and mull over your purchase (assuming you already know what you want). If it is a good deal, assume it will sell. Taking this attitude with the seller will establish a certain level of respect and courteousness. What buyers aren’t aware of, is that the minute a decent bike is published on CL, their inbox and spamfilters are flooded with inquiries… It can be overwhelming for the seller, so a little respect can go a long way.

2. Contact the seller and ask to make an appointment to see the bike as soon as you can

Offer your telephone number and email so that the seller has an option of how to contact you. If the seller gives you a telephone number, use it, don’t be shy and email when you can call and set a time over the phone ASAP.

3. Ask specific questions about the motorcycle

If you speak to the person over the phone you can use that opportunity to ask specific questions about the bike. For instance, “What’s the mileage?” is a specific bike-related question. Don’t ask “Why are you selling the bike?” until you have actually examined the bike… Remember, the seller is speaking to a couple dozen strangers on the phone, so they’re probably not looking to give out their life stories. You can ask more personal chit chat questions dealing with how the bike was ridden once you’ve met the person and examined the bike. For some tips on how to examine the bike see How to Buy a Used Motorcycle – Part 1.

4. When you see the motorcycle, be prepared to buy it right there.

Find out where your nearest bank branch is (or bring cash) so that you can buy the bike right there. Nothing is as considerate to the seller and persuasive in negotiating as the ability to seal the deal that minute.

5 . When to leave…

If you have reservations about the bike, thank the seller for his time, wish him luck and leave…there’s no reason to waste anyone else’s time by being indecisive. Remember, the seller will probably have to see a dozen potential buyers before selling the bike, so be considerate of this. Also, you’ll want to save your own time since you will need to look at more bikes.

6. Do your paperwork…

When you make the actual transaction where you hand over the money and the seller hands over the signed title (you might want to double check the VIN #, the mileage on the title, and that the “seller’s signature” line has been completed), then have the seller fill out (or you can fill it in for them) and sign the Statement of Transaction form DTF802 (the second page). This ensures you will pay the exact sales tax of the vehicle (many DMV offices in the city insist on using their “book value” for your purchase unless you provide this statement of transaction).

7. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

If you enter the seller’s home to make the transaction, be respectful of their home. If you’ve come with friends (which is a good idea), offer to have them wait outside with the bike while you make the transactions. You want the seller to be happy, and want you to be happy with the bike. Motorcycles are personal possessions, we don’t want to sell them to jerks. Most sellers would be willing to help you with any information that would help you with your bike even after the purchase. (I know a seller who mailed a spare air filter he had bought so that the bike would run well…)

8. Make arrangements to pick up the bike:

  • Many people bring a set of plates and ride the newly purchased motorcycle home. This is easiest, but illegal.
  • Another option is to bring a truck to bring the bike home.
  • Or the third option is to pay now for the Title, then do the DMV paperwork and come back to pick up the bike.

9. Before you head to the DMV,

…Make sure you have your [a] DTF802 (which states the amount you paid), the [b] signed title along with [c] a completed MV-82. One more thing you need: insurance. You can purchase motorcycle insurance (in NY many bikers prefer Progressive) over the phone and have them fax or email you your insurance card. Make sure the insurance faxes you the actual insurance “card”with the bar code at the bottom. Many times they send a letter stating that you have insurance. The DMV will not accept any letters, only the “card” (a full letter page with two scannable “cards” – they will tear it and give you one half). At the DMV be prepared to pay the tax, title, and registration fees. Thankfully, NY DMV’s DO take major credit cards.

You can then take your motorcycle plates, insurance card and temporary registration to the seller and drive your bike home. *If this is your first bike, it’s fine to have someone more experienced ride the bike home for you.

10. Before you ride your new motorcycle

…Do a complete check of the tires, chain, and oil to make sure you can arrive home safely. Many bikes that are put out for sale are not safe to ride. It could be as simple as needing air in the tires, or greasing and adjusting the chain. Take a minute to check these out.

Hope this is useful… Good luck! Ride safe! If you’ve purchased a used bike recently and would like to add something – share the wealth and post your wisdom! Cheers!


7 responses to “Buying a Motorcycle, Part 2: The Buying Process

  1. I am buying my first bike tomorrow and I think this website gave me what I am looking for, for a beginner like me. Now I have not been to other wesbites but did think this is cool site for a beginner. I like the look and feel of the website too. Good job guys!! Hope you continue to serve the bikers community

  2. One more thing I found about this site is, it is addressing the NY audience. It would be nice if you can accomodate all states. I am from Illionis.

  3. Cheers Gopi! Maybe we should make it “NY…and Beyond” We’re certainly glad for our readers who live elsewhere! Good luck with your new bike, and ride safe!

  4. I want to buy this bike but it has a salvage tilte the kid i am buying it from bought it at a police auction and does not know why it has a salvage tilte is there a way to find out why it has a salvaged title and also is there a way to get the original tiltle

  5. Hey GJustyn,

    I think the rule is, anytime the official cost of repair (including labor) is greater than the value of the vehicle, it gets a “salvage” title.

    So your bike has def. been fixed up at some point – the only question is whether it was repaired properly…

    Many folks buy salvaged bikes (at a discount) and have no trouble… BUT you can also wind up with major problems – like a bent frame, serious engine/transmission problems, etc…

    I think you should definitely get it checked out by a good mechanic! It’s only a “deal” if the bike’s in good shape – and the discount should be deep enough that getting a mechanic to do a thorough check should be np.

    Good luck!

  6. In a New York City DMV you must have your insurance agency FAX a copy of your coverage along with a personalized statement.

    When dealing with a large company like Progressive this can be a hassle; however, it can be done in time.

  7. Thanks Wells! You’re probably right, but I’ve registered two motorcycles (what can I say?) in the past year at the Herald Square DMV – and at that one (and also one in Rockland county, and another in LI – with a friend) they only cared about the “card ” – but it would be smart to bring everything just in case!

    I don’t work for Progressive, but I found them to be quick and easy (with low rates compared to Geico) – they can email you a pdf of your insurance cards (so you can print out as many copies as you want), or fax it to the Staples near the DMV in less than 15 minutes.


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