Common sense suggests that selling your bike privately will get a better price and give you more flexibility to either buy privately or haggle with a dealer. And mostly, common sense is right. But not always and, for some people part-exchanging your motorcycle makes much more sense. To discover which one is best for you, read our guide below.
It can be a simple ride-in, ride-out transaction. You do the buying and selling in one negotiation with the same person. If you are looking to buy a particular used vehicle of the right spec, colour scheme, mileage and condition, you need to act quickly because otherwise, by the time you’ve gone home, advertised your bike, waited for the phone to ring, done the deal, and got the money, that particular used bike you wanted might be sold.
It’s less of an issue (but still very convenient) when buying a new bike because there’s a Honda dealer in every town, meaning you have the time to sell your bike privately if you choose. And, if they sell the new bike before you’re ready, you’ll be able to find another one.
Part-exchange means you can calculate the ‘price-to-change’ simply and quickly and work out if you can afford it. There’s no comeback from the dealer if your old bike’s gearbox explodes three weeks later and they can arrange for outstanding finance to be paid off on your old bike while sorting the fresh finance on your new one.
And for many people the lack of worry about selling their bike privately (timewasters, dodgy people at the house, test ride worries, forged £50 notes etc) is well worth the few hundred quid difference.
Impulsive transactions might be exciting and emotional, but they don’t always make the most financial sense. Dealers are experienced negotiators with almost all the cards stacked in their favour. Yes, they want to sell the bike you want to buy, but they know there will be other customers. Plus, they know the required dealership overheads (rent, rates, wages, workshop time, electricity bills etc) that will remove most of the ‘profit’ they’ll make from your bike. All that adds up to a minimum mark-up they need to make, which could easily be £1000 per bike or more.
The bike you’re buying from them already has that mark-up added so you are paying the margin on the bike you’re buying while sacrificing value from the retail price of your bike to give them margin on the one you are selling.
The typical part-ex price offered will be somewhere around £500-£1000 less than similar bikes are advertised for privately, which seems a bit salty. Except that most private buyers will haggle and it’s not unusual to get £500 off an advertised price, meaning that the difference between part-ex price and selling privately suddenly got an awful lot closer. Add in the hassle of selling privately; timewasters, security worries, scammers, counterfeit bank notes and losing two weeks of your life answering questions from idiots and, part-exchanging your bike can seem like a very good idea indeed.
If your bike is a bit, er, ‘special’ or a modern classic you’ll need to find the right dealer. If you have a late-model popular machine in good nick, any and every dealer will be falling over themselves to buy it
Know the market. If you have a bike that a dealer can sell quickly, you have more chance of a better price. Most main dealers will put bikes up to 10 years old in their showrooms, but anything older will either be ‘sold-as seen’ on their eBay account or moved on through the trade. If your bike is a clean, recent example of a popular model, they’ll be keen to buy. If it’s a fifteen-year-old, high-mileage hack expect a token gesture because, even their regular trade contacts won’t want it.
Remove the aftermarket accessories and put the standard parts back on (you did keep the standard parts, didn’t you?). Standard bikes in standard colours are easy to sell to the widest audience. It’s against the law for a dealer to sell a bike with an exhaust (for example) that is not road legal, so they’ll have to source one to replace the race pipe you fitted to your bike. Also, if you don’t have the standard parts someone will question whether the aftermarket parts were replacing crash-damaged items.
Finally, make sure the bike is clean (as in properly clean) with all the service history, receipts for work done, spare keys, owner’s manual and instructions/fobs for the alarm in a folder. Rusty chains, filthy wheels and missing parts are enormous glowing neon messages that your bike has been neglected and that spells trouble for a dealer who has to offer some kind of comeback to their customers.
Finally, finally, don’t forget part-exchange is just one part of the negotiation to buy a new bike. It’s a fluid conversation and if the salesman likes you, trusts you and wants your business there is always some flexibility. If the price-to-change is close, but not quite right, then say-so and see what happens. If it’s miles away from what you can afford, then be polite, leave your number and the door is half-open for them to call you a week later when they drop the price, or a slightly less pristine example of the same bike comes in that they can do you a deal on.
Some dealers will even buy used Guzzis
Most dealers will consider buying your bike for cash. Finding a steady flow of good quality used stock is always a challenge and so anyone calling up or calling-in looking to sell will be welcome. Many of the ‘We buy your bike’ type businesses are actually a subsidiary of a dealer or dealer group. Their business model is to buy anything, keep the nearly new, more valuable stock for their showroom and trade the older, cheaper stuff on either to smaller dealers or auctions. Which is why their offer price for older bikes tends to be much lower compared to typical selling prices than what they offer for newer, more valuable machines.
Your local dealer will be the same. The price they will offer for your five-year-old BMW R1200GS will be somewhere around 10-15 percent less than you’ll see them advertised for. But the price offered for your 20-year-old Kawasaki ZX-6R will be more like 50-60 percent less because they still need to have around £1000 in the bike to cover costs. Also, the chances are that unless your 2001 ZX-6R is standard and immaculate with a wallet full of receipts and service history, your local dealer won’t really want it at all.
For bikes like this, private sale is by far the best option
19-year-old Fazers are too old for dealers to be interested but still make an excellent private buy (says a man who, er, owns one)
Not that long ago most people selling their bike privately would have used their local paper, AutoTrader or the free-ads papers. These days most selling has moved online and there are a handful of popular platforms each with pros and cons.
The big specialist players for motorcycling are Motorcycle News (motorcyclenews.com) and Bike Trader. Advertising on either costs from £19.99 (at the time of writing early in 2021) for two weeks and, although the majority of bikes on these platforms are on sale at dealers, a buyer can choose to see the private bikes only if they wish.
eBay (and its cheeky cousin Gumtree) have more private sale bikes than MCN and Bike Trader and eBay has the option of either an auction, auction with buy-it-now or traditional classified advert. eBay classifieds also cost £19.99; auctions are cheaper but there’s also a charge of 1% of the final sale price to be added at the end. Plus, you may have to deal with PayPal which can be expensive with frustrating, seemingly random delays. Because of this, eBay has a mixed reputation among sellers, but it also has the biggest audience and usually, the most bikes for sale.
Facebook is also becoming increasingly important in the classifieds market. Their Marketplace function can be a good place to sell items for free, although, like eBay you can also expect a lot of timewasting idiots asking if you’ll swap it for their limited-edition Harry Potter broomstick.
Facebook also has many different motorcycle buying and selling groups and these can be excellent places to find a buyer quickly and at no cost. Make sure you remember to put ‘UK’ in your search for suitable Facebook groups or you’ll be fielding enquiries from Orlando and Michigan.
Good bikes make good money quickly
Your buyers don’t have to pay rent on a showroom, wages to the clothing or service dept or make a £1000 profit by selling it-on in two weeks. Which means you should get considerably more money from the sale. You’re in control of the sale. The chance to word your advert, show the bike’s best angles in your photos and potentially maximise the price.
If someone is willing to travel to come and see your bike, chances are they are serious. If they don’t buy it don’t dismiss them as ‘timewasters’ before asking yourself ‘how could I have handled that better?’ Learn from the experience and adapt.
Selling privately will give you cash which makes buying your next bike privately much easier too. If you’re smart, you’ll read the buyer, understand what they want and sell the good points of your bike like a pro.
And because you’ve been smart enough to remove all the aftermarket parts before selling, you can either sell these separately or offer them to the buyer once you’ve agreed a price (or as part of the deal to cancel out their haggling)
You might not get back all the money you spent on accessories
Finding the right buyer willing to pay the best price can take time. You need to research the market to get your price right, take some pictures, write an advert that really sells your bike well and be patient. If there’s a used bike in your local dealer that’s your dream buy you run the risk of missing out if your bike doesn’t sell quickly.
You will lose hours answering questions from and dealing with a special kind of person that hangs around classified advert sites. You will be offered half the asking price at least twice a day, be continually asked ‘wot will u take for it?’ and offered all manner of bizarre things in part-exchange or as a swap. Be polite, answer every question in a firm-but-friendly manner and remember that if something looks even the slightest-bit-dodgy, then it probably is.
Beware the bike thieves. Never give out your address to anyone whose contact details you don’t have. Try not to give the actual location where the bike is stored (Say something like ‘I keep the bike round the corner at my Mum’s house, let me know what time you’re coming, and I’ll make sure it’s here).
Decide how you want to manage test rides. Many riders won’t buy a bike without one, so you need to allow it… on your terms. Can they leave the full asking price as a deposit? Will their mate/partner who drove them here stay with you while they try the bike? Can they show you that they are insured to ride other people’s bikes (because if they aren’t and they get stopped, you can also get fined plus six points for allowing your bike to be ridden without insurance)?
One option for test rides is to agree (in writing on the receipt if necessary) that they buy the bike without a test ride and have half an hour to bring it back if they don’t like it for a full refund.
Decide in advance how you are happy to be paid. Check with your bank how long it will be after a bank transfer is made before they can be certain the funds are there, and you can release the bike. Ask them how to identify a forged £20 and £50 note. Don’t get caught out with a pile of counterfeits or a fraudulent bank transfer.
Show the spare parts in the advert if they are included in the price
A well-worded private sale advert has…
Don’t use track photos unless your name is Valentino
A poorly worded advert is pretty-much the opposite of the above but also includes meaningless phrases like;