The top 2023 search “Buy Motorcycle Online” is delivering joy to riders
Clint Lawrence, founder of Motorcycle Shippers. Helping give riders more freedom to enjoy the bikes they love. [email protected]
It’s hard to remember life before e-commerce took hold. But believe it or not, there was a time when we only bought motorcycles in person, at either a dealership or from a private seller one town over who we met face-to-face. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated the shift online and, well, the rest is history. We’re buying more motorcycles than ever online and one of the year’s top search terms—” buy motorcycle online”—makes it clear that this trend isn’t going anywhere.
Buying a motorcycle online has many perks, including the ability to scour the country—not just your region—to find the ride of your dreams. But it also can have potential pitfalls if you haven’t purchased a motorcycle online before. Keep reading for your ultimate guide to buying a motorcycle online: new or used, from a private seller or dealer and beyond.
Where to buy a motorcycle online (and how to find the best deal)
With the rise of e-commerce, riders have more options than ever before. Whether you’re looking to buy a used motorcycle online or a new one, start with these sites to make sure you leave no stone unturned—and no deal unfound.
1. Dealer websites
Not surprisingly, dealers large and small are embracing online selling as a vehicle for reaching more riders. So are manufacturers like Honda, Harley-Davidson, Ducati, and Yamaha, who implemented contactless ordering and delivery amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As you cruise through dealer websites, ask about these programs and be sure to clarify any shipping costs before you make your buy. (Pro tip: Motorcycle Shippers can work directly with your dealer to ship your motorcycle affordable from its door to yours.)
When buying a motorcycle online from a dealer website, watch for potential money-savers, like last year’s showroom models and inventory that might not be out on the floor (or in this case, listed on the website). Dealers have to move inventory, too, and you might be surprised what deals you uncover by talking with them via an online chat feature or simply picking up the phone.
2. Motorcycle marketplaces
Motorcycle Market PlacesWith more riders clamoring to buy a motorcycle online (and the cost of used motorcycles increasing due to COVID-era shortages), you’ll find more used bikes than ever in online marketplaces. These sites can vary in terms of the user experience and quality of motorcycles for sale. However, if you’re in the market for a used motorcycle, you’d be remiss not to check out these major sites for individual sellers:
- Chopper Exchange
- Autotrader Motorcycles
- Facebook Motorcycles
- Iron Planet
- Cranky Ape
- Ride Safely
- eBay Motorcycles
- Cycle Trader: Pro tip: If you’re in the market for a new motorcycle, try searching Cycle Trader’s “New Old Stock (NOS),” where you can find significantly discounted new rides.
Your level of buyer protection can vary depending on the marketplace you choose, and it’s important to read the fine print before finalizing a sale. However, these sites can often be a treasure trove of motorcycle deals if you know how to filter out what you don’t want and, of course, properly assess the seller and motorcycle you’re eyeing.
3. Online auction houses
Looking for the best deal on a used motorcycle? Try an auction house. You can read our full guide here to understand the pricing structure of these platforms, but for now just know this: Many auction houses sell motorcycles at extremely cheap prices. Some are damaged and/or salvaged. Others aren’t. But if you know where to look, you could find your dream ride at a “once in a lifetime” price on one of these motorcycle auction sites.
- CoPart: A 100% online auction house with more than 175,000 vehicles in its daily inventory, CoPart is a go-to site for salvage buyers, body shops, dealers and riders alike.
- CrashedToys: A smaller auction site with 1,700 vehicles for sale, specializing in powersports, boats and RVs. With less inventory and less website traffic, you could also find a lot fewer bidders driving up the price of your new ride.
- IAAI Auto Auctions: Although it has fewer motorcycles in its inventory than CoPart, IAAI is still a huge platform that sells 2.5 million total-loss, damaged and low-value vehicles annually. Use its filters to find hidden gems in its sea of inventory.
Want another money-saving tip? Whether you’re buying from a dealership or a private seller, motorcycle prices can vary depending on the time of year. Look for sellers in areas that have snowy winters—extreme cold is “good deal” weather—and call them when a storm hits. You can also zero in on dealers in February. With fewer days to meet sales quotas, you might just find a sweet deal in time for Valentine’s Day.
Whether you’re buying your motorcycle from a dealer, a private seller, or an auction house (don’t overlook this option!), use these tips to remove the hassle from the process.
- Be skeptical about online deals that seem too good to be true and follow your gut if you a seller seems fake or motorcycle photos look doctored. Check the value of your potential purchase on Nada before you buy.
- Check your motorcycle’s history using Cyclechex or another online tool that gives you quick, affordable access to a full vehicle history report.
- Investigate the seller via Google reviews, Reddit testimonials, online discussion boards, and more to make sure you’re purchasing your motorcycle from a trustworthy source. Verify the seller’s identity, physical address, and phone number using Dexknows before sending payment.
- Be wary of “agents” claiming to represent the buyer. If the seller claims the motorcycle is being stored somewhere else, especially outside of the country, you could be dealing with a scam.
- Find a third-party mechanic to check out the motorcycle if you’re buying it used. The mechanic can act as a go-between, giving you an unbiased baseline for either finalizing the deal or walking away from a motorcycle with unexpected issues.
- Ask for hi-res photos and videos of the motorcycle from all angles.
- Schedule a video call where you can clearly see the seller start the bike and provide a live walk-through of its condition. (For a detailed pre-purchase checklist, keep reading.)
- Thoroughly review the model you’re interested in before you make a purchase. Compare the information you find online to what the seller has provided; if it’s not a match, it’s time to ask more questions.
- Run a VIN check before making a transaction to ensure the information your seller-provided matches up with the motorcycle’s history. Pay special attention to odometer readings, which are often spun back by shady sellers to increase a motorcycle’s sale price.
- Request a copy of the title before you make the purchase. Make sure you receive a photo of the front and back of the title. Also, check your state’s vehicle registration requirements so all your ducks are in a row before you finalize the sale.
- Set up a safe payment method that protects both you and the seller. We recommend using Escrow.com, a reputable, licensed company that holds your funds but doesn’t release them until you’re satisfied with the motorcycle you’ve received.
- Ship your motorcycle safely and quickly with a reputable service like Motorcycle Shippers. Don’t let your ride sit waiting for a transport company to pick it up; the more time that goes by, the more likely it won’t arrive in the same condition as when you purchased it. (Contact us for a transparent, free quote for shipping the motorcycle you bought online from the seller to your door.)
With more riders buying motorcycles online than ever before, there are countless tools to protect you at every stage of your sale. Leverage online search tools to investigate the seller before completing a transaction. Use a service like Escrow.com to ensure a secure, safe payment process, and do thorough research on the motorcycle you’re purchasing to make sure you’re paying a fair (and hopefully great) price. And when it comes time to ship your motorcycle, trust our team to transport it safely and affordably so that you can start enjoying your new bike without delay.
Buying a used motorcycle online? Go through this checklist on a video call with the seller.
You’ve done your due diligence on your seller, the motorcycle you’re buying, and the terms of the transaction. Now, it’s time to dig deeper to make sure the motorcycle you’re buying isn’t too good to be true. Use this quick checklist to avoid any surprises when the motorcycle you bought online arrives at your doorstep.
(Hint: When buying online, schedule a video call so that you can walk through each of these items with the seller. If they don’t agree to the video meeting or aren’t willing to show you any of the areas below, that’s a big red flag. Make sure the seller doesn’t start the bike before the call so you can see it start-up “cold.”)
| Overall Appearance
- Is it clean? Check all the tight spots where dirt can accumulate; a quick clean won’t usually get at these areas, but an enthusiast who cares properly for the motorcycle will.
- Check the tabs that connect plastic fairings to the frame and watch out for shoddy repair attempts
- Make sure the exhaust is mounted solidly
- Inspect the exhaust header from underneath to make sure there aren’t any hard-to-spot dents
- Look for dents, cracks, and/or scrapes.
- Watch for any signs that the motorcycle has been in an accident.
- Check the steering head bearings.
- Ask the seller to rock the bike back and forth while holding the front brake lever. If you hear a clicking sound, the bearings might be worn or too loose.
- Have the seller squeeze in the clutch and remove it slowly, making sure you don’t hear any popping or snagging sounds.
- Ask the seller to sit on the bike, take it out of gear, roll it forward and gently apply the front brakes.
- Release the brake lever and make sure the motorcycle rolls smoothly with no dragging of the brake calipers.
- Straddle the bike and push down on the front end, making sure the forks return to position slowly and without making any loud noise.
| Chain and Sprocket
- Pull the drive chain away from the rear sprocket at the 3 o’clock position to check its tension. If you can pull further than halfway off the sprocket tooth, you’ll need to make a replacement.
| Tires and Wheels
- Check the DOT numbers on the outer sidewall of each tire; the first two digits are the week when the tire was manufactured, and the remaining two numbers are the year. If the tires are more than six years old, they’ll likely need to be replaced soon.
- Inspect the tires for dents and severe wear.
| Fuel Tank
- Open the fuel cap and make sure you can see the tank’s metal interior. If it’s dark, it probably needs to be drained and replaced.
- Watch for rust, grit, or sediment inside the tank.
- Remove the coolant cap when the engine is cold and make sure it looks neon green.
- If the coolant is brown, that could mean rust or oil have found their way inside the engine. Rust could mean some costly repairs in your future.
- Check the color of the oil via the bike’s sight glass.
- Clean, syrupy oil is new.
- If the oil is black, ask when it was last changed.
- Oil with milky white streams means water is getting into the engine, which means you might have to tear down the engine.
- Oil with shiny metal flakes is a “walk away” red flag. This means the engine is eroding from the inside out. If there’s no sight glass, ask the seller to dip a stick or cloth into the oil through the filler cap.
| Cold Start
- Ask how much throttle the owner usually gives the bike on startup.
- If the owner has an electric starter, use it.
- While it’s warming up, make sure the bike is running smoothly.
- Watch for smoke (if it runs on a fuel/oil mix, a little smoke is ok; a street bike should never smoke).
- If you see blue smoke, that’s burning oil. Walk away.
- If you see white smoke or steam, it’s most likely a leaking head gasket, which requires a major repair.
- If you see dark smoke, it’s likely an issue with the bike’s fuel-air ratio and can be resolved with some minor adjustments.
- Check the headlights on both high and low beam.
- Try all the switches, including the horn, hazard lights, blinkers and any others
- Have the seller pull the front brake lever and press the rear brake pedal so you can confirm the brake light is working.
- Check all gauges thoroughly.
| Service Records
- Ask for all service records if you haven’t already.
- If the owner is a DIY mechanic, ask for receipts from parts used to make repairs.
| Title and Registration
- Check the VIN and license plate against what’s on the title.
- Make sure there isn’t a lien on the title.
- If there’s no title, don’t make the purchase.
| Safety Check
- Remember to have an experienced mechanic inspect the motorcycle pre-purchase.
If you’re performing this inspection with the seller over a video call, some of these steps might be more difficult than in-person. Note any areas that you weren’t able to clearly evaluate and make sure those make it onto your mechanic’s list during the third-party inspection.
Transporting the motorcycle you bought online
Once you’ve done your online research, found the motorcycle of your dreams, completed all your due diligence, and finalized the sale, the last thing you’ll want to do is deal with the hassles of shipping your new ride. That’s where Motorcycle Shippers comes in.
Whether you’ve purchased your motorcycle online from a dealer, auction house, or private seller, our team will handle every detail of the shipping process for you. We’ll even work with Escrow.com to verify when your motorcycle has left the seller and arrived at your door so that you can enjoy your new motorcycle right away—not get bogged down with the final payment release and shipping logistics.
Already found a motorcycle online? Get a free shipping quote or, if you prefer, contact our team so that we can walk you through the process.