So before I start telling stories, I wanted to talk a little bit about buying bikes online.
Yeah, it’s a thing, and if you look over to the right of these very words, you’ll see a link that’ll give you access to eBay’s site, with about a gazillion motorcycles from literally ALL OVER THE WORLD.
It might be easy to get lost in all the cool bikes that are out there (and I promise it is, because I just spent 32 minutes looking at bikes I don’t need), but can you actually trust a seller that’s 3,000 miles away?
That’s damned hard for me to do if the price is more than a hundred bucks, but the reality is, folks buy and sell nearly everything on eBay, and they have a pretty solid reputation for keeping you from getting screwed.
So what – or how – do you go about buying a bike online?
The simplest thing to do, of course, is to find the bike online, buy it, and make arrangements to pick it up personally. For example, a few years ago, I did just that with my tow rig – an old Chevy dually diesel that was for sale in south Texas and that I literally drove the Sportster to the dealership, checked the truck out personally, bought it and loaded my bike up in the truck and drove the 1600 miles home.
Now, not everybody has the time or money to be able to do that. If you’re in New Jersey and find a bike in Nebraska, simply getting there is going to be expensive. And in the winter? It just ain’t gonna happen.
This is where eBay and its brand strength comes in – they aren’t going to allow shady sales on their platform, because they have a reputation to keep and in today’s world, where one viral post online can bring a whole empire down, no company wants bad reviews.
On the other hand, if you see a seller with no feedback rating, or very few transactions, or even one in some faraway country, then you’ve got to be careful. Even buying across state lines, or from Canada to the U. S., you have to be aware of things like emissions requirements and titling laws. Buy a great new ride in Nebraska and if it won’t pass emissions in California, you aren’t titling and riding it down the P.C.H.
So, obviously, there’s some research you can do as a buyer before you ever decide to bid.
As far as the actual transaction?
My own rule is simple: I want all the details I can get before I buy. How? Well, in the case of my dually, I made sure to communicate with the seller. They were great about it, too. I explained what I wanted, I shared that I had the funds, and proved I was not simply tire kicking, but once that was done, I asked for some detailed videos – cold starts (proven by I/R thermometer on the manifolds), videos showing the exhaust at start up, crankcase blow-by test (pulling the fill cap on the head), and so on.
I also asked to see a copy of the Title and a picture of the VIN to verify what they were selling was what I was buying.
Another way to inspect the bike is simply reaching out into your own network – the guys you know on Facebook, for example, or other chapters of your club. It’s likely, this day in age, that you or your family knows somebody close to where the deal is. Ask them to go check it out in person and simply give them a punch list of what to look for if they don’t know.
At the same time, another key point in this discussion is an inspection period, if you or an agent of yours can’t do so prior to the sale.
Ask the seller point blank if the funds can be kept in an escrow account subject to you inspecting the bike first hand. Yes, you might be out the cost of shipping it to and from, but really, if you’ve gotten that far, you really should have the answers you need before anyone ever loads it on a pallet and ships it.
Speaking of shipping, there are a TON of ways to do that. Maybe you have access to someone who can haul it back for a case of beer and gas, or you might have to contract with a dedicated hauler to have it transported.
No matter what, make sure you and the seller understand who is responsible for what in terms of getting the bike shipped, because the last thing you want to do is get stressed out when a seller refuses to transport a bike to the loading dock, but they’ve got it loaded on a pallet in front of their house.
Basically, when it comes to buying a bike online, the rule – like so much in life – is communication. Get every detail sorted out before you wire money. When you use an auction site like eBay, familiarize yourself with their Buyer Protection Policy and make sure you understand how that can protect you if the deal goes tits up. PayPal, for example, can hold money for a period of time and can be a valuable tool for making sure you and the seller are both protected. Nobody wants to get screwed, and nobody has to, either!
Go ahead, check it out over on the right hand side of the page.
I’ll bet you find a few cool deals…