Motorcycles on the Cheap

This is a guest post by Chuck Brutus Wolfe, a retired Sergeant and Motor Deputy, Police Motorcycle Instructor and avid motorcyclist.  He writes about motorcycle travel, safety, equipment, and the cyclist lifestyle at


Have you ever wanted to experience the joys of motorcycle travel? Gotten all amped up to feel the wind through your hair, the sun on your face? Ran down to your local travelin’ type motorcycle sellin’ establishment only to be KO’d by sticker shock? You’re not alone brother, it has happened to all of us at one time or another. There is a solution to this though and it’s relatively easy to implement. All you really need is a little patience.

Does your Police Department, Sheriff’s Office or State Police/Highway Patrol have a Traffic Enforcement Unit that uses motorcycles? If they do, eventually they dispose of those bikes to acquire new ones. Most government agencies hold periodic auctions to get rid of their motor vehicles. These auctions will include cars, trucks, boats, and yes…motorcycles. I haven’t found one of those bitchin’ bomb robots yet but I’m gonna’ keep looking!

Most law enforcement agencies in America use Harley Davidson motorcycles for their traffic units with the most common bike being the Road King or Electra Glide Classic. Some agencies use BMW’s or Hondas with a few holdouts still riding Kawasakis. The one commonality among all the agencies is that their bikes are all touring models. The lone exception that I know of is the Washington, DC Police Department. Many of their traffic officers ride smaller bikes such as the Sportster. The great thing about these auctions is that they are open to the public and I have seen one and two year old Road Kings roll out of the parking lot for as little as $7000.

Stop! I know what you are thinking. Those cops just dog out those bikes and they are probably ready to fall apart. Let me address maintenance and upkeep now. As a former motor officer and Police Motorcycle Operator Instructor I can tell you that once a new police bike is issued to its operator, that bike becomes My Bike. Motor officers are, in every sense, professional riders and spend an inordinate amount of time taking care of their bike. Additionally, I know of NO law enforcement agency in America today that does not have a strict schedule of preventive maintenance for their motor vehicles. If you are lucky enough to purchase one of these motorcycles, you will get a well cared-for scooter and I have actually seen two year old bike auctioned off with less than 3000 miles on them.

Harley Davidson Road King

Another great thing about these bikes, all bikes for that matter, is that they are all a blank canvas ready to be built by their new owner in their own image. What image? That one is up to you. There are far more used police bikes on the road than you may think. Have you ever seen a Harley with red thumb buttons on the hand controls or hockey puck saddlebag latches? Harley only uses those on police bikes. The next time you see red controls or hockey puck bag latches, take a step back and get a good look at the bike. I bet you’ll be impressed.

Let’s look at a typical FLHP or police Road King.

Purchase price: $7000
Paint job: $1500 (OK, a really nice paint job.)
Add-ons: $1000

Total price for a two-year old scooter customized to meet your standards that would typically cost $12,000 to $14,000:


And now you need to find the auctions. Don’t worry, I don’t sell the ol˜ Buy my secrets to finding government auctions and get so rich you can buy your own city books. This is the easiest step of all. Simply get on the phone and call your local law enforcement agencies, ask for their finance, fleet maintenance or motors unit and just ask about their auction schedule.

One caveat here. If you have the choice of two auctions and one is conducted by the agency while the other is conducted by a contracted auction company…go with the agency conducted auction. They are really so much easier to work with. Their inspection period will typically be longer and more flexible and they can usually answer some key questions about the individual bikes. What questions you ask? Here are some to start with:

Can you tell me the rank of the bike’s operator? (Supervisors usually have lower miles on their bikes due to required administrative duties keeping them off the road part of every day.)

Was this bike assigned to an individual rider or was it a pool bike? (Pool bikes can be less well cared for because there is no personal ownership of the bike.)

Was the bike assigned to the training facility as a trainer? (These can be a little more abused from being dropped frequently during schools but have very low miles.)

Can I see your maintenance records for this bike? (Don’t ask for records on every bike in the auction. The answer will be NO!)

Finally, when you decide to attend an auction, always read and understand the agency’s requirements for payment. Some will take cash but they are few and far between, few take personal checks and some will accept nothing but certified funds or letters of credit from a bank. Since you won’t know what you will actually pay for the bike, certified funds is pretty much a wash.

So now you know how to attain motorcycle travel for cheap…well, a cheaper buy-in at least. Get out there, find your bike and hit the road. Figuratively speaking of course.

Safe travels!

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