Buying A Good Used Motorcycle

- by Pete Snidal (C)2001

This article began life as a reply to a posting in our yahoogroup from a prospective buyer who was looking at a T100. 'Nuff said; here it is:

What Price Range?

Determining the proper price to pay for a motorcycle as rare as Triumph Twins are becoming can be difficult - prices are changing every day. There are a few sources, however, which should be monitored for a time before the serious shopper even begins actually looking at prospective new additions to the fleet. May I suggest:

I've bought a fair number of vehicles in the last - ouch! - 47 years, and have developed a strategy of sorts that seems to get me through the process, which I'm about to share. So, for those of you who care, here's how _I'd_ do it:

First, I try to make a habit of not buying the first one I look at - I figure there's no way of knowing it's a good deal or not until I gather more data on what's on the market. This can be good or bad. I've missed out on some good deals from time to time, but in the long run, I've also passed up some that I was really ready to bite on, but which turned out to be relative turkeys after I looked around some. The considerations, of course, are model - is it the exact one you want, or is it just close? -, condition - can you afford a trailer queen, done to the nuts by professionals, or will you have to bottom-feed, anything from basket case to decent runner, and do the work it needs as you go? Then, of course, there's price - carefully balanced against how the unit stacks up against the first two parameters. It's rare to get a total bargain; generally the three considerations balance and vibrate against one another to equalize everything out, but it's real easy to pay too much for something. A basic rule of thumb I've kept running into all my life is this:

(I should have figured that one out much earlier, but apparently I didn't. I've tried to consider it every time since, though - sometimes forgetting to my peril. That nice (insert name of rig here), that needs just a little bit of work here and there, can usually turn into a nightmare that costs big money to get to the point where it can be unloaded on the next luckless victim.) So consider your would-be purchase carefully. Here are some considerations, and I'll even use as an example my experience buying my latest Triumph - a box-stock original '69 TR6 about ten years ago. I started figuring that they'd all be gone pretty soon, and that I'd better git me one while I could afford it.

For any used item, you don't want to buy somebody else's troubles. Not knowing its recent history, you need to determine he's not flogging it off in desperation - at least not in desperation over something he can't fix and you can't, either. (otoh, the reverse situation has been some good buys for the kid over the years.)

I've always thought the most important answer I can get is that to the question, 'why are you selling it?" Here are some of the better reasons: