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Why To Avoid EBay And Craigslist When Buying A Motorcycle

Chaparral Motorsports
January 14, 2011
Last Updated: October 7, 2020

So you're finally ready to take that last step and purchase a new motorcycle. You've done the research, picked out a model, and know all the motorcycle accessories you'll be getting in order to make that machine your own. But the preparation isn't over yet. In fact, if buyers aren't careful at choosing exactly where they purchase their new bike, they could end up costing themselves a lot of money in the long run.

The internet has opened up the world of shopping and allowed buyers of any product to endlessly compare prices and shop through alternative sources like eBay and Craigslist. For many products, this is a great way to get a good deal. Motorcycle buyers need to be very careful, however, about responding to any offers over the internet, as there are few restrictions in place to prevent scammers and con artists from pulling a fast one.

Motorcyclist Magazine gave an example of one common scam that buyers need to watch out for. It involves a buyer, ostensibly from a foreign address, offering to buy a bike from a seller. Problem is, shipping a bike overseas requires all sorts of complex maneuvering, so the buyer would instead use a middleman, a "friend" who lives in the U.S.

The scammer would say that this friend then owes him money, and in order to make things easier, he'll overpay for the bike. The seller is then asked to send the difference in cash to the original buyer. Problem is, the overpayment that the middleman makes is typically in the form of a phony cashier's check, which can take months to process. Sometimes, the bank will even reflect that the check cleared in your account balance, only to correct the mistake later on - but by that point, you're likely out a few thousand bucks.

This is just one example of many possible scams that can occur in online transactions. In this case, scammers target a person selling their bike, but buyers need to beware as well, as there are a plethora of other cons out there. It's far too easy for sellers to make promises about shipping a bike, provide false addresses or contact information or simply create a bike out of their own imagination with no intention of ever providing it. Common sense might dictate never paying any money for a bike until it's in your hands, but even reputable sellers tend to demand money upfront to ensure that they themselves are not scammed out of their money.

There are some common signs that can alert buyers to possible trouble afoot. One example would be pictures of the bike. Some crooks are lazy and simply use stock photos, or say that they are in one location and post pictures of a bike with plates from another state. This isn't grounds for immediate dismissal, but skepticism often pays off.

One of the other big red flags is the price of the bike. A good rule of thumb is that if it's too good to be true, it probably is. Everybody wants a great deal, but it's not worth losing thousands of dollars over.

Another tip-off in electronic scams is how available the buyer is. Many will post phone numbers, but buyers should take the time to call these numbers and verify that there's an actual person on the other end. If a seller can only be contacted by email or only accepts instant electronic transactions, like PayPal, it's a good sign that trouble could be afoot. Face-to-face deals ensure at least some accountability in the transaction.

At the same time, complexity is also a big tip-off. If the buyer needs the bike shipped overseas, or the transaction involves you sending the bike to his friend and making a payment to three different people, it's probably not a good idea.

Sound like too much of a hassle? In many ways, it is. That's why buying from an authorized dealer is a much better option in the long run. Dealers offer riders a variety of services that peer-to-peer transactions simply can't. It's also much safer and a lot easier to get your money back if there does end up being a problem.

One of the top advantages of buying a bike from an authorized dealer is service. Any bike bought from a dealer is first and foremost going to be backed by a manufacturer's warranty. Most riders like to perform their own maintenance on their bike, and this is fine to a certain extent. But there's something to be said for knowing that a rider has the backing of a full repair shop in case there's a serious issue.

Riders may be drawn to the online marketplace because of lower price tags, but what's better: a slightly cheaper used bike that might cost thousands to repair when it breaks down or a brand-new bike that can be repaired by experts if there's trouble? In the end, warranties save riders money and those who want to be extra careful can even buy extended warranties.

Bargain hunters might assume that they'll end up spending more money than necessary when heading to a dealer, yet drivers can actually use the dealership method of buying and selling in their favor if they know how to negotiate. Like car dealerships, motorcycle dealers often take advantage of factory rebates and dealership incentive programs. This is where the internet CAN come in handy. By researching how much profit a dealer is making off of a particular model, those with an eye for savings can negotiate the price down into reasonable territory. They might even get a few of those motorcycle accessories thrown in for free.

Motorcycle communities are tight-knit groups, and dealers are often the focal point for riders in the area. It's usually in their best interest to give riders a good deal and a positive experience so they can spread the word to their buddies. As in any industry, crooks and swindlers are out there. Yet a knowledgeable biker will rarely get taken for a ride - something that can't be said for online transactions.

Dealerships also offer a number of other services that make them invaluable to riders. Looking to trade the old bike in? A dealership is a great place to begin putting the value of that ride toward a new one. Or would you rather lease? All dealerships have financing options available that can ease the budget a bit. It's even possible to take out a loan in order to finance your purchase.

The world of motorcycle buying and selling is varied, and riders have a number of options available for them. But in the end, the dealership has too many advantages to ignore. Craigslist and eBay can be great resources for smaller purchases, but a transaction as important as a motorcycle should be made with the comfort and security of an authorized dealer.

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