The Craft of Purchasing a Bike

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OK, you have been wanting to get a bike for awhile, but the spouse resisted. Now, your great uncle has left you $1000 earmarked for a bike in his honor. After some research, you have wisely decided to look for a CX or GL Sliverwing model. They are easy to work on, very durable, parts are mostly available, and the cost will fall into your price range. The newspapers never list these, nor the weekly shoppers, but Craig's List just had this listing:

    • 1982 Honda CX500. $700.00 or Best offer
    • Bike is complete, with 27,000 miles. It has been stored for 7-8 years due to the battery not charging and the bike running poorly. My husband picked it up from his brother-in-law to restore, but he never got around to it. We are moving soon and want to get it out of our garage.

This would have to be the perfect ad for a buyer for several reasons. In the art of negotiation, the person with the greater knowledge of the situation always has the upper hand. They know nothing about you, or the bike probably, but you know that: (1) They need to get rid of the bike soon. (2) They probably have little or no hard money in the bike. (3) The lady seems to be in charge of selling, maybe the husband has already moved. (4) They will accept a offer, so the original price is not at all firm. (5) It is priced above the scrap value, so low ballers will not bother making a offer. (6) Bike will probably need a stator, carb cleaning, tires, cam chain, and other misc items that you are able to quote a accurate cost to do. (7) With the symptoms, most buyers will not be interested in doing a engine out stator and carb repair, but you know you can with a little help. (8) The price even with repairs should be less than $1k.

So you reply to the ad, asking when you can view it, what is the address and give your e-mail address. The next day you get a reply when you can come and take a look and her phone number. Arriving at the address, you notice a tidy house and an attached garage. She seems to be the one in charge and true enough, her husband has already moved to a new job. The bike is sitting in the corner of the garage with several lawn chairs, a lawnmower, and some kid's bicycles in front of it. Another clue that no one has bothered to look at it yet. You move some of the junk enough to get a better view and start examining the bike. The tires are flat, the battery is missing, the seat looks good, the exhaust look new, paint is very dirty, but no major dings. The engine guards show no sign of the bike going down, and peeking in the gas tank, it looks clean. The petcock has been left on reserve with the fuel line off. A little more checking with her permission, the engine is free to rotate with the 17mm nut and the carb drains appear to have been left open. We may just have a gem here!!!

Retreating away from the bike you start to ask a few questions: Have you had many lookers? No, you are the first. How how have you been advertising it? I think the ad started 4-5 days ago. When are you guys moving? Well, the moving van will be here next week this time. Do you have the title? Yes, it has been signed already by my husband and I just need to sign it. Does you husband want to put the bike on the moving van? No, his new job doesn't allow for much spare time and he just wants to get rid of it. Can you give me any history on the bike? It belonged to my sisters husband. He bought it new and rode it for many years. Finally kids and life got in the way and he rode it less and less. Then the bike stopped running right and he said the battery didn't charge up. That was going to be a big expense to fix, so he sold it to my husband for very little.

Thank her for allowing you to see the bike and tell her you need to do some figuring on what it will cost to get the bike running. Tell her you will e-mail her in the next day or so, but would she notify you first before she sold it to someone else. You know that you can probably buy the bike today for $500, but that given the time pressures she is facing and the hassle factor, she will go lower, but only with her husband's approval. Maybe even leave a $20 if she will call you about other offers.

I would compose a fairly detailed e-mail to thank her again for her time, say that you have looked up some values and think the bike in good running condition would bring about $1200 on the market. And give her a list of what you know is wrong, and the approx cost to repair. i.e. Tires - $200, Stator - $150, possible cam chain - $100, Larry's carb cleaning - $300, Water pump seal, O rings, gaskets, coolant, oil change, rear drive oil and general cleanup supplies - $100. And a possible front brake rebuild another $100. That totals $950, and doesn't even count the 40 - 100 hours labor it will take to do the repairs. All of these numbers are close to the real costs in case they do a little checking, you will look honest if they check.

So, say that you will offer them $300 for the bike. That would be the $1200 value, less the $900 in known needed parts. And nothing for your labor time. Thank them again and say you hope to hear back from them in a day or so. I suspect that given these facts, 90% of the sellers will respond with a yes, we will accept your offer. The other 10% will counteroffer with $400. And by doing it by e-mail, you have given them a little time to think, and you are a bit more in control than face to face.

You can of course use variations on this, and probably will have to depending on if the bike starts, how it runs, major parts missing, dirty tank and rusty exhaust. Get creative and you may be rewarded. Good luck!


Blue Fox

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