Bad Craigslist Motorcycle Deals and How To Avoid Them

The relation between Craigslist value and real-world value: Why your tired motorcycle may not be worth what you think it’s worth!

Craigslist, Megaphone, Used Motorcycles
Let's be honest - we've all found ourselves in a similar situation to this, looking just as puzzled!Photo: Julia LaPalme

It was only recently that I was guiding a friend of mine through his first motorcycle purchase. He wasn't working with a lot of money, and he made it clear to me that financing a new or used bike would unfortunately be out of the question. With that in mind, I turned him onto the wonders of craigslist, but after a short while browsing the classifieds, his blank stare solidified my perception that he had only become more perplexed.

“How do I know what a good price is...for anything?”

I pointed out a listing that I had noticed as he scrolled down the page. It was for an old '82 Honda Nighthawk 450 in decent shape that was supposedly in running condition. They were asking $1200 or best offer, which I noted was a rather fair price for a bike that had 14,000 original miles and had been kept indoors. A little bit further down the page, however, was an almost identical '86 Nighthawk 450 that looked far worse for wear. This seller expounded on all the supposed fixes he had made, which culminated in his asking price of $5000.

Craigslist, Used Motorcycle
Inspecting a used motorcycle thoroughly prior to purchasing is highly recommended. Being extra-careful when initially inspecting the bike can help avoid issues that tend to crop up down the road.Photo: Julia LaPalme

Let me take a minute to make a blanket statement: Regardless of sentimentality and personal opinion, your bike needs to be priced according to what the current buyer’s market dictates. It’s all too easy for sellers to take the underhanded approach to pawning a refurbished motorcycle off on a new rider, thereby launching them into a world of troubles after having drained them of every last available fund.

Craigslist, Used Motorcycle
It's a good idea to check underneath the engine to see if there are any oil leaks. Remember, oil will always find its way to the lowest point, so be sure to trace any leaks as high as they go. It's also never a good sign if the bike has been warmed up prior to you showing up to inspect it. The seller just might be trying to avoid disclosing hard-to-start issues!Photo: Julia LaPalme

I urge sellers out there to take some time and do as much research as possible. Just because your motorcycle is old doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s rare, or even desirable for that matter. Scan the market and take notes. Watch to see what similar bikes are listed for, and what they actually sell for. Craigslist, as well as other sites, can be misleading in terms of pricing. I’ve noticed a trend among sellers in certain areas; individuals will price a certain motorcycle far higher than similar listings for the same model, and as a result those similar listings will increase in price. Some will attribute it to general market fluctuation; others will claim that certain marques are more desirable based on region. While both of these elements are true, instances where sellers are out to prey on those with little knowledge are far too common, and are becoming worryingly routine.

Craigslist, Used Motorcycle
Damaged or highly rusted fork stops can be a giveaway that the bike has been down hard. If the seller tries to pass the bike off as never having been down, be sure to check here. A bit of light surface rust is common, but mangled stops tell a different story.Photo: Julia LaPalme

I highly encourage potential buyers to do their research as well! Make sure you know what you’re looking at, what you’re buying, and what the market values are. Inform yourself of common misconceptions when buying used vehicles, and subsequent issues that many people have faced as a result. Look into records and public forums pertaining to the motorcycle or marque in question, and take note of common problems. More than anything, seek out the assistance of trusted individuals, such as a skilled mechanic, who can help you make the right choice. Those who truly want to see you having a good experience will always be happy to offer help!