Recognizing a Good Deal | RETAIL CONFIDENTIAL

Helpful tips to help you get to that bottom-line price when buying a bike.

In this business of selling motorcycles, dealers often offer promotions to entice buyers. While some promotions come directly from the actual OEMs in the form of rebates and attractive interest rates, local dealerships will sometimes offer their own specials. In some cases, these offers can be combined to make a deal seemingly too good to pass up, which has the desired effect of getting customers like you to step foot in the door.

These dealer incentives can take a variety of forms ranging from free gear, cash (in the form of gift cards), free accessories, dealer-paid sales tax, or giving you “retail” for your trade-in.

Certain things can motivate a dealership to sweeten the pot. Old inventory and the dreaded off-season are a couple of reasons, so why not take advantage? And besides, who doesn’t want free gear? It’s not exactly a secret, but dealers are in business to make a profit. Otherwise, we couldn’t keep the doors open. But we also need to sell motorcycles in order to keep cash flowing, so offering incentives a couple of times a year makes sense, and consumers can benefit.

But if the deal seems too sweet, it’s not unreasonable for you to be a little suspicious. Is it really too good to be true? It’s too easy to look at one part of the deal—the one that seems too good—and get blinded to the purchase as a whole.

This will help: There is only one important number you need to pay attention to—the one on the bottom of the page. There are lots of ways to get to a bottom-line price. One dealer might give you more for your trade-in. One dealer might pay your sales tax. One might give you free or deeply discounted gear. (Remember that a $300 jacket is not worth $300 to the apparel department when you consider the markup.) Whatever the “deal” is, work your way to the bottom line to understand its true nature. Where a dealer is offering to pay the sales tax, determine if that’s a better deal than using an existing promotion on the bike or simply getting a lower starting point. Getting an extra $500 on your trade-in only to find the top-line price on the new bike is $700 higher than another dealer is going the wrong way.

The solution is to get the deal in writing. This should include the asking price for the unit, any discounts (remember, they’re motivated), your trade-in allowance, any other fees (freight, dealer prep, documentation fees, etc.), and the number we’ve been looking for, the “out-the-door” price including sales tax. This number is the most important one after all the dust has settled. Don’t just get it verbally; have a piece of paper to take home with you.

Of course, this is the cash price. If you are financing, interest rates can also become a factor. Factory financing can be very competitive with local banks and credit unions, but it isn’t always, especially for certain demographics. Smart dealers make money on financing, so don’t assume that the bottom line has to be higher if you’re financing.

I always recommend buyers shop around. We in the dealership know which bikes are selling well and which are gathering dust, and it’s usually the same story within a certain geographic region. Dealers are motivated to push old inventory out the door, and the older it gets, the more motivated they become. At some point, great deals make themselves known. If you’re smart, you’ll take advantage of them.

Jeff Maddox is the sales manager for a multi-line dealership in the Midwest. Questions for him? Email us at with "Retail Confidential" in the subject line.