How to Sell a Used BMW
So, you've decided to sell your BMW motorcycle. Most at this point will give the bike a good washing then advertise it in the local paper. The seller will then wait around all weekend for people to show up and look at the bike in hopes that they will make a quick offer and the whole thing will be over with quickly and easily. As with most things in life, it is rarely that easy. Like any other consumers, buyers of motorcycles will naturally gravitate towards a seller that is prepared for his or her questions with full and complete answers. If you want to get top dollar for your bike and minimize the chances of getting burned, you will need to put a little time into it. The constant theme of this work is that if you put some effort into preparing for the potential buyer's questions and make it easy for him to understand and trust your assessment of the bike, you will have much better chances not only of having a successful sale for a good price but having a happy buyer.
One of the immediate things to discuss is a term we innocently call "salesmanship." Salesmanship at its best is putting a spin on something to minimize any negative impact it may have. At its worst it is intentionally providing deceptive information or intentionally omitting things for which the buyer has asked or should have asked. Most sellers wander around somewhere in the middle. I would heartily encourage sellers to use a minimum of salesmanship, and provide potential buyers (especially long distance) not only complete and honest answers, but a means of independently verifying the information on the bike. Remember, just as you are taking the time to have a bike available for a potential buyer to inspect, he or she is taking the time to come and look at it.
I. PREPARING TO SELL
In order to get ready to sell the bike, you should do a little more preparation than merely washing the bike. Potential buyers are going to be looking for things besides a clean bike, and if you have it ready for them you stand a much better chance of attracting a high offer.
Receipts are critical. Having them in a folder in chronological order will do wonders. There is nothing worse when going to look at a bike to have a seller tell you that he has done all the maintenance but has no receipts, or tells you that the local dealer has done all the work and has all the receipts. Of course, no buyer in his right mind is going to take the word of a seller, and getting a record of receipts from a dealer is next to impossible for the owner, much less a purchaser. Have everything, from your Wal-Mart oil receipts to that receipt from the dealer for the major spline service. What a buyer wants to see is evidence that regular maintenance has been done. You don't need videos of you changing the oil, but you do need receipts for oil and filters. BMW's can go hundreds of thousands of miles, but only if correctly maintained (and there is an excellent chance your potential buyer knows this.) Make sure to take a sharpie and redact out any personal info you would rather not share.
2. Optional Items Included in the Sale
If you are planning in throwing in the color-matched helmet and custom-made cover, have it ready to show a potential buyer. A lot of times these extras can really sweeten the deal, and conversely much of the time they can be sold separately for much more than you would gain including them in the deal. It goes to effort; if you remove an Ohlins rear shock and replace it with the original stock you may possibly lose a $50 to $100 bargaining chip in the overall deal, but you will be able to sell it in 1 day for $400 if it is in good shape. Items like helmets and riding gear take on even less importance in the deal, and should probably be sold separately. Things you should include in the deal are BMW options like the hard cases and top cases, the factory toolkit that came with the bike, any repair manuals you may have (unless you need it for another bike), spare parts, and bike covers. These are all things that you could sell separately but the effort probably does not outweigh the benefit from including them with the deal.
3. Legal Papers
You should have a folder dedicated to your legal papers, such as the title, lien papers (if any), registration and inspection paperwork, and various extraneous paperwork such as your BMW Roadside Assistance membership, any extended warranty, etc. Give everything a once-over to ensure your social security number isn't on anything, some insurance and finance companies love to use it as your account number. Also, have a blank bill of sale handy, just in case - Sample Bill of Sale, may not be enforceable in all jurisdictions. Lastly, make a photocopy of EVERYTHING for your own protection and keep them in a safe place.
4. Done / To Do
You should make up a list with three headers.
First, labeled "Repairs." List all the non-scheduled maintenance and repairs you have had performed on the bike. This includes everything from the major (new transmission) to the minor (new clutch cable.) List them in order of expense with the date the work was done.
Second, labeled "Modifications." List any permanently attached upgrades or modifications (such as dual-plugging, hyperlites, aftermarket shocks and springs, etc.)
Third, labeled "Needed." Under this heading you will want to list everything that the bike needs in terms of service and repair.
Your potential buyer will probably ask for these items, have them ready to recite.
II. PREPARING THE BIKE
1. Clean the bike.
Not just an hour in the driveway, but take some time with the proper tools to really clean it better than you ever have before. Bill Shaw has an excellent FAQ on how to properly detail a bike up on the IBMWR site. You will be doing a full detail, so schedule a few hours to really get to all the nooks and crannies.
To get to everything, it may be necessary to remove various bits and pieces to really clean them up. When I sold my K75S, I had to remove the windshield and soak it overnight to really get all of the bugs and gunk off, and then it took a session with the plastic polish to look new. The bellypan was so abused, a friend removed it for me and carefully painted it such that it looked almost as good as new and much better than before.
You might also want to get to things you normally wouldn't touch, like removing and cleaning the turn signal lenses (how do they get so dirty on the inside?) How about under the seat and inside the tail cowling? Take a toothbrush to the radiator to get all the bugs. A number of manufacturers sell motorcycle "black" treatments, (unlike Armour-all) specifically made to bring that rich black lustre back to things like black plastic fenders, black frame pieces, airboxes, alternator covers, etc. Fight the urge to use Armour-All, try Vinylex instead, it leaves no shiny/oily sheen and is a great preservative.
2. Fix the Small Things
A little bit of money goes a long way here. Now is the time to fix the various scrapes, dings, tears and blemishes that might make an otherwise ready to buy candidate to a "sit on the fence" candidate. If you have a scraped up brake lever that you have ignored for the past few years, break out the flat black (or glossy black ;) and touch it up. The same goes for the paint itself, though BMW-specific touch-up paint can get expensive. Buy some Meguiars plastic polish (comes in two styles: one in a grey bottle for deep scratches, one in a white bottle for light scratches) and polish all the plastic on the bike. It does a wonder on the hard bags and the black fenders. How about the worn footpeg and brake lever rubber? I have increasingly seen things like this, "Turn lights don't work, a fuse needs to be replaced." in bike ads as I keep my eyes on Craig's List for a K75. In the time it took to write that (and in the process throw up a HUGE red flag that either the owner has poorly maintained the bike or he is being dishonest and there are far bigger problems in the wiring) the $0.50 fuse could be replaced. In general, if it costs less than $25 to fix, repair or replace then it will be money well spent. This includes things like broken turn signal lenses, a bottle of touch-up paint, replacing rusted fastners, broken/cracked body panels with replacements from boneyards/recyclers or a decent epoxy repair, etc.
Note that none of this is going to do much good if the bike is running poorly or needs a major repair. Spend some time on the IBMWR's K-Tech site to sort out running problems before you put it up for sale or you will have an exceedingly difficult time getting anywhere near what the bike is worth.
3. Give the Bike a Thorough Going Over
The idea is to bring the bike back as much to stock condition as possible. Do all the bulbs work? K-Bike clusters are notorious for losing illumination. Do the turn signals operate flawlessly? Do bulbs light up less brightly than they once did? WD-40, CRC Contact Cleanerand/or a good dielectric grease can do wonders to gummed up or slightly corroded switches, contacts and connections. How is the crankcase breather hose? Steering head bearings need adjusting? Brake fluid clean and light tan? Consider giving the bike a new batch of fluids in the engine/trans/final drive, and a new fuel filter if you happen to have one on hand.
Did you add any "extras" that are no longer needed? What about the driving light experiment, have you removed all the extra wires? The velcro on the inner fairing to hold your sunglasses case? What about the snaps around the steering stem for the old tankbag? WD-40 is excellent for removing gummy residue.
4. Take lots of photos
Buyers want to see the bike as well as hear about it, make suree to takes lots of pics after you have finished repairing little things and giving it a good detailing. You can use any decent web-based photo hosting site (I like Google's Picasa) to store the pictures and steer potential buyers there. Make sure to take photos from all angles, the cluster and Odo, and any accessories that will be included.
III. SETTING A PRICE
How much is it worth? To you, probably a lot more than to your potential buyers. Unfortunately, much like cars or any other high-dollar consumer products, bikes depreciate. Generally no-one buys a bike as an investment (except some HD's) and you will have to expect to sell for somewhat less then you have bought.
1. Value Guides and Similiar Advertisements
There are basically two types, online guides and paperback guides.
a. Online Guides
The Motorcycle Consumer News site has a great online guide, though the prices tend to be the most optimistic I have seen (at least for the seller or someone trying to fight an insurance company on the value of a total...) The Kelley's Blue Book site is also on the high side but quite thorough. Kelley's complicates things a bit by listing a Retail price (very high) and a Trade-in price (very low.) I would average the two for a realistic price target.
Currently these are the only online resources of which I am aware - please e-mail me if you know of another.
b. Print Guides
The problem with Print guides is that they cost money, usually $25 to $45. It may very well be a waste of money to buy one to use once in order to peg the value of a single motorcycle. If you can, check at your local Motorcycle dealer, the used bikes area ought to have at least one of the following laying around. As mentioned on the MCN webpage, the AMA Official Motorcycle Value Guide (800-972-5312) is a great source for motorcycle prices. You might also keep an eye out for the NADA Motorcycle and Personal Watercraft Price Guide (the "yellow book.") Keep in mind however that the bike prices in the NADA guide are generally on the lower (lowest?) end of the spectrum. As such, the NADA guide is usually the best friend of the salesman justifying a low trade-in or the insurance company needing to settle on a total.
c. Similiar Advertisements
Your last, and probably most realistic set of pricing references are the places in which you will most likely be advertising: Craig's List, your local newspaper, the BMWMOA Owners News, the IBMWR Marketplace, and your local club newsletter. Look for the same model and year with similair miles and included accessories.
2. Evaluating the Bike
To you (especially after you spent all afternoon washing and waxing) it will look stunning, better than stock. However, I can't count the times I have gone to look at a bike that the owner has advertised as "mint condition" only to find a generous amount of obvious flaws. While it would be stupid to emphasize the bike's weaknesses, you will need to allow yourself to realistically assess the condition of the bike.
Find a friend that rides and ask him to look the bike over as if he were looking to buy it. Not only will this feedback give you the condition of the bike through the eyes of a potential buyer, he or she may find some things you missed and can quickly repair before any real buyers are let loose. It will also give you the opportunity not to be taken by surprise by a buyer with a sharp eye. (Aye-Aye ;-)
Here are some common descriptive terms and their general meanings:
Including extras in the sale can be a two-edged sword. With BMW's, most knowleadgeable buyers will expect the the seller to include the hard cases and mounts and the (complete) factory tool roll. Pretty much everything else is optional. Remember, whereas some things like tank bags and covers can easily be sent through the mail to a buyer across the country, bulky things like topcases and size-dependant things like helmets and riding gear are often more difficult to sell.
4. The Price Span
Take all the prices you have found, and, adjusted either up or down depending on the overall condition of your bike and the extras you will include, come up with a price range composed of the price you will ask and the minimum price you will accept. Include accessories you will add with the bike, and a separate list of ones you will throw in to sweeten the deal. Remember, selling often takes time a patience (which is why some people will simply trade in a bike for a ridiculously low sum.) Setting a reasonable minimum price and sticking to it will stop you from accepting a lowball offer out of frustration or the desire to simply "get it over with." You have just determined what you will ask: "Top Price/OBO" where the minimum "best offer" is your basement price.
IV. GETTING THE WORD OUT
Advertising is key to the successful sale of your bike, and you don't even have to go broke doing it. One of the reasons I stressed being so prepared in Step I is that you want to get the most bang for your buck here, both in actual dollars and in maximizing your chances of finding (and selling to) an interested buyer. I am first going to discuss some of the places to advertise (and the relative merits of each) and then go over how to get the most from the limited space advertisements usually allow.
An excellent technique is to create detailed Word doc or preferably PDF really going into the bike, showing photos from all angles of the bike, detailing maintenance, showing extras, etc. You can host it online with any of a number of free web hosts and either reference it in the ad or send interested parties the document or a link to it. I am also seeing people using video hosted on YouTube, a great technique.
With the growth of technology there are now more and more places and ways to advertise (don't let this deter you from fully utilizing the more traditional means however.) Many sellers will try one venue, not attract the offers that he or she wanted, and then try another (and so on...) The best way to advertise is to utilize all advertising venues you can find at the get-go. Your aim is not simply to find someone to buy your bike who will make you an offer more than the minimum you can accept, but to find several people who want to buy your bike (and take the highest bid :)
The Internet is literally doubling every 100 days. It is a rich resource just waiting to be utilized. Your first stop should be the IBMWR Marketplace, this site is a virtual clearinghouse for BMW Motorcycles. Also advertise on Craig's List, that is increasingly becoming the bike-buyer's venue of choice. The ADVRider website, while more GS-oriented, has over 80,000 registered users and has a very active bike sale area. Be mindful that these sites are frequented by scammers, with a little education they are easy to spot and ignore. The BMW MOA has a moderatly active online classifieds section, the bonus is it is limited to actual members (so scammers are quite rare.) Also check out your local club message boards.
What clubs have you joined? Most major clubs have classifieds areas in the back of the monthly publications. The BMWMOA and the BMWRA are two great examples. Your local club also probably has Member's Market or something similiar. Many dealers and accessory shops also have used bike bulletin boards for folks selling bikes and accessories.
Now is a good time to delve a bit deeper into all the scams out there, and there are many with more arriving every week. You can avoid 99% of them if you follow two very basic rules: NEVER, EVER enter into ANY transaction that requires you to wire money (Western Union & MoneyGram are favorites of the scammers) and always make sure you will have at least one face-to-face meet with the buyer.
1. Types of scams
Scams seem to follow a general theme centered around the inability of the buyer to meet you to buy the bike - either he is out of the country or he wants to buy and ship. The scams generally follow two routes. The first, the "buyer" wants to send you a (counterfeit) Certified Check, Cashier's Check or Money Order for more than the amount you are asking and wants you to refund the overage via Western Union or MoneyGram. The check or money order is counterfeit but your bank won't know that until weeks later after you have wired the money off to someone sitting in an Internet Cafe in Lagos - your bank will deduct the amount they have credited to your account and charge you bad check fees leaving you out the full amount of the check, any money you have sent off, and likely lots of fees. The second popular one involves your accepting the counterfeit check or money order with a request that you wire money to a fake/non-existant shipper with the same similiar and tragic result above.
2. How do I protect myself?
First and foremost, NEVER wire money to anyone, EVER. These guys are good and have no shame - they will weave a great story about being a returning Iraq War Veteran, etc. Don't buy it - if wiring money ever even comes up know that you are being scammed and walk away. Period.
Second - know your buyer. Local buyers with local phone number and who come by to look at the bike are not your worry. While many bikes are sold to out of state buyers, you must be a bit more wary. Personally I use AnyWho to do a quick lookup to see if they are who they say they are. In any event, make sure you can talk to your buyer on the phone - your common sense will be your best friend. As ever, if something seems off or sketchy you should just walk - there are plenty of people looking for used bikes.
deal in cash. Modern technology has made counterfeit checks and money orders almost
impossible to detect until weeks later. Personally I suggest requesting the buyer
bring cash if it is reasonable (i.e. under $4k or so), meeting at the local bank
branch of the buyer to have him withdraw the cash and transfer the title there,
or meeting at your bank to do an account to account money transfer and transfer
the title once the fund transfer is verified.
NEVER, EVER ENTER INTO A TRANSACTION THAT REQUIRES YOU TO WIRE MONEY WITH WESTERN UNION OR MONEYGRAM.
VI. TAKING CALLS & ANSWERING E-MAIL
This area will prove more frustrating than any other step to a successful sale. Buyers are notoriously flakey, and all will want to come see the bike on Saturday afternoon (then many won't show...) You'll in all likleyhood have a broad spectrum of inquirers, from the merely curious novice to the seasoned and fully informed Beemer nut. You can save yourself a lot of time and aggrevation by having a definite list of info ready to read to a caller or paste into an e-mail, taking down callers' names and phone numbers, and making sure to follow-up if you have not heard from them after a few days.
1. Make a List
When people call or e-mail they will be looking for the basic information to make a simple decision: is this a bike I am interested in going to look at? They will often say things like, "so tell me about the bike" and other such broad inquiries that really have no direction and beat around the bush. Sometimes it is just an attempt to get to know you a little, other times they really have no clue what to ask. Enter the list. With the deft use of. "So let me tell you a little bit about the bike" you can let your caller know right away whether this is the bike for him. Start a list with the following:
Things Most Callers Will Want to Know:
Some will also want to know
2. Follow Up
Make sure to follow up with folks who have showed an interest, often times they will just assume the bike has been sold after a few days.
VII. SHOWING THE BIKE
Showing your bike can be a frustrating experience, you will have to deal with no-shows, folks picking apart every small detail, and of course the scammers. You must have patience.
1. After the Call
The next step from fielding calls is showing prospective buyers the bike. Your best bet is to set up a 4 or 5-hour window on a Saturday morning for folks to come by and look. Some sellers feel uncomfortable having prospective buyers come to their house - I don't believe it is necessary but you can always show it at a nearby parking lot. Be aware that up to half the people that say they will come, will not. Ask potential buyers who want to take a test-ride to bring a valid driver's license with a motorcycle endorsement and proof of insurance (and call to ensure it is still in force.)
2. Test Rides
This is often the biggest point of contention when discussing selling a bike, often replete with tales of potential buyers who have wrecked or damaged the bike on a test ride (and the ensuing battles over who will pay for repairs), folks who just wanted a joy ride, and even folks who have taken off on a test ride never to return. Some sellers simply don't permit test rides, or allow them only with the potential buyer as a passenger with the seller driving. Some sellers require the potential buyer to temporarily buy the bike with the agreement that if the buyer is unhappy and the bike is returned undamaged the sale will be voided and funds returned. Some require the potential buyer to show that he has cash on-hand to buy the bike, and some give it little thought at all. Whatever you decide, use your common sense to size up the potential buyer - is it a 16-year old kid with no gear other than an ill-fitting second hand helmet or a seasoned veteran rider with complete and well-used gear? Whatever you decide, make absolutely sure you see the potential buyer's drivers license (make sure there is a motorcycle endorsement!) and proof of his own motorcycle insurance, and have him sign an agreement that he will be responsible for any damage that occurs during the test ride.
VIII. TAKING OFFERS
Ideally someone will show up and pay the asking amount in cash. Believe it or not, this is often how it happens. More often though you'll have a buyer who will offer you 75% or less of your asking price, usually in cash displayed very prominently under your nose. Really this is up to you, you've already set the very minimum you will accept - are you getting lots of calls, do you have a number of folks lined up to inspect the bike? The only real advice here is to be wary of anyone who offers you less and tells you it is a now or never deal, this is the hallmark of a bottomfeeder/lowball offer and you will most likely be able to get more with a little patience.
IX. COMPLETING THE SALE
This is unfortunately where you must be very, very careful. As discussed above in the SCAM section, the best medium is of course cash, but most folks will offer some cash as well as a check. Regardless, you should, for your own safety, use a Bill of Sale that carefully spells out detailed information including the bike & VIN, any "extras" that go with the sale, and a designation that the bike is sold "as-is" with no implied or express warranties. Here is a good template though there are many on the Internet.
1. Cash or Check?
Most folks will offer a combination of both, though it is not unreasonable to require all cash on less-expensive bikes (say, under $4k.) You really must use your best judgement here as the used-bike world is rife with stories of bounced personal checks, cleverly counterfeited cashier's checks (and the problem really seems to be growing!), and the like. The ideal way would be to either take it all in cash or to take some in cash as a deposit and then meet at your buyer's bank and take the remainder in cash. At either your of the buyer's bank you can also transfer the funds from the buyer's account into your account in an account-to-account transfer (though these apparently can be reversed - check with your bank.) Meeting at a bank can be a bit of a hassle and can cool the heels of a hot buyer, but it is about the best protection you can have. You can of course also take a personal check, and I bought my first bike this way - if you feel confident in assuming the risk of it bouncing it is the easiest way to sell a bike.
This is actually pretty simple - Sign the title and retain one of the two copies of the bill of sale you both have fully filled out and signed. Make sure to include any manuals for the bike or accessories that you might have. You should also have a folder ready with documents like maintenance receipts as discussed earlier should the buyer ask for them.
3. License Plate and Registration
Another hotly-debated topic... You will need to take your license plate and registration form to your DMV and turn them in. Don't skip this step and do it right after selling the bike, I know of at least one rider who sold his bike, forgot to turn in his plate and registration and got caught up in a frequent DMV audit looking for vehicle owners who have let their insurance lapse - suffice it to say this can be an exceedingly unhappy experience.
So, should I let the buyer use my plate to get the bike home? Many sellers allow this, I wouldn't. Aside from irritations like speed and red-light cameras, should the buyer get into or cause an accident while using your plate on a bike still in your name, you will likely be drawn into the whole mess. Buyers have the option of going straight to the DMV and registering the bike and then returning an hour or two later with his own plate, riding home without any plate hoping the signed title, proof of just-bought insurance and bill of sale will suffice should he be stopped, towing the bike, or wheeling the bike out to the street and using whatever convenient tag he might have handy (really not adviseable, but not your worry!)
X. AFTER THE SALE IS DONE
Take your license plate and registration form to the DMV immediately after the sale and turn them in reporting the vehicle sold. Don't put this off! Do it right away.
Only AFTER you have turned in the plate and registration should you call your insurance company to let them know the bike has been sold and you no longer own it.
That's it! Congrats - now go spend the money on a new bike :)
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