If you’re planning on heading to the dealership for a trade-in, or you’re about to put your motorcycle on Craigslist or another classified site, it’s crucial to do your research first to determine the value of your used motorcycle. But when you start looking at used motorcycle price guides, you might notice that the actual prices you see on Craigslist or CycleTrader often don’t match up at all.
That’s because the basic law of the market still holds true when it comes to motorcycles: A motorcycle, like any other market goods, is worth what someone will pay for it. So, how can you determine what your motorcycle is actually worth? Never fear—we’ve got our own take on the used motorcycle price guide that will help inform you about the most important factors that determine the value of a used motorcycle.
What’s the make and model of your motorcycle?
To get an idea of what a motorcycle of your make and model is worth on paper, you can use a motorcycle price guide resource like the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) or the NADA Motorcycle Value Guide. These motorcycle price guides collect huge amounts of data from motorcycle dealers and auctions nationwide to arrive at a baseline value for thousands of motorcycle models.
The list value of any given model of motorcycle in the KBB or NADA guide is a combination of the following factors:
– MSRP: Like almost every kind of goods, motorcycles have a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). This is the standard price that the manufacturer sets for the motorcycle new with the standard equipment package and, in many cases, it’s used to set the baseline value for a given motorcycle.
– Equipment Package: Most motorcycle manufacturers offer their bikes in a variety of equipment packages. Some include more bells and whistles like upgraded seats, more powerful headlamps, panniers, Bluetooth for connecting to motorcycle helmet speakers or engine guards.
– Trade-In vs. Retail Price: There’s usually a substantial difference in the monetary value you’ll receive when trading a used motorcycle in at a dealer and the list price that the dealer will charge for the motorcycle. This reflects the investment that the dealer has to make in getting the bike ready to sell.
However, it’s important to remember that these motorcycle price guide values are only a starting point. Ultimately, to find the price that your motorcycle will fetch, you’ll need to consider the rest of the factors we’ll discuss in this guide.
What brand is your motorcycle?
Every motorcycle brand has its die-hards and defenders, but some brands command higher prices than others due to a reputation for quality, aesthetic beauty or innovation. Whether or not you think a brand’s reputation is deserved, you’ll find that brand has an undeniable influence on the price of a used motorcycle.
High-end motorcycle brands like BMW, Harley-Davidson and Ducati often fetch higher prices on the used market, but brands like Honda that have a strong reputation for reliability also tend to hold their value well. Part of this is that high-end brands start with higher MSRPs, so sellers will likely be looking to make their money back, but buyers will also often pay more for a motorcycle with a well-regarded brand name.
What’s the age and mileage of your motorcycle?
The age of your motorcycle is a big factor in determining its value. Most motorcycles are like cars in that they depreciate in value over time. That’s just the nature of the beast for almost any vehicle, so unless you have a sought-after vintage bike in good condition, realize that an older model will usually be worth less than a newer one.
A brand new motorcycle will lose a substantial amount of its MSRP value in the first few years after you buy it—an average of 12.5 percent, in fact. However, the good news is that once the initial depreciation period of three to four years ends, depreciation usually stabilizes considerably. A well-cared-for motorcycle usually won’t have a huge difference in resale value at five years and 10 years.
Of course, that’s before we talk about mileage. An older bike with fewer miles on it may be able to fetch a higher price than a new one that’s been ridden hard. Usually, 40,000 miles and up (or 25,000 miles on a sport bike) is considered the threshold of “high mileage.”
Note that high mileage isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for many buyers, particularly if the brand is one known for reliability. Well-maintained motorcycles can often top 100,000 miles and still run just fine, especially touring models that are designed for extended runs. However, a buyer or a dealer will likely offer less for a high mileage bike.
What’s the mechanical condition of your motorcycle?
As you might expect, good mechanical condition is a huge factor in the value of a used motorcycle. It’s generally more important than age or mileage, so it’s in your interest to make sure your motorcycle is in the best mechanical shape you can get it before you sell it.
You can perform some basic motorcycle maintenance that will make the bike more attractive to buyers. Change the oil, fluids, spark plugs and air filter unless they’re brand new. Replace the brake pads if they’re more than halfway worn down. Take a look at your chain and drive belt to see how much life they have left in them and replace them if necessary. Any motorcycle maintenance that you don’t feel completely comfortable performing yourself, leave to a mechanic. The last thing you want is to damage your bike right before it’s time to sell.
More generally, it’s always a good idea to take your bike in for a mechanical check-up when you’re considering whether to sell. A mechanic will be able to give you a better idea of what kind of work your bike may need before you sell it, and they’ll be able to tell you approximately how much it will cost to repair.
In the event that your bike needs some kind of major repair, you’ll have to decide whether you want to get it repaired or sell it as-is. Be prepared to take a pretty substantial financial hit if you sell as-is, and know that you may need to wait longer to find a buyer. Depending on what kind of repairs the motorcycle needs, a dealer may not always accept a trade-in on an as-is bike.
What’s the cosmetic condition of your motorcycle?
Beauty may be only chrome-deep, but it does have a considerable effect on your motorcycle’s value. A bike that’s been carefully maintained with wax, polish and all of the other essential elements of motorcycle care will definitely be more appealing to potential buyers.
Clean your motorcycle thoroughly before listing it or taking it to a dealership for a trade-in. Get all of the gunk out of the wheels, wash off dirt and debris from the body, apply leather polish to the seat and wax the body. Taking these simple steps can have a surprisingly outsized effect on your motorcycle’s desirability and value.
If your motorcycle has cosmetic flaws that are too expensive or labor-intensive to fix, be honest about them when listing it. Include clear photos in the listing, be ready to negotiate with buyers and recognize that dealers may offer you considerably less because they’ll have to fix the flaw themselves. Dealers may also interpret a noticeable cosmetic flaw as an indication that the bike has been dropped or wrecked.
Are OEM parts readily available for your motorcycle?
Most people don’t want to buy a motorcycle that’s impossible to fix if it breaks. Thus, the availability of OEM parts for a specific make and model will sometimes have a substantial impact on its value. Before you try to sell it, poke around the major motorcycle parts sites and motorcycle forums to determine how widely available OEM parts are for your model.
Some popular bikes are practically swimming in parts. Most Kawasaki Ninjas, for example, have parts widely available for almost every year and model. The older and more obscure the model, the less likely that you’ll be able to find parts for it. This is particularly true if the motorcycle’s manufacturer has gone out of business.
If you happen to have a motorcycle with low parts availability, your best bet is usually a private sale to specialty motorcycle enthusiasts who have experience with that particular brand and/or enjoy the challenge of extensive modding. On the plus side, these buyers may be more interested to begin with, but they’ll also likely know exactly how much the bike is worth, so be prepared for hard negotiations if you choose to haggle.
Have you added aftermarket mods to your motorcycle?
Many riders enjoy modding their motorcycles just as much as they do riding them, and aftermarket parts can be popular gifts for motorcycle riders. Thus, anyone who’s added tons of mods to their motorcycle might hope that translates to a bike that retains its value more.
Unfortunately, most modifications don’t add substantial value to a motorcycle. If the mod is something unusual that many riders won’t like, it may actually hurt the value considerably, and most dealerships probably won’t be interested. Of course, if you can find the right buyer for that sparkly purple custom chopper with 20-inch ape hangers, you might get a great price—but unless you have strong connections with a network of people who are likely to buy what you’re selling (such as a motorcycle club for people with similar bikes), you might be waiting a long time.
Certain modifications can be an exception to these rules. Crash bars, panniers, windscreens and other popular and practical parts may increase a bike’s value somewhat, although they’ll usually only be worth a fraction of their retail value. They’ll definitely never make up for the natural depreciation that any motorcycle experiences. A skillfully executed professional custom paint job can also be a value booster, provided (again) that it’s not something extremely niche like a Viking battle or the cast of Rugrats.
The bottom line: Adding aftermarket mods is tons of fun, and most riders do it, but don’t expect it to turn your motorcycle into an investment. If you can remove mods and take the bike back down to stock, you may actually be able to increase the value.
Does your motorcycle model have known mechanical issues or manufacturer’s recalls?
Before trying to sell your bike, always check for known manufacturer recalls and mechanical problems. This can be as simple as googling “(model and year of your bike) recall.” If that model and year has known problems, it’s usually a safe bet that they’ll be well-documented on the internet. Checking the aforementioned motorcycle price guides like the KBB and NADA Guide will also often reveal any recalls or known issues.
If you do find that your bike has manufacturer’s recalls or other documented issues, check first to make sure they’re not specific to an equipment package you don’t have, such as optional panniers that obscure the tail light. If they do affect your specific model, it’s time to do some more research. Fixing the recall problem might be as simple as removing the offending panniers or swapping out a part.
However, do note that dealerships take recalls seriously and may not make an offer at all on a bike with an active recall, depending on the nature of the problem. If you’ve had it repaired, be prepared to show robust evidence of the repair, preferably including receipts.
In the end, remember that any used motorcycle price guide has to be understood as a combination of all the factors we’ve just discussed. The more you know and understand about your motorcycle and its condition, the better you’ll be able to negotiate a fair price for it.
Whatever you’re riding, Cardo Systems offers a full range of motorcycle communication systems and helmet speakers that will keep you safe, connected and having fun while you’re on the road. Check out our most popular models like the Cardo Packtalk Bold, or see our guide to how much a motorcycle costs if you’re on the buyer’s side rather than the seller’s.