How to flip motorcycles and scooters on a budget

So you want to start flipping motorcycle and scooters. Well, you’ve come to the right place! In the last 3 years I’ve flipped 12 motorbikes; including a few scooters, a supermoto, a Harley, a café racer, a dual sport, a sweet police bike and many more.

The first thing you want to determine is your budget. How much are you looking to spend on your first investment? Yes, we’re going to be looking at your motorbikes as an investment.  The idea is to take your money, buy a motorbike, and sell it for a profit. Let’s just pretend that you don’t really have all that much to work with but you do have a few hundred dollars. Realistically you’ll need a minimum of $500 capital to get the wheels rolling, pun totally intended. 

With that $500 in hand, the next step is to spend some time on Craigslist (CL). You can’t just look at it once in a while; you really have to put some time into it every day. What you want to do is figure out what kind of motorbike you can realistically get for your $500. 

Which bike to buy
One thing you’ll need to decide on early in the process is what kind of bike you want to invest in. There are plenty of deals to be had on CL, but since you’re working with a limited budget, you are also limited on what is available. Good motorbikes to start with are scooters. Yes, I know it’s not big and powerful like a “real” motorcycle, but you can make a profit on them rather quickly. 

With your $500 budget, you’ll want to look for the brands/models of scooters that are priced right around $700-$800. At the same time, you need to pay attention and see if the same brand/model is being listed for more than what you’re searching for – does that make sense? For example, take a Honda Elite 80. Those are readily listed on CL for as much as $1300, but you can find them as cheap as $400. With that in mind, you’ll want to stick to your $500 budget. Shop for something with potential that has an asking price of $700-$800. You go for that price point only because you can typically negotiate down from the original asking price. You’ll be surprised by how many people will drop their prices right away. 

Things you need to ask the seller
Now that you’ve found a motorbike that you want to check out, contact the seller right away. In CL, most ads will give you an option to call, text or email. I always recommend calling unless the ad states otherwise. When you’ve got the seller on the line, you’ll want to ask these questions:

  • Does it have a clear title? If yes, proceed. If salvage, say thank you and goodbye.

  • Is it currently registered? If yes, proceed. If no, it may have back fees. Ask for plate # and VIN   so ou can call the DMV or AAA to check on registration status and cost for renewal.

  • Any issues? Does it leak, does it run good? Some issues are easy to fix, but much of that depends on your own mechanical abilities.

  • Any damage to the tank, paint, body, plastics?

  • Do the electrics work: turn signals, horn, starters, brake lights, headlight-hi/low beam?

Negotiate a lower price
Don’t expect the seller to accept your first offer right away. While that does happen on occasion, there’s a bit of technique that goes into getting the motorbike at a lower price. The first thing to do is to look at some of the imperfections of the bike. If it has bald tires, mention that. A single tire can cost as much as $300. If it needs a carb cleaning, it can set you back at least $250 if you have to send it out for work. Basically, you must look for any opportunity to tell the seller, “because of such and such issues that I have to deal with, you’ll need to lower your price”. Otherwise, you could easily find a motorbike for the same price in better condition.

Let the real fun begin, reconditioning.
Now that you’ve brought home your newly purchased motorbike, the fun starts! Part of the flipping process is having to recondition your purchase to attract a new buyer. Obviously you’ll need to replace any broken or worn out parts, but one thing I’ve learned is that if you install new tires, that becomes a huge selling point. Though name brand tires are great, their prices might cut into your profits. Instead, go with brands like Cheng Shin Tires (CST), Shinko and Kenda. These are lower-priced tires and they add immediate value to your investment. You may also want to consider changing the oil. New tires and an oil change can be great selling points for your bike.

Let’s get this baby sold!
Once your bike is ready, you’ll want to make sure it has some curb appeal to it. Give it a good washing, waxing, and some engine detailing. I recommend an engine degreaser to clean out the engine bay and finished off with a detailer spray that leaves the motor looking as fresh and clean as if it just came from the factory. You can easily find these engine detailer kits from an automotive parts store or even Walmart. Just make sure the products you’re getting are safe to use for motorcycles.

Once the motorbike is nice and clean, you should take some great photos with it. Use a DSLR if possible to give it that fancy look. Take as many as 15 photos, making sure you show off the sexy curves of the body as well as the odometer. Also take shots of the tires, engine, accessories, exhaust and seat (to show there are no tears). 

To market your motorbike, use CL because it’s free. In your listing, include in the ad title the make/model/year. If your investment has low miles, make sure it states that in your ad. Add bullet points in the ad for all the things you’ve done to the machine, for example:

·         Fresh oil and filter

·         New fork seals

·         Fresh 10wt fork oil

·         New front and rear tires by Shinko (only 10 miles on them)

·         Carb recently cleaned

·         New spark plug(s)

·         New front brake pads

Keep in mind that during this whole time, you should be tracking all your expenses on the investment. You figure new parts will cost money and if you’re not doing the labor yourself, you’ll be paying someone else to work on it. If your $500 investment is going to cost you a few bucks more to be in flipping condition, you have to make sure that when you try and flip it, that you’ll get all your money back AND earn a profit from it. Ideally you want to make at least a 50-100% profit. 

Having a clean title works wonders. Having the pink slip in your name adds value to the vehicle. Think about it: would you buy a something that didn’t have paperwork? Probably not. 

The key in flipping motorbike is you’ve got to study the current market value of the make/model of the vehicle you’re planning on flipping. Don’t just go for a cheap investment to later find out you can’t even sell it for what you paid for. Rather, take the time and see what the low, average and high prices are, then try to buy the higher priced vehicles at lower prices so you can have some meat on the bone when you try and resell it. 

Motorbike flipping isn’t for everyone; people who have some mechanical knowledge will save quite a bit of money since they’ll be doing most of the work themselves. You’ll also need to have some negotiating skills to get the best deals. This whole process can be fun and exciting at the same time, give it a try, you might just like it. 

Leave a comment below if you have been flipping bikes yourself.