Buying a Salvage Motorcycle
Q: Why should I buy a salvage motorcycle?
A: The price, the challenge, and the satisfaction!
How Else Can You Afford a $15,000 Motorcycle?
The first great incentive to buying a salvage (damaged) motorcycle is the cost savings. You can easily save thousands of dollars by fixing the bike. The parts will cost so much less than buying a new or undamaged bike.
But before you jump the gun and buy salvage, you must know a few things....
#1 Registring a Salvage Motorcycle
Do you plan to register and ride the bike in your state?
This is a simple question, but a very important one. Some people simply want to fix the bike and run it on a racetrack, which is great, since you don't need to worry about titling and registering the bike for track use. But should you want to register and ride the bike legally, you must find out your state's qualifications and rules for salvage. Most states require a bike to pass a safety inspection to qualify as rebuilt. To pass a salvage inspection, you must have a state-issued title and a damage appraisal, as well as any receipts and documentation of what was fixed. Your paperwork is key.
Please learn from my mistake. I spent over $11,000 on a 2005 MV Agusta, which, if you do your homework, you'll see is a $30,000 bike. The title came back as a VA non-repairable. OUCH! After fixing the bike, I had $11,000 worth of parts, because I couldn't ride it on the road: No state will issue a rebuilt title for a bike that another state has previously declared non-repairable. So make sure the paperwork is in order.
To Pass a Salvage Inspection, You Must Have:
a state-issued title,
a damage appraisal, and
all receipts and documentation of what was fixed.
#2 Where Do Salvage Bikes Come From?
Most states issue a title stamped "salvage." Typically this happens when an insurance company deems the bike a total loss, issues a damage payment, has the title drawn up in their name, and sells the bike through an auction. This is where scrap dealers, salvage bike dealers, and rebuilding shops go to bid on the bikes.
#3 Should I Buy a Salvage Bike if I Don't Know How to Fix It?
Sure, all it takes is a little time to research where to get parts and hire someone to do the repairs for you. Depending on your skill level, you should look for a bike with the least amount of damage. A few scratches on the fairings or a broken clip-on, for example, will just require some time to buy replacement parts. With so many sites like eBay and Craiglist around today, parts are easy to come by, and usually very cheap compared to buying them new from a dealer.
#4 How Can I Avoid Getting Ripped off Buying Salvage?
- Know the value of the bike you're interested in (in an undamaged state) and work from there.
- Do a thorough estimate of the cost of parts and time before you buy: If it's going to cost you more than it would cost to buy a clean bike, then forget it.
- Most importantly, shop around. There are many dealers out there, and most bikes are a dime a dozen, so don't jump at the first one you see. Take your time and shop wisely. Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki bikes are always around, and parts are easy to find.
- Don't buy a rare or custom bike if the parts are not easy to come by, as in the case of my brother who damaged a custom fairing to a 2002 Ducati 998s Ben Bostrom replica. The carbon fiber fairing was on back order from the dealer for two years and cost over $1000.
My Personal Story About Rebuilding a Motorcycle
Just so you know, I am an accountant and have no mechanical ability whatsoever.
I bought a 1998 Honda CBR 600 Smokin Joe edition motorcycle, with a salvage title, from the state of PA. The bike cost me $2800 at an auction. I had to ship it for $400, and after inspecting it, realized there was a crack in the mid fairing (with shipping, the part cost a total of $40 through eBay). After changing some plugs (which cost $8) and having the bike inspected in the state of NH ($50), a rebuilt title was issued.
So for the total cost of $3,298, I had a rebuilt '98 Smokin Joe bike that ran great. I was only able to put on about 500 miles before winter set in, and when springtime rolled around, someone offered to buy my bike for $3800, so I took it.