In the years B.C. (“Before Computers”), when it came to buying a bike you went to your nearest motorcycle store and picked out what you liked best from the range of bikes they had for sale. Or you scoured the weekend papers, in the “Motorcycles” section. If you lived close to a capital city, the usual thing was to take a day, or even a weekend, and drive to the city and visit all the bike shops you could find. If you were buying privately, then you’d scan the papers and make a list, then off you’d go. And when it came to papers, the Trading Post was king! Now it’s all changed; because of computers and the internet. Now when most people come to buy a new bike they turn to the internet. On-line sales are booming; and it’s a pretty good way to buy! With the internet the world is your oyster! Or at least the whole country can be your market-place! So I thought it was about time I did an article on buying on-line. In writing this article I’m assuming we’re talking about buying 2nd-hand. You can buy new over the internet too of course, but there’s probably not much benefit, unless you’re buying something that’s pretty rare. Most local dealers will get pretty close to matching the price you’d find on the ‘net; especially when you consider the cost of getting the bike transported to you on top of what you actually pay for it. But, if you are looking for a rare model, or perhaps a superseded model etc, then looking on the ‘net will give you a choice of dealers all over the country, so in these cases it can be worthwhile. When I decided to buy a new bike I went straight to the internet. I did look at the papers and magazines too, but the internet was where I did most of my searching. Now, I haven’t exactly bought on-line, (the bike I bought I found in Motorcycle Trader magazine), but I almost did. I have gone through the process though; and the internet was heavily involved in my purchase. And I have sold a bike on-line. So, if you are considering buying a bike on-line, here’s how to do it; the things you should know, and the things to watch out for. Firstly some sites you should look at. The Trading Post is still out there, and now on-line. It’s just like the paper only with pictures and email facilities etc. So it’s worth a look. It’s at www.tradingpost.com.au. But perhaps the biggest site is BikeSales. They’re at www.bikesales.com.au. (That's a screen-shot of the site on the left there). The other one, which runs about neck-and-neck with BikeSales, (actually they’re both part of the same organisation) is BikePoint. They’re at http://bikepoint.ninemsn.com.au. Of course eBay is the first choice for many people when they come to buy just about anything on-line, and it’s a popular source for bikes too. Personally, I'd go to the other sites first, but it's worth checking out. Go to www.ebay.com.au. (You can click on the names to take you to the sites, but I've given the addresses also). But we’re jumping the gun a bit here. The first thing you need to do is get some idea of what you want to buy. How far you go with this decision depends on how far you’re going to go with the purchase. If you intend to look for prospective bikes then go and check them out, then you can narrow your choice down to a few makes and models and see which you prefer after riding them. But if you’re going to buy a bike from anywhere around the country, and buy it sight-unseen, then you’ll want to have narrowed your choice down to a particular make and model and know that that’s the bike you want. Of course you might know exactly what you want already, so in that case it’ll be easy. But if you don’t, then this is something you’ll need to work out. I won’t go into how you should make that decision (I’ll let you work that one out!), but I’ll make a few suggestions. Road-tests in magazines – or on this web-site! – can help; especially if buying new. If you’re buying 2nd-hand (which we’re assuming is the case) then check out the local library for old editions of the magazines. (Or look at the older models section on this web-site!). You might have a mate who has a particular model bike that you’re interested in. If so, ask him if you can take it for a ride. Other than that, well, I’ll mention something else in a moment. At this point we need to look separately at the two processes I mentioned above. Let’s firstly assume you’ve got a couple of different makes and models in mind and you intend to search out prospective examples for sale and go check them out. If that’s the case, then that’s exactly what you do! Determine how far you’re prepared to travel and then go searching. On all of the web-sites I listed, you can’t limit your search to a distance from your home, you can only select a state. (eBay does, however, give you a distance on how far away each one is). So you’ll have to scroll through the adds and pick out ones that are within your predetermined traveling distance. Make a list and arrange to go look at them. That’s what the lady who bought my previous bike did. She went through BikeSales and picked out five bikes, of a couple of different models, that were within acceptable driving distance; and then went to look at them all. My bike more than met her expectations and so she bought it. I’ve spoken to her since, and she would testify to having had a very positive experience in buying on-line; or at least using an on-line facility to aid buying. When I first started looking for my latest bike this is what I did too. I was pretty much decided on a particular make and model, so I looked for examples of those within a distance I could drive to. Although, of course, you can always be tempted by one that looks great but is a bit of a stretch in terms of distance. That happened to me. In my case the owner met me about half way. (Sadly, for him, I didn’t buy it!). It's best to set a realistic limit and stick to it. Now, at this stage its a bit like reading adds in the newspaper. Except you have pictures. And you can email the seller and ask for more pictures and more details. Remember though, that the seller wants to sell the bike, so will quite possibly exaggerate how good it actually is! Let your eyes, and reading-between-the-lines of email replies, be your guide here. A service-history is a good thing to have. In fact, when I went to buy my latest bike I wouldn’t buy a bike without one. It depends what you’re buying, of course. If you’re buying a 15-year-old bike that’s had a few owners then you’ll be lucky to get a full history. (Although when I sold my previous bike, it was 12 years old and had a service-history going back to when it was just 2 years and 7,000km old; so examples like this are out there!). If you’re buying a later model, then a service-history is a sign of an owner who cares. I think it’s important. A point to note here too. If the bike is a few years old and has traveled a reasonable distance, it actually shouldn’t be immaculate. Expect a few stone-chips, and perhaps minor scuffs on the side-panels etc. If there isn’t a mark on it anywhere, it’s probably been re-sprayed. Which is not a good sign! If it’s a sports-bike, an immaculate fairing can indicate the fairing has been removed for racing. (Race bikes often have separate fairings for the track). But this is all standard stuff when buying second-hand, so we’ll move on. Do you want the whole country to be your market-place? If so, then as I said before, you’ll need to know definitely what make and model you want. If you’ve already worked this out then you’re set. If not, then you’ll need to come to a decision. And that can be difficult. Reading road-tests etc, as I mentioned above, can help, but it's much better to ride what you’re considering buying to see if it’s what you want. One approach that can help is to find bikes of that make and model within a reasonable driving distance to check out. Bikes that, due to price or year-model or distance they’ve clocked up, you’re not really interested in buying, but will serve the purpose of letting you decide if that’s the model bike you want. You can try to find the exact make and model you’re interested in, or at least ones that are close enough to what you want. Now, there’s a point of ethics to consider here. Doing this means going to a bike shop (I don’t like doing this to private sales) and pretending you’re interested in buying a bike when you’re not. You might be happy to do this or you might not. I don’t make a habit of this, but I have done it; and I’ve kind of accepted it as a necessary part of the process. Although I try to be as honest as possible. I say things like, “I’d like to take it for a ride because it’s something I might be interested in.” Or, “I’m not sure if this is what I want or not, but I’d like to take it for a ride to see how I like it.” I don’t try to give the impression I’m there with a blank cheque ready to buy. But, of course, you’ve got to seem interested. Anyway, I’ll let you make your own judgements on that one. But I know that, as in other areas of the retail industry, dealers do get a bit annoyed – and justifiably so, really! – at people who use them as a test-centre for things they intend to buy on-line. As I said, I’ll let you decide how far you go on that one. In my case, when I was going through the process-of-elimination to decide what I wanted, I’d legitimately test-ridden a couple of new examples of one bike I was considering, and also test-rode a couple of 2nd-hand bikes, which I didn’t intend buying. Had they been the right bike at the right price I would’ve considered buying them, (which is kind of my justification for doing it!) but they weren’t. And yes, I pretty much knew that before I went there to ride them. But it certainly helped me decide. Having decided on a make and model, it’s back to the computer again! For reasons I’ll explain later, it’s more difficult buying interstate because there’s more red-tape and expense to go through, so you might want to limit your search to your own state. But if you’re prepared to look interstate then you greatly broaden your market of course. I mentioned some of the things to look for when buying 2nd-hand above, but when you’re buying sight-unseen it’s even more important to get photos and as much detail as you can. A service-history is almost a must here I think. (Although bikes that’ve been raced will probably come with a service-history too, so it doesn’t guarantee careful use!). You should also get an independent inspection of the bike if you can. Many people don’t, just buying on trust and on details supplied in photos and emails, but it’s much better to have a proper inspection. If you know someone in the area, then you’re in luck; you can get them to have a look at it for you. (I did this with one bike I was considering). If not then you need to get someone else to do it for you. There are inspection services in most capital cities that will do this. I used a service in Brisbane called Track Tune to look at a couple of bikes I was interested in there. They did a full ride inspection including sending photos of the bikes; in particular highlighting any potential problems they noticed. As an example of how valuable these inspections can be, one of the bikes they looked at, which was at a dealer and had been described as being in “perfect condition,” was discovered to have obviously been crashed. (The steering-head had been twisted and the handlebars bent in the opposite direction to make it look straight!). To find an inspection service in the area you need, you can go to Bike Nut. Or try the Motorcycle Network. There’s a link to them on the “Who Am I” page of this site (or you can just click the link here). Be warned though, prices vary quite a lot between different places and services. And it’ll cost more the further they have to travel. But it’s money well spent! And as one of the services said to me, you can often recover the cost of the inspection by haggling a bit with the dealer; perhaps over a minor issue that the inspection revealed. To give you a rough idea, prices will be around the $100 mark if the bike is located within the immediate metropolitan area. But if they have to travel further, they have to charge more! If the bike isn’t located near a capital city, try the local bike shops. You can get a list of these by doing a dealer-search on BikePoint or BikeSales. This is what I did with the bike I bought. The bike was located about 70km out of Melbourne, and an inspection service was going to charge $250. A local bike shop did pre-purchase inspections for $50. The owner had to take the bike in and wait while they did it, but if you’re genuine about buying the bike, and the owner expects it to pass inspection, then they shouldn’t object too much to doing this. If they do object, don’t buy it! Okay, so you’ve found the perfect bike; now how do you go about buying it and getting it to your home? Well the “getting it home” part is fairly easy; there are an increasing number of transport services that will pick up your new bike and deliver it right to your door. Costs vary from one company to another, and of course on how far they have to transport it, but think around $500 - $600 for an interstate purchase. The actual purchase can be a bit more tricky. And this is where it can be easier if you’re buying from a dealer. A dealer will have credit-card facilities, so you can buy over the phone or the internet, just as you would with anything else you buy on-line. If you’ve bought through eBay, you can use their PayPal service, which is supposed to give safe transfer of goods and money. Another benefit of buying from a dealer can be that if they are a large network with a store within a reasonable distance of where you live, they will often transport the bike to the local dealer for you. That way you can inspect the bike yourself, and hand over the money in person. I was looking at a couple of bikes at Team Moto dealers in Queensland and they offered to ship the bikes to a dealer in the Sydney area (about 80km away from where I live). If you’re buying from a private seller then you’ll need to arrange a secure hand-over of money and bike. But this isn’t as hard as you might imagine. Again, because on-line sales are a growing trend, many of the transport services will do this for you. You give them a bank-cheque made out to the owner, and they will hand the cheque to the seller when they pick up the bike. I used Allwest Motorcycle Transport who provided this service free of charge. (And that's my new bike being wheeled off the back of their truck, at my end of their door-to-door service). They do an inspection of the bike when they pick it up, noting any cosmetic damage, and have you do the same when you receive it. That protects them if either the buyer or seller were to accuse them of causing damage that was already there; but it also protects the seller from being blamed for damage that was actually incurred in transit. I can highly recommend them. A big “don’t” here; don’t just transfer the money into the seller’s account on trust! Even if you think you've come to know the person well enough to do that, don't! By the time I came to actually buy my bike, I’d spoken to the owner enough times to establish a certain rapport with him; and we were both sure that we were dealing with genuine people. But, as he said when agreeing that having a secure hand-over of the money was advisable, “I suppose even Christopher Skase sounded like a good bloke on the phone!” A transport company I spoke to told me of one buyer losing his money. The buyer just transferred the money into the seller’s account and then arranged for the courier to pick it up. But when the courier got to the address there was no bike! BikeSales issue the same warning on their web-site: “As a buyer you should take the same precautions you would when making any large financial transaction, especially if you're planning to purchase a bike sight unseen.” It’s good advice. At this stage it’s appropriate to quote a few other points of advice from BikeSales.
1. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. An example of this would be if a seller prices a bike at significantly less than its normal market value.
2. Know the seller. You should have more than one way of contacting the seller - get both email and phone details, plus a physical address once you are ready to buy. If the seller is reluctant to provide any of the above, then be suspicious.
3. In particular, be suspicious of bikes or sellers that are located overseas, or when the seller asks to be paid via an international transfer agent.
Okay, just a couple of things you should know about buying interstate. Most states have a government facility for checking the title and authenticity of the vehicle you’re interested in buying. They can tell you if there is money owing on it, if it has been reported stolen, or if it has been recorded as having been written-off. They will also tell you if the registration number matches the VIN and Engine numbers. And you can purchase a certificate guaranteeing you title of the vehicle when you buy it. But all of these facilities aren’t available for vehicles located interstate. Different states have different levels of protection, but from my observation, none seem to offer quite the same level of protection that they do for vehicles located in the same state. It’s still worth checking with these authorities though! Secondly, registration can’t be transferred. Again, as I understand it the actual procedure differs from one state to another, but basically you have to hand in the registration and then get it re-registered. This makes the purchase more expensive because it means forking out for a year’s rego on top of what you paid for the bike. You can apply for a refund of the remaining portion of the rego though, so you do get some compensation. It’s also a bit more hassle, because having the bike re-registered in your state is like having it registered for the first time. You’ve usually got to have an inspection carried out at a special place. In my case the inspection place wanted me to leave the bike for a couple of hours! They do the usual rego-inspection type things, plus a few more compliance checks, and there’s a fair bit of paper-work they have to do. So buying interstate is more involved, but if it’s the right bike it can be worth it! Okay, so there it is; all you need to know about buying on-line. BikeSales say, “Buying on-line is no different to buying off-line; except it’s quicker and easier!” Well, it’s certainly quicker and easier to find the bike you want! And with the boom in on-line sales, the actual purchase is getting easier and quicker too. Most of the “running around” can be done from the comfort of your computer-desk! Buying a bike on-line is still a bit more risky than just going down to the local bike shop; but if you go about it the right way the risks can be mostly eliminated. And it can get you the right bike for the right price. It really is a good way of buying!
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