I Sold My Motorcycle on Craigslist – Tips on Selling

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She was a good bike in her day, but she had to go.

Four years ago I purchased a 1983 Honda V45 Magna motorcycle for $1,800.  As a youngster I grew up riding around on my dad’s 1984 V65 Magna and had wanted my own for years.  After being wanton so long I was totally stoked to be buying this bike.  Looking back now it pains me to say this, but it was pretty much a big, fat, hairy disappointment – almost straight outta the gate.

The day I took ‘er home everything was kosher but shortly thereafter she started leaking oil, then developed a stripped 5th gear, then came down with wiring problems and rotted fuel lines, until finally… she blew a clutch while I was taking my wife for a drive – which was the last straw for both of us.  I really wanted to keep the bike, but she just never treated me well.

An attempted sale

In late autumn of 2009 I finally decide to post an ad on Craigslist for $600.  I know right… what better time to sell a motorcycle than right before winter in Michigan?  Don’t ask me what I was thinking… to be honest, I just wanted to get the bike out of my garage to make room for a new workbench.

I didn’t receive one phone call on the ad.

Lesson learned:  never try to sell a motorcycle before winter… you’ll be lucky to give it away.

The 2 hour start to finish sale

I didn’t get my workbench before winter.  Sure, I could have taken the bike to the junkyard for $50, but the Jabs in me wouldn’t let it happen.  I knew I could get at least $250 if I waited till spring.  So we waited out the cold Michigan winter with the hopes of selling for big money a few months down the road.

This past weekend spring sprung here in Michigan so I quickly threw up my ad on Craigslist and went about my business.  While upstairs with the better half I noticed my phone ringing, but thought nothing of it.  A few minutes later it rang a 2nd time, then a 3rd, and then a 4th before I irritably ran down to see which family member was trying to reach me by calling over and over again.  To my surprise the calls were not from family, but four separate and unrecognized numbers.  Then the light bulb went off, “Ohhhhh… the bike!  Wow, already?”

I was very surprised.  Within 15 minutes of publishing the ad my phone was blowing up.  As I began calling the buyers back, more calls were coming through on the other line – apparently I was asking a good price for the bike!

The 2nd caller on the list offered to pick up the bike for $250 right away.  I accepted – a rash decision that ended up costing me at least $250 more.

Within an hour the buyer showed up at my home, we exchanged title for money and he was on his way.  From start to finish the sale took less than two hours to complete… and I deleted my Craigslist ad accordingly.

Tips on selling

If I had it to do over again I would do several things differently.  As I mentioned above, accepting the first offer on the bike was a mistake that cost me at least $250.  I know this because the 4th guy I called (I returned the calls of all interested parties) was flabbergasted I was letting the bike go for $250 and offered to give me $500.  As badly as I wanted to accept the offer, I had already given the other guy my word and had to stick to it.

Next time I sell a decently priced item I will follow these guidelines:

  1. Low price or best offer. If you know you can sell the item for $500, publish the ad as “$300 or best offer.”  This will get the calls rolling in.
  2. Just take offers first. Give yourself a designated time frame or number of contacts before deciding to move on.  Do not make any commitments to sell at this point, just take offers.
  3. Play buyers against each other. Don’t lie, just play the actual offers against the others.  If one buyer offers $400, let the others know.  If they are truly interested in the purchase they will beat the offer.
  4. Make the sale. Once you secure the highest offer… make the sale.

I sold the bike for $250, but could have sold it for $500 or more by following these simple steps.  Lesson learned.

What about you?

Have you recently sold an item and learned a few lessons of your own?  Any tips on selling you want to share?



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1 Donna

I had tired of my 14 year old end table and coffee table in the living room. They had seen better days and I wanted a change. I listed them on Craig’s List and sold them to a very happy young mother for $90 for the set. In turn, my husband hunted on the same list and found me the coffee table I was looking for at $60! Not bad, $30 in our pocket and the coffee table I wanted. The number one tip I have, BE PATIENT. Don’t buy the first thing you see. People who get the best buy and save money are patient people. Thanks for the great article.

2 Matt Jabs

Patience was definitely my spoiler. Great advice, and congrats on your tables! :)

3 Elle

I recently helped a friend sell her grill on Craigslist (new apt couldn’t fit it). Taking well lit pictures helps and including answers to any common questions reduces curious phone calls.

I noticed that the slow selling grill ads didn’t give much description and I think that made the difference in getting within $10 of her sale goal. Great post!

4 Matt Jabs

I agree… great pictures and descriptions help attract buyers. If you don’t give good info you won’t get many calls. Solid tips Elle.

5 Katrina

The is the most backwards way of selling on craigslist. I had someone do this to me for the first time this weekend. I agreed on a price. Drove 35 minutes to get there and when I was at the guys house he started telling me he wanted 300 vs the 150 we initially agreed upon. Because others had called and initiated a bidding war while we were driving to his house. That is a horrible situation to put someone in. I actually had to leave, and start wandering around DC to find an ATM, all the while only have 2 minutes too decided whether I was comfortable with the price. For all I know, by the time I got back to his apt the price could have gone up to 500. Very shady.

The more proper assumed way to do it is to list slightly higher then you expect. When I read ads “or best offer” almost certainly means, I will go lower. I’ve never once interpreted it as I’ll go higher. My method is to post slightly higher, then add or best offer and see what you get. Your way is just adding too much hassle and pissing people off.

6 Matt Jabs

I have a mind to delete this snarky comment Katrina, not because your selling approach is wrong… but because you obviously didn’t read the post.

As mentioned in the post “As badly as I wanted to accept the offer, I had already given the other guy my word and had to stick to it.”

Next time, please make sure you’re sure of what you’re talking about before you go criticizing.

7 Katrina

I did read the post. I don’t mean to offend you, I just don’t agree with anyone advocating this as a craigslist tactic or strategy.

99.99% of people interpret OBO as an invitation to lowball you. I guarantee if you had listed at $250 OBO you would have received greater than 30 phonecalls within an hour or two, with at least a third of them lower then the listed price (and way more if you hadn’t underpriced your bike so much). Most of the calls in this case would be wasting your time.

In the case where you do get people to bid higher. Its kind of difficult (and unfair and frustrating) to create a bidding war where no one but you knows what is going on. That’s why its best to start high, and reduce as offers come in.

8 Matt Jabs

Offend me?

You said: “The is the most backwards way of selling on craigslist. I had someone do this to me for the first time this weekend. I agreed on a price. Drove 35 minutes to get there and when I was at the guys house he started telling me he wanted 300 vs the 150 we initially agreed upon.

Do what to you? Promise you a price, then back out on you? I did no such thing. You misrepresented what I actually did then criticized me for it. Yes… that is offensive.

“99.99% of people interpret OBO as an invitation to lowball you. I guarantee if you had listed at $250 OBO you would have received greater than 30 phonecalls within an hour or two, with at least a third of them lower then the listed price”

Honest question… do you have statistics to back up this 99.99% guarantee?

9 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

For what it’s worth, when I read Katrina’s first comment, I understood “I had someone do this to me for the first time this weekend,” to mean that she had someone use the same method of bidding that you suggested (but not in a nice way of doing it beforehand, but while she was actually on the way).

I didn’t actually think that was directed at you…she was just frustrated with what happened to her. Then I saw your reply and thought “uh-oh, I see gender miscommunication”…

Of course, I also think that OBO means “willing to go lower”, so maybe I’m projecting good thoughts instead of interpreting bad ones.

Hope this helps.

10 Angie

I don’t know how old this post is because I can’t find any dates on the post or the comments. I have never followed this blog before. I found this post when searching “how to sell a motorcycle on craigslist.”

Clearly there is a misunderstanding between you and Katrina, and I don’t want to get into the middle of that. I wanted to comment because my husband and I are trying to sell a motorcycle on craigslist, and we are having a difficult time.

The first time we posted it we only got 3 responses and 1 of the potential buyers seemed suspicious. We tried posting it again, lowing the price slightly and didn’t get any responses. After researching other alternatives, such as ebay and selling the bike on consignment with a dealer (this is 2009 Harley with only 4,900 miles), we decided to repost the ad again on craigslist a month after our last post. We added more pictures, and again we are not getting any responses.

Part of the problem is my husband and I can’t agree on how to price it. I thought along the lines of Katrina, and thought OBO was an invitation to lowball, and I sort of assumed buyers would try to haggle anyway without the invitation. I also thought I should list the price as slightly higher than what I had hoped to get. This was the way I was taught to sell vehicles.

My husband thought we should list a low price and include OBO and I was flabbergasted. I thought he was just trying to get rid of the bike even if it meant a big loss for us. It never occurred to me that craigslist worked like ebay.

But at this point, after reading your experience Matt, I might try the OBO technique and take offers first. We took it to the Harley dealer, and we were offered $5800. Since Kelley Blue Book says it is valued between $6700 and $8200, I thought it would be foolish to just take that offer. My point is, if I was willing to get rid of it for $5800, perhaps I have nothing to lose by listing it as $6500 OBO. But then I see Katrina’s and Budgeting in the Fun Stuff’s comments which sort of validate my original concerns.

The problem is, if I undersell this bike, we aren’t talking about a loss of a couple hundred dollars, but rather a couple THOUSAND dollars. I also don’t want to offend buyers. What I feel would be helpful is an example of what to say to callers while you are fielding offers. I don’t expect a savvy buyer to make an offer on such a big purchase over the phone. I prefer to assume I will be working with savvy buyers so that as a seller I don’t insult the buyer’s intelligence. Would you still suggest these techniques for a higher priced motorcycle?

11 Carlos Frank

I could have definitely used these tips when I sold an old washer during the summer. I had a similar experience. I had my bottom line number set at $100 and the first couple that offered it to me got the washer! It was probably the fear of “OMG if I don’t take this offer I might never sell this thing!” LOL Your #2 tip (Just Take Offers First) would have helped me because someone contacted me later in the day and offer $155! I think sometimes when we just want to get rid of something we let the emotion of getting rid of it, outweigh the profitable transaction! Oh well we live and learn.

12 Matt Jabs

I think you hit the nail on the head Carlos. I failed to be patient and jumped on the first offer because of a fear of not being able to sell otherwise. Like you said… lesson learned. :)

13 Bible Money Matters

We recently sold a treadmill on craigslist. It was relatively new, and we just decided on a baseline number of what we would accept for it. We set the price higher than we wanted to receive – and once we got an acceptable offer, we took it. We were surprised that we received almost as much as we had paid for the treadmill a year or two earlier. Gotta love it!

14 Matt Jabs

Yeah, the free exposure CL gives us as sellers is incredible.

15 frugalapolis

You could have sold it for nearly what you paid for it, easily over $1000. I sold a 1985 Honda Rebel 250 for $1200 a couple months ago. When your phone started going crazy you should have realized it was too cheap. I would have told everyone it was already sold. Then relist it next weekend at a much higher price. Comparison shop listings using crazedlist.org (need to use firefox browser to make it work). Motorcycles and utility trailers are great items to flip to make hundreds of dollars on each deal. If you watch craigslist, I bet you’ll see your same motorcycle for sale at double the price, especially if you let it go with an open title – its probably still in your name til they sell it. Oh well, lesson learned.

16 Matt Jabs

Nope, there’s no way I could have sold it for $1,800… the bike was not in running condition.

Also, sure… they may flip it, but they also know how to fix motorcycles and have the time to do so… I don’t. I’m sure someone will make at least a small profit on the bike, which is cool with me.

17 Wojciech Kulicki

I just wrote up a long post about selling my car on Craigslist. Like you, I was absolutely blown away by the number of people who were immediately interested in buying the car.

You definitely need a game plan and have everything ready to go before you post!

18 Robert Espe

I got my 1982 Honda 125 CBS on Craigslist. I just always list things I plan to sell high, people make offers, and then you can come down, and they think they are getting a deal. I listed on of my sailboats for $1200, was offered the $800 I wanted.

19 Matt Jabs

My only problem w/starting high is that you will not get as many calls. After considering both approaches I would rather start with my bottom line and post the ad as “$bottomprice or best offer.”

20 Money Funk

I love Craigslist for its ease of selling. Great job, Matt.

We have a $25,000 custom chopper for sale. Craigslist has not been good to us to sell that one. Maybe I will try Cycletrader again.

21 Matt Jabs

Try lowering the asking price to your $bottomprice or best offer, then republish the ad. It should get the calls rolling in, then you can play the offers against each other.

Also take a peek at the CL auto selling guide Woj posted on Fiscal Fizzle today. It’s written for autos, but the concepts can apply to bikes just as well.

22 BG

I’ve sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist too. Best thing is to research your Craigslist market, and find what everybody else is selling their stuff for. Undoubtedly there were a ton of bikes for sale on Craigslist when you sold yours.

(nice bike BTW — I sold my Vulcan to a family member 3 years ago)

23 Matt Jabs

It’s hard to part with them isn’t it? Mine was a little easier based on the fact that she had so many issues… but I don’t hold it against her. After all, she was nearly 30 years old. :)

24 RJ Weiss

Great advice. I’m looking to sell a fridge soon that came with our house. I’m going in with no experience on Craigslist, so we’ll see how it goes.

Thanks for the tips.

25 Neil

The low price is a bad idea. Most people anchor to whatever you start with, and think of themselves as either getting a good deal if you let it go for less, or a bad deal if they pay asking price, or have to bid higher. Start your post slightly above what you think is a reasonable market value. OBO should be included in the ad, but in most cases people will read that as inviting bids below the posted price…getting a higher one is fairly rare, and probably means you have vastly undervalued your bike. You’ll get fewer calls, but they’ll be for higher prices – win on both counts in my books. If you’d listed for $750, $500 guy probably still would have called, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d offered more than $500.

If you get no calls, lower your price and repost…it’s not like a traditional newspaper ad where that would be costing you money.

26 Matt Jabs

Not bad advice… I see the benefits of both approaches. In my case, I wanted to take advantage of the FRESH break in spring weather and also wanted the bike out of my garage ASAP.

If I had more time to sell, I may try this approach but think I’d still have better luck with the approach mentioned in the post.

I also think the personality of the seller has a lot to do w/which approach would work best.

27 Kate

I wonder if I could sell my jetta online, talk about a disappointment – I feel like I am dating my mechanic.

Thanks for the selling tips, I am thinking of getting huge spring clean done this month and hopefully putting some stuff on CL as well.

28 Matt Jabs

Ha ha! Maybe your mechanic is sabotaging the Jetta to see you more? ;)

29 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

Ummm, in the Houston area, “or best offer” means you’re willing to go lower. I can’t tell you why or even if it’s official anywhere, but that’s how it’s interpreted by everyone I know.

I’m totally not criticizing how you sold your bike (sorry you missed out on an extra $250, but you did the honorable thing- which is cool), but that’s how OBO is interpreted here.

To the Craigslist part, I love Craigslist and have sold both our old vehicles there for way more than a dealership offered. I had a 1997 Mazda Protoge that was awful – stalled, leaked oil, had no a/c in Houston, TX, no power anything, etc. It was a reposssed vehicle my parents bought me for $1400 as a surprise my freshman year – I used it for 3 years and then had to get rid of it or go crazy. CarMax offered me $200, but someone bought it off Craigslist for parts for $1400 in less than two weeks.

My husband was offered $2000 by the dealership for his 2003 Hyundai Sonata, but we sold it on Craigslist in less than 2 days for $4800 (Kelley Blue Book’s value).

I’ve Craigslisted over 15 items in the last 3 years with hardly any problems (spammers suck). I also love Freecycle for things I’m just trying to give away.

30 Matt Jabs

Wow… those are some awesome CL success stories. Congrats.

31 myfinancialobjectives

I agree with frugalopolis, thought would not have known to actually do what he said. I have only used Craigslist to buy workout equipment, and sell some tickets. Both situations worked out great, but I don’t have any good story to tell from them! :)

Hey, lesson learned!

32 Arthur @ FinancialBondage.org

Dave Ramsey’s “Buying big bargains” section of his FPU class is really useful. Good stuff on saving money and negotiating a deal on anything.

33 Len Penzo

Look on the bright side, you still made $200 more than if you took it to the junk yard.

Best,

Len
Len Penzo dot Com

34 Matt Jabs

Heck yeah, $200 is very bright to me. I didn’t mention this in the post, but we moved the $250 straight into our “Next Auto Fund” which is just one of our several ING Savings accounts. The bike sale will help us pay cash for our next auto purchase… gotta love that. :)

35 Mrs. Accountability

It was very honorable of you to stick with the $250 offer. I would have done the same thing, but would have kicked myself for a very long time over missing out on an extra $250. On the other hand, there’s nothing that you can do about it now, so you just have to look on the bright side.

36 Matt Jabs

Well, I just figure if I want other people to do right by me then it’s best that I do right by them first. We’re happy about the $250… we put it in our “Next Auto Fund.” :)

37 Daddy Paul

When selling on craigslist I start with a price a little high. Two days later put it up for sale in another city. I repeat the cycle dropping the price. When you hit the magic price people come like vultures.

38 JJ

It shocks me to see how many people still think it’s ok NOT to post a decent image of their item for sale. I don’t even waste my time looking at an ad without a photo.

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