Editor’s Note: This post is kindly sponsored by Clint and the team from Motorcycle Shippers. Motorcycle Shippers can ship your motorcycle door-to-door around the United States with minimal hassle. If you want to start a ride away from home or ride further without looping back, these folks can help. Perfect for long trails like the Trans American. 

In today’s world, buying things over the internet is common.  But when you may be parting with hundreds/thousands of dollars, you need to exercise extra caution, particularly if you are dealing with a private seller online.

Dealing with a private seller is not like buying things from well-known online vendors.  Traditional vendors may provide written warranty and satisfaction policies.  Such things are often not available from a private seller.   This means that transactions with private individuals can riskier, but don’t have to be.  And by purchasing privately, you may also be able to get that bike you want for significantly less.

So let’s talk about a few things you can do to help protect yourself and your money.


  1. Do a little legwork and know the common online scams.  RideApart has a decent summary of the types of scams and how they work.
  2. Once you have a little background, the first thing you need to know is whether the person is the true owner of the bike and can sell it to you.  While that might seem like a foregone conclusion, the fact is that there are many scams out there where people try to sell a bike they don’t personally own or even own at all.  So before you send any money, it is essential to get a copy of the title and a picture of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the bike.  If you can get a clear picture of the title next to the bike’s VIN stamp, all the better.  Ensure that the two match.  Sure, documents can be photoshopped, but most scam artists won’t take the time or have the ability to provide convincing photoshopped documents.


  1. If major accessories are shown in the picture and you want them to be part of the deal, make sure you get the seller to agree that they are included in the purchase price.
  2. Although it may cost you a few dollars more, consider using an online escrow company.  Companies like Escrow.com or even Paypal can hold your money until a transaction is successfully completed.  With these services, there is at least some protection from scams and should provide you with some peace of mind.  Never, ever, send payment in the form of pre-paid credit cards.
  3. Think about getting a 3rd party pre-buy inspection.  A good seller will welcome the inspection before the sale.  If you have a friend in the area willing to check the bike for you, great!  But if you don’t, there are companies like LemonSquad that perform motorcycle pre-buy inspections.  It will cost you a few bucks, but if you are spending a lot of money, it’s cheap “insurance.”


  1. If the seller successfully demonstrates that he/she is the proper owner, you need to know whether the title is “clear.”  A clear title means the owner’s title does not have any liens.  The lack of liens should make the title faster and transfer easier.  If a title does have a lien/liens, the lender(s) will first have to discharge their liens before you can title the motorcycle.  The current owner must handle the discharge of liens.  You should not pay for a bike with a title that is not fully discharged. If the title is clear, the transfer should be fairly straight forward.  Check to ensure that the clear title is in the current owner’s name.  Make sure that when the current owner endorses the title to you that he/she uses your full legal name and current residential address. If there is a lien on the bike, the title should indicate the name of the lienholder.  Make sure that the lien on the title is stamped by the lender as discharged, or there is notarized written documentation from the lender that the liens have been released.  This can take some extra time, so be aware that the sale may not be able to occur immediately.

    Buying motorcycle online

    There are some extra considerations when buying a motorcycle online.

  2. Make sure that you get a “Bill of Sale” with your purchase.  At a minimum, a detailed bill of sale includes the following items; the date of purchase, name, and address of the buyer and the seller,  the make, model and year of the motorcycle, the motorcycle’s VIN, and the amount paid for the bike.  If you are not buying the bike “as is,” the bill of sale should also indicate that the motorcycle is free of any known defects or accidents.  In addition, if you negotiated any accessories (like panniers, top box, performance exhaust, auxiliary lighting, etc. as part of the deal, make sure that the Bill of Sale lists them as being included.

Seller ratings

  1. If you are buying the bike from an online auction site like eBay, make sure you check the seller’s ratings.  Don’t just check the number of “stars,” read several reviews, and know what the seller’s plusses and minuses are and how they’ve treated previous customers.

International transactions

  1. Buying a bike from another country (i.e., an international transaction) can be tricky.  At a minimum, make sure that the machine meets US emissions and safety standards. This is very, very important.  Motorcycles made in a country outside the US may not have been manufactured in compliance with US regulations.  If they have not, it may be nearly impossible or costly to bring the bike into US compliance.  Even if the bike does meet US regulations, you will likely need a letter of compliance from the bike manufacturer.  Obtaining one can be tricky and take considerable time.
  2. If you are dealing with international sellers, there will likely be duties and taxes to pay when the bike is delivered in the US.  These costs must be considered before you decide to complete the transaction and is not included in the sales price unless previously agreed upon with the seller.
  3. For international sales, you should also determine what currency will be used to complete the transaction.  If you are not paying in US dollars, you will need to consider the impact of currency conversion, which can be to your detriment or benefit.  Just make sure you know which currency you will be using and how the conversion impacts the sales price.


  1. If you are not buying locally, make sure you consider the cost of shipping your bike to you from the place where you are buying it.  There are many different methods for arranging for shipment.  Just make sure you know about how much it will cost you to get your new baby home.  If you plan to use a motorcycle shipping company, make sure they are reputable.  Check their online reviews and determine whether they offer free insurance and its limits.  If the coverage is not free and you want it, make sure you know how much it will cost.  Also, consider how you want the bike transported.  If you prefer an enclosed carrier, make sure that your selected carrier provides it.  For enhanced safety and security of your motorcycle, enclosed carries should be your first choice.


All image credit: Clutch and Chrome

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