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It can be a very rewarding experience to restore a motorcycle. Though at times it may be frustrating, if you keep at it you will be so proud of the beautiful machine you’ve created.
It is possible to save a lot of money by restoring a motorcycle instead of buying a new one. If you’re currently working on a project motorcycle but have a strict budget you need to stick to, completing your project is still very possible. Nearly 15 motorcycles have been restored by me, and many of them were completed while I was in college. I’ve compiled a helpful list of ways you can save money on your project motorcycle.
Don’t Buy Parts Too Far Ahead Of Time
It’s easy to get anxious when beginning the process of putting back together and reviving a project motorcycle. And while it’s also important to know ahead of time the parts you’re going to eventually need, buying everything at once can actually be terrible for your budget.
It’s okay to buy a handful of parts a week ahead of time when you know you’re going to be installing those parts in the coming weekend. That’s actually really smart to do. But when I say you shouldn’t buy parts too far in advance, I mean don’t buy everything you need in one transaction.
This can lead to pieces getting piled up inside your garage, or in other rooms within the house. Others might move them, and they can become lost or damaged. This will end up costing you more long-term and taking more time.
Buy A Motorcycle That’s Running
If you’re wishing to pursue the hobby of digging into a project motorcycle and don’t already have a motorcycle yet, it’s best to start out with getting a motorcycle that’s already running. It can be incredibly tempting to buy that $600 motorcycle that isn’t running, but if this is your first go-around it’s best to stick with something that you know is in good working order.
People selling motorcycles will tell you anything they want. Hopefully they’re honest people, but don’t fully count on that. It is important to only purchase a bike if you are able to see it in person. The owner may say the motorcycle isn’t running because of carb issues (which is an easy fix), but it’s hard to know until your in the project yourself.
This has happened to me several times. I bought a motorcycle that wasn’t running and thought I knew what the problem was because the owner claimed they knew. I spent way more money fixing up the motorcycle than I anticipated to buy a running motorcycle. If you don’t know a whole lot about motorcycles, always buy one that’s running.
See my article for more information on what to look out when buying a project motorbike.
If you’re interested in seeing these tips in action, I’ve created an entire video series on how to restore a motorcycle from start to finish. Within this series includes tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else online as well as tutorials on hard to tackle components such as carb rebuilds, electrical, and body work. Click here for more information if you’re interested in building your dream motorcycle!
Restore a Japanese motorcycle
Many motorcycles are amazing, and they have been made from different countries and manufacturers. Some are more expensive than others, however.
My first few days of motorcycle restoration were a little rough. I found quickly that Japanese motorcycles were the most cost-friendly and easy to operate. But just because they’re considered “cheaper” doesn’t mean they can’t look spectacular.
Most of my motorcycle projects were Japanese. I’ve also restored a 1983 BMW R80 as well as a 1969 TR25W Trophy. While these were extremely fun builds that turned out amazing, they were also significantly more expensive than my Japanese builds since they’re European. They were also more expensive for parts.
Parts for Japanese motorcycles are not only less expensive, but they’re also extremely easy to find. Repairs are less costly if they have to be taken to a mechanic. This article will provide more information on the best beginner motorcycles for restoration.
Join Online Forums
It is normal to get stuck while working on a bike project. It can be frustrating, as I’ve been there many times.
Online forums were a great resource. They can seem very 1990’s-ish, but they’ve actually proven to provide some vital tips and tricks that helped me get out of some sticky situation with some of my motorcycle rebuilds.
Whatever project motorcycle you’re working on, I guarantee there is an online forum you can join specific to your bike. Google it. The people who are already on that forum have a slew of knowledge you can learn from and will be able to answer very specific questions about your motorcycle that you wouldn’t be able to answer elsewhere. You can also review previous conversations to gain more information about your bike.
You can save a lot of money by diagnosing problems yourself and not having to take it to the mechanic.
Selling Old Parts
When working on a project motorcycle, it’s inevitable you’ll have parts on it that you’ll take off and won’t use again. These parts can be a waste of time, but they can bring in extra money to fund your project.
For the first few motorcycles that I restored, I either donated all the spare parts to the thrift shop (handle bars and luggage racks, for example) or I just threw them away. I just toss out any mechanical parts. I didn’t realize that I was wasting potential cash flow.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these parts could be sold. I uploaded photos and a short description to eBay and Facebook Marketplace. These parts would often bring me an additional few hundred dollars for each project.
These carbs were taken from a CB750 which I purchased and restored. The motorcycle was $400. I was going to give the carbs away, but then I decided to research them. They were carbs that are specifically for racing, and I was able to sell them for $400. They paid me back the price they paid for the bike.
Before throwing out anything, do your research. You can simply do a google search to find out how much the part is selling for and whether it is worth it to buy it. You’ll usually find that you can sell most of those parts.
Always Use Promo Codes
The internet has made it possible to access an infinite amount of information in this day and age. Everyday, more people buy what they need online. This is the way I usually shop for motorcycle parts.
It’s amazing how much you can save by buying parts online. eBay in and of it’self is a great way to save on used parts, but sometimes you need parts that are brand new that you cannot find on all the normal online platforms.
You can find promo codes for online purchases of parts from online stores. Promo codes are basically coupons that give you a percentage off your order. Google is all you have to do. “[company name] promo codes” and you’ll get results for several possibilities.
It’s not a guarantee you’ll find one, but I find a promo code I can use about 80% of the time. Sometimes it’s a 5% off coupon or free shipping. Even if it’s only a few dollars off, that can add up in the long run.
You can paint the tank yourself
Many people believe that professional help is required to paint the gas tank of a motorcycle. If your project motorcycle tank is in dire need of a new paint job you can easily paint it yourself. It will look stunning! This alone will save you tons of money.
If your motorcycle has big scratches or dents, there’s no need to worry because you can fix those too. I have encountered every type of motorcycle tank problem in my experience with motorcycle restoration. When I started my motorcycle restoration, I was a total novice. But I quickly discovered that it is possible to fix and paint the tank yourself.
Spray paint marks that are curvature-related are harder to see. You’ll still need to use quality equipment and paint (click here to see my article about the best paint to use on a motorcycle gas tank), but doing it yourself will save you a lot of money. And if you tried but find that you simply can’t do it yourself, you’re really not out that much before you have to take it to a professional. At least you’ll know you tried.
You can paint the frame yourself
Along with painting the tank yourself, it’s also entirely possible to paint the frame yourself as well. It’s not necessary for everyone to paint the frame of their motorcycle. However, it gives it a new look.
The good news is that you don’t have to disassemble everything off your motorcycle to repaint the frame You can see my article about painting a motorcycle frame and not removing the engine here. This will help make it less overwhelming for those who aren’t planning on doing a complete overhaul on their bike.
The other good news is that you don’t have to pay large amounts of money to make the paint job look good! My frames are always painted with a high-quality spray can (click here for my article on the best paint for motorcycle frames).
Look for local classifieds
Local classifieds are a great way to save money by purchasing something that’s lightly used. This is especially true for the motorcycle industry. Many of us end-up buying our motorcycles via classifieds ads.
But looking as local classifieds doesn’t have to stop there. Don’t forget to use this platform when looking for parts for your motorcycle; this is a great way to look at parts before you buy them so you know whether or not it’ll work (as opposed to buying used parts online).
These parts are often much cheaper because they are used. You’d be surprised at the things people are selling and what you’ll actually be able to find.
When I was working on a 1980 Yamaha XS850, I found out that the engine was completely unusable (that’s what I get for buying a motorcycle that wasn’t running). I was lucky to find the engine I wanted through the local classifieds. It worked perfectly.
Join a Motorcycle Club
Although you might not realize it, there are motorcycle clubs all over the country. Being a member of a motorcycle club can bring you many friendships and valuable knowledge.
A motorcycle club can offer you more than just being with other motorcycle enthusiasts. People with similar passions can help you recruit. Often times when you’re stuck on a certain specific project on your bike, bouncing ideas off of someone can help you get out of that rut. This is especially true when you bounce ideas off of someone who is familiar with motorcycles.
These are just a few of the other things you will find. you’ll likely find some luck getting people to actually do some hands-on help on your project motorcycle. This can help you save a lot of money and time.
You can leave some things for the mechanic
With all of this being said, there are a few instances where you’ll simply need to take your motorcycle in to a mechanic to get it fixed. You don’t have to take certain things to a mechanic.
I bring up this point because if you are really stuck with a problem that’s just way over your head, you could cause more damage and therefore more money if you keep tinkering with it. It is crucial to know when it is best to let professionals do the work.
I was trying to fix the timing of my 1969 TR25W Trophy engine. My father-in law, who is also a motorcycle enthusiast and avid rider, helped me. However, I caused more damage than I expected which led to a higher bill when I brought it in for repair.
How much does it cost for a cafe racer to be built? If you plan to do the upgrades and rebuild yourself, the cost to build a cafe racer is between $700 – $1,000 in addition to the purchase of your motorcycle. The area where you live and the year will affect the price of your motorcycle. You can click here to read my article.
Which is the worst moment to buy a bike? Spring and summer are the worst months to buy a motorcycle. Because sellers know that most buyers will be looking for a motorcycle at this time, they can make the price more expensive and less flexible. Winter months are the best season to buy.