How To Flip A Motorcycle For Profit: A Seasoned Restorer’s Guide

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A daunting task may be buying a motorcycle and fixing it up before selling it. Many wonder if it’s possible and if it’s even worth their time. Too many times I’ve seen individuals get pumped up about enduring such a hobby only to find that they’ve become overwhelmed and given up because they simply didn’t take the right steps.

I can tell you it’s possible to make a good living flipping motorcycles. I have the proof. I was able to flip about a dozen motorcycles while I was in college to pay for my college education. My experience will allow me to share the steps that I used in flipping motorcycles.

Below are some photos of motorcycles that I have flipped and made a profit on. I also have information about the cost of fixing them up as well as how much they were sold for.

Before you think about selling motorcycles to make a profit, it is important that you understand its legality. Each state has a certain number of vehicles individuals are allowed to sell within a twelve month period so be sure to check with your state’s laws first. Every motorcycle you turn will need to have its registration and title under your name. To learn more about how legal it is to flip motorcycles, see my article here.

Step 1: Learn about your skills

Before you attempt to flip a motorcycle, it is important to assess your capabilities and what you can and cannot do.

My first motorcycle restoration was my worst experience. I was able to learn how to ride that bike, and I made it into a design I loved. I didn’t initially buy it with the intention to sell it, but money was tight because I was a poor college student and I needed some cash. The bike cost me $1,100 and I ended up selling it for $2,000 This was a $900 profit.

A college student could earn $900, which is a lot of money. I was curious about the possibility to flip motorcycles in order to fund my college education. It worked out well.

My skill set wasn’t great because I didn’t know much about motorcycles, but I learned as I went. So when you’re thinking about buying a motorcycle, fixing it up, and selling it for a profit, you need to understand your skill set and what you are willing to learn. This isn’t an impossible task if you don’t know much about motorcycles, it’ll just take you longer to complete your project.

Step 2: Understand your Budget

You will need some money to buy the motorcycle in the first place and to repair it. It is important to know your budget and what you can afford to spend on a motorcycle.

Don’t go into a project like this with a blind eye towards your budget. You can make or break your motorcycle flipping career by how much you budget. Too many times I’ve seen people get in to their project only to find the motorcycle they’re working on needs parts they can’t afford and they simply give up.

Look online at how much motorcycles are to get an idea of how much you’ll need to plan on spending. The cost of motorcycles varies depending on the time of the year and where you live. Winter is a good time to purchase a motorcycle. You can read my article about why winter is the best season to buy a motorcycle.

You can spend an extra few hundred dollars on unexpected repairs. Unplanned repairs will happen because it’s impossible to know exactly what is going on with every single part of the motorcycle you’ll end up buying.

Once you know how much the motorcycles cost, estimate how much it will cost to fix them. This includes new headlights and handlebars, paint, and basic repairs like new tires or new paint. Click here to view my recommended upgrades for motorcycles.

Step 3 – Make Your Work Space Available

A place to work on your bike project is an important step. However, it is often overlooked. People get excited about the idea and assume that working on a motorcycle doesn’t require a lot of space. Though fixing up a motorcycle doesn’t require as much space as a car, There is still more space needed than you might think.

A garage or shed is a good place to keep your motorcycle. During college I did not have a garage for part of the time so I used a friend’s shed in his backyard. It wasn’t the most ideal place, but it worked and I ended up restoring and flipping four motorcycles in there.

Make sure you have enough space to work around the motorcycle and that there’s enough space to move the motorcycle around a little, too. You may feel overwhelmed and cramped if you don’t have enough space to work. This will affect your motivation to finish your project.

You should also ensure that other members of your household are comfortable with the use of the space. It should be discussed and agreed upon by everyone before you get started so you don’t risk contention later on and have to find somewhere else to finish your project.

Step 4 – Find a motorcycle to flip

Finding a motorcycle to flip is the most important step in the flipping process if you’re wanting to make a profit off of it. You can’t just look online and find the motorcycle you want, then purchase it and hope for good. There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes in to this step that will affect the rest of your project and how much you’re able to pocket in the end.

Flipping old Japanese motorcycles has proven to be a great way to make a lot. They are easier to work on, they’re easy to find, and they’re less expensive than other motorcycles out there. Click here to view a list of my top picks for beginner motorcycles.

Once you know your budget, start searching online for motorcycles for sale, as well as local classifieds. It’s easy to get emotional in this process and want to buy the first few motorcycles you look at. The purchase of a motorcycle should not be influenced by emotions if you want to eventually sell it.

The type of motorcycle you buy entirely depends on your skill set and what you’re comfortable with fixing up. Like I mentioned before, the more you’re willing to fix, the higher the potential you have of making more money.

First, I only restored motorcycles with working engines. Later I started making sure they ran. As my skill set increased with each motorcycle, I later started buying motorcycles that didn’t run and I ended up making more money off of it though it did take me more time to fix.

Don’t be afraid to ask the seller a lot of questions. You’ll want to know as much about the motorcycle as possible if you’re going to be fixing it up. The more you know, the more you’ll understand how much work is required to get it to a point where you can sell it for a profit. You’ll also have more information to give to the potential buyer of your motorcycle.

If possible, wait 24 hours before buying a motorcycle after you’ve looked at it. You can price out any repairs before you buy and do your research on the current market price for the motorcycle in good condition.

It is best to buy a motorcycle with a title. Untitled motorcycles can cause you lots of problems down the line. You could end up with a motorcycle still having a lien or a stolen motorcycle. Click here for my article about other things to consider when buying a motorcycle project.

Keep in mind that most used motorcycles will probably not come with the owner’s manual. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend using emanualonline.com where you can access an affordable copy for your specific manual quickly and easily.

If you’re looking to flip a motorcycle for a profit, you may be interested in a video series I’ve created about completely restoring a motorcycle from start to finish and how I turned it from a $200 bike into a $5,000 bike. Within this series includes restoration tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else online as well as tutorials on hard to tackle components such as carb rebuilds, body work, and electrical. Click here for more information if you’re interested in restoring or building your dream motorcycle!

Step 5: Buy the Replacement Parts You Need

After you have your motorcycle in your possession, you can take some time to compile a list of the things you need to do to make it sellable.

Once you have a list of parts made, order them according your budget and time. Some of my motorcycle flips it took me a few months because I simply didn’t have the time needed to get it done quick; that most mostly because I was a full time student.

If you know it’ll take you a while to complete your project, buy the parts you need when you need them. It’s best to not buy a bunch of parts altogether and have them gather dust in the corner; that also risks them getting lost or damaged.

A project manager can make it easier for you to manage your project. “to-do” List of things to do and when. This will make you more organized and help you become less overwhelmed. Take one project at a given time. See a list of helpful motorcycle restoration tips I’ve compiled by clicking here.

Step 6: Make Sure It’s In Good Running Condition

Once you’ve gotten all the parts you need, make all the necessary fixes to make the motorcycle run well. If you’re wanting a large profit off of your motorcycle flip, you’ll need to make sure you sell something that’s It’s really worth it What you want from it.

I’ve seen a few people make beautiful cosmetic changes to motorcycles but didn’t pay much attention to the working order it was in. They didn’t have any luck selling the motorcycle and wondered why. While it is true that people want a beautiful motorcycle, they also want it to be reliable and safe so they can enjoy it on the road.

Don’t be afraid to use a mechanic if needed. Despite my vast knowledge, I still use a mechanic occasionally to fix my motorcycle restorations. Some things are out of an amateur’s realm and some of us simply don’t have the tools needed to make certain repairs.

Don’t sell a lemon to buyers. If you plan on flipping more than one motorcycle, you’ll begin to build a reputation. If you sell crappy motorcycles, you’re flipping days will soon be over.

Step 7: Clean the Motorcycle

If you’re wanting to flip a motorcycle for profit, one of the most important steps you don’t want to skip is cleaning up the motorcycle. The way the motorcycle looks is what catches people’s attention in the first place.

After you’ve made the necessary fixes to the motorcycle to make it in good working order, you’ll need to work on cosmetics. You should wash the motorcycle and do some paint touch-ups.

With almost every motorcycle I flipped, I had to repaint the gas tank. This was due to the fact that the paint chipped on my motorcycles or had dents that required repair. If the tank on your motorcycle doesn’t have those, you don’t need to repaint it if you feel the color is suitable.

I would recommend that you repaint the tank at the beginning of the process, and not mount the bike until all the repairs are complete. Click here to read my article about the best paint for motorcycle gas tanks.

If needed, do other cosmetic touch ups such as chipped paint on the frame or fenders if you didn’t already paint those. To make it more appealing to people, keep it clean and presentable. A clean bike shows potential buyers that you’ve taken good care of it.

Step 8: Place it for sale

The next step is the most fun and exhausting part of the motorcycle-flipping process: selling it. There is a science to selling a motorcycle so it’s important you do it right if you want to make a profit off of this.

First, ensure that your motorcycle is listed on as many sites as possible. These should include social media, Cycletrader.com and paper classifieds. You also need to display your motorcycle where it is most visible. Your motorcycle should be as visible as possible.

Post your motorcycle for sale. Make sure to give as much detail as possible in the description. Longer descriptions have been proven to be more appealing to potential buyers. They feel more trustworthy and are more likely to trust you.

You should post your motorcycle for a slightly higher price than you think you will get. People will attempt to negotiate a price for you. Being flexible is key in the selling process.

Unknown numbers may contact you via text, email, or phone. Always respond promptly to any messages, emails, or phone calls. You’ll probably get a few scammers contacting you, but in my experience they usually do it through text or email and it’s pretty easy to tell when it’s a scammer (overseas, lots of misspelled words, wants to send you money via paypal, etc.)

If you’re asking for a lot for your motorcycle, it will take longer for it to sell. That’s not saying that you shouldn’t ask for a lot if you feel it’s worth that, just know that people who spend more take longer to come around. There will be people who aren’t interested in you. A lot of people may seem interested only to never speak to you again after they’ve taken a joy ride on your snazzy looking bike.

You’ll also get a lot of people who will try to low-ball you on the price. It’s good to negotiate, but be firm on the amount you know it’s worth. It’s easy to get desperate and want to sell the bike for some profit, but if you’re patient and wait for the right buyer you’ll be able to get Continue reading profit.

Actual Examples of Motorcycles that Have Been Flipped

Above is a before-and-after picture of the 1980 Yamaha XS850 I restored and then sold in 2014. With the purchase of the motorcycle and all the parts, the combined price I paid altogether was about $1,000 (the engine wasn’t running). Because I was restoring it in the summer, and because flipping motorcycles was my summer job between semesters I paid about $1,000. After three weeks I had it fully finished and it was sold for $4,000. I made $3,000 profit.

Above is a before-and-after photo of the 1981 Honda CB650 I restored in 2015. The motorcycle and parts were purchased at a cost of $900 each. I then sold the bike for $4,000. This was a profit of $3,100.

Above is my hardest restoration. Here’s a before-and-after of the 1969 TR25W Trophy I restored. This is the one I kept for a few more years, because it was so special to me. The total cost of the purchase and parts for repair was approximately $1,800. I sold it recently for $5,000. It was a 3200-dollar profit.

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