We are being compensated by or have an ownership interest in one or more of the parties mentioned or linked to on this page. To ensure transparency, we also have a page where you can learn about how we make money.
Selling a vintage motorcycle is a different animal than selling you run-of-the-mill Harley or Honda. Once an older motorcycle starts to see an uptick in demand, things change. It is then considered vintage, and it can begin to appreciate substantially in value.
The extremely limited supply of these in-demand vintage motorcycles coupled with interested buyers and collectors drives the price up. This higher valuation unfortunately also usually translates into a harder time selling a motorcycle that falls into this category.
Selling a Vintage Bike May Take Time
Just because a vintage motorcycle has appreciated in value does not mean it will be easy to sell quickly. The higher the value of the motorcycle, the smaller the number of potential buyers. Fewer people will be interested and can afford to buy.
This will be especially true when the value begins to exceed the pricing of a similar new motorcycle. Take for example this vintage 1946 Harley-Davidson® E Knucklehead which is one of the most coveted classic American motorcycles. It was listed on ChopperExchange for $25,000 with only 20,000 miles and is in great running condition. The problem is that a buyer could buy some of Harley’s most expensive brand new touring motorcycles, like a Street Glide or Electra Glide, for the same price.
In these cases, you’re no longer in the standard used motorcycle market. This means you’ll have to find the right buyer, and that requires additional exposure and can take time.
Get More Exposure to Find an Ideal Buyer
The pool of buyers for vintage motorcycles is smaller. That means getting the maximum amount of solid exposure is very important. You need to make sure the type of buyers you attract are willing to pay a premium price. Make sure that people like high-end motorcycle collectors see that your motorcycle is for sale.
For example, that 1946 E Knucklehead is listed on ChopperExchange. That classifieds website targets only American motorcycle buyers. It has many expensive bikes including Harley-Davidson models, custom choppers, and vintage v-twin motorcycles.
If you can’t find a niche website that matches your particular vintage motorcycle, you have other options. You can turn to companies that specialize in high-end collectible markets. One great place to start is with large auction houses like Sotheby’s, Mecum’s, and Bonhams.
For example, according to the LA Times, in 2017 the Mecum auction house was able to sell 868 vintage and antique motorcycles. In total, the bikes sold for $13.7 million during a four-day event. Several even sold for $100,000 or more including Steve McQueen’s 1923 Indian Chief.
Auction houses can be a perfect resource if you have a hard-to-sell motorcycle, but keep in mind the fees can be steep compared to online sites. Mecum’s fees start at 5%. This could work out to $5,000 on a $100,000 sale. That is a lot more than it costs to list your motorcycle on eBay or ChopperExchange. But it can be worth it if you need that added level of exposure and a more guaranteed quick sale.
Price Your Motorcycle Right
Picking the correct price can also be a challenge with a vintage motorcycle. To start with, you can read our article on pricing your used motorcycle. The more unique and collectible your motorcycle is the more complicated it will be to price your motorcycle because there will be few compatible sales to use as a guide.
If none of the usual places like NADA can help, you may need to look at historic auction sales for similar motorcycles. Ultimately, you will have to use your best judgment, and keep in mind something is only worth what someone is willing to pay.
Your motorcycle may be theoretically worth $100,000 if you could find the right buyer, but it may take years to find that ideal person. You may need to make a tough call between waiting for that perfect sale or getting a little less money sooner.