Buying and selling classic motorcycles for a profit

The classic motorbikes market has been hot for the past few years. Fuelled by an increase in both TV shows showing how to do up and flip classic bikes and cars, and classic motorbikes events. This has lead to a huge uplift in values from both ultra rare vintage bikes to the most humble of mopeds and scooters.

​The market has also seen an upsurge in the now termed “Modern Classic” market, which essential covers anything from the late 70’s through to the early and mid 90’s. With more and more people looking to invest in classics and increasing interest in the modern classic market, flipping classic motorcycles is becoming a profitable business opportunity.

How to flip classic motorcycles

There are three basic strategies you can deploy when flipping classics:

  • The first is the classic buy and sell flip. This works in the same way as you would flip a modern motorcycle. You simply add value by doing small repairs and valet the bike, before marketing it at a higher price than you paid for it. You can find my foolproof guide to flipping motorcycles – motorcycle flipping business plan.
  • The second is to buy a motorcycles and sit on it for a number of years and hope it appreciates further. This is a riskier tactic but it can also be rewarding if you have bought the bike correctly in the first place and secondly you pick the right motorcycle and the prices rise.​​
  • The third way is to buy a project motorcycle needing more than a little cosmetic help. This can be a great tactic if you have the skills to do this yourself. But isn’t advisable if you need to outsource the work as the cost normally spirals out of control. So this tactic is usually best left to the professional dealer or wealthy investor.

Where to find classic motorcycles to flip

I have bought some really great motorcycles this way. Simply place a small classified advert in the local paper and wait for the phone to ring. For years I’ve placed a weekly advert simply asking for classic motorcycles and projects. 

The older person or widower who is more likely to have a classic is often unsure how to sell their motorcycle. This age group is also much more likely to read a traditional news paper, so it’s a great source of traditional classic motorcycles and modern classics alike.

Auctions
Most smaller locally based auction houses have classic motorcycles for sale from time to time. These can be a great source of bikes. The auctioneers often know little about classic motorcycles and even less about the potential of modern classics, so they are a great hunting ground. You can also buy motorcycles at classic car and bike auctions and either sit in them and hope they appreciate as suggested above, or simply try and flip them on the retail market at a higher price.

Word of mouth
This is as simple as it sounds. If you are motorcycle crazy then it’s likely you will have friends who are too. Simply let people know you are in the market to buy a classic while in conversation. This can work well while networking at motorcycle meets and shows. Once you have a reputation in your local area as a classic motorcycle buyer the motorcycles may end up finding you.

Scrap yards
Both traditional and modern classic sill end up at scrap yards, especially when the metal prices are high. So its always with leaving your name with the local scrap dealers. The often know when something is worth putting aside, but often haven’t the time to retail a motorcycle. So you can find some bargains.

Garages
Small garages and MOT centres can be a great source of older motorcycles. Small garages often aren’t involved in motorcycle sales but often get offered bikes, and some of these can be classics. Its always worth leaving a name or card with the owner. You never know what might turn up.

Actively searching for motorcycles
Simply driving around on a weekend can be a great way to find motorcycles. Depending on your neighbourhood you can often simply find motorcycles for sale on the street or in driveways. I have also bought lots of classics over the years by simply popping a note on a bike or knocking on a door after seeing a classic parked up. Sometimes it’s taken months or years to buy a particular motorcycle, but simply showing genuine interest in the bike and offering to buy it someday can yield results.

You can also search your local area using google maps. This can bring some surprising results with motorcycles often being visible from above that simply cant be seen from the road. You can simply knock on a door or post a letter saying you buy classic motorcycles for cash. In recent years I have even heard of classic motorcycles hunters using drones to find bikes!

Barn find motorcycles
We have all seen or read about an exotic racing motorcycles making tens of thousands at auction after languishing in a barn or stable for decades. Only to be found by a lucky motorcycle hunter after a conversation with a local farmer or a whisper heard in a cafe or bar.

Well the chances of stumbling across a barn find these day are rare, the chances of finding a valuable modern classic or a more modest 60’s bike are higher than you might think. There are still plenty of motorcycle to be found and with the internet you can find a market for even the most unlikely of motorcycles.

Franchised or used motorcycles dealers
Yep franchised and used dealers often don’t take either traditional or modern classics in part exchange. So simply by leaving your details with the salesman and sales managers you could become their go to classic buyer.

Dealers will appreciate you will be looking to make a profit so you can often buy motorcycles directly from the owner or garage at a great price. I have bought hundreds of motorcycles in this way and its my favourite way to buy bikes.

Searching classic motorcycles magazines​
Looking in the classified sections of motorcycles magazines can be offer some great opportunities when looking for motorcycles. Larger dealers often scour the small ads for bargain and you can too. Look for misdescribed motorcycles and low mileage 80’s and 90’s modern classic.

Social media
Facebook and social media can be a fantastic way to buy modern classics. I have made some amazing finds in Facebook groups and I have also bought some more traditional classic motorcycles.

Where to sell classic motorcycles

Auction
Psychical auctions have long been the traditional place to sell classic motorcycles and cars and they are generally still a good place to sell. I have seen some amazing results at auction with both traditional and modern classics. I especially like selling at auction if the motorcycles has something special or different about it like, exceptionally low ownership or mileage. Auction fever can set in and motorcycles can fetch crazy money.

eBay can also be a great idea, especially for modern classics. I have had great success flipping low mileage 80’s motorcycles. If you have the right bike it’s defiantly worth a go.

Classic motorcycles dealers
If you have bought you motorcycles correctly. You might be able to simply sell your car to a dealer at a profit and let him worry about getting market value for it. This simple tactic can be profitable and I know people who only use this business model. 

Some classic dealers also work on a sale or return basis. Allowing you to get a fixed return on you classic motorcycles. You simply leave the motorcycle with them and they take care of all the marketing and enquiries etc. This can be a good option and a dealer can often achieve a much higher price than a private sale.

Social media
You can advertise in general motorcycle selling groups on Facebook an other social media sites. But the best success I have had is in Facebook groups that specialise in particular brands or models. You can get big money for motorcycles in a very short space of time. 

Conclusion

Flipping either modern or classic motorcycle represents a great opportunity. With similar rules and tactics applying. So however you choose to buy and sell a classic motorcycle there is a lot of money to be made from flipping them, with so many possible motorcycles to flip and places to sell the classic market has never been easier to operate in.