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“Why are you selling it?”
If you are like me and have been into motorcycles for as long as you can remember, you have either asked the question above or been asked the question above.
It is just part of the life cycle of owning motorcycles.
I have turned fiercely loyal to my current motorcycle, the 1972 Shovelhead named “Cal”, and never plan to sell him. That said, I can also assure you that he won’t be the last pony in the stable, meaning I may have to ask the question again (although I try and avoid it).
Should you always the question? No, not always. Sometimes it is apparent why the person is selling the bike. Obviously, if they are a shop or dealer, it is their business and you should be wary of them from the start. If they are a private party, maybe they have too many projects, not enough space, have grown out of it, or are looking to buy something else themselves. These are all what I would consider valid, non-suspicious reasons.
Asking the question can often get the seller to volunteer information they weren’t planning to tell you. Maybe there is a backstory that legitimizes the sale.
That said, sometimes sellers find the question annoying or offensive, so my suggestion is never to lead off with it. If you are a serious buyer, go see the bike in person. Ask questions about how long they have owned it and how many miles they have put on it personally. You can also ask about any work they have done to the bike and if they suggest any routine maintenance upon purchase (oil change, tires, etc.)
In other words, you can get at the information of “why are you selling it” and probably even better information by asking the questions above. You will learn more about the bike and less about the seller’s personal life. This is my suggestion since “why are you selling it” will often get a canned response.
One final suggestion regarding the title. If the seller is a private party, the title should be in their name. Dealers will sometimes try to buy and sell a bike without doing a legitimate title transfer to themselves to avoid paying fees (understandable). However, when I come across a private party who didn’t transfer the title into their name I think, “they bought it last week, found out something was wrong with it, and are now trying to dump it on someone else.” This is a red flag to me.
Bottom line is you can learn a lot from the seller by asking the right questions and it doesn’t have to be the cliche, “why are you selling it.”
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