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Why do motorcycle dealers offer low part-exchange prices?

There aren’t many people who relish walking into a motorcycle dealership, even if you know they’ve got a bike you want. You’re on their turf, you’re playing them at their own game and they’re professionals, you’re just a happy amateur. The odds are stacked against you, or at least, it can feel that way.

Never is this scenario more true than when you’re looking to part-ex your used motorcycle against a new one. You bought it three years ago, the dealer told you it was a good purchase at the time as “Brand X has great residual values”, you spent a small fortune on main dealer servicing and you whispered sweetly to it before closing the garage door after a sunny Sunday ride. Yet the dealer’s just offer you little more than half of what you paid for it, the scoundrel!

The reasons behind a low part-ex offer

The ideal scenario for a dealer is that they make a good margin on the bike they take in part exchange and a good margin on the bike they sell you. Double bubble. So with that in mind, the dealer isn’t going to offer you anywhere near what you think your bike is worth, because what you think it’s worth isn’t factoring in the dealer needing to turn the bike around and make a profit.

Number one rule: don’t accept a dealer’s first offer.

What do you think your bike is worth?

If you’ve had a look at eBay and seen what bikes are being sold for, or been on BikeTrader and seen what dealers are advertising your model for, you’re probably not setting a realistic expectation of the price you’re going to be offered. In the first example, you’re probably drawn to the higher selling prices on eBay, unfortunately as humans we’re hard-wired to be optimistic. Then when you look at the dealer prices on BikeTrader you’re not factoring in the dealer’s running costs to keep the lights on, pay the staff and top-up the coffee machine.

Unfortunately motorbikes have a lower ticket price than most cars, but overheads for car dealerships and bike dealerships won’t be that different. So a couple of grand can easily get swallowed by the customer on a part-ex for a £40,000 Porsche but it’s going to look a whole lot worse  when the dealer wants to offer you £2,000 less than the six grand you thought your Suzuki was worth.

The dealer will have seen countless models the same as yours, they’ll know what the sold them for, how long they took to sell them and they’ll have subscriptions to industry data to help them put a value on the bike.

You might have taken your GS to the Alps and lived out your Ewan and Charlie fantasies but your dealer isn’t going to have any emotional attachment to your two year old, two-wheeled generator.

When extras don’t get your extra

Then there’s those extras you forked out on. The fog lights, half the Touratech catalogue, the Wilbers shock. Surely that’s going to make the bike more attractive to the dealer? No, it won’t, in fact possibly the opposite. The dealer might value your bike lower because in order to sell it they’ll want to return it to standard where they see fit. To add insult to injury, they’ll probably make a few quid selling all the bits you couldn’t be bothered to remove and replace with the standard stuff.

Use a valuation service

Thanks to this new-fangled internet, you can use a range of online services to get a quick valuation for your motorcycle or scooter. Just type in the registration, let the system know the number of owners, mileage and possibly the condition and you’ll get a fairly accurate idea of what a dealer is going to offer you. It might not alter the price your dealer offers you but it will go some way to reducing the surprise.

How can can increase your bike’s part-ex value

If you look to trade in your bike with a dealer selling the same marque, they’ll be more familiar with your bike and will probably offer you a better price because the dealer will be more confident in valuing the bike.

If you have bought a new bike, get it serviced by the approved dealer. Even better, buy a manufacturer extended warranty and get any small thing sorted. Your bike will look like a low risk example, something a dealer can easily sell on.

Talking of warranty, buyers value a warranty as it offers peace of mind and so a dealer will value this accordingly. Even a warranty with a few months remaining will appeal.

Pay for a valet. It might be the best £100 you spend. A professional valet will be very skilled at restoring your bike to the best possible condition, using their expertise, expensive chemicals and cleaning tools, a valet is a great pre-part-ex investment!

Return your bike to stock. If you’ve spent a pretty penny on modifications, you can remove them and sell them on to recover some costs. The chances are you’ll be able to source the manufacturer OEM parts, from exhausts to the number plate hanger, to the original screen. The closer to stock a bike appears, the easier it’ll be for a dealer to sell and your part-ex value will rise accordingly.

Time it right. Although it’s hard to do, if you queue up at the dealer offering them your 6,000 mile, 3-year old air-cooled GS the moment you hear the new water-cooled version’s landing, you’ll get your pants pulled down because the dealer will be fighting you and all the other GS owners off with a Charlie Boorman cardboard cutout (finally, a use for it).

Similarly a really common and not that desirable model isn’t going to get a great reception. In the two cases above, it’ll probably be better you try and sell the bike privately as a dealer isn’t going to want a showroom full of old undesirable models.

If your bike has more than a handful of owners in a short amount of time, the dealer isn’t going to like it. There’s not a lot you can do about this except keep it in mind when you’re about to snap up a 2-year old 4-owner bike for a ‘bargain’ price – you might get stuck with it.

How you can turn your part-ex into a winning hand

There might not be much you can do about your part-ex price – there might only be one dealer in your area, you might not have the time, skill or desire to sort your bike out and increase its value.

However the dealer is going to have internal sales targets and also targets set by the finance companies. They’re going to want to hit their targets and get the bonuses. Dealers are incentivised with free motorcycles, cars, holidays, cash and more – so they’re not going to turn down a sale, even if they won’t budge on the part-ex price.

So use this as motivation to get a better deal on your new bike, eat into their margin on that, get them to throw in a free service or two (after all, what’s the use in paying your mechanics to stand around), see if they’ll offer you some tasty bolt-ons and accessories.

Just promise us one thing – don’t settle for a free tank of fuel. This isn’t 1982 – the dealer might be a professional but you’re armed with more tools too. Power to the people!