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Selling your motorcycle: scams to avoid

When it comes to selling your motorcycle or scooter, thankfully scams are few and far between but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get ripped off. It’s important to be aware of the common buying and selling frauds listed below and take a few precautions to ensure you’re not a victim.

Table of Contents

The bouncing cheque

Never sign over your motorbike until a cheque has cleared. If a buyer wants your bike and you agree to take payment by cheque, ensure that the cheque has been received and has cleared before the buyer comes to collect the bike. The buyer might protests and claim you’ll run-off with his money, but if you’re selling the bike from the bike’s registered address, the chance of you doing a runner are minimal, so the buyer shouldn’t have a problem with it.

The last minute address change

A buyer may sound legitimate and on the day they’re due to come and see the bike, they might call you and claim they’re struggling to get to your address. They might ask to meet you at a train station, petrol station or another location that ‘appears’ safe. However, some bikers have had their bikes stolen from these locations. An example of this is the ‘buyer’ arrives at the new location in advance, they see you arrive and keep you waiting – perhaps you nip inside to grab a coffee or use the toilet and it’s then that they have an opportunity to lift your bike into their van.

The log book (V5) forgers

Some people posing as  buyers will ask to see your V5, perhaps they want a scan or if they visit you in person, they might ask if they can take a photo. Be cautious. Thieves look to clone motorbikes in order to sell them.

What happens in a thief steals a motorbike or buys one they know is stolen. They then find a similar motorbike and get in touch with the seller. They’ll look to copy the bike’s registration plate and back this up with a ‘logbook’ which is actually a copy of your log book.

They’ll then try and sell the bike to an unassuming buyer and disappear. The result is, the buyer is riding around on a bike that’s pretending to be yours. They’ll struggle to register it in their name and in the meantime they might run up tickets and fines that come your way as the genuine keeper.

The stakeout

Selling your nice motorbike? Someone might want it but not want to pay for it.

Thieves have been known to visit your address posing as a seller, just to scope out where you keep your motorcycle or scooter and what your security is like.

They might have eyes on stealing your pride and joy, so be careful during the vetting process – ask the buyer for their landline number when you’re on the phone to them, arranging a viewing. If they only give you a mobile, you might reasonably be suspicious. If they email you, have a look at the email address – is it using a name or a random email? Sure, it takes 5 minutes to register a legitimate looking email address but it’s still worth checking.

This is a hard issue to deal with but it goes without saying – never put your full address in your advert, never give your full address out to anyone without getting some information from them first.

Sites like eBay and Gumtree make it really simple for a scammer to narrow down bikes by postcode, enabling them to build up data on where valuable bikes are being kept.

You’re well within your rights to ask for the buyer’s email and tell them you’ll email them all the info they need. Then after the call, you can email them asking to see their driving licence – they should be able to supply this without hesitation. It won’t be bullet-proof but this alone should ward off any chancers.

The test ride swap

We all know you should never allow anyone to test ride your motorcycle without putting the full asking price in cash in your hand first so you might think you’ll never fall victim to this scam.

However, in the heat of the moment it’s easy to let your guard down.

The test ride scam can hit you in various ways, two common examples below:

  1. The buyer might not have cash but will offer to leave their bike as a deposit. The bike they leave might appear to be fairly valuable but it may also be stolen. The result is, the thief has swapped a stolen bike for a more valuable stolen bike. One nil to the thief.
  2. The thief ‘doesn’t have all the money’ with them but they’re happy to leave £500 and ‘their wallet’ behind. The wallet might not contain any of their personal info and the £500 is nothing compared to to £7,000 motorbike you just gave them the keys to.

Third-party agents

You get a call from someone claiming to be a car broker – they can send over the details of a buyer who’s interested in your exact bike. However, they charge a fee, just a small one and you’ll need to pay upfront. They’ll send you an email directing you to a money transfer website where you can make the payment.

We don’t need to tell you that if you make the payment, you’ll never hear from the ‘interested buyer’ and you’ll never hear from the original caller either.

International scams

International scams are more common. Sometimes fraudsters pose as buyers who are buying up bikes in bulk to fill a container. They’re ‘picking another bike up from a seller near to you’ in the next day or so and they’d like to know if you will sell yours to them, unseen. It sounds too good to be true.

The seller will promise to pay you in full but will negotiate with you and ask you to pay the van driver who’s coming to pick up the bike as if they pay two transactions it will be expensive for them.

You wire the money to the van driver, knowing the full payment is on its way and guess what? That’s the last time you’ll see that money and obviously, you’ll never see the van driver..

The unreliable motorbike

You sell your bike to a really nice buyer, who counts the cash out in front of you. The deal goes through smoothly – sorted. You wonder why you ever worried about being scammed in the first place.

However, you never wrote a receipt.

The buyer knows this and tries to contact you days, weeks or months later, complaining of all sorts of issues on the bike. Issues you just know can’t be true. You might be able to put them in their place but it’s not unheard of for buyers to pressure the seller into giving them a partial refund or agreeing to replace ‘worn’ parts or cover servicing costs.

They might get abusive on the phone, threaten to take you to court or threaten you physically. It’s all grief you don’t need.

Write a receipt stating your bike was ‘sold as seen, no warranty given or imlpied’ with the full price paid, date and name of both parties then, get both parties to sign it. Take a photo of the seller next to their new pride and joy and you’ll be in a much more secure position to stop any chancers trying it on.

The buyer and their expert mate

It has been known for a buyer to turn up with their mate, who happens to be an expert – perhaps they’re a motorcycle mechanic. The buyer wants the bike but their ‘expert’ mate walks around it, picking up all the faults and telling you both about the amount of work needed to get the motorbike into a reliable condition.

Both the ‘buyer’ and their ‘mate’ are just looking to pressure you to knock you down on price. They might end up with you agreeing to the bits on the bike that are ‘loose’, ‘corroded’ or not original and in the heat of the moment, they strong-arm you into selling your bike for far less than it’s worth.

Stand firm.

Top tips to avoid being scammed

  • Accurately describe your motorbike, so there’s no room for scammers and chancers to beat you down on price.
  • Don’t leave your bike on the drive on the day of sale to mark out your house for the buyer – you’re asking for it to be stolen
  • Be very skeptical of anyone who wants to buy the bike without seeing it
  • Wait for any money to clear before parting with your motorbike or scooter
  • Check out the email address you’re corresponding with and don’t trust any email receipts for money transfers – instead make sure the money is in your bank account first.
  • Check out the buyer’s details in Google – can you find their name, number and address?
  • Don’t let a buyer test ride a bike without the full asking price as a deposit. The motorbike needs to come back to you in exactly the condition it left.

Questions or Comments?

If you’ve got a question about this article and you need a bit more guidance, drop a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Likewise, if you’ve got something to add to this article or an experience you’d like to share, let’s hear it!

We love reading your comments and helping our readers.

  • Clive says:

    Motor bike dealer has agreed a price to buy a scooter from me. He has taken the scooter,, but as yet not sent the bank transfer for the money. What can I do?

    • Ben Cope says:

      Hi Clive, I spoke to Andrew Dalton of White Dalton motorcycle solicitors for you. Here’s what he had to say:

      Potentially that is theft – or at least obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception (or in English) a fraud. The police may choose to get involved but they need to have the law clearly laid out

      (1)A person who by any deception dishonestly obtains for himself or another any pecuniary advantage shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

      (2)The cases in which a pecuniary advantage within the meaning of this section is to be regarded as obtained for a person are cases where—

      (a)any debt or charge for which he makes himself liable or is or may become liable (including one not legally enforceable) is reduced or in whole or in part evaded or deferred; or

      (b)he is allowed to borrow by way of overdraft, or to take out any policy of insurance or annuity contract, or obtains an improvement of the terms on which he is allowed to do so ; or

      (c)he is given the opportunity to earn remuneration or greater remuneration in an office or employment, or to win money by betting.

      (3)For purposes of this section ” deception ” has the same meaning as in section 15 of this Act.

      The pecuniary advantage is retaining the money or money’s worth.

      Otherwise it is plain old theft.

      Basic definition of theft

      (1)A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and ” thief ” and ” steal ” shall be construed accordingly.

      He can sue in the local County Court for the civil wrong of conversion.

      He can get injunctive relief at the County Court for an order for delivery up, but this really does require a solicitor who knows what they are doing and is prepared to move swiftly. Note, a solicitor, not a legal adviser because any solicitor seeking an injunction must have the right to appear in open court – a right reserved to barristers and solicitors and latterly to Chartered Legal Executives but they have slightly odd rules of appearance which I do not know.

      But there is no easy, swift remedy.


  • Bryan says:

    I’ve had a motorcycle trader call up and tell me he wants my bike, he’s given me a £100 deposit but something about his keen nature rubbed me up the wrong way. It’s a 16yr old sought after sports bike and he didn’t even want to look at it, I’ve told him there’s a couple of issues with it but he didn’t seem bothered at all, again was happy to pay a deposit without even viewing the bike. Most dealers and even private buyers will want to go over a bike of this age with a fine tooth comb. He tells me he will transfer the rest of the money next week and send a driver to collect it. Obviously the bike isn’t leaving my property until funds are cleared, but something just doesn’t sit right with me about this arrangement, any advice?

    • Ben Cope says:

      Bryan, bike values are going up a lot at the moment and bikes are hard to come by. He may just be keen and taking a punt that your bike is as you have described it and he thinks there’s a profit in it. If he transfers the money and you have a signed receipt, there’s little risk.

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