Vintage motorcycles are going up in value, and they’re a sound investment in this economy. The Honda CB series is one of the more valuable options. But, maybe you’re just looking for a cheap motorcycle. Or, you might be looking to restore that same bike you remember having as a kid. Whatever the case, here’s some advice to guide you in your purchase.
If it runs, it runs. I buy all my bikes in non-running condition. You can get them for a lot cheaper, and most times it’s something minor that’s causing the bike not to run. I’ve paid as little as $25 dollars for motorcycles worth over $1200.
So, here are some tips I learned about buying vintage motorcycles.
- 1. When buying a motorcycle, always research the make and model. A lot of times, people are asking way too much for that old bike their dad has out in the shed. So beware. Know your values, and brush up on facts about the bike. Don’t be afraid to act like you know a little something when looking the machine over. Even if you know nothing about motorcycles, odds are either does the other guy. And if he thinks you know your stuff, it helps when negotiating price.
- 2. What condition is the tank in? Always check inside the tank, as well as underneath, for rust and possible rots that might cause gas leaks. Don’t worry too much about rust; there are cost efficient ways to fix rusted tanks. But, this is a bargaining chip when discussing price. “I’m probably going to have to replace the tank”, is a nice line to use.
- 3. Is everything there? Print a photo of the bike and bring it with you. Confirm that it’s complete and original. If it’s not, it’s just another bargaining chip. Missing parts can be hard to find, and sometimes expensive. Usually they’re not, but this guy doesn’t know how much a side cover costs. Tell him to knock another $50 off. What’s the worst he’s going to say, no?
- 4. Does it turn over? Odds are the battery is dead, so locate the kick starter and give it a good kick. Is the motor free? If it’s not, you’re probably in for a little bit of a project yourself or a possible costly repair. If this is the case, assess the value of the bike. If the guys asking $300 for a super clean 1965 Honda CB450, but it has a seized motor, then give the guy the $300 and get the hell out of their before he realizes the mistake he’s just made. If it’s an 1984 Kawasaki LTD and he wants $300, just walk away. This is why it’s important to know you’re values going in.
- 5. Always check for spark. If there is no spark, don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world. No spark is generally a minor fix, sometimes as simple as changing the sparkplug. This is par for the course, NO DISCOUNT FOR NO SPARK. Not usually, at least.
- 6. Does it have compression? Odds are you don’t have a pressure tester. But, that’s okay. When you take the plug out to check for spark, just put your thumb over the hole it goes in and give the starter a good kick again. If it blows your thumb off, making a popping noise, you’re probably good. If you can hold your thumb on as you kick it over you probably need piston rings. Not a HUGE deal, if the bikes at the right price.
- 7. If there happens to be a battery in the bike make sure all the electronics, like the blinkers, work.
If the bike has spark, good compression, and doesn’t start, a dirty carb is probably you’re only culprit, and you’re in very good shape. With just a little work and elbow grease, you could have yourself a pretty sweet little vintage bike.
My experience is that most old bikes need a minimal amount of work. So, use these tips and get out there and buy yourself that motorcycle you’ve been dreaming about.