To get a feel for the market and what kinds of bikes are available, I've been scanning advertisements from a variety of sources. The most prolific--and consistently hilarious--has been Craigslist.
Craigslist is a wonderful invention. It allows people in a community to connect so that they can buy, sell and trade all manner of goods and services. The best thing about Craigslist is that it allows anyone to post an ad. However, the worst thing about Craigslist is that it allows anyone to post an ad.
When you want sell something, the classified ad should be an invitation to contact you for more information. More often than not, the ads I see serve more as a warning to stay away from this crazy person selling his or her bike. Far, far away.
To a buyer, there's usually some apprehension before contacting a seller about an ad they've placed. You wonder things like: Is this person interested reaching a fair deal, or are they just waiting for that one sucker to come along and buy that hunk of crap for three times what it's worth? How difficult are they going to be to deal with? Will they try to mislead you about the true condition of the bike?
Any ad typically helps the buyer answer some of these questions right off the bat. Ideally, you, the seller, want those to be good answers. You want the buyer to feel like they have a good reason to trust you (or at least no reason to distrust you) before they pick up the phone or send that email.
Here are some things to avoid when listing a bike (or any other item, really) on Craigslist. As a bike buyer, any one of these is enough to totally put me off trying to contact the seller. When I'm really productive, I can read dozens upon dozens of ads per day. If you don't make it completely effortless to understand what it is you're selling, I'm going to pass you up and just move on to the next one.
You're selling a physical item. Why on earth wouldn't you take at least one quick snapshot and upload it with the ad? To me, an ad without a photo says, "this person is not interested in selling the bike." If you can't be bothered to take a single photo, I automatically assume you're too lazy to follow through with any other part of the sale as well.
Some sellers state that they have pictures and will send them to if you text or email them. This is silly. I'm not going to spend my time trying to acquire something that should have accompanied the ad in the first place.
I also see people say that they have photos but they'll upload them later. Well, why not just post the whole ad later when you're better prepared?
Second only to no photos are bad photos. I always see ads that say, for example, "2009 Yamaha R1, mint condition, custom paint job, etc, etc" and they they post a single grainy cell-phone picture of the damn muffler. Really?
Look, you don't have to hire a professional photographer and rent studio time to get some decent photos of your bike. Just wheel that bad boy out into the sun, borrow your friend's point-and-shoot, take a dozen or so pics and upload the best four. (Bonus points if you're able to upload high-resolution photos to a third-party service and link to them in the ad, but that's not a requirement.)
I see this frequently when someone is advertising a bike that they bought brand-new from a dealership last summer, put a dozen miles on it, and then decided motorcycling wasn't for them. I don't care if the bike looks like new. I don't even care if it never left the garage. I want to see a photo of the actual bike in your possession. If I wanted to see the manufacturer's photo of the bike, I would Google the thing. Stock photos are lazy. Don't be lazy.
Perhaps this makes me an elitist douchebag, but I believe that a person's character can be measured by how effectively they communicate in writing. I recognize that there are some people who have disabilities or can't write very well. Not to sound heartless, but that's not a valid excuse. This is a business deal, so please treat it like one. If you know your writing or typing is not up to snuff, you'll be doing yourself a favor by asking someone for help. Heck, I'll do it for you if you ask nicely.
You don't have to sing the glorious praises of your motorcycle in Shakespearean prose. Just take the time to make your ad well-written and informative because my time is valuable to me and I am sure not going to waste it deciphering a cryptic message cleverly disguised as a Craigslist ad.
AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD, DON'T WRITE THE ENTIRE AD IN UPPERCASE LETTERS. IT'S LIKE YELLING. I HATE YELLING. CAPS LOCK IS NOT ATTENTION-GRABBING. IT'S HARD TO READ AND ANNOYING AS HELL.
Too Few Details
"1995 Honda for sale. Runs good. Call Bob."Some people, like our good friend Bob here, seem to think that the year and make are all the information a buyer could possibly want in order to decide that this is the right bike for them. When the only thing you can think of to say about the bike is that it "runs good," I have to take it to mean that the paint has all rusted off, the frame is broken in two, and both wheels are curiously absent. As a buyer, this is the bare minimum of information I want to know, in rough order of importance:
- Year, make, model
- General condition
- All cosmetic and mechanical flaws (especially: has it been down?)
Don't crud up your ad with a bunch of unrelated keywords. It's obvious to anyone with half a brain what you're trying to do and it makes you look terribly amateur. I flag posts like these as spam when I run across them. I saw an ad today where the seller had a paragraph of random keywords--longer than the actual description of the bike--and almost all of them were totally unrelated to motorcycles. (Names of sports cars, movies, rappers, and of course narcotics references. I wonder what his other hobbies were?)
You're a bike guy. You bought your baby fresh out of the crate from a reputable dealer. Then you lavishly threw money at her with a smokin' aftermarket exhaust system, performance carbs, flush mount turn signals, the whole works. Now its time to part with her, but you don't really want to let her go. After all, you two have a history together. A connection. The ad you place on Craigslist lists every accessory and upgrade, and goes into excruciating detail about everything you've ever done since you owned her.
Let me say this as plainly and clearly as I can: I don't care. I want a motorcycle, not your hobby. The more "custom" a bike is, the less interested I am in it. For all I know, there's an even chance that you messed everything up while doing all that work. As a second-hand motorcycle buyer, I'd much prefer a stock bike that was ridden regularly and only wrenched on for ordinary maintenance.
And most importantly, don't list a ton of upgrades in your ad and then say that they all add up to thousands of dollars worth of value. If anything, your supposed "upgrades" have only devalued the bike.
Contact via Phone (or Text) Only
If you can muster up the courage to post an ad to Craigslist, then certainly you can find it deep within yourself to answer a couple of quick questions via email before I ask to come look at the bike. I totally understand that you might not be an email kind of guy. But in this modern age, that means you're not a motorcycle selling kind of guy either.
No Tirekickers/Joyriders/etc (a.k.a. "I Hate People")
This one is my absolute favorite. I appreciate individuals who don't beat around the bush and tell you exactly what's on their mind. But there's such as thing as being a little too forward.
Nobody likes to have their time wasted. I get that. But when you put these kinds of qualifications into your ad, you're admitting upfront that you don't trust your prospective buyers. For sure, there are some that can't be trusted. But you make that determination on a case-by-base basis after you've talked with them for a little while, not before.
Price is Firm
Translation: "I am insecure about my abilities to reach a mutually agreeable price with an interested buyer."
Like it or not, every buyer is going to assume that you're open to some negotiation on your price. That's just how motorcycles are sold, man. Always have been, always will. If you have a target in mind, then price the bike slightly higher and anticipate that the buyer will negotiate you down to your target. It's just that easy. And you never know, you may get lucky and someone will offer exactly what you're asking. If that happens: Yay, profit! But when you say up-front that you're refusing to negotiate, that tells buyers that you're probably impossible to reason with.
Closely related to the firm-pricers are the sellers who say "no lowballers." This I do not understand. If someone makes an offer below your expectations, what's so hard about saying no? Or making a counter-offer? I also see statements like, "don't offend me with a ridiculous offer." How am I to know exactly what's a lowball or ridiculous offer in your book?
There are lots of used bikes for me to choose from. I'd rather do business with a seller who doesn't come off as grumpy or easily angered.
Alright, so that pretty much wraps up my short list of pet peeves. (Believe me, there are plenty more.) If any sellers are reading this, please remember: When you post an ad to craigslist, you reveal a lot more about yourself than you might realize. If your ad falls short, you drive away potential buyers, simple as that. Yes, some of them will be annoying, clueless, sneaky, and smelly. If you want a decent amount of offers (and hence a better chance of a good selling price), you'll just have to learn to deal with them in order to reach the serious, interested, and honest buyers.