How to Buy a Motorcycle on Craigslist [Avoid Scam]

If you budget a few bucks for a used motorcycle, Craigslist is the ideal place to get yourself a fair-priced motorcycle. Meanwhile, I will show you how to buy a motorcycle on Craigslist without getting scammed. Not being boastful, I have purchased used motorcycles several times, 40% of the time on Craigslist.

how to buy a motorcycle on Craigslist

Unfortunately, you must assume every listing a scam when buying a used motorcycle on Craigslist. It does not mean there are not legitimate motorcycle ads on craigslist, but between 10 and 30 percent might be scams.


I barely go to dealerships for used motorcycles. Reason? They charge much more than a private seller, especially when a dealer is flipping motorcycles for profit.

How to Buy a Motorcycle on Craigslist

I have simplified the steps to get yourself a used motorcycle on Craigslist at a bargain without getting scammed.


Before you read further, find out what a seller does when selling a motorcycle on Craigslist.

Below are the steps to buy a motorcycle on Craigslist:

  1. Know What Motorcycle You Want

You are not signing up to purchase a random motorcycle, except you are looking for barn find motorcycles or good deals to flip for a profit.

I am confident you decided to get a motorcycle off Craigslist, but can your finances invest in a motorcycle? Secondly, how often would you be riding?


Next, decide what bike to purchase. It seems you know what motorcycle to buy already; it does not end at liking a particular motorcycle, though.

Have you researched the motorcycle market value? Endeavor to browse the common problems reported by consumers and the maintenance required.

Confirm the recall status on your preferred motorcycle. You can look up the motorcycle recall status via the manufacturer’s website using the VIN.

  1. Filter-Search Craigslist

Unless you want a random motorbike deal, narrow the ad results with Craigslist’s search feature.

Assuming you need a scooter, search under motorcycles/scooters sub-category.

You can sort postings by date. Typically, the new the listing, the higher the chance that the motorcycle is still available for sale.

You can further modify your distance radiance. Select the locations you can visit to inspect the motorcycle before payment comfortably.

One more homework before you contact a Craigslist seller. If the motorcycle ad has pictures, assess them thoroughly. Unless you need a salvaged or barn find motorcycle, inspect the photos for any visible motorcycle damage.

Meanwhile, be mindful of fake ads; avoid ads that look too good to be true.

  1. Contact the Seller

Most Craigslist sellers provide their phone numbers. First, research the phone number for a possible scam using an app like Truecaller.

I also recommend searching the phone number via search engines to verify whether it is traced to fraudulent activities online.

If you can’t trace any fraudulent activity to the number, call to speak with the seller. When they answer the phone call, ask, “what motorcycle have you listed for sale?”

If the seller is genuine, you should get a straightforward response. Scammers typically do not know what motorcycle they listed because they use random internet images.

Ask the seller about the motorcycle history. Asking a Craigslist seller whether the motorcycle has been damaged is needless; no seller is sincere; except they listed the motorcycle as salvaged or barn find.

When you find out the basic information via phone call, chat them up.

As you read further, I’ve included the questions to ask a motorcycle seller on Craigslist. During Craigslist conversation, request the VIN, photo of title, registration, and various motorcycle parts.

While requesting specific shots, the seller might moan. Explain to them that you being are careful not to deal with a scammer.

  1. Verify the Title

Unless you want a barn find or salvaged motorcycle, make sure the title is clean. If the seller has no title, tell them to get a replacement motorcycle title for the lost title.

Moreover, if there is a lien on the title, make sure the lienholder signed it off. Arizona, for example, requires a DMV official to witness the owner’s signature or notary.

Since you are buying the motorcycle from a stranger, it is advisable to transfer the title immediately.

Furthermore, the driver’s license must match the name on the title.

  1. Look Up the VIN

Get the VIN and verify that it matches the title. You can look up the VIN via trusted VIN checker services. For a detailed report, you may have to pay.

Note that the VIN service you use may not offer up-to-date reports as the database may be old. In this regard, you can’t tell whether the motorcycle is stolen because it is easy to steal a motorcycle.

You can always phone the motor vehicle department, but they may not disclose the theft status since you do not own the motorcycle.

  1. Decide a Meeting Point

Buying a motorcycle on craigslist Reddit

When the transaction is set, decide the date and location. Meanwhile, you can always hold the transaction inside your bank if you are worried or in a public area at least.

  1. Inspect the Motorcycle

When you see the motorcycle, a physical inspection follows. To avoid buying a bad or stolen motorcycle on Craigslist, refer to my detailed checklist for buying a used motorcycle.

You will also need the maintenance records to verify how well the seller cares for the bike.

Beginning from the headlight to the taillight, you will inspect every part of the motorcycle.

Make sure the joints are not rusty unless the motorcycle is a barn find. Check the shocks, brakes, and clutch for responsiveness.  Inspect the odometer and make sure the electronics are functional.

Note: Tell the seller not to rev or ride the motorcycle until you arrive to inspect it. You can easily tell a faulty motorcycle when the engine is cold.

  1. Test Ride

Request a test ride. The seller will hold on to the paperwork and some cash while you test ride. Depending on the seller’s insurance, you’re responsible for any damage during the test ride.

Note that some sellers won’t allow you to test ride their motorcycle without a valid driver’s license.

To get a license, you must ace the written test and pass the motorcycle road test. At the moment, your mechanic can handle the test ride.

I prefer to test ride on rocky surfaces to feel how the shocks respond. Try to speed up, rev and brake frequently.

Tips for Buying Motorcycle on Craigslist

Below are the tips for buying a motorcycle on Craigslist:

  1. Avoid Ridiculous Ads

Craigslist ads that are too good to be true are signs of scams or stolen motorcycles.

  1. Send Money to Nobody

If a seller persuades you to send money while promising to ship the motorcycle to your location, it is a scam. A sincere seller will get the bike to a public location for you to check and make payments.

  1. Request a Test Ride

If a seller is fazed when you mention test ride, they could be hiding a problem in the motorcycle.

Do not continue with the deal, but if you must, make sure not to hand them the money until after a thorough inspection and test ride.

Questions to ask when buying a motorcycle off craigslist

  • Why are you selling this motorcycle?

It is a good answer if the seller says they intend to buy another motorcycle, need quick cash, or barely ride it. If the seller says it has been sitting for years in the garage, it is bad answer, and you must be careful with the deal.

  • What year is the bike?
  • Can I do a test ride on the bike?

You expect a “Yes”.

  • How many miles on it?

From 40,000 is considered high mileage on a motorcycle. If the motorcycle exceeds this number, be careful.

  • Do you own this motorcycle?

You do not expect the seller to say “No”, but it informs them that you are a detective. If they own the motorcycle, test them when you meet for inspection. Find out how you can avoid buying a stolen motorbike.

  • How long has it been with you?
  • Has it ever crashed or dropped?

No seller will admit their motorcycle has ever dropped. Regardless, it is OK to ask.

  • What are the problems?

A seller wouldn’t disclose every problem. So, do not rely on their claims.

  • When did you last change the oil?
  • Does it pass inspection?

What to bring when buying a motorcycle off craigslist

  1. A Mechanic

Budget at least $80 to have a mechanic inspect the motorcycle.

  1. Cash

Bring the cash along.

  1. Tool Box

What to Do After Buying a Motorcycle Off Craigslist

After buying a used motorcycle from a Craigslist seller, what do you do? It’s simple!

What to do after buying a motorcycle off Craigslist:

  1. Get the Plates

Depending on your state and the type of license plates, the seller can keep or release them to you. Typically, a regular plate goes with the motorcycle, but a seller can keep the vanity (personalized) plate. In California, the seller keeps the plate.

  1. Take Bill of Sale to DMV

The bill of sale must be signed and submitted to the department of motor vehicles. Not every state requires a bill of sale; the signed title is enough. The title is taken from you, and you get a new one registered in your name.

  1. Odometer Disclosure

The odometer disclosure is on the title.

  1. Transfer the Title

You can register and get temporary tags. When the seller signs over the title, you sign and submit it to your local DMV for a new title, alongside the plates and registration.

  1. Sales Tax

Your state will likely charge the motorcycle sales tax. If you do not put the true price of the motorcycle, you get to pay less. For instance, if you spend $750 for a motorcycle but put in $500, you pay lesser sales tax. Unfortunately, this practice is tax fraud.

NOTE: If you do not register the motorcycle immediately, do not fill in the date of the sale. Once you fill in the date of the sale, you have between 2 and 30 days from that date, depending on your state, to register the motorcycle. Of course, late registration from the purchase date attracts a penalty.

Is buying a motorcycle off Craigslist a bad idea?

Buying a motorcycle off Craigslist is not a bad idea entirely. Although you have scammers to avoid, it is simple to find good sellers on CL. Besides, CL or no CL; purchasing a used motorcycle is always a hit or miss.

It is not risk-free to buy a motorcycle off CL, but compared to a dealer, you save more money. The advantage of buying from a dealer could be the return policy and the chances of not buying a stolen bike. Meanwhile, should you buy a motorcycle or a car off Craigslist?

Final Thoughts

Regarding how to buy a motorcycle on Craigslist, you want a good deal and not getting scammed. Sure, you can always get a good deal, and most sellers are truthful to a commendable extent.

Meanwhile, you are buying “As Is” from Craigslist. Also, find out whether you can return a motorcycle after purchase and what laws protect you.

If you’re not comfortable on Craigslist, learn how to buy a motorcycle off eBay.

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