If you have a stolen motorcycle you recently found out, you can make it legal. In this article, I disclose how to make a stolen motorcycle legit. Note, however, that the best solution is to report the stolen motorbike to the police.
I recall some time in 2018 when a friend discovered that he possesses a stolen bike in Alaska. He was given a floated motorcycle title, which is a sign of a stolen motorcycle.
How did he discover that his motorcycle was stolen? We had a police friend across the street. One day, he decided to run a check on his bike, and he was dumbfounded. Yes, the VIN had no record, and the previous owners on the title could not be reached.
He loved the motorcycle but wasn’t ready to lose it and the money paid.
The cop friend said he couldn’t register the bike and that contacting the registration department would be hell let loose.
To summarize the story, he legalized the stolen motorcycle and got rid of it without a title.
What happens if I bought a stolen motorcycle?
A stolen motorcycle is a stolen motorcycle whether you discovered it after purchase or not. If you can’t present the original paperwork and receipt to prove motorcycle ownership, it is assumed that you stole the motorbike.
The best practice is to report it to the police. Although you will lose the bike, it is not worth receiving legal sanctions for a crime you did not commit. Note that a stolen motorcycle may be used for several incriminating purposes. Unless you want to be found wanting if you do not properly legalize it, keep it.
How to Make a Stolen Bike Legit or Legal
Before the adventure, we did research, though. Below are the ways to make a stolen bike legit:
The Chop Shop
A chop shop can be a quiet den for illegal activities, although not always the case. You can get almost any stolen motorcycle ripped, shredded, and made legal. Moreover, most riders get rid of motorcycles without title there.
When chop shoppers strip the motorcycle into parts, they sell it to crook motorcycle repair or body shops. Typically, the sellers are aware of the situation, but they acquire the bike.
However, the chop shop retains the parts with the VIN plates and may imprint a new VIN, which gives the bike a new identity.
To make the stolen motorcycle legal, the seller may then buy back the parts, excluding the VIN parts, and obtain receipts for them. They may then claim to build a custom bike from parts, which the registration department admonishes with a new title and license.
I legally own a 2001 VS1400GLPK1 Intruder that was stolen and then recovered by the police. The thief erased the VIN and put in a new VIN from a motorcycle of a different make and model.
You can also switch the VIN of the motorcycle to make it legal. Also, you must get rid of the motorcycle on Craigslist or sell it out of state, especially to a state without stringent title laws.
Strip and Run
This method involves VIN switching the motorcycle. However, it gives a clean identity to the stolen motorcycle.
It is not a legal way to make a stolen motorcycle legit, but it can get you under the radar permanently.
First, find an insincere parts dealer and sell off the bike in parts. The next step is to dump the parts of the motorcycle with VIN. If the police get to find it, they might investigate for a day or two. Suppose no one comes up to claim the VIN; it will be auctioned.
Inform the dealer, he bids and buys back the parts with VIN and resells them to you.
Now, the stolen motorcycle is legit and can be registered, titled, and licensed legally.
Strip and run might take time to materialize. The dealer might also inflate the price, though it depends on the make and model of the stolen motorcycle.
Switch with a Wrecked Bike
Also called salvage switch. Switching stolen bikes is a business itself. Typically, criminals pay between $1k-1500 per bike.
After acquiring the bike, buy a wrecked bike at the auction, use the stolen bike as a parts donor, and get rid of the VIN plate. The wrecked and the stolen motorcycles must be similar in make and model.
You can also part the bike out from the beginning through B2B channels such as a storefront or eBay.
Many wrecked bikes go through auction with clean titles, and we can’t think of an established Carfax for motorbikes. Moreover, most dealers rebuild wrecked bikes and switch the VIN with a stolen bike to make it legit.
Note that after switching VIN with a wrecked motorcycle, you must get a rebuilt title for the bike and go through the road test.
Frame with No VIN or Frame Cloning
Another method crooks can legalize stolen motorcycles is to get a replacement frame. Most of the time, the frames do not arrive with VIN, so the thief has to title the frame (optional) and sell the bike. A crook can also get a matching frame for the stolen bike, and change the VIN on other parts of the bike to match the VIN plate on the new frame. Typically, the frame with VIN may have been salvaged, so the stolen motorcycle gets a new salvage identity and becomes legit.
Moreover, some race bikes sold through dealers on a factory-supported race program or team do not have VINs. It does not also mean that the motorcycle is stolen, which gives a motorcycle thief an advantage.
Frame cloning some older motorcycles that never received the VIN stamp on the frame. For example, my Suzuki DR350 has a VIN tag but no VIN on the frame. Unfortunately, the VIN tag got off from powder coating and is lost. I parted out the motorcycle because it had no VIN instead of fixing it. A thief can do the same to make a stolen motorcycle legit.
Meanwhile, you should see how to title a motorcycle frame.
What Should You Do Next?
After a thief makes the stolen motorcycle legal, they take additional steps to keep it clean permanently.
First, they can create a fake bill of sale for the motorcycle. Of course, an unsuspecting buyer can’t tell when a bill of sale is legit or not because it’s just a document like a sales invoice. Moreover, some motor vehicle departments do not consider it significant during registration.
You can jump the title if you do not want to be involved with the DMV. However, you’ll be selling as a curbstoner.
Suppose you want to keep the bike, find out the requirement in your state and spare some cash for paperwork.
Can you register a stolen motorcycle? Possessing a stolen motorcycle is illegal whether you bought it in good faith or not. You can’t register it in your name, except illegally.
I assume you are confident the motorcycle was stolen. But when did you realize it was stolen? A few days after purchase?
Did you not run a VIN check? If you did, the website offering the VIN check service likely had outdated information at the time. It is in this regard that I advise checking VIN from at least three service websites, whether buying a motorcycle from a private seller or dealer.
Despite that it is illegal and almost difficult to register a motorbike reported as stolen, thieves still seize loopholes to get away with this crime.
Can you register a stolen motorcycle?
Legally, you can’t register a stolen motorcycle you just bought. The best alternative is to turn in the motorcycle and report to the police that you bought the motorcycle in good faith. You will also need proof such as a bill of sale and title or pink slip (if you were issued). Screenshots of your chats and voice records with the thief go a long way to prove your innocence. I advise seeking an attorney’s advice to simplify the process of getting out of this mess.
The police will seize the motorcycle, update the database and record the stolen motorcycle as found. The previous owner or the insurance will be contacted. But if no institution or a person turns up, the police may auction the motorcycle, and you have a chance to buy it back and register in your name legally.
How to Register a Stolen Motorcycle [What a Thief Does]
Regarding how to register a stolen motorcycle, two major ways to register a stolen motorcycle are to switch the VIN with an existing and similar vehicle model or strip and run technique.
Thieves typically switch VINs or buy a new VIN for a stolen motorcycle before registering it.
Most states require the previous title certificate, bill of sale, and motorcycle theft status before registering for an applicant to transfer ownership to their name.
A more lenient state like Vermont does not request title certificates for motorcycles older than 15 years. In Georgia, a motorcycle older than 1985 may be registered without a title. In Texas, you can get a bonded title to transfer motorcycle ownership with no title.
However, these states inspect the motorcycle VIN for theft before registering it. Since a motorcycle has been reported stolen, none of these states can help until after changing the VIN illegally.
Meanwhile, if you attempt to register a stolen motorcycle in your name, you are converting a stolen property, and the penalty is huge compared to getting caught riding it. You could even claim you’re joyriding or saw it parked untouched with keys intact for many days.
If it pleases the cops, they may take you to jail and hold you up to 72 hours on suspicion of converting a stolen property.
Another method crooks use to get a stolen motorcycle registered as clean is the Strip and Run technique. A motorcycle thief does not switch with an existing VIN, parts the motorcycle, and disposes of the parts with VIN, including the frame and sometimes the engine.
When the police come across the disposed parts with VIN, the motorcycle becomes legal and is updated on the stolen motorcycle database.
Typically, thieves run this technique out of state to decrease the chances of an insurance or the previous owner claiming the motorcycle. This is because some states like Maryland will have you advertise the vehicle in the local newspaper to see if the original owner comes up to claim ownership. When nobody claims the motorcycle, a crook dealer is contacted to bid on the engine and frame, or any parts with VIN earlier disposed of.
When they win the bid, a new title is issued, and the VIN record becomes clean of theft. What next? The thief has a legal motorcycle and can register it as legit. Of course, the motor vehicle department can’t question him because he bid on it directly or through a dealer and won the auction. He tows it home. He could even claim he purchased the motorcycle parts, including tires, to set up the motorcycle. But then, officials may not engage the thief this far.
Getting a Title for a Stolen Motorcycle
Following the sequence of this article, you can now tell what someone does before registering a stolen motorcycle. I.e., a thief does not just hop into the nearest motor vehicle department for registration to avoid getting caught.
Before we proceed, I have covered how you can get a title for a motorcycle without one. Note, however, that you may not receive a title certificate, except through buying a title bond in a state like Texas.
How someone gets a title to register a stolen motorcycle:
In Vermont, for example, you can register a motorcycle without a title. However, the motorcycle must be older than 15 years.
So, if the stolen motorcycle is not older than 15 years, the thief gets to park it without riding it until it completes 15 years.
Vermont requires a notarized bill of sale (or similar payment options), photo ID, and the bike. The motorcycle must not be salvaged. Moreover, a theft inspection will be performed to check the legitimacy of the motorcycle. Since the motorcycle carries a legal VIN or was VIN-switched, the inspection at the local police department comes out clean.
6% sales tax is also charged on the motorcycle, plus the registration fee of about $25. A thief is not given a title for a stolen motorcycle since it exceeds 15 years.
Finally, the thief may decide to title the “now legit” motorcycle in another state to sell it legally or keep it in a state like Vermont.
If the stolen motorcycle was manufactured during the 1980s, a thief might register it. Typically, older motorcycles do not have titles, and many states understand it. If you take such a motorcycle to the motor vehicle department, they will say, “Sir, we do not have this motorcycle in our record.”
In Georgia, motorcycles older than 1985 may be registered without a title. Assuming the stolen motorcycle is the 85 Yamaha VMAX, a thief can title it easily.
The motor vehicle department requires a bill of sale or similar proof, photo ID, and theft inspection certificate (a thief can present the motorcycle for theft inspection at the local police station or any responsible agency), the motorcycle. They may be required to undergo an emission test since the motorcycle is older.
Finally, the thief completes the title application form and submits other documents alongside the required fees. They may be charged sales tax.
Note: Titles are not issued after transferring ownership.
A bonded title serves as a surety for the “now legit” but stolen motorcycle to be registered.
Typically, the motorcycle ownership remains with the applicant (the thief or subsequent buyer) for 3 years. If nobody comes up to claim the motorcycle within this period, the thief wins.
If someone buys the motorcycle with a bonded title, they become liable for any bonded claim, typically for a period of 3-4 years, depending on your state.
To get a bonded title, a thief uses a state like Texas. Texas allows out-of-state and in-state residents to apply for a bonded title on a motorcycle. However, the motorcycle must not be salvaged. It must undergo theft inspection theft (at the local sheriff’s office or police station) and emission test.
When the motorcycle passes the theft inspection and emission tests, the thief receives two certificates qualifying the motorcycle for registration.
He fills out the title application and provides the bill of sale (or similar payment evidence), valid photo ID, and the registration fee. Viola, the ownership is transferred to him. Sales tax may be charged too.
How much can I sell a stolen motorcycle?
The value of a stolen motorcycle depends on the year, make, model and condition. If the stolen but legalized motorcycle is titled, you can sell it for thousand dollars depending on its condition.
A stolen near new 1000cc Supersports sells at $3,500, but it typically sells between $1,000 and $1,500. Harleys vary depending on the model and options. The basic late models start at $1,000. A fat boy and road king goes for several thousand dollars.
What happens if you’re caught with a stolen motorcycle?
Regardless of how you ended up with the stolen motorcycle, it’ll be taken from you and returned to the insurance company or original owner. If you purchased the motorcycle from a dealer, you could claim from them because they sold you a stolen bike. But if you purchased the motorcycle from an out-of-state seller, off eBay, CL, etc., tough luck.
Regarding further actions against you for possessing stolen property, it depends on the following:
- Whether you are aware, assume, or know that the motorcycle was stolen.
- Whether you bought the motorcycle in good faith with proof such as a receipt.
- Your previous criminal record. Whether there is a case against you for receiving stolen goods/property or theft.
- Whether you they get the impression that you stole the motorcycle.
When you get out of this case, it is recorded against you and will be referenced if any theft activity is traced to you in the future.
Registering a stolen motorcycle is not as easy as it appears in this article. First, a thief must legalize the motorcycle before registering it.
Some persons prefer to sell the motorbike without a title once they switch the VIN. Thus, passing the burden of titling the motorcycle onto a buyer, except if they need such a motorcycle for parts or projects.
Always read on how to avoid buying a stolen bike before engaging in any motorcycle deal, and never trust the seller. Because the VIN check site does not report a motorcycle as stolen does not mean it is legit. Make sure you register a used motorcycle immediately after purchase to learn to avoid problems.
After legalizing a stolen motorbike, someone can register it without a title in some states. See our explanatory guide on legally registering a motorcycle that has no title to learn the trick.
Before you purchase a motorcycle next time, make sure you obtain the title and run a VIN check so you do not wonder how to make a stolen bike legit. Also, never sell a motorcycle without a title.
If the police pull you over with a stolen bike, that could be fines and a criminal record to your name.