Aug 11, 2015

What’s the Motivation?

My first and last new car was a 1973 Mazda RX3. My only new motorcycles were 1974 Yamaha MX100 (my wife’s first and only motorcycle), a 1973 125 Rickman ISDT Replica, and a 1974 Suzuki RL250. The Yamaha and the Rickman were reasonably good buys, $500 each, and the Suzuki was a total bust (I paid $1100 pre-tax and Suzuki dropped the price to $700 in early 1975 to unload their unsold inventory and abandon the trials business, which totally devalued my purchase.). So, when I read an article like Motorcyclist’s 5 STEPS TO CLOSING THE DEAL | RETAIL CONFIDENTIAL, I have to admit I don’t get why anyone would buy a new motorcycle.

The article has lots of tips intended to keep the buyer from getting screwed or screwing himself, but the real ripoff is the fact that you will lose about 20-50% of the purchase price the moment you ride off of the lot. It’s nice that the magazine is offering a few ideas to minimize the financial disaster resulting from buying a new bike and I understand why they are not advising riders to buy used (lost advertising revenue). Still, I do not understand why people spend the money they spend on new cars and motorcycles and guitars and other items that depreciate so quickly and are perfectly functional after some other sucker has taken the new price hit. I’m ready to be educated, though.


  1. If I can buy used from a reputable dealer, I'd rather do that. I've bought two motorcycles in private sales, and both have had significant non-visible problems. The GL500i had something seriously wrong with the ignition system, and possibly also the charging system. I ended up selling it before I figured out what was wrong. The CM450C had a very, very messed up clutch. It was clear the clutch was due for work, since it was slipping a little. What was not clear was that the previous owner had actually broken the clutch basket and then wired it together and reinstalled it anyway, which broke other things. That took it from $50 in parts to $1000 parts and labor. The electrical system on the bike also looks good at first inspection -- it all works, nothing is obviously mangled -- but once you start digging it turns out it's been pretty badly modified. I think my favorite is the 12ga solid copper wire used as a ground for the brake lights.

    If someone had had enough experiences like that, I could see them deciding brand new was worth it. I'd still prefer to buy used from a good dealer, though.

  2. Good point. My buying used rule is pretty much "If you've modified/improved/customized the bike in any way" I don't want it or I'm going to offer you about 50% of the Blue Book price. I've still been surprised when I've bought a modified bike, but at least I haven't been financially mangled.

    Likewise, I've heard some horror stories about new bikes and lousy dealer service and those stories are total financial disasters. I do about 90% of my own work, so I do my own inspections with that in mind and the repair costs are accordingly low in investment and high in time. Life is a tradeoff and since I don't hate the maintenance buying used is the one I make.

  3. My step-dad always said when you buy used, you're buying someone else's problems. However, I don't think that man has ever bought a new car in his life... and he does have a lot of problems.
    I've bought both new and used, I usually search, and search, and search, and search, and search, and search, and search, and search, and search, and search for the perfect used item, before giving up and buying new. If you have the patience to wait for the right used something to come along I'm all for it. Otherwise, new now is nice.

  4. "Now" has rarely been a consideration for me. At 67 I probably don't have forever to make a decision on stuff I might want, but I've become pretty good at telling "want" from "need" and if I don't need it now I can put off when I want something indefinitely. I want an electric motorcycle, but I don't need it at all and $10k is so far out of my budget for any motorcycle, ever, that I'll just wait for my price, condition, and model requirements to be met or pass on the experiment altogether. I've been poor and I've been middle class (never rich) and wanting stuff now has always seemed to me to be the way middle class people end up being poor when they get old. If I can avoid it, I'd rather not be poor at my age.


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