Buying Pre-owned Motorcycle at Auction: Tips, Tricks & Warnings

There's a thrill that comes with the chase, a sense of anticipation that peaks at the fall of an auctioneer's gavel. It's a scene that ignites the imagination, especially when it comes to securing your dream motorcycle at a fraction of the cost. However, the path to finding your perfect ride at an auction can be filled with both excitement and challenges.

Today, we're here to equip you with the proven strategies and tips to mastering the art of buying a used motorcycle at an auction.

Research is Your Best Ally

Before stepping foot into an auction, it's imperative to do your homework. Research the models that interest you, understand their market value, common maintenance issues, and the cost of potential repairs. Utilize online resources, forums, and user reviews to gather as much information as you can. Be sure to know the rules of the auction such as buyers fees, pickup windows and especially if the auction house performs lien or salvage checks. Remember, knowledge is power, and it's your greatest weapon in an auction environment.

View Early & Due Diligence

Arriving early at the auction allows you a thorough inspection of the motorcycles. Some auctions even have an early viewing window on a separate day so that you can ensure you're well prepared to shop with confidence. It's crucial to check the bike’s condition meticulously, looking out for any signs of damage, unusual wear, and tear or alterations. You'll want to take note of the bikes VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and run a history report through a reputable site like CARFAX so you can get an idea of its history.

Set a Budget

Auctions can get competitive, and it's easy to get carried away in a bidding war. Establish a firm budget for the motorcycle and stick to it. Remember to factor in additional costs such as buyer’s premiums, auction house fees, credit card fees, potential repair costs, and transportation.

Tag Along with a Mechanic

If you’re not mechanically inclined, consider bringing a friend who is. Having a motorcycle mechanic on hand can help identify potential issues with the bike that you might overlook. This simple step could save you from costly repairs down the line.

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Understand the Auction Process

Each auction house has its own set of rules and procedures. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with these to avoid any surprises. Are there starting bids? Is there a reserve price? Can you bid online or by phone? Get these questions answered before you start bidding.

Keep Your Emotions in Check

Bidding can be an adrenaline-fueled process. Keeping a cool head, however, will ensure you don't overstep your budget or make impulsive decisions. If your desired motorcycle goes beyond your set limit, it's better to let it go and wait for another opportunity.

Post-Auction Steps

Congratulations! If you're the winning bidder, ensure that you finalize all the necessary paperwork promptly. Check with the auction house regarding the payment methods they accept, and when the motorcycle must be collected. As noted prior, some auction houses charge fees for using credit cards, so be sure to keep that in mind.

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Pros of Buying a Used Motorcycle at an Auction

  1. Potential for Lower Prices: Auctions often provide an opportunity to purchase motorcycles at a price below their market value, especially if you're patient and do your research.
  2. Wide Variety: Auctions can offer a wide range of used motorcycles in all makes and models and all in one place, providing an extensive selection to choose from.
  3. Exciting Experience: The thrill of a live auction can be an exciting experience, offering a sense of competition and satisfaction when you secure a great deal.
  4. Rapid Purchase Process: Unlike traditional sales methods, auctions can expedite the buying process, as transactions are typically finalized on the spot or within a short period after the auction.
  5. Access to Rare Finds: Sometimes, rare or classic motorcycles, which are hard to find in the open market, can turn up at auctions.

Cons of Buying a Used Motorcycle at an Auction

  1. Limited Inspection Time: While some auctions allow for pre-auction inspections, the time to thoroughly examine a motorcycle can be limited.
  2. As-Is Sales: Auctioned motorcycles are typically sold as-is, meaning any hidden problems or required repairs become the buyer's responsibility once the sale is finalized.
  3. Competitive Bidding: If a particular motorcycle attracts multiple interested bidders, the price can quickly escalate, sometimes exceeding the motorcycle's market value.
  4. Auction Fees: Remember that winning bids often have additional fees (like buyer's premium or auction house fees) added on top, which could increase the final price.
  5. Impulse Buying: The rapid, competitive nature of auctions can sometimes lead to impulse buying, potentially resulting in paying more than intended or buying a motorcycle that isn't quite right for you.
  6. Motorcycle Financing & Warranties: A major difference to buying from a dealership, you'll likely be on the hook to pay cash. In addition, as noted above, you'll be buying as-is without access to extended warranty or protection plans.


Used Motorcycle Auction Houses in Alberta

Alberta has a number of auction houses to search for the perfect ride. Be sure to read up on the rules and fees to ensure that they meet your needs and budget. Here are some to check out:

General Auction Houses (May or may not have motorcycles)

McDougall Bay Real Estate Auctions Ltd

Regal Auctions Online

Graham Auctions


Salvage Auctions (High risk sales)

Salvage Bikes Auction


Buying a used motorcycle at an auction can seem like a daunting process. But with the right amount of research, preparation, and a good dose of patience, you could ride off on a fantastic bike that doesn't break the bank. Happy bidding!