How to buy a salvaged motorcycle

Written by christina riopelle
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How to buy a salvaged motorcycle
Salvage-title motorcycles are legal to own, but not legal to ride. (Old motorcycle image by veseliysyslik from

You can purchase a salvage-title motorcycle as a source of parts for other bikes, or restore it to its former glory. Damaged or incomplete motorcycles sell for a fraction of the price of street-worthy bikes.

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Salvage titles accompany motorcycles missing major components, such as an engine, or with extensive damage. When the repair assessment is 75 to 91 per cent of the bike's pre-accident cash value, the vehicle is not roadworthy and classified as "salvage."


Look for salvage title motorcycles at auctions, swap meets and from private individuals. Insurance companies assess damaged motorcycles as "totalled," collect them from insured parties and liquidate them at auctions. Salvage motorcycles sell for parts at swap meets, also watch for neighbours getting rid of a project bike.


If you do not have extensive mechanical knowledge, ask a mechanic to inspect a prospective purchase to estimate possible repairs. Ask a private seller for permission to transport the bike. Attend the auction previews. Independent inspection may not be feasible due to time constraints. If you require a second opinion, purchase a bike at a later date.


Transfer the title after purchase. If the sale occurs at an auction or through an agency, the auction house or dealer might process it. If, at a later date, you want to restore rather than use your new project bike for parts, save all the receipts. In many states, an inspection allows a motorcycle's title to convert to a clear one. For participating states, documentation of the purchase of parts with non-matching Vehicle Identification Numbers supports the claim of vehicle ownership and verifies mechanical safety.

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