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How To Buy a New Motorcycle Cheaper: Bargaining Strategies at the Dealership

Buying a motorcycle for a bargain isn’t always guaranteed. Depending on the model of motorcycle you’re looking at, and the time of year you’re shopping, sometimes you can bargain at the motorcycle dealership and save hundreds or even thousands. Other times the dealer won’t even throw in a free oil change.

At the end of the day, all you can do is follow this advice, learn from my experience working in a motorcycle dealership, and give my advice a try! It costs you nothing and could save you thousands.

Let’s look at how to bargain for a brand new (or even used) motorcycle or scooter from a dealership. We’ll start with some general tips and then look at how dealer pricing works. Here is what you should know right off the top:

Demand and supply

Demand and supply will set not only the price, but the price elasticity of the motorcycle you’re interested in buying from a dealership. In simple words, if a dealer knows they are only getting 5 of a specific model, and they know about 10 people who might be interested, your bargaining position is weak. Trying to haggle too much might just make salespeople not want to deal with you in this case, and prioritize talking to the other nine interested shoppers who may be more understanding.

Keep in mind that some dealers may simply tell you that they only have a limited stock. Look for clues of how long a vehicle may have been on the show room floor. Examples of things to look for are the published dates on online classified listings, and the dates on previous social media posts from weeks or even months ago.

Dealers pay interest for bikes kept over the winter

Motorcycle dealers finance the motorcycles on their show room floors. That means they are paying interest on motorcycles in the dealership until someone buys the motorcycle and pays for it. Then the dealership takes that many, pays off the principal, and pockets the difference.

In the winter time, there is far less demand for motorcycles. That means dealers are turning over less inventory, which means they have less money coming in, less motorcycles being paid for, and they’re also stuck paying more interest to keep the motorcycles they have.

You can use this to your advantage. In the late fall, dealers know a motorcycle could sit on their showroom floor for three to five months before it sells. If you’re willing to buy in the fall or dead of winter, it lets them sell one more motorcycle to make room for next year’s models, but it also saves them from having to pay three to five months of interest on the motorcycle.

Understanding that dealers have a cost on a motorcycle can also help you bargain with them.

If you’re seriously interested in putting money down, tell them

When I was working at a dealership, I heard someone say “I’ll come back tomorrow” every single day. It’s not something we take seriously at a dealership. You may as well say “See you never.”

If you want to show a salesperson at a motorcycle dealership that you’re ready for negotiating and bargaining, tell them “I am willing to put a deposit down right now, if….” and then state what you’re asking.

Remember, typically in a negotiation you never want to be the first person to say a number, because then the other party knows they can get at least that much out of you. In this case, if you’re going to say a number first, make sure it’s actually more than what you really want, so when the sales person tries to get more out of you, you end up around what you secretly actually wanted to pay and everyone feels like they won.

Know what you’re prepared to spend and don’t waste time

I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve wasted on people who got the exact deal they wanted, just to tell me they weren’t ready to buy a motorcycle in the first place. Likewise I’ve also had people come in to buy one motorcycle, come back later with their wives to sign paperwork, the wife sees something else, and an hour later we’re doing the paperwork on an entirely different motorcycle.

You know who gets a deal on a motorcycle? A customer who is easy to deal with, knows what they want, and doesn’t need endless hours of one on one hand holding but who also isn’t showing signs of being impulsive. Impulsive people are at the mercy of their emotions, which are usually easy for a sales person to read and take advantage of. At the same time, if you’re too indecisive to the point of irritating the salesperson and their dealership, their emotions might come in the way of giving you a discount.

Know what you’re prepared to spend, and don’t waste any more time than necessary. Customers that are cool and pleasant to deal with can grow a lot of goodwill from the sales team that can give them savings on the motorcycle or added perks and benefits throughout the dealership experience.

Year old models will save you thousands

Typically, motorcycle manufacturers only update their models every few years. In some cases, like the Honda Fury, things go unchanged for over a decade.

Once the new models come in, last year’s model becomes less desirable, and dealers need to make some space for new inventory. On top of that, many manufacturers offer dealers incentives to help them sell off old inventory in the form of rebates, meaning it costs you and the dealer less if you buy last year’s model.

If there are no upgrades between last year’s model, and this year’s model, it might be worthwhile for you to buy last year’s model in order to save some money. You should also take this as a sign though. If the dealership couldn’t sell out of last year’s model, they might be more likely to bargain with on this year’s model as they might consider it a model that’s difficult for them to sell.

There’s more than one way to save money at a dealership

If the tips mentioned aren’t enough to get you a discount on your new motorcycle purchase, your dealership may be able to offer you other perks. Heavily discounted gear or accessories, or even free installation on any accessories purchased before you take possession of a motorcycle are another way that dealerships can create loyalty and drive up revenues while at the same time creating profitable relationships for both customer and business.

If you do ask for upgrades or extras to be installed before you get your motorcycle, or after, be sure to ask for the original parts. Often times the original parts can be worth a pretty penny, and they’re just good to keep as a spare. Plus, if you don’t ask for them, the dealership may just turn around and sell them and that’s money you could have made yourself instead. It’s always good to look for other things your dealership can do to save you money during your motorcycle purchase, but be sure to keep your original parts.

Are there rewards for buying a motorcycle from this dealership?

Some dealerships will have special perks and rewards for customers who bought a new motorcycle from them.

When I bought a new motorcycle from Studio Cycle in Toronto, it meant I would always get a Friends and Family discount of 10% to 15% off any purchase. I bought that motorcycle from them over a decade ago and have been buying parts, oils, helmets, jackets, and gloves from them ever since. It’s saved me over $1,000 in discounts over the years.

Many Harley-Davidson dealership have similar loyalty programs and special rewards for purchasing a new vehicle.

It’s up to you to determine whether or not these additional perks are really offering you any extra value, or if they’re just there as sugar: Something that looks sweet, makes you feel good, but doesn’t really do you much good in the long run.

Don’t be a pain in the butt

You know who gets stuck paying full price? The pain in the butt customer.

Imagine your dealership is on the fence about billing you for half an hour more, and half an hour less, when your motorcycle comes in for service. Sometimes simply not being irritating to staff is all it takes to help them round things in your favor.

It’s important that you try to get the best deal you can. Part of that means knowing how not to shoot yourself in the foot by being too annoying.

You can get a little insight into how your new or used motorcycle purchase experience from a dealer is going to be by understanding what retail zone your motorcycle falls in. The retail zones say a lot about the product and how you might be able to bargain to get a deal.

The four retail zones in motorcycling are Gouging, Retail, Discount, and Clearance. It’s a good idea to know these zones before you buy and how they will effect your purchase.

Gouging Zone: Lately, the motorcycle industry has been plagued with chip shortages and supply chain issues due to COVID. Because of this, dealerships have been charging full fees and extras. Some customers are getting gouged as some dealerships are even charging over MSRP.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen it happen either. The last notable time was when the redesigned Ninja 250R arrived in Canada. The now-attractive beginner motorcycle saw an unprecedented demand that Kawasaki could not mean, and dealers began charging well over MSRP. But the worst was the Royal Enfield motorcycle dealership that overcharged a customer by $6,000.

I’d recommend not buying if you’re in the gouging zone. Look at the used market for a “for-now” bike and try again later. You can’t win here.

Retail Zone: This is the business-as-usual typical every day pricing. Prices are generally pretty standard from one dealership to the next. Some may charge more or less fees or have other offers or incentives which may lead you towards one of the others.

Keep in mind that dealers get volume discounts and rebates, and this motivates some dealerships to try and sell a higher volume because of the anticipated kickbacks they’ll get from the manufacturers. You should ask around to see who the high-volume dealerships are and see how their prices compare to your local ones. As a general rule it’s good to support local, but it’s also good to know what your options are.

You may be able to find some discounts here, either in bargaining discounts (see the tips above) or in other value-adds like service or gear.

Discount Zone: If a motorcycle dealership is resorting to selling a motorcycle for simply the base prices plus taxes they’re making a minimal margin on the vehicle and you should ask why.

  • Why is the dealer so motivated to move the product?
  • Is it even a good motorcycle?
  • Is the market for this vehicle already saturated so its used resale value will not be strong?
  • Could that mean there are already great deals to be had on the used market?

A motorcycle being discounted isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could simply be a sign of a dealer having ordered more units than they could move, or them needing to make space for even more units coming in.

Whatever the case, a dealership not charging full fees on a motorcycle typically means that there is a potential for more discounts to be had. The dealership has shown you that they’re motivated to sell this motorcycle, you should press a little to find out just how motivated they really are. There may still be more discounts available to you.

When I bought my 2008 KYMCO Venox back in 2009, Studio Cycle knocked $1,000 off the MSRP because it was a previous year’s model, gave me a 10%-15% discount for life, and also included some free gear.

Problem Zone: Is the dealer selling well below MSRP? If so, you should take that as a red flag and be alert. Often times dealerships will “blow out” vehicles if they’re about to cease carrying a particular motorcycle brand, if no one is buying this particular model of motorcycle, or if the dealership is about to go out of business.

Sometimes dealerships are completely innocent and simply very motivated to sell a motorcycle. In some rare but not uncommon cases, things haven’t been so innocent. You should ask yourself:

  • Why is the dealer so motivated to sell this particular motorcycle?
  • How would I feel if they stopped carrying this brand after I bought this bike?
  • How would I feel if I found out they were going out of business?
  • Is it possible that they might take my deposit, or my payment in full, and declare bankruptcy the next day?

In Canada we’ve seen some dealers blow out their inventory at dealer cost to consumers to burn bridges with a company they were no longer going to do business with. This was great news for people looking to buy a brand new motorcycle at a phenomenal price.

Unfortunately we’ve also seen dealerships take deposits and payments on motorcycles at prices too good to be true, just to end up closing down, declaring bankruptcy, keeping the money, and customers never getting their motorcycles.

If you haven’t already, check out The Hows & Whys To Buying a Used Motorcycle, tips on How to Buy a Used Motorcycle or Scooter, and our complete series on How to Buy Your First Motorcycle or Scooter.

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog with an emphasis on helping motorcyclists with insight from motorcycle industry insiders and experts. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional.

4 comments

  1. Is it Cheaper to buy a motorcycle online or in the dealer ship?

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