Salvage Motorcycles
How to articles Buyer Tips

Buying a Salvage Motorcycle for Sale at an Online Auction

By Auto Auction Mall Team Updated: 05/07/2020 Posted: 10/11/2019

If you’re looking to buy a cheap ride, you need to consider buying salvage motorcycles. Motorcycles with a salvage title are usually accident vehicles. Specialized motorcycle auctions then sell them on, and can offer you great deals.

So, why would you want one of these motorcycles compared to a typical used, a clean title, or even new model?

The answer, basically, is the price. Salvage motorcycles sell at a tiny fraction of their usual price. Also, being smaller and with less paneling than cars, can often be fixed up cheaper than a salvage car. The amount that you save on the cost of the bike can greatly offset the repair cost.

You can even buy a couple of motorcycles, and use one for parts to repair the other. This can all be done for pennies on the dollar compared to buying a used motorcycle for sale locally. You can get fully-working, insurable, cheap motorcycles for sale under $1000, with a little bit of work.

This leaves one issue: What are these specialized online motorcycle auctions, and how can you access them?

What is a Motorcycle Salvage Auction?

Motorcycle Auction

Insurance motorcycle auctions and salvage auctions are typically run through 2 large auction houses in the USA. These auctions are Copart, and IAAI. These auction houses have contracts with insurance companies throughout North America. They sell-on damaged motorcycles, cars, trucks after the insurance companies take ownership, after a payout.

These auction sites are generally only open to those with dealer licenses and their associates. This is because of the large number of vehicles that will go to auction mean that turnover is fast. Much faster than at a traditional public auction. Dealers view and buy vehicles quickly and know the process, so there are no holdups.

Due to this volume of vehicles that sell every day, many of them with a salvage title, this is the most efficient way to conduct these auctions.

Salvage motorcycle insurance auctions happen alongside salvage car auctions.

So how can you, as a member of the public access these auctions, usually reserved for dealers? You work with an authorized representative. A proxy company like Copart buys the motorcycle on your behalf, using their dealer license, and then ships the bike to you.

Salvage Motorcycles – What Are They?

Salvage motorcycles either are totaled by an accident or where repairs exceed a specific percentage of the market value of that bike. Insurance companies usually weigh the cost of repairs against the value of the motorcycle. If it is too costly, they would rather replace the bike instead. The damaged motorcycles then sell as salvage.

In 2017, California was the leading state in the number of motorcycles bought in the US, at 842,543. The least purchases were in DC, at 4,290. According to the Department of Transportation, there were  8,679,380 motorcycles in the US in 2017. It is, therefore, no surprise that the overall number of salvage motorcycles has increased.

Image Via: Statista

Some motorcycles sell as salvage and they cannot be repaired. Such bikes are great for parts. Many motorcycle enthusiasts looking to buy a bike at a bargain choose to search for a salvage motorcycle because they are dirt cheap, and some of the damage may be only superficial like a minor dent.

However, many you can repair, and make roadworthy again. The cost of repairs alongside the cost of purchase may well be a lot cheaper than buying any used motorcycle.

How Does a Motorcycle Get a Salvage Title?

Salvage motorcycles are vehicles either totaled in an accident or whose repairs exceed a specific percentage of the market value of that bike. Insurance companies usually weigh the cost of repairs against the value of the motorcycle. If it is too costly, they would rather replace the bike instead. The damaged motorcycle then sells as salvage.

The Department of Motor Vehicles in the local state will issue the salvage title. This title shows that the motorcycle has been damaged. The damage can be either by an accident or an act of nature. The first step to getting a motorcycle salvage title has been taken by the insurance company.

When the owner of the motorcycle reports an accident, the insurer sends an adjuster to evaluate the cost of repairs against the value of the bike. If the cost of repairs is higher than the acceptable percentage value of the motorcycle, it is considered a salvage. Generally, if the cost of repairs is more than 70 or 80% of the value of the bike, it is regarded as a total loss.

Once the insurer pays the claim, the insurer takes the damaged motorcycle. The Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent, depending on the state) then changes the motorcycle’s title into a salvage title.

Some motorcycles that sell as salvage cannot reasonably be repaired. Such bikes sell for any spare parts that remain serviceable. Many motorcycle enthusiasts looking to buy a bike at a bargain choose to search for a salvage motorcycle because they are cheap, and some of the damage may be only superficial.

Where to Find Crashed or Salvage Motorcycles for Sale


When looking for salvage motorcycles, it is best to begin by looking at who owns motorcycles. Many private companies, government institutions, and individuals own bikes. Some of these, when involved in accidents and considered salvage, are taken by insurance companies after they are replaced.

Fortunately, there are several websites where you can easily get salvage motorcycles with salvage cert. Some of the places where you can find salvage motorcycles include:

Private Sellers

Some motorcycle owners prefer to sell their damaged motorcycles themselves in a bid to make more from the sale, instead of involving third-party sellers like auction sites. The challenge private sellers face is finding buyers quickly. Most use online platforms, but sometimes it is difficult to separate serious buyers from jokers and scammers.

You may find it possible to find a salvage motorcycle for sale at a local motorcycle salvage yards, or

Dealer-Only Auctions

These auctions are not usually open to the public. You may find salvage motorcycles owned by government institutions, those that have been repossessed by banks. Although less likely, you may also find those owned by private individuals in such auctions. These auctions, as the name suggests, are only open to dealers. This is primarily because dealers purchase high volumes of vehicles. This gives them priority when it comes to largest selection.

Many companies, including insurers, banks, and private institutions, know that cars and motorcycles are more likely to sell faster in dealer auctions than in public ones. These auctions attract various sellers interested in making a quick sale.

Although not usually open to the public, you can access dealer auctions through an authorized representative, such as Auto Auction Mall.

Buying Damaged Motorcycles at Motorcycle Salvage Auctions

The internet has become the most convenient way to shop nowadays. Physically visiting auction sites can be exhausting, and it is easy to make the wrong purchase when you are exhausted. Online auctions have made it easier for buyers to look for vehicles and motorcycles before making a current bid on them. This may explain the increase in the number of people looking for used and salvage motorcycles.

You can find a number of different types of auctions including police, government, and other public auctions. However, dealer-only auctions are usually the cheapest by far. You will need to work with a third party dealer so you can access the auction inventory and bid. These proxy bidding companies buy the vehicle on your behalf from the auction clearinghouses. You can set your maximum current bid amount, and then they will take care of the bidding so you do not have to worry about it.

When looking for a salvage motorcycle, you need to take your time. You need to be certain that the cost of repairing the damage will not be too high. Since you are buying salvage title motorcycles for sale online, you need to take several precautions.

Buying Salvaged Motorcycle Parts Cheap Online

Salvage motorcycles can provide you with cheap and easy access to additional parts. You can use these to repair or upgrade your current bike of any brand: Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda, etc. These auctions provide all brands of motorcycle. In this case, you don’t have to worry about getting the bike registered or insured, since you will simply be stripping it for parts. Keep the paperwork (every certificate). This documentation is so you know where the parts came from and can prove it if you sell your bike that incorporates those parts.

Some online auctions that offer salvage motorcycles will have classic bikes as well. If you’ve always wanted to restore bikes, including classics, this could be an ideal place to get the parts you need for the job.

Can You Repair a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title?

Yes, you can. However, you need to note that the level of damage and your budget are important factors. Some bikes with a salvage title can be repaired, but the cost is so high that the bike is more profitable when it is dismantled and will sell as spare parts.

When buying a salvage motorcycle, you need to examine the damage and judge for yourself if it can be repaired, or if you can afford to fix it. It is not wise to buy a salvage vehicle simply because you have always wanted that make and model without looking at the cost of repairs and the extent of the damage.

The bike will be of no use to you if it ends up in storage as you wait for the day you’ll have enough money for repairs. What if it takes years? If you have never bought a salvage before, your best option is to have an experienced person help you pick the right bike.

It is also important that you find out if the parts for that specific model are readily available. Some older models may have been out of the market for a long time. This age may make the parts difficult to find. If the salvage motorcycle you are interested in will be difficult to fix because of the unavailability of parts, it may not be a good idea to buy it.

For example, when looking at less common imported Kawasaki motorcycles for sale, you are less likely to find parts for it or people with experience working on that model than domestic brands, such as Harley-Davidson or the more common imports.

Can You Insure a Repaired Motorcycle?

Yes, you can. However, you may need to look around. Insuring a repaired salvage motorcycle is not as easy as insuring a clear-title bike.

Many insurance companies are reluctant about insuring motorcycles that were once a salvage title motorcycle. After you have repaired your bike, you will need to apply for a rebuilt title from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Once inspected and is certified roadworthy, you can approach insurance companies to see if you can cover your bike.

You may have some difficulty convincing insurance companies that your motorcycle qualifies for insurance. Some companies have no policy for salvage motorcycles. Other companies can only offer liability coverage.

Finding an insurance company that can cover your rebuilt motorcycle is sometimes all about strategy. Do you have a vehicle that has been insured by the same company for many years? If you have built a good relationship with your insurer, it is best to approach them about the bike, even before you buy it. Some companies are willing to bend their rules for some of their loyal customers.

Look for Larger Companies

You may find it harder to get insurance from small companies, those that still have a small client base. You should approach companies with a large portfolio. This is because large companies are more flexible when it comes to taking risks.  They have a large pool of clients who can ‘cushion’ them should they take the risk of covering a salvage. Small companies, on the other hand, are more cautious.  Smaller companies also need to strike a balance between possible claims and their revenue.

Some insurance companies look at who handled the repairs. If this was done by a reliable and well-known company whose work is considered of good quality, an insurer may be flexible knowing the work was up to par. Before buying a salvage motorcycle, it may be helpful if you ask your insurer for guidance on what you need to do to get coverage for a rebuilt motorcycle.

car insurance

Top Tips for Repairing Crashed Motorcycles

In Salvage Bike Auctions, the Sale is Final

Most salvage online motorcycle auctions have a “sell as it is” policy. If you regret the purchase long after buying the motorcycle, you may not be allowed to return it. It is, therefore, preferable for you to find out everything that you can about the condition of the salvage motorcycle, especially if you have budget constraints. If you cannot afford the cost of repairs, you would have lost money overall. You may even end up getting stuck with a motorcycle you cannot use.

Consider the Age of the Motorcycle

Most motorcycles with a salvage title have one because the cost of repairs exceeds 70% of its resale value. This essentially means that if the damaged bike is one of the more expensive models, the cost of repairs could be substantial. An older model, on the other hand, may have had minimal damage and yet get a salvage title because the cost of repairs is not worth the bike’s resale value. You need to look at all the numbers involved and compare them to your budget before placing a bid.

Research the Type You Need

Identify a salvage motorcycle you are interested in, and find out as much as you can about it. For example, did that model have any mechanical issues? You can also identify possible problems from the photos of the salvage motorcycle.

People buy salvage motorcycles for various reasons. Some people are looking for a bike they can rebuild, so they seek vehicles whose repairs would present them with an exciting challenge. Others just want an affordable motorcycle. What are your reasons for buying a salvage bike? The answer to this question can be your guide when choosing the best bike for you.

Whether you are new or experienced at buying salvage motorcycle, you need to be cautious since not every salvage vehicle is worth buying. Many people are attracted to motorcycles because the price is significantly lower. This is especially true for popular brands that are expensive when bought new. But you need to be careful and think strategically. You may end up with a great bike purchased at a bargain. But only if you are strategic when choosing your salvage motorcycle.

You may also see custom motorcycles for sale at a salvage bike auction. They might have been modified by the original user. It is not recommended to take on a customized bike. This is unless you know exactly which parts you are going to need to replace. It may also be harder to re-title and insure.

Source Used Parts from Salvage Auctions

Repairing a damaged motorcycle can be expensive, depending on where you get the parts. If you would like to cut costs and still use genuine parts to repair your bike, you can seek used parts by cannibalizing other salvage motorcycles of the same model.

Getting motorcycle spare parts from other sources can take hours or days. More so if you are doing it yourself for the first time. Motorcycle online auctions have simplified the process. You can identify parts that are in demand, find out how much you should expect to spend, and the cost of the parts depending on the brand. Buying used parts online will not only save you money but time as well.

If the crashed motorcycles for sale are older models that are no longer in production, you are more likely to get the parts from online auctions. Especially so compared to simply opening a web search and typing in “motorcycles for sale near me used”. These auctions feature vast collections of parts. These parts can be motorcycles from hundreds of different makes and models. This gives you access to thousands of salvage motorcycles for sale, rather than just a handful of motorcycles for sale by owner in your local area.

Buy a Salvage Motorcycle that is Inexpensive to Repair

Although the focus of most buyers of salvage motorcycles is the cost of repairs, you can save some time and money by looking at brands that generally have costly parts. Some of these motorcycles may have minimal damage. However, this does not mean they wouldn’t cost an arm to repair. For example, Honda only produced the CX500 Turbo for one year. This means the parts are not easy to come by.

When buying a salvage motorcycle, your choices play a critical role in your ability to completely restore the bike within your budget. Buying parts online will give you the chance to compare the rates and choose the source that offers you the best price.

Buying automatic motorcycles for sale in auctions may be easier to repair if there has been no damage to the gearbox or transmission. If looking at electric cars for sale online – find out what you can about the condition of the battery, and how easily it can be replaced.

You may find some rare Ducati motorcycles for sale, though will you get the parts to repair them? Compare this especially with common, modern Harley-Davidson motorcycles for sale cheap at auctions and easier to repair: Which makes the most sense to buy?

Exporting a Salvage Motorcycle

Exporting salvage motorcycles from the United States into other countries can save people in those countries money. This saving can be significant compared to if they buy a used motorcycle locally. The export of the vehicle can be done by the end buyer. The buyer uses a service such as Auto Auction Mall, to buy a damaged motorcycle online. The cycle can then ship to their own country. A local dealer or business that repairs the bike to resell to their local market can also organize this export.

TheTop Motorcycle Export Markets from 2018 statistics show the countries that import the most motorcycles from abroad:

  1. Belgium
  2. Canada
  3. Japan
  4. Australia
  5. Singapore
  6. Mexico
  7. Germany
  8. Hong Kong
  9. New Zealand
  10. South Africa
  11. United Kingdom
  12. Netherlands
  13. United Arab Emirates
  14. Malaysia

What are the Markets for Used Motorcycles?

Motorcycle exports by all countries globally totaled US$28.2 billion in 2018. The value of motorcycle exports has risen, on average, by 29.4% since 2014. This is up from a total of $21.8 billion. This represents a growing market for exported motorcycles worldwide.

The U.S. has a strong market for large motorcycles, larger bikes hold a much higher market share than in other countries, which are dominated by smaller, cheaper models.

Motorcycle per capita usage is higher in many overseas markets, particularly in Asian markets. This means motorcycle ownership per-person is higher, usually representing also lower passenger car ownership.

The USA exports $1.3 billion of Motorcycles yearly, roughly 4.5% of the world’s exporting market for motorcycles. However, the US also imports a lot more motorcycles than it exports. There is a $1.5 billion deficit. Japan and Europe are the biggest exporters to the USA. This suggests the business of exporting used or repaired salvage motorcycles from the USA to developing countries may be a relatively untapped market. This is something some businesses may wish to explore.

Interested to find out more about buying salvage motorcycles from auctions in the USA? Visit Auto Auction Mall’s Motorcycle Auctions to find out more. We also have a range of customer service guides to help you get started.