Types of Flips
So you want to flip a motorcycle and make some money. Before you jump in you need to decide what kind of flip you want to pursue. Before I purchase a project bike, I try to decide what kind of project it will be and if that fits my timeframe and budget. I've tried to categorize the different kinds of projects as best I can.
1. Mechanical Flips
This type of project would be those that are pretty good cosmetically but need some sort of mechanical work. This is a majority of the type of projects I do, primarily because these are the most abundant. There are a lot of people who don’t have the desire or ability to fix their own motorcycles. Also, sending it to a mechanic to have it fixed may cost prohibitively. So you’ll find a lot of mechanical fixer uppers. It could be anything from needing some carb work and oil change, or a complete engine overhaul. Mechanical flippers need some basic or even more advanced tools to fix. I have found that these types of flips usually require more labor than money. For example, I recently had to replace a gear inside of the transmission of a 2010 Yamaha Grizzly 125. The parts were less that $100 dollars but getting to the transmission required taking the engine completely out, splitting the case, and pressing out bearings.
These types of flips are great if you have the required tools, are mechanically inclined, and have the time to finish the project.
2. Cosmetic Flips
A Cosmetic flip on the other hand is mostly mechanically sound but need some cosmetic work. Meaning the engine, transmission, and controls are all functional but it’s just ugly. There are a fair amount of these available as well. These types of fixer uppers may just need a good cleaning or it may need all new plastics. Example, I recently purchased a fully running and ready to go 2006 KLR 650 that the seller was using as a daily driver. Low miles and fully functional. I was able to purchase it for just $1000 dollars. Why, you ask? Well, the guy decided to spray paint the entire bike OD green. I don’t think he did any prep work either. So this thing looked UGLY. Therefore, it sat on Facebook marketplace for a long time and the price dropped from $2500 all the way down to my purchase price. A word of caution, cosmetic parts are EXPENSIVE. Even small plastic panels can be expensive or hard to find. If you have more money than time, these type of project bikes may be a good starting point for you.
These types of flips are good if you are just starting off and typically only require basic tools.
3. Full Restoration
A full restoration project is another type of flip. This probably goes without saying, but these types of flips require both a significant amount of time and money. These are projects of passion. They will require commitment and a lot of know how. You would also need to know the market for that motorcycle. So you can be confident that your time and money invested will bring you good profit. Typically, full restorations projects require stripping the motorcycle to the bare parts, repainting/powder coat, replacing all wear items, etc. However, for some rare bikes, people will pay top dollar for something that looks like it rolled off the factory line.
If you have a lot of time, investment funds, knowledge, passion, and commitment this may be a good fit for you. Then again, you probably wouldn't be reading this article if you able to do a full restoration.
4. The underpriced Flipper
The simplest type of ride to fix and flip is one that needs nothing at all, except maybe a good bath and a better marketer. There are many people who simply do a bad job marketing their motorcycle or they are in a pinch and need money fast. These types of rides are typically priced 10% to 30% under current market value and sell fast. Being “Johnny on the Spot” is a big part of getting your hands on these types of flippers. These types of rides do show up fairly often on Facebook marketplace. They are also more seasonal. Tax season and Christmas are good times to look for these types of motorcycles as people try to pay for Christmas stuff or their taxes. Beware though, if it is too good to be true it probably is.
There is a some of risk associated with these types of rides. You need to get there and make a deal quickly, if you aren't careful you could be buying a mess. The bike may be stolen, or the seller may be trying to pull one over on you.
These types of projects are great if you are okay with making less but turning it over more quickly.
5. Parts Bikes
This technically isn’t a flipper however, it serves the same purpose and that is to buy a motorcycle for the purpose of selling it for a profit. The “parts bike” is a motorcycle that you intend to break down to sell the individual parts. Honestly there is a lot of money in doing but it is also a lot of hassle. The sum total of individual parts values is typically significantly more than the value of selling the same machine as a whole. This is especially true for non running bikes. However, there are several things to consider before going this route.
It's a lot of work getting to all the parts
Selling is more difficult
You have to be organized enough to look up and label parts
There are limited ways to sell.
It may take a long time to sell all the parts
Shipping can be a hassle
You’re going to have to deal with a lot more customers/buyers.
Obviously this is just my take on things and is based on the experiences I have had however it probably isn’t so cut and dry. Most likely, any flipper you get may be a little of this or a little of that.