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The Salvaged Motorcycle Odyssey - Part 1

Posted August 07, 2008 6:00 AM by ShakespeareTheEngineer

Recently, I decided it was time to upgrade my motorcycle. But I didn't have the money to really do it. Then an interesting, if risky, option presented itself: buying a bike that was salvaged and repaired to look like it was in great condition.

The decision, at least to upgrade, was a simple one to make. In June of 2007, I purchased a 1984 Honda Magna VF700 on EBay for $650 (USD). It was cosmetically ugly, but mechanically sound for a 23 year old machine.

So Happy Together

During seven months of riding, I wracked up around 3,800 miles, mostly commuting to and from work down the western part of my county's main two-lane road. I found that the bike was as promised. It was dinged and scratched, but as long as the battery was charged, it always started and had some pep. I couldn't keep up with my buddies with sports bikes, but their bikes were much younger, and I am a much larger person. Still, my bike routinely ran at a fuel efficiency of 37-42 MPG - far more than any vehicle I had ever driven - so I was very happy. Keep in mind that I am not particularly mechanically inclined. I can replace a headlight, change the oil, replace a car's muffler, etc. But tuning a carburetor or replacing breaks are little beyond my cannon - as of right now.

Breaking Down the Costs of Breaking Down

Unfortunately, the maintenance costs of my old bike started to mount. My shop told me that EBay was a more cost-effective way to get parts than anything they could obtain parts with. So, I turned to EBay to buy the following replacement parts:

  • Right Hand Controls
    • Reason: My starter switch appeared to have burned out
    • Cost: $22.99
  • Front and Rear Tires (routine maintenance)
    • Reason: the front was scalloped and the back was bald
    • Cost: $300
  • Main Gauge Assembly, Speedo Gear, and Cable
    • Reason: Speedometer failed and tail light indicator stuck on
    • Cost of Main Gauge Assembly: $99.87
    • Cost of Speedo Gear and Cable: $23.91
    • Labor Cost:?
  • Steering Bearings Replacement (routine maintenance)
    • Reason: Worn out over time
    • Cost: $300-$350 (estimate from shop)
  • Clutch Replacement (routine maintenance)
    • Reason: Worn out over time
    • Parts Cost: From EBay, about $90
    • Labor Cost: CR4 Automotive Forum readers convinced me I could DIY

Deciding It Was Time to Break Up

It was at the italicized points (that all happened at about the same time) when I began evaluating the cost- effectiveness of my old bike. I purchased the bike for $650, and had already spent another $446.78 on parts and repairs before the italicized sections above. Effectively, the repairs totaled my bike. I thought about parting it out (selling the parts, piece by piece), but I wanted someone to still ride it. So, I sold it and all the parts from EBay to my sister's boyfriend as his first bike. But not before I took a deep breath and big risk: I bought a second bike on EBay, but without as much certainty as my first. My latest purchase was a 2002 Honda Magna VF750, but one that had a salvaged title.

My next blog entry will focus on the process of purchasing the salvaged bike, and some warnings and steps that I learned I had to go through before I can even take it for a ride. This blog will run until the first day I can legally ride the new machine to work. This, from what I understand, might take me several months. Read along to see how the process works and learn from what I am sure I will do wrong!

Related Readings:

Part 2 - Good Economics or a Midlife Crisis?
Part 3 - Taking the Plunge is Not for Everyone
Part 4 - On the Road
Part 5 - Show Me the Money
Part 6 - Series in Review
Part 7 - The Anti-Theft and Salvage Inspect Unit
Part 8 - The Final Odyssey

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Guru
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#1

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/07/2008 1:21 PM

I shall print this out so Mrs Cat can read it to me as a bedtime story...

Eagerly awaiting that final installment.
I hope it has a happy ending.

Del

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/07/2008 1:25 PM

Del,

Thanks for the comment! It is going to take me a while. I won't find out about when it will get inspected for a few weeks yet, but I will have weekly installments for you already working through the whole process so by the time you get through them, I should have the entry about the inspection and registration process all ready to go.

Think of it as your weekly automotive cat nip!

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/07/2008 2:15 PM

I agree with the kitty. Very compelling article and I can't wait to see the stories that follow. I hope for the best.

Honestly, I was slightly disappointed that after all those listings and prices that you didn't then write (or something of the like): "Selling the bike without repairing it: priceless" Did you not get anything out of those Mastercard commercials?!?! Sad.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/07/2008 2:18 PM

Agreed...but it has been so already done. Give me originality or give me money.

Seriously...I'll take either one.

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#5

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/07/2008 11:42 PM

People come to Tennessee or go to other states will salvage titles and register them and get a regular title.

So you may never know if there was a salvage title or not on cars or motorcycles.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/08/2008 7:58 AM

So if I came to Tennessee, I could register the bike and get a clean title, then turn around and come back to New York and get a clean title here?

While a scenario like that would be great for someone in my spot because he or she could avoid the wait, expense, and hassle of the Anti-Theft and Salvage Unit inspection, it seems like their should be some sort of standard practice about this nationwide. I can only imagine that insurance companies have to hate that. Not to mention, any vehicle from Tennessee now must be regarded as suspect.

I know from a little research that you don't have to even be a resident of Vermont to have a vehicle registered in Vermont. And if you get insurance first, in New York for example, then register the vehicle in Vermont, you can get around the inspection process that I am going through. Technically, according to my sister (who works for State Farm), doing this is considered fraud because you would have New York insurance on a non-New York registered vehicle. I don't remember the term she gave for it, but I will certainly ask her.

Getting through titling with any DMV seems so convoluted, though, and apparently what you need to do and what you need to provide changes a good deal from state to state. I would recommend anyone doing a lot of research before they get involved with salvage vehicles. I'll handle this a little more in a later segment of this blog.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/08/2008 1:10 PM

Indeed, the requirements change (rather drastically!) from state to state. But since the revenue generated by the DMV is state revenue, why would that be a surprise? The main factor, I think, is that "anti-theft" portion of the inspections unit. You don't need to be tooling down the motorway, get stopped for a routine traffic check, and arrested for suspicion of GTM (grand theft, motorcycle) due to an unclean title. Nor be saddled with an unoperable "salvaged" vehicle that by rights should have gone to the breaking yard.

I too await this bedtime story. I hope it doesn't become "The Tempest (In A Teapot)". "As You Like It" would be better, eh?

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/11/2008 8:11 AM

Agreed that having such a type of inspection is a good idea. And since the last thing that I want is to be either under suspicion of theft, or to be a red smear on the highway. It just seems to me that there should be some form of uniform application. State's can still get the revenue, but dealing with buying this type of vehicle from out of state seems to be more confusion than hassle, really.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/11/2008 9:41 AM

It's still far too early to apply logic in this situation, neighbor...

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Rolling the Dice: Buying a Motorcycle with a Salvage Title (Part 1)

08/11/2008 9:44 AM

Ha! That is too true.

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#11

Re: The Salvaged Motorcycle Odyssey - Part 1

08/14/2008 12:03 PM

Part 2 is posted for anyone who is interested. I thought I would give subscribed readers a head's up.

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