Buying A Classic Motorcycle Can Be An Expensive – But Lucrative – Proposition
No bad hair. No road rash. Precious little inconvenience. No worries about inattentive drivers plowing through you like a farmer in his field.
Yep, serious motorcycle collectors avoid most of the pitfalls of actually riding. Of course, they also miss the thrill of serious riding and the war stories you assemble on the highway.
David Edwards, the editor of Cycle World magazine, does both.
He’s a collector and a dedicated rider.
The bikes in his collection, some 30 in number at last count, may have lost a little market value, but Edwards beats that disadvantage by using the items in his collection. His 1950 Indian has fallen in monetary value over the last couple of years, but not in practical value.
“I’ve ridden it in Death Valley at sunset,” Edwards said. “I’ve gone on rallies and met some great people with it. I’ve won trophies… I’ve spent countless hours happily tinkering, polishing, adjusting. And I’ve sat in the garage, just admiring it.”
If that’s not the definition of an excellent investment, that I don’t know what that definition would be.
Motorcycles have some major advantages over collectible cars at this juncture, the most obvious of those being price point. With even the most mundane of vintage cars hauling in six-figures if they happen to be in concours condition, those cars are priced out of Joe Sixpack’s toy budget.
Motorcycles, on the other hand, have the virtue of being easy to store, cheaper to buy and can be found in a much less competitive market.
There are some exceptions to that rule. Recently, the Vincent HRD A Rapide, a coveted and legendary British bike which was a performance superstar in its day, has more than doubled in price in the last three years, from somewhere around $50,000 for an excellent example to well over $100,000 now. A mint Brough Superior SS100, the bike T.E. Lawrence, better know as Lawrence of Arabia, rode into oblivion and infamy, could have taken a place in your garage ten years ago for a tidy but affordable $20,000 to $25,000.
That same bike now? You can’t touch one for less than $100,000, and you’ll have some work to do to make it correct. Brough’s with a documented history of winning races (and therefore a pedigree which adds value) can only be purchased for something approaching $250,000.
In the auction market, you can still score deals at an entry level bid around $5,000, and while that’s not peanuts, you have a reasonable hope of making a little extra money if you have the required patience.
Ron Christensen, of Mid-America Auctions, says a correct and possibly concours motorcycle from the pre-1970 eras should easily double in price over the course of the next decade. Think your 401K will perform like that as an investment?
Okay, now you’re convinced. You love motorcycles. You love money. You actually have some and the necessary storage. You’re ready to take the plunge. What do you look for and where do you look.
Here’s a list of possible winners:
- Italian Vespa scooters of a 1950’s vintage
- 50’s era Triumphs and BSA’s
- Any of the very affordable Honda models from the golden age like Benly’s and Dreams
- Pre-1960 BMW’s like the R model series
- Sand Cast Honda 750’s from the late 60’s
- Any Ariel Square Four
What you need to look for to keep from being duped:
- Matching serial number on the frame and engine
- Pick a couple of manufacturers and model lines and get up to speed on their particulars
- Familiarize yourself with the titling process, you have to own it to sell it
Insuring your collectible or vintage motorcycle
As for insurance? You should be able to get Agreed Value coverage on a 1959 BSA valued at $15,000 for somewhere around $25 a month, and that gives you the whole shooting match of coverage. You can spend a lot less, but if you plan to ride the bikes in your collection, the above pricing is a reasonable approximation of what you can expect to pay.