Motorcycles of all ages can be found in some of the strangest places. I generally have the best luck searching old barns or old buildings. I call these barn finds.
There is an issue with finding old motorcycles in barns and other buildings.
Walking on someone’s private property without permission is against the law. Before you step foot on the property go to the home and knock on the door. You need to have the owner's permission to be walking around or investigating inside the old buildings. Think ‘American Pickers’ and similar shows. They may not show all aspects of garnering permission. Even the famous need to have the required permission.
Some of the information you are going to need may include:
- Year Of Bike
- Condition of Bike
- Previous Owner
- Bill of Sale
This may be a sticky part, both the seller and the buyer should be attempting to locate the previous owner.
If the seller bought the property, he or she would have a record of that, along with the name of the previous owner. This person, if it is possible, will be able to tell if he is the original owner or if there was another. If he or she was the owner, the issue should be settled.
The VIN may be helpful in tracking down the owner. The Department of Motor Vehicles may be able to help with this. They may be able to provide the contact information of the previous owner.
If he or she is not the owner of the motorcycle, you may need advice as to what to do next.
If the search for the owner leads you to a dead-end, you can have a VIN inspection done. This can be done by contacting your insurance company. They can run the VIN number which will show if there is a lien on the motorcycle.
The insurance company is able to do this, however, it is safer to have the DMV do this VIN inspection. In this case, you will have to arrange a time with the seller so that the DMV employee can come out and view the VIN plate.
The Police Department is also an option. An Officer can come to your place and perform a search on the VIN. However, understand this is not a guaranteed route to finding information.
If you are looking at this purchase, you should be warned that everything you do to track down the owner may be for nought. If there is a lien on the motorcycle, or if it has been stolen, you are out of luck on the purchase. The only way this would work out in your favour is if you are able to pay off the lien on the motorcycle.
To make a notice right away, most States did not begin giving Titles on Motorcycles and other vehicles until a certain year. When Titles first began being issued, they were meant as a way to prove ownership of the vehicle.
Once all the issues have been worked out for the VIN and you are now able to get the Title, the DMV will once again perform another VIN Inspection. You will also need to bring proof of residency with you, the bill of sale from the purchase, and you will need to fill out a new Title application, and pay the fee for the new title and the taxes.
When all this is done, the DMV sends the paperwork to the State, who in turn will create the new title and then mail it to you within a few weeks.
Can You Buy A Motorcycle Without a Title?
In the majority of states, the owner has the legal obligation to be in possession of the Title and the Registration documents. There are a few exceptions to this law, scooters, mini-bikes and pocket bikes do not need a title. This is due to the fact that they can not be driven on roadways at all.
Be knowledgeable of your State requirements however, they do vary from state to state.
In general, the requirements in most states to sell a motorcycle include:
- Possession of the Title or Pink Slip, or the paperless application for a duplicate.
- The signature of the owner and or the lienholder on the Title
- The Buyer’s signature on the title
- If the motorcycle is less than 10 years old, the odometer reading must be included
- The current Smog Certification, if applicable
- Transfer fee
- Taxes and Registration fees
You can still purchase a motorcycle without the Title if the following conditions are met:
- Have in your possession a Notarized Bill of Sale
- Do your research on the motorcycle, some Antiques do not need a title.
- In some states, an older motorcycle may come with a ‘Registration Receipt, this may be all you need in some states. However, again, know the state laws of your state.
It is always a necessity to be cautious when purchasing an Antique Motorcycle. For one, if the seller does not want to perform a VIN search, this is a definite red flag. Ask what the issue is and if it is a legitimate owner, he should tell you.
The VIN will give much information in regards to the Motorcycle. The VIN record will state the year of the Motorcycle, the paint colour, and engine size. This helpful data could prove the seller is wrong in some aspects, you, as the buyer, do not want to step into the muddy waters where the VIN and motorcycle do not match information.
There are some cases where you will need to file all the necessary paperwork to get a new Title. Whether it is because the owner lost the Title or you, as the buyer did. It may seem like a hassle but filling out all the paperwork is worth it, so you do not have issues later.
If the seller does not want to write up a Bill of Sale, walk away. This is not a motorcycle you would want. The refusal to provide a ‘Bill of Sale’ is fishy and underhanded and should tell you that something is not right in the sale.
Obtaining a replacement Title is not something you can do in one day. This is a long and drawn-out process, with plenty of safety measures taken on your behalf. This will prevent the possibility of you purchasing a stolen motorcycle, or one that has a lien on the bike.
Do not pay any amount of money if the seller is not willing to perform the VIN search. When the seller acts hesitant or skittish about providing the information, take this as a red flag. It likely means that you will come into far greater issues down the road.
Reasons That There May Not Be A Title
The seller may not be a very organized person and simply lost the title when moving or due to some type of Natural Disaster. This does not mean that you cannot obtain a Title still. Granted some sellers may believe that if they claim they lost it, you will just automatically pay and leave with the motorcycle.
The VIN inspection is that safety net you need to follow. Again, if the seller does not want you to do so, or acts hesitant, it may be best to walk away.
In the case of a barn finding the motorcycle, it is possible that the motorcycle never had a Title on it. Again, consider the state you are in. With a ‘Barn Find,’ it may be unknown who the owner was so obtaining a title or bill of sale will be impossible.
This does not mean that you cannot purchase it, it simply means having a VIN inspection done. If nothing out of sorts pops up, proceed with your purchase. If it is anything suspicious, do not make the purchase.
This all makes it sound a little suspicious when it comes to purchasing an Antique motorcycle. If you know the requirements of your state, and know what signs to look for, all should be good. The most important aspect and safety measure that a buyer can take are to have a VIN inspection done.
If you arrive at the location of the seller and see a damaged motorcycle, such as broken key ignition, or maybe some important parts for the motorcycle are missing, it is a sign to be cautious. A hesitant seller, likely knows what will be found with a VIN inspection and is hoping to talk you out of doing so.
Even if you are a bike flipper, you need to follow the requirements of your state. This will save you the headache further down the road if and when you choose to sell the bike. By doing all this paperwork now, you will have a clean title and there will be no worries on your end. A word of caution, you want to be leery of someone selling a damaged bike, such as mentioned earlier. This could be your first warning, take it in close.