Buying Tips for Used Motorcycles – Puppy Dog

January 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Buying Advice

So what do puppies have to do with negotiating for a motorcycle? It is assumed that you want to get your bike for the least amount of your money, and that you are looking out for your own best interests. However, you might be unwittingly working against yourself if you are unaware of a strong emotional force present in every transaction.

** The following is excerpted from my book, The Perfect Motorcycle: How to Choose, Find and Buy the Perfect New or Used Bike. I hope the information provided here will give you a framework to guide your motorcycle purchase. Space limitations preclude an in-depth discussion of the subject. You can find out about the book at There are also 18 checklists and worksheets available for download at that you can use to supplement the information in the book.

Professional sellers know many ways to tip the scales in their favor and get the most money for their products. Professional selling methods include techniques to close the sale to prospective buyers, appropriately called “closes.” The Puppy Dog Close is the most powerful closing technique used by sellers to win an emotional commitment and to even have the prospect help sell the product to them. But, what the pros don’t tell you is that this technique can be used on either side-you can also use this approach in your favor. It is also important to realize that this emotional mechanism is in play in every sale, even when a professional isn’t involved.

Here’s how the close got its name: You walk past a pet store window, and see a pen full of puppies and think they’re cute. You also consider their training, how their cries will wake you up, and the expense for their food, vet care, leashes, collars, and grooming. People don’t like change. You were doing fine before you walked past, and it will take effort to change the current situation. The scale will tip in favor of the seller and you will take action to take a puppy home, only if the every one of the objections you have to dog ownership are overcome. You are looking for reasons not to get a puppy.

The savvy pet shop owner picks up a dog you were looking at, approaches you, hands you the puppy and says, “I see you were looking at this puppy. I know it’s hard to decide. I’ll tell you what. I’ll lend you a dog pillow, a leash, a food bowl, a book about this type of dog, and I’ll give you a week’s worth of kibble. You can take the dog home to see how it works out. Bring it back in a week, if you don’t want it, and I’ll refund all your money.” Now, if you take the dog home, you will have crossed an emotional line. You will look for every reason to keep the puppy.

The scale has been tipped in favor of the seller. Again, people don’t like change. It would take a lot for you change the current situation and return the dog to the shop. So, you get a little howling or chewing on the coffee table? No biggie. Even your brother-in-law does that. Heck, in the last week, you showed “your” dog to all your friends, took pictures of it to share with coworkers, and even named it. The dog is emotionally yours, and you are invested in taking responsibility for it. You are now working for the seller in the negotiation, and the sale is almost certainly closed.

In professional sales, the seller uses techniques to get you to emotionally “own” the product. They will get you to imagine yourself enjoying the benefits of ownership. They will get you to sit on the bike and imagine what it would feel like to be on the open road. They will use language to paint a mental picture like, “What do you think your buddies will say when you ride up on your new bike?” and “Won’t it be great after a long day’s ride, sitting in your garage with a cold beer, looking at your beautiful bike parked next to your workbench?” “Let’s see if we can get the manager to get you test ride on your bike.” Once you emotionally cross the line and own this bike in your mind, you begin doing their job for them.

The “puppy dog close” is used by marketers and sellers every day in many ways and guises you might not have considered. Common examples are; moneyback guarantees, trial subscriptions, first-month free rebates, test drives, and introductory prices. These programs are used to lower the cost or risk of acquiring the product and get the consumer emotionally owning it while additionally making it difficult to undo the new relationship.

The bottom line of all this puppy talk is you need to be aware of this impulse in yourself, and emotionally disconnect yourself from the outcome of the negotiation to get the best deal. Regardless of the source you decide to buy from, reseller, individual, or auction-if you picture yourself with this bike in your driveway, stop! Motorcycles are just products, like a can of soup, or a piece of lumber. Your words are important, too. What you say and what you feel can be different. You can say, “I want to buy this” but you could really mean. “I want to get the best deal.”

Think about how you could use this puppy dog strategy in reverse as a buyer. Once you have convinced the seller that you are likely to buy that motorcycle, he will look for reasons to finish the sale with you rather than someone else. So, if you say, “I’ll take it,” and if the buyer believes you will, you now have the upper hand and can negotiate from a stronger position. Up to the point where the title transfer is signed, you have the ability to tell the seller you changed your mind. In some states, you can even change your mind up to a couple of days later if you have buyer’s remorse. Of course, if you decide to “puppy dog” the seller, you should only do so if you really want to buy the motorcycle and the terms of the deal are close to those you want.

Now that you are aware of this technique, don’t let sellers “puppy dog” you, and don’t haphazardly “puppy dog” sellers, either. You shouldn’t disappoint people for sport by reneging on a purchase, but you can often wring a few concessions on a bike you want to buy by continuing to negotiate after indicating that a deal has been struck.

Used Motorcycle Inspections

January 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Buying Advice

Especially for new riders, inspecting used motorcycles can be daunting. The following is excerpted from my book, The Perfect Motorcycle: How to Choose, Find and Buy the Perfect New or Used Bike. I hope the information provided here will give you a framework to guide your inspections. Space limitations preclude an in-depth discussion of the subject. To learn more about the book, go to The book is available in the Publications and Marketplace sections of this website.

One of the keys to finding the perfect used motorcycle is evaluating whether or not the bike you are looking at has been well-treated and is mechanically sound. The best way to determine the fitness of the one bike you want to buy is a three-pronged approach. You will 1) interview the owner, 2) inspect the machine, and then 3) go home and review what you have learned. Do all of this before you make an offer.

You can save time and money by interviewing the seller by phone or email before you look at the bike in person. You will learn which bikes are worth scheduling and taking a trip to go see, and which ones you can take off your list of possibilities. And afterward, it’s important to objectively assess the facts about your inspection away from the motorcycle with a post-inspection review.

There are forms available for download at that you can use for phone or email interviews, in-person inspections, and a post-inspection review. When you arrange for face-to-face appointments, remember to bring along the completed interview form to verify the previous answers to the questions.

Take special note: The inspecting stage and negotiating stage are separate. By separating the stages, you will be in a much better position to get a great bike at a lower price. Do not negotiate with the seller in this inspection stage of the process! If you can separate the looking and the negotiating into two discrete activities, you are also less likely to shade your purchase by the infatuation factor (falling in love with the motorcycle you’re currently looking at). If you need to get a bike quickly, separate the inspection from the negotiating with at least a coffee break to review your findings, away from the seller.

It is also important to mention that during the motorcycle evaluation, the data transfer needs to be one-way only from the seller to you—not the other way. Don’t share what you are looking for or what you find with the seller. You are simply gathering information objectively about the seller and the bike, and recording your reactions to them. You’ll see later how this one-way communication strengthens your negotiating position.

The Golden Rule of inspections is document everything! Write down the answers to the questions the seller is giving you, and everything you notice about the bike, the seller, and your reactions. Not only are you gathering valuable data for review later, you are much more likely to receive truthful answers if the seller sees that you are documenting their answers.

Performing inspections will serve multiple purposes.

  1. The information you collect will give you a good reference point to compare different bikes for the rest of your riding career.
  2. You will strengthen your negotiating position with the seller by demonstrating your expertise.
  3. An inspection will also predict work and parts required to bring the bike to safe riding condition and highlight the costs to doing so, in the negotiations.
  4. As important as the inspection is to determine the condition of the bike, you’ ll be face-to-face with the seller to evaluate their motives and trustworthiness as well.

Following are the steps involved for a meaningful assessment of the bikes you selected. Each of the steps is discussed in detail in the book.

1. Telephone or e-mail interview

a. Ask the seller questions about the mechanical condition, a history of use and maintenance of the bike, and any transferable warranty

b. Ask the Power Question – “Is there is anything at all wrong with this bike?’

2. Inspection

a. Check the VIN and validate the title

b. Inspect the tires

c. Check and study the fluids

d. Evaluate the motor

e. Assess the electrical system

f. Examine the general overall condition

g. Go for a test ride, if you are an experienced rider and have the seller’s expressed permission

3. Post-inspection review

a. Away from the seller, review your findings against other bikes you have inspected.