How To: Have A Positive Dealer Experience

How To -


How To: Have A Positive Dealer Experience

We have all been there, ready to buy our next new motorcycle but not wanting to deal with the dealer experience. You walk through the door and usually are met with two kinds of reception. You are completely ignored, or every salesperson immediately jumps on you like a piece of carrion in the desert. I don’t know about you but I do not like either experience.

Then there are other types of salespeople you will encounter. There is the young energetic guy who usually knows nothing about any of the bikes, except on a specific style they prefer to ride. The middle aged guy who has dead ended, no longer enjoys selling motorcycles, and only knows about the bike they prefer to ride. Lastly, you have the older retired motorcycle rider who used to ride something else but now can regale you with endless stories, only talking touching on bikes every once in awhile and may, in fact, end up selling you one; assuming you can get them to stop talking about everything else that’s happened in their lives. Oh, and they also only know about the bike they like to ride.

If you do make it to the actual purchase phase you inevitably are passed along to the most feared individual of the lot, the finance person. It’s not his fault you’re sweating bullets about your credit score. Hell, you could have the best score on the planet and this guy will sill barrage you with rates, terms, conditions, fees, extended warranty’s, spark plug replacement coverage and whatever else they have added to compete with cars and the amount of sales add on items can bring to the dealer.

What to do, what to do? My goal is to provide a little help and make sure your next experience runs a little smoother. After experiencing a majority of the aforementioned dealers while purchasing multiple new motorcycles myself I’ve picked up on a few thing. From talking to dealer sales personnel and finance personnel, and discussing the topic with other riders who have purchased new motorcycles in the last several years.

Step 1:

Research your dealer. Talk to others who have been there. Check them out on social media, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, whatever avenue you use make sure you trust it. A trusted friend or, thanks to social media, community opinion will help ease your mind before you walk in the door. This allows you to focus on your goals when looking to buy a new bike and not walk in prepared to do battle.

Step 2:

Visit the dealer when you aren’t buying a motorcycle. Talk to the service department, check out the parts area. Do they seem knowledgeable? Are they friendly? Do they seem happy with their job and fellow co-workers? The happier they are the better the dealer is. Disgruntled employees can make or break the sales experience faster than just about anything. If the dealer has any events, open houses, go there and see what other people say about them. Use this to meet the sales staff and find someone who fits into how you want to buy your next ride.

Step 3:

Skip the finance office. Come with your own financing, get pre-approved for an amount you are comfortable with using your local bank, credit union, friends (I’m still searching for a friend like this), or even a wealthy family member that was never able to live out their dreams of owning a bike and wants to live the rest of their days vicariously through you. But…a bank and credit union are still the best options.

Step 4:

Be prepared to ask for a lower price. Do your research, know what the bike is truly worth. Not what the bike is worth on Craig’s List. See what other dealers are asking or dive into the forums. Ask other people you know or at gatherings what they paid Out The Door (OTD). I suggest focusing on the price before taxes so you can compare apples to apples. Sales tax and other fees vary by state.

Doing these will never guarantee a stress free sale, but they will sure help. Educated customers make the process easier for everyone, it’s the one part we can control.

Have you had an enjoyable experience recently? Share it with us!

  • Campisi

    Me: “How much is this one, out the door?”

    Salesperson: “It’s [a number].”

    Me: “I’ll give you [a reasonably lower number].”

    Salesperson: “Deal, let’s write it up.”

    No muss, no fuss, in and out in less than an hour. If the dealer won’t play along, walk.

    • SneakyJimmy

      Done that many times buying a car because there are plenty of sources for what dealers are selling cars for. I don’t know what is “fair” when buying a new motorcycle. Should i ask for $500 off of sticker on a Yamaha r6? $200 off on a Grom? I just dont have a frame of reference.

      • Campisi

        I prefer the above strategy for a number of reasons, one of which being that it quickly and efficiently reveals whether or not the dealership deals in bovine fertiliser. Dealers that can’t or won’t answer question one with an actual number aren’t worth dealing with unless you have no choice.

        As for your counter-offer, your due diligence before heading to the dealer should give you some idea of what’s fair. Bikes in high demand usually stick pretty close to MSRP, whereas unloved or older inventory likely had a red-tag price before you walked through the door. When in doubt, take ten out; offer them an out-the-door ten percent lower than their initial offer, and see where that takes you. Experience tells me that such an offer gives you a fair price while still leaving some amount of profit for the dealer.

        • SneakyJimmy

          That makes sense. Thanks for the well thought out response.

      • Clint Roberts

        It’s going to be different for every brand, most every motorcycle, whether it’s an aged unit, how much profit is built into the actual unit, the time you are buying it (if they need to meet a quota/goal) and the willingness of the dealer to lose money to maybe make it up with the financing/warranty or accessories sale. Usually there are only a few people that know those numbers but you can find out close by comparing and doing your internet research. Someone mentioned a grom…there’s a grom forum that has a post…what did everyone pay out the door…with probably over 50 replies since the time they were available to purchase

    • BobasBounty

      Man, you must live in an urban area. No dealer here would come off the sticker price of a new bike unless you were maybe getting 2k+ worth of add-ons. Not having an alternative of the same brand within 100 miles tends to let them choose the price.

      • Eyvind Mondragon

        I’ll ask because I don’t know: In the US, if you buy a motorcycle from Dealer A (1,000 miles away), can you take it for service, warranty to Dealer B (20 miles away)?

        All of that Dealer experience is non-important to me, I live about 600 miles from the closest BMW Motorräd dealer. So, I buy all parts, and motorcycles overseas. Actually, I buy from BMW Chicago. I buy there because of the parts guy, he’s beyond friendly and helpful. And then import the parts to my country.

        Guess, I don’t have to deal with their crap. There are some very friendly dealerships, but most are just a bad experience. The ones I like, I reward by buying stuff from them… :-)

        • BobasBounty

          In my experience, with any serviceable purchase, you can take it to any dealer. Now, the dealer you buy the bike from is probably going to be more friendly and expedient with service than the guy you walked out on.

          My real point was that having to drive 100+ miles to maybe haggle 500 bucks off, is sort of counterintuitive to me. The time, money, and effort you spend trying to get a 5% or whatever discount doesn’t seem worth it.

          • Clint Roberts

            I recently had to take a job at a car dealer as I messed up my career by going to the Caribbean for 8 years. People want to get out of the dealership fast…we always joke sticker is quicker. I negotiate everything…but I am always aware of the other side. If you want superb service don’t try to ask for too much. Eventually the sales guy says to himself it’s just a unit and focuses on getting another deal. Wouldn’t you. I hate when people come in and say, I don’t want to go through all this back and forth…give me your best price with a hint of entitlement. Well everything has a MSRP, so if you want better than that, you’re going to have to ask. It’s called business. We want to maximize profit and you want to minimize what you pay. It’s that simple. Pay the. Sticker if you don’t want to dicker. But definitely don’t go in there like you are owed something and expect people to be truly nice to you. Everybody has gotta to eat. Now definitely the dealers could do a better job, some are even downright sneaky and have harsh tactics…but that’s because that stuff works to maximize profit. Take follow up for example, if you leave people alone then they end up buying from a more aggressive sales person..yes there are a few that just can say no but on the majority those harsh sales tactics work. When a buyer wants to think on it…most times they never come back. They are probably just comparing prices anyway. So dealers know to put the pressure on.

      • Campisi

        I’m within fifty miles of a major city, as are a majority of the United States population. It’s important to stress that the above method strictly involves the entire “out the door” price, as in sticker plus taxes and fees and whatnot. Emphasis is placed upon the one number the buyer ultimately cares the most about, and the dealer is given a number of line items beyond MSRP from which to trim the overall price down.

        Brand monopolies can be combatted with targeted and creative product requirements. A big draw to some Japanese cruisers is the presence of a shaft drive, and Harley dealers know it. Being ambivalent towards a fairing allows you to claim Ninja 650s and FZ09s as viable mental competition to that Monster the dealer doesn’t want to budge on.

        The dealer never holds all of the cards. If they really moved enough metal not to ever negotiate on a single unit, there’d be three competing dealerships under construction just down the road from them.

        • Blake Bryce

          Can you go with me to buy my next bike?

  • Tyler Sax

    I went to the bank to get a loan for a motorcycle. I only needed 2,000 dollars and the bank told me that they no longer did motorcycle loans. The bank manager could have just been lying to me but my credit is very good. Anyone have the same thing happen to them or was I just lied to.

    • Mister X

      Consider moving your money to a local Credit Union, then you’ll have no problem getting a loan, and you’ll be helping out your community as well.

      • Jack Meoph

        I’ve never used a bank in my life, for anything. I’ve been a member of a credit union since I was 14. Get rid of your bank, they’re scum.

    • James Jamerson

      I asked my bank for a $3000 loan (03 SV650) and they told me they wouldn’t offer a loan for any bike older than 5 years. I think there’s just not enough profit in it for them. I ended up getting a cheaper bike, saving up, and trading up to my dream bike this year, but at the time I was pissed.

  • tiredofdummies

    My most recent experience has been that the dealer seemed much more interested in selling to people who wanted to become a motorcyclist than to people who already rode. Maybe they make more on the guy thats going to buy a new bike, all the gear, and all the other crap they tell him or her they need?

  • Bill

    Buying is easy…. Waiting on the service department to fix your broken down ride is the worst

  • daveinva

    Last brand-new bike I bought I purchased from a dealer located in another city– found the bike on CycleTrader, negotiated everything online and over the phone. The salesman was EXTREMELY helpful, very eager to close the deal, which was admittedly a great price.

    Went to the dealer to pick up the bike, three hour drive away, and once there, it was like I was chopped liver. I had never seen the bike in person, I had plenty of questions regarding recall work, basic details, etc., and the guy couldn’t possibly be bothered. The guy who was my best friend for days suddenly had no use for me– the sale was done, he got his commission, I wasn’t going to be getting service done at his dealership, just go away.

    Three years later, it STILL leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Dude, I’m there for *fifteen minutes* to sign paperwork, the least you can do is not treat a guy who just gave you $16K like a freakin’ mark.

  • MyPenNeedsInk

    Recently shopping for a Dual Sport Yamaha XT250, not an expensive bike by any means but was considering new. I asked the OTD price and they told me $6800 for a $5200 MSRP +/-. I realize there was tax tag and title in there but my counter offer was rebuked as they tried to push me to a less expensive bike. Just like buying a car, I hate the experience. I ended up finding a 900 mile 4 year bike off Craigslist. Couldn’t be happier.

    • Piglet2010

      Yikes. When I bought my brand-new 2010 TW200 in 2012, the dealer had posted it to Cycle Trader for $2,950, so I walked out the door with it for that price. (Out of state sale, so sales tax and fees did not hit until I registered it.)

  • Fava d’Aronne

    Buying a bike from a motorcycle dealer in the US is a very unpleasant experience. But it pales compared to the unpleasantness of dealing with a dealer AFTER you have bought the bike. Their smiley face, their phony accommodating manners are replaced by a “FXXK you I don’t give a F about you” attitude: you have already bought the bike, they have you hooked, they don’t care anymore.

    I hate them. I really positively hate having to deal with US dealers.

  • Dan

    Coy choice of a bike for the cover photo. Step 0(A) should be to make sure there’s a difference between the new bike you’re interested in and the bike that was sold in 2006. If you’re looking for a midweight supersport, there’s like a 60% chance the answer is no; if you want Japanese, that figure rises to 80%. Step 0(B) is to then go buy a mechanically identical bike on craigslist for half price.

    • BobasBounty

      I know plenty of people have success with used bikes, but buying a more than a couple of years old supersport seems like asking for trouble. Sort of like the old adage about not buying a used sports car. You have no idea how hard or improperly it was ridden.

      The way I see teeny boppers treating every gixxer in my area has sworn me off of ever buying a sport bike used, unless I actually know who I’m buying it from.

      • Dan

        There’s no question that buying a used bike involves some risk and requires you to proceed carefully. But I believe that the massive discrepancy between the cost of new and nearly-identical used machines, and thus the potential gains from finding a decent used machine outweighs the risk. You could literally buy two 2006 R6s, set one on fire to stay warm during the winter, and still have an identical bike to what’s coming off the dealer lot for similar cost.
        I agree that gixxers from the teeny boppers should be avoided. Now get off my lawn.

  • Nemosufu Namecheck

    I want factory direct sales.

    • Michael

      Me too! My local dealer ripped me off back in January. The salespeople are vultures.

  • Jack Meoph

    Costco auto program. I was getting some really good OTD numbers using their program. I even used it against a dealership that wasn’t in the program to buy the bike I wanted, at the price I wanted, and not driving 100+ miles to get it. Also, cash helps.

  • William Connor

    Thanks for all the discussion on this. Most of the comments go to show exactly how badly dealers are doing business. We are the voices who can change that. I was running demo rides for Indian today at my local dealer for some fun riding. I showed them the comments here and they were really interested in what everyone was saying.

  • eddi

    When I moved to Salem, Oregon in the early 70s, Cycle Country was one of two available dealers. Salem Honda (closed last year) was the other. I have gotten nothing but pleasure and satisfaction dealing with people at Cycle Country over the years. I’ve bought bikes and had them serviced there. Helmets, other gear and accessories bought and installed with no problem they didn’t satisfactorily fix, fast. I’ve negotiated and said “take my money” at different times without issue. The salespeople, mechanics and most of the other staff ride. I’m not dealing with people who merely sell stuff.

    I guess I found Heaven and sure wouldn’t trade it in.

    • zedro

      That’s what I mostly see, sales people who don’t ride. At a new local power sports dealer, I overheard the sales guy explain the ins and outs of a Ninja to a new rider. It was an awkward cringe worthy conversation that could have been about a lawnmower or ATV. And just like buying a car, if you did a tiny bit of web research on the purchase, you already know more about it then they do.

  • Vince Moffa

    Being a Motorcycle Industry Publication, you would think one would support the industry , especially the Dealers. Most Dealers are honest, knowledgeable and hard working. We need to make a living , just like you do. This article is a disgrace.

    • William Connor

      Please explain how it is a disgrace for a person to go into a dealership armed with a little knowledge? If the tongue in cheek stereotypes upset you I am sorry for that. I give advice in the article on meeting the sales staff to become familiar with who meshes with your personality, having a pre approved financing offer makes the process easier, I talk about working a deal, and researching reviews of the dealership. I realize dealers make a percentage off of the financing, but at least when someone is pre approved they are able to buy a bike and not just a credit app that may get rejected. If a customer came in your door with the knowledge gleaned from this article and does the aforementioned steps you both will have a pleasant experience and a life long business relationship.

  • Harve Mil

    The only positive experience I’ve had at a dealer is being HIV+ from being fucked over.

  • Send Margaritas

    One thing not mentioned: It is cheaper to buy the bike you wanted in spring, the coming December. Not only will they want to move it more in the winter, but they’ll be more likely to take another 5-10% off of the ‘red tag’ price in December, since they know the new model is coming out in January.

  • Davidabl2

    “how to have a positive dealership experience”….by buying off craigslist, or better yet, buying from people you know

  • Paolo

    Why isn’t factory-direct sales a thing yet?

    • William Connor

      Service would be the hardest part. Without a physical dealer setup, service, and parts would be a nightmare. Having a factory owned dealership where it is straight from the manufacturer might work but no company wants the overhead and issues.

      • Paolo

        I understand now. Thank you for replying!