What’s the Right Price for an Old or Classic Motorcycle? Ask The Fuelist

Price spread for all Indian models

Price spread for all Indian models from 1940 to 1953

Buying a new motorcycle and getting a good deal isn't too difficult if you're willing to do some research up front, there's a lot of good info on the Internet, but what if you have your heart set on something a bit older and harder to find? And once you find it, is the deal you're looking at a good one? What are those bikes selling for these days? The data is out there, but most folks don't know how to dig it up. What if you could fire up an app on your smartphone while you're standing there talking with the seller and find out what other bikes just like it have actually sold for?

That's the idea behind The Fuelist:

Thousands of collector and classic vehicles change hands every month, transaction information--when available--is spread among many different sources, from online and live auctions to forums. The Fuelist continuously collects in-depth details for every one of these sales, from prices and locations, to original vehicle specifications, modifications and beyond. This mountain of data is organized into a single, centralized database.

They're just getting started and it's going to be a lot easier to get good info and spot meaningful trends with cars, simply because there a lot more being sold than motorcycles, but motorcycles are included and they are building a bigger data set all the time.

When I did a really quick search for Indian prices it brought up the chart shown above. Clicking on any dot brings up the details of that particular sale, showing not only when and where the sale took place, but details of the bike itself.

It will be a while before they have enough sales history to really be helpful and I have a hunch it might be more of a tool for the very high end where fully restored or completely original examples show a price range for collectors to consider. Outside of those perfect examples, repair and restoration costs and undiscovered mechanical issues could throw the value off by almost any amount.

Given the capabilities of big data to reveal information that was previously hidden, the longer a service like Fuelist is online gathering historical sales numbers, the better their numbers will be. You can try out their service now and sign up for their mobile app when it is released. Pretty neat.

Link: Fuelist via TechCrunch


  1. says

    Interesting, but useless. A buyer can quote past transaction prices to a seller all day long, but….in the end the guy with the bike sets the stage and the deal is made based on the EXACT condition of the bike AND the buyers knowledge of what to look for in defects or meaningful upgrades and maintenance. Not to mention the buyers negotiation skills!

    There really isn’t any relevant advice for the seller, just ask whatever $$ and see who takes the bait.

    The meaningful advice to the buyer is to do your homework first. Visit the User Forums (ignoring the idiotic opinions) for the breed and take note of the commonly cited problems. Ignore the bloggers that take $$’s for click income for marque reviews like the plague. Talk to real people that own the bike (local is great, there are always bike nights even in Anchorage and Bumstop Egypt).

    And last…for the buyer…don’t be afraid to walk away. There is always a REAL reason the bike is being sold. No, it did NOT run fine when it was parked just last summer. No, that nasty smell in the gas tank isn’t “bad gas” it’s varnished fuel from two years ago ad the oil in the crankcase is also contaminated and corroding the bearings. No, there is not suppose to be an oily film in the exhaust pipes/muffler exit. No, there is no-such-thing as a perfectly straight frame after the bike “tipped over on the trailer”. No, the Stealership did not install those nifty lights and use household electrical tape instead of proper pinplugs. No, the bike was not well maintained when the chain has twelve inches of slack and the rear sprocket has teeth points sharp enough to shave Paul Bunyan.

    Point: Get smart or get taken.

    • Paul Crowe says

      Sounds like lessons learned the hard way.

      With any used bike, gauging your own ability to fix whatever you face determines whether the deal is a good one or something to run from. If you have to hire out all the work, having deep pockets means any deal is doable, but if you’re running lean, ask a lot of questions and check everything.

      A price tool like Fuelist may be useful over time because it shows the upper and lower limits of what the bikes sell for, but until they have a lot of sales history, it’s a very general guide at best.

  2. Lost Boy says

    Seems somewhat accurate when I did it for my 77 cb550. When you get older in the year range it really depends a lot on the bikes past care and or customization.

  3. Hooligan says

    Customisation will never make more money than a stock bike. (or it shouldn’t) Throwing money at a bike is like throwing money down the drain. My 04 Hornet 600 (called the 599 in the US) has only lost half it’s value in the 10 years I’ve owned it. Unlike a lot of flashy gew gew bikes (I’m talking sportsbikes here) that lose that in the first 3 years. The only thing I’ve spent money on was better quality suspension.

    • Lost Boy says

      LOL A good suspension setup alone will bring the value slightly up. What did you think i meant? A dinosaur head moulded into the gastank?

    • says

      When I look for a “good” used bike, I look for one that is clean, stock, and not obviously twisted. Or one that is a basket case for pennies. There are no other options in which I am interested. But “throwing money” at a bike isn’t about making it worth more or even as much as the next one in the classifieds. Not for me, anyway. It’s about standing apart in an attempt to have something no one else is riding instead of just adding acres of chrome to one-up the next guy with the same black on black paint job and acres of chrome. Having something really different is tough with the mindset and culture of buying cookie cutter “custom” parts that every other 3rd bike has bolted: for me, taking older bikes and doing one-off builds is what it’s all about.

      None of my bikes (7 at the moment) could bring what I have thrown at them. Most riders wouldn’t have a clue as to what or why they are as they are. But unlike a certain breed of owner, I don’t like to see a bike that looks anything like mine coming down the road at me. I don’t want to “belong” or be a Pavlovian dupe of T.V. advertising or be one of the boys just because I own “one of those”.

      And if I have to throw money at it (more time and effort actually) then so be it. That’s why God made welding torches and cutoff grinders. Hope you enjoy your suspension as much as I like my turbos and mixed-breed part contraptions. The real beauty of buying old and doing it different is the advantage of being able to afford more than one and always having something new to play with in the spare time without having to make a monthly mortgage payment and just cleaning the same old acres of chrome!

      You won’t find an accurate price for what I ride in The Fuelist.

  4. Michael says

    People who love money more than motorcycles should stick to stocks, bonds, rare coins and stamps..

    • Paul Crowe says

      Actually, there’s been a lot of recent interest among the investment crowd in hard assets like collector cars and motorcycles. The Wall Street Journal re-ran an old write up on the activity. It comes and goes, but some high end sales are to people who look at motorcycles the same way as they look at other kinds of art. They never ride them, they buy and sell them.

  5. Dr Robert Harms says

    The value of any database to explain, predict or guide a buyer is totally based on that data bases’ validity (“correctness of data”) and generalizability (“completeness”). I fail to see where this service meets either condition. Taking the Indian example : what proof is offered about the completeness or correctness of these REPORTED data ? Are these REPORTED data in any way representative of all Indian data data ? What data on the condition of the bike is included ?

    Unless my years and many experiences with collector motorcycles are highly atypical (which I doubt) I have never reported what I bought to anyone and never
    explained either the condition of the bike(s) or condition of sale to any 3rd party database.

    Typical current and checkable example: a well-known associate who recently moved to the area has been on a tear for the past 6-8 months , buying up something like 50 mid year (1950’s thru the end or production) BSA, Norton and Triumph twins in all conditions, from multiple sellers, and in batches from 1 to multiple bikes. Nothing reported to anyone. Zero permuting of price with batch sales. Zero info on condition.

    I fail to see how this service is of any service.

    • Paul Crowe says

      I’m guessing this service is far more car oriented than motorcycle. There are so many cars sold that even if you miss a lot of them, you still have a large enough sample to draw some conclusions. Motorcycles, as you note, comprise a smaller, and probably, less well reported market.

      • says

        We are actually working hard to be both car and motorcycle focused. I would think at this point our motorcycle data is more complete than our car data is.

        In response to Dr. Robert Harms:

        We are purposely not reporting on condition. I know this seems odd in the vehicle and collectables world. However, we are taking an asset approach towards these items, where condition is based on the price and the price is based on the cost to bring something to top spec.

        Think of it like purchasing a house. It is either a fixer up or it is not. Maybe your realtor calls it a “handy mans special” which I like to think of as the home owner equivalent of a barn find. Regardless the fixer upper is cheaper as it needs work. Take a look at each sale point on the graph, we show images of the bikes, and show their as described auction description. An idea of condition can be gleaned from the specifics of the data point.

        One last thing on condition. It is entirely subjective. I looked at a fantastic italian sports car the other day, Which has numerous awards, concourse wins and I cannot find a flaw on it. However, in the owners mind it is a condition 2 car.