"I'm located out of Cleveland, Ohio and am looking for an Enfield that is reasonably priced. I feel that many of these people who are selling them are posting high resale prices in a motorcycle industry that is constantly recycling vehicles. Was curious if it would be possible for me to find one in the $1,500 range that would run without too many repairs? You seem to be the foremost American expert on these things. I know the price range I'm looking in is pretty low, but a man can dream, right? Thanks for your time!
— Zach LaFleu
Here's my reply:
Zach, thank you for your kind note. I do not think your situation is hopeless. The asking prices do tend to be very high. I don't think sellers are doing much research to see what is available out there. If they did, they would note that the bikes that do sell are selling for reasonable amounts and they would see that ads for overpriced bikes run for months and months on end. If they really want to sell, they will have to come down.
Some sellers have put many hundreds of dollars of improvements into their bikes — solo seats, better headlights, windshields, after-market exhausts — and they naturally think they should be compensated for these improvements. What they don't realize is that nearly everyone makes these same improvements: there are dozens of bikes out there with solo seats. So the resale value of these very nice accessories is effectively zero.
Many sellers have barely used their motorcycles and they are "like new" with very low miles. That is all well and good, but it applies to so many Enfields, for some reason, that it means almost nothing. You can still find 1999 Enfields with 50 miles on them. Astounding. Sellers can't be expected to be compensated much for low miles, given that so many bikes out there are like new. And, frankly, the new Royal Enfields aren't that expensive. There is a dealer on eBay offering unsold 2009s for just $3,999 — with a warranty! So sellers have to be realistic. But will they?
What is required is that you contact any seller who has a motorcycle that appeals to you and make your offer. This requires a bit of courage, I know, but eventually you will reach someone who is ready to sell at your price.
You might also keep your eye open for people who have let themselves be defeated by the relatively cheap and simple problems that can afflict Enfields. "I can't get it started" in an ad doesn't necessarily mean the engine is destroyed. It could be something incredibly easy to fix. Look at the spark plug: if the seller rode too far (even a mile) with the enricher (choke) on the plug will be filthy and there is no way the motorcycle will start. Put in a clean plug and it will go!
Right now there are a lot of used Royal Enfields out there with broken electric starters, because that was a weakness for a time — but they still can be started with the kicker and the e-start can be fixed later, if you want. If you are brave enough to take a little risk, or do without electric start, you might get a bargain.
You are lucky that there are a lot of very very low mileage Enfields for sale, so the chance of getting something that really is worn out and used up are very low. Obviously, you don't want to buy anything that really is destroyed.
You are also lucky that we have here in the U.S. Classic Motorworks (Royal Enfield USA at www.EnfieldMotorcycles.com ) which is a magnificent resource for parts and information.
One thing I would be wary of is buying a motorcycle that was a private import from India, even at a bargain price. The seller may be very anxious to dump this because of paperwork problems. But you don't want paperwork problems getting a registration, either. These gray market bikes are total question marks. They might be fine, or they might be oddball "restorations" full of random parts that may not interchange well with parts on hand in the U.S.
In the end, you can also change your own attitude. When I bought my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet there were no used Royal Enfields to be had, that I could find, so I paid full price, $4,200 (with accessories) in those days. I have never regretted it.
Best of luck.