Friday, April 29, 2022

What is a Royal Enfield worth? One sure way to find out

Salesman and customer in vintage ad.
Buying or selling an old Royal Enfield is a negotiation.

 The most common questions people ask me about old Royal Enfield motorcycles is how much to pay for one, and how much to ask for one they own. 

What is it worth, they will ask, about a Royal Enfield for sale in a Craigslist ad. I am tempted to respond that the answer to that question is not what it is worth to me, but what is it worth to them. How bad do you want it? Would it serve your needs? 

How much should I ask for the Royal Enfield I want to sell, they want to know. I am tempted to respond that the answer to that question is not what I would want for it, but how badly the seller wants to see it gone. 

I've written about sellers who put many restrictions on buyers (no shipping, no test rides, no emails, no texts, no I haven't tried to start it, no I don't know if it has spark, or compression, whether the gears shift or the tires hold air). It is hard to image any sale taking place under those circumstances.

Funny thing is, I have no good answers. 

I am no expert on prices, although I do watch the ads in the U.S. carefully. My observation is that there really is no rhyme or reason; Royal Enfields I consider hopeless sometimes draw unforeseen high prices, while other Royal Enfields, priced attractively, languish.

The quickest way for you as a seller to find out what his Royal Enfield is worth is to put the bike on the market. Ask what you know to be a high price at the start and reduce your price if necessary as time goes by. Buyers do the reverse, offering what seems a sensible amount and going up if they wish.

I realize that all I am offering here is just common sense.

There are finer points, of course. Buyers and sellers will factor in shipping costs, and the risks of purchasing a motorcycle that may be so far away that it can't be personally inspected. Sellers can help by fully describing the motorcycle and including lots of high-quality photos.

I asked Royal Enfield enthusiast Chris Overton, of Canada, for additional advice.

Get the motorcycle's history together, he advised sellers.

"Serial numbers lead to dispatch date and destination dealer. Date vital for any new owner to get parts, and numbers can assist too. Ownership history adds to interest."

(It's worth noting that Royal Enfield Owners Club chairman Graham Scarth has made a study of motor, frame and even gearbox numbers of old Royal Enfield motorcycles and has offered to check records to help properly identify Royal Enfields. You can email him at graham.scarth01@gmail.com and it's best to include photographs of the numbers and the full  motorcycle. He does not charge for this service, a massive benefit to the Royal Enfield community worldwide.)

Outside India Royal Enfields of all sorts and ages are relatively rare. So it makes sense to advertise a sale broadly.

The common places are eBay and CraigsList, but sellers also can advertise their bikes for free on the Britbike Forum and other appropriate forums (many forums are on Facebook now, Chris noted). They can advertise on Hitchcocks Motorcycles bulletin board.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous4/30/2022

    Before putting hard earned cash into ANY vintage motorcycle, educate yourself about what you are looking to buy. Do not waste time and money on cobbled together parts bikes or "bitsas". Enfield in particular was good at serial numbering things to each other. Know where to look and what to look for.It's all in the numbers. Sometimes the only way to determine a specific model is by the serial number on the motor. That collection of letters and numbers has significance, and can mean the difference between the common and the uncommon. Always be suspicious of anything a seller says. They may or may not know what they are talking about. Due diligence will pay off in the long run. Forewarned is forearmed !

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    1. Thank you for adding this. Very true that sellers often don't know what they are selling. Which sometimes, although rarely, leads to bargains for those who DO know what it is.

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  2. Unlike other more "collectible" Classics, I cannot really think of Enfields, or at least their Bullet models, as being attractive investment vehicles of the "numbers matching" sort...even the Redditch-built ones. There are just WAY too many Indian-made Bullets out there being passed off as supposedly "English made" or English-framed ones with Indian parts or even whole engines to make Bullets anything more than a path fraught with fraud and other pitfalls for most "collector boys", even those passingly familiar with the breed. If you buy one, get it for fun, and sod the engine or frame numbers or dreams of some concourse ribbon at Pebble Beach or wherever. Then again, even the Indian Iron Barrel preunit Bullets have been getting far harder to find in just the past couple of years, and have begun asking for way more than they were even just a few years ago. Well, they haven't sold them in the States in a decade and a half, so that's to be expected. So, by all means, if a semi-decent one crosses your path at a fair price, and you don't mind a bit of fettling, like you'd do with any "Britbike", just get it. Don't think of it as "a good investment ", but then you probably won't lose any money on it if you sell it in 5 or 10 years either.

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