What’s the deal with dealers?

Dealing with the dealer? You’ll need as much protection as you can get.

Motorcycle dealers, much like their not-too-distant cousin the car dealer, tend to have a less-than-stellar reputation. I’m not sure how it got to be this way, but any type of communication with a bike/car dealer makes me feel like I’m in desperate need of a shower.

In my mind, the interaction should go something like this:

Me: “Hey, I might be interested in buying this. How much is it?”

Dealer: “The price is $$.”

Me: “Ok, great. I’ll take it.”


Me: “That’s a bit more than I can spend. Thanks for the information.”

Better yet, there would just be a price tag on it. Not one that is an over-inflated starting point for negotiation and has a breakdown of every dealer installed item that they can use to beat more money from you. It should be something more like when I go to the grocery store. I don’t have salespeople in the supermarket trying to sell me things I don’t want. Yes, I see where the vegetables are and the price is clearly marked. I can take it or leave it. They are not trying to sell me extended warranties on whatever fruit/vegetable/cereal/milk I’m trying to buy. This is the item, this is the price.

Dealerships do business differently. Their way is usually something like this:

Dealer: “Hello, welcome to X dealership. What are you looking to buy?”

Me: “I’m interested in X or Y. What’s the price?”

Dealer: “Well, before we get into the price, let’s take a look at all the options we have installed on this fine piece of engineering, along with a few other things we think you’ll like!”

Me: “Thanks, but I just need to know the price and when I can pick it up.”

Dealer: “Oh, but you’ll be missing out on learning about this, that, and the other feature. Perhaps I can sell you something you can’t afford, and really aren’t interested in? We can finance it too, so you can pay even more than you were planning. Maybe even this one over here that costs more than double what you were looking to spend. Of course, we will also charge a fee for all the extras that we installed, and a few we didn’t. And a fee for us showing you what you wanted to see. We also had a guy do a thing, and will charge you a fee for that. Finally, there will be an exit fee, but since we like you and appreciate you as a customer, we will cut that fee in half!! And did we mention anything about paint treatment? Don’t worry, our finance guy will try to get you to agree to that and he can include it in the financing.”

It’s a game. I realize this, but I can’t do it. I know some people live to haggle over the price and whatever “extras” they can convince the dealer to throw in. I know you are such a savvy negotiator that the dealer will pay you to take the bike/car, throw in some other goodies, and offer the first scheduled service for free! You will beat them at their own game and they won’t even realize what hit them!

I also know that this is not true. The dealer is far better at the game than you and me. They have more experience, they have something we want, and they will get as much for it as they can. I have no problem with this, just eliminate the game. What’s the price? I’ll take it – or not.

I’ve dealt with dealers a few times. It’s not pleasant. Some parts of it are OK, but they will ALWAYS find a way to make the process less than fun.

The first time I bought a new motorcycle, it was great. Salesman was friendly, knowledgeable, likeable, and didn’t try to upsell me. He threw in a helmet and a jacket for what I considered to be a reasonable price, and I was on my way. He made a profit, I got what I wanted, and everyone was happy. So what was the issue? It wasn’t the salesman. It was when I came back for the first scheduled service after the initial break-in period. (Yes, I know you do ALL your own work. Move along!)

I scheduled an appointment for the work, dropped off the bike, and waited. Then I waited some more. Finally, I waited a little bit longer. I was initially told to drop off the bike Monday and pick it up Thursday. Hmm. Maybe a little long, but whatever. I guess that’s how long it takes. Two weeks later and the bike was still at the dealership. Phone calls were answered with the promise of “just another day or two and it will be ready.” Poor scheduling if I ever heard of it!

OK, things happen and I know the world doesn’t revolve around me. Maybe they were busy. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t thrilled. When I needed some work done on the bike a couple of years later, I talked to the service manager and told him of my reluctance to have them do the work. He assured me things wouldn’t take so long and promised a quick turnaround. This time, I got the bike back in a reasonable amount of time. The work was done to my satisfaction, but I was surprised at their list of recommended work that should be done “right away.”

I was told I needed new swing-arm bushings and the bike was potentially unsafe. Sounds scary, but I didn’t agree with their assessment. I figured I’d keep an eye on it and replace them myself if needed. More than 15 years and 80,000 miles later, and the swing-arm bushings are still the original ones, and still don’t need to be replaced!

My most recent disappointment with a motorcycle dealer involved a Sportster I saw for sale on their website. Nice bike, just a couple of years old with low miles and it looked really good. My dad was looking for a bike and I showed it to him. The price was only listed as “Contact us for price.” I filled out the online form and specifically checked the option that said I wanted communication to be through email only, as I don’t like talking on the phone. I didn’t even put my phone number on the form, as it wasn’t required.

Unfortunately, I had bought a motorcycle from them a couple of years before. They matched my name and address to the phone number they had on record and started calling me daily, leaving messages about coming in for a test ride. There was never any mention of price, neither in the emails they started sending, nor the phone calls I didn’t ask for. Why waste my time, or theirs? Of course, I think I have more free time than them, so I may have to make several trips to visit them and test ride a bunch of bikes I have no interest in buying, just to make me feel better!

I know I’m not the only one who despises going to the dealer. There aren’t any other options if you want something new, and private sellers are sometimes more unscrupulous than dealers. I’m looking forward to a day when I can bypass the dealer and just order a new bike online. It can be just like Amazon, click “buy now” and it shows up a few days later. Actually, Amazon now offers a few cheap motorcycles for sale online. How long can it be before established brands start selling more of their product online, not because of social distancing concerns, but because the current way is outdated?

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