How to Find a Crate Motorcycle for Sale

by Katie Cole
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motorcycle image by Ritu Jethani from

If you enjoy comprehensive projects or you're short on funds, and you aren't in a hurry to ride a motorcycle, building a bike can be a fun and rewarding project. A crate motorcycle, or "basket case," is a good way to start. First step? Find the crate motorcycle. This article assumes you have already chosen the type of motorcycle you want to build.


Step 1

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Let everyone you know that you are looking for a crate motorcycle. The woman you work with might have a brother with a best friend whose wife has been complaining about that pile of junk in the garage. Nobody ever thought it was worth talking about--until you mentioned you wanted to pay them for it.

Step 2

Stop by local motorcycle shops and talk to the folks in the parts and service departments, even if you're looking for a different brand. People like to talk about their motorcycle projects to other motorcycle people. Basket case owners might be talking to friends at the shop with the hope that someone might wander in looking for that exact project.

Find forums on the Internet. Use a search engine to find forums on topics such as antique Harley-Davidsons, Vincent Black Shadows, classic imported motorcycles, etc. Most forums have a "Buy and Sell" section. These forums will also come in very handy when you're looking for additional parts and technical information.

Internet Research

Step 1

Start a general search on the Internet. Search local classifieds or start throwing terms into your search engine.

Step 2

Go to eBay. Be sure to search as many terms as possible, with as many different spellings as you can dream up. If you find something similar, message the seller and let him know what you're looking for. He might have a friend who has a friend...

Step 3

Go to Craigslist. Search as far out as you're willing to travel. People sell on Craigslist rather than eBay because they don't want to deal with a "sight unseen" sale or with shipping. Be ready to take a ride if you think you've found the perfect crate motorcycle.

Join the forums. Don't limit the number of forums you want to join. People hate it when you show up only to sell. Start flashing cash around, in the form of "want to buy" threads, and they'll be happy to have you on their site. Bookmark them all under one category, and visit regularly. You might end up meeting future riding buddies in addition to finding spare parts and tech tips.


Step 1

Buyer beware! A crate motorcycle is in a crate because someone took it apart for some reason. Don't expect a complete motorcycle, but do have a general idea of what you'll need. If you aren't a mechanic, see if you have one who can tag along. Brush up on what to look out for in your choice of motorcycle in the way of cracked engine cases or other major defects.

Step 2

Bring cash. Don't offer to write a check. Nobody wants to take a check. It's one thing to take a personal check for a $30 sofa. It's another thing entirely when you're talking about high-dollar items, like a basket case. You'll also have more negotiation power with a wad of bills.

Bring the pickup. Even if you could fit it all in your SUV, remember, this is a motorcycle in pieces. There will be oil and grease. You want your spouse to support you in the project that will soon become her competition for affection. Don't start out on the wrong foot by trashing the family vehicle.

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