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Buying a Motorcycle Insurance Write Off

Before I start, I have to say I’m only giving my personal experiences. I have only been ‘dabbling’ in this for a little while, I make no claims that I am an expert.

I’ve got a bunch of plans and schemes for my new career in the bike world. To become an established custom builder, open a shop, host a bike festival, do some adventure bike tours to name a few. But one plan I have already started dabbling in is buying and selling bikes. In the past 12-18 months, I have purchased and sold around 25 bikes. Again like everything motorbikes its all still new to me, so I know that I am going to make a few mistakes. Paying to much and selling to low are the biggest mistakes so far! Kind of breaking rule 101 in the business manual, but hey it’s all a learning experience.

Where to Buy

There are hundreds if not thousands of places to find bikes to buy. And I guess the cheapest way to buy anything is, and always will be when its one on one between the buyer and seller. When you have an open forum where more than one person can bid, you will invariably pay more. Add auction fees, VAT, buyers premium and possibly any other fees companies seem to think up, and that bargain can end up being quite the opposite. So rule number one, always read the T&C’s. On average you will be paying around 30-35% on top of the hammer price

To date, I have purchased 4 bikes from Copart, a worldwide company that specialises in salvage and Insurance write-offs. Cars, bikes, trucks and most things with an engine. To be able to buy from them you need an account which involves a yearly membership (approx £50). This allows you to bid on anything from pretty much all their auctions around the world. The Dubai auctions generally have a lot of high-end Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis etc. But then you have to ship them to the UK!

Before You Bid

  • Check the auction fees and charges so you can calculate the total cost of the bike
  • Examine the description and photos of the bike. Remember there will almost certainly be damaged or broken parts that are not mentioned in the description.
  • Check MOT History. With the registration / VIN number, you can check the MOT history of the bike from the .gov website
  • Research cost of replacement parts. Always calculate the cost of parts. The best place would be eBay, to give you an idea of second-hand parts. if you’re looking at a rare or old bike remember it could be difficult or expensive to source parts.
  • If possible arrange to view the bike before you bid.

The Bike

A couple of months ago I purchased a 2011 Triumph Street TripleR, from Copart. The bike is a Cat X Insurance Write Off. This is pretty much the lowest type of Insurance Classification. In lamens terms means it got cosmetic damage and can be easily repaired. First job, view images of the bike, assess the cosmetic damage and check the bikes MOT history. I then set my maximum budget and let the Auction Gods decide my fate. Just enter the maximum amount you are prepared to pay and do not get into a bidding war. Sure enough, I won the bike and a few days the bike was back at TripleB HQ.

Once I had a good look over the bike and to be expected there are a few more damaged parts that were not noticeable on the auction images. This is totally normal and had I viewed the bike prior to bidding I would have known.

Parts Required

The biggest issue with this bike is that it has no keys, so of course I have taken a gamble, but as the bike has been classified as a category X, I’m confident that the engine will be ok. At this stage, I tested the water and advertised the bike on a few online marketplaces just to see if there was any interest in the bike ‘as is’. I wasn’t surprised that I did not get any interest. Most people would not touch a bike that has no guarantee of having a working engine. This spured the decision to go ahead and purchase a replacement key and lock set. Rather than shelling out £350 for a new set from Triumph, I intended on keeping the costs down and sourced a second-hand kit from the USA. Every penny counts so a saving of nearly £150 is not to be missed.

I had to wait over 2 weeks for the replacement key set. Perfect, time to give the bike a good clean and mini service. I didn’t want to spend any more money on the bike, in the off chance there is a fault with the engine. As I have plenty of serviceable items in my garage changing the brake fluids and coolants was on the to-do list anyway.

The Moment of Truth

The key and lock set arrived and within 10 minutes I had the replacement ignition set hooked up and ready to go.

I love moments like this. That moment when you get to find out if the gamble paid off, or if you have just chucked nearly £2000 down the drain. Flicked the switch and the dials all lit up. This is good, I was concerned the ECU might have to be reprogrammed for the new keys so this is one less thing to worry about. Finger hovering over the start button go on go on do it. 3 or 4 turns and presto she fires up as if its just another day in the life of a Triumph. What was I worried about!!

What Now?

So now I know the bike is ok I need to decide what to do with the bike.

My intention was to ‘flip’ the bike. Do nothing to it other than giving it a clean and selling it for a small profit. Or get the replacement key set, make sure it runs then sell it on. Both options are now out the window. My main bike, the Speed Triple is currently in parts as It is being transformed into a Cafe Racer. That is a good 6 months from completion. There is also the Virago, but that is also in the middle of a makeover, and isn’t suitable for what I have in mind. The plan is to become a blood biker, as mentioned in another blog. The Street would be perfect for this task as its light and nimble and has amble room for storage or boxes if needed. This would give me time to not only ride and use the bike, but also get all the parts fixed and make it look as good as new, whilst getting use out of it.


  • If purchasing an insurance write off to sell on do your research. Be aware that the resale value will not be as high as a like for like that has clean history. Resale prices can be anything from 10-50% less than a vehicle that has no insurance category ratings, but like everything in life, it is worth what someone is prepared to pay for it.
  • If reselling it is also your duty to inform prospective buyers of the bikes insurance rating, as if you don’t the buyer will have every legal right to a refund.
  • If purchasing for yourself then you can truly get yourself a bargain. Be diligent when researching the bikes history, and inspect the images thoroughly. Ideally, go look at the bike so that you don’t get any nasty surprises. If you can source quality second-hand parts then you are sure onto a winner. Not only that you get to learn about your new bike while you restore it to its former glory…