You don’t need to be a gearhead to use eBay to easily make money
Do you ever wish you could make some real money by working from home? Are you at least minimally handy and have basic tools? If so, welcome to a guide on how to make actual money by selling used motorcycle parts and car parts on eBay.
eBay is the best place in the world to buy used car and motorcycle parts. Is your 1994 Honda Goldwing in need of a gas tank? You can buy one from a dealer for $700 USD (assuming it’s even available new anymore), or you can buy a decent used one for $80 on eBay. Without a doubt, people prefer the latter, and it should be YOU selling that person the $80 gas tank, not to mention the $4,000 in other parts from the same motorcycle.
Note that I have done this with both cars and motorcycles, but I’m going to focus on motorcycles because they’re easy to transport and easy to take apart, and also because I don’t hate myself enough to type “cars/motorcycles” each time.
Please note that this guide is 100% real, and absolutely does work. I paid off all my debt, bought international vacations, and renovated much of my house using money legally earned using this method and my spare time.
What You’ll Need
- Your own garage
- Basic tools, especially a metric socket set and screwdrivers
- A computer with an internet connection
- A $25 postal scale (one that can weight up to 50 pounds)
- A PayPal account (free)
- Cleaning supplies (degreaser, microfiber cloth)
- Some money (Anywhere from $100–800 to start)
- Spare time
What You Don’t Need
- Knowledge about motorcycles or cars
- Mechanical ability
Now that you know what you do and don’t need, let’s get started with the step-by-step process.
Step 1: Pick the Motorcycle You’re Going to Disassemble
First of all, you do NOT need to buy a working motorcycle. You are going to be taking this motorcycle apart, not fixing it. In fact, if they don’t work, you can buy them for cheaper.
Regarding which motorcycle you buy, please be aware that not all motorcycles are equal. Remember that when you sell parts off of this motorcycle, they’re mostly going to people who are trying to keep their existing motorcycle riding. Sometimes you’ll also get people who are trying to restore a bike.
An ideal motorcycle is one that lots of people are still driving, and therefore a lot of people are buying used parts. You do NOT have to be an expert in motorcycles to figure out which bikes these are. Here’s a motorcycle ad from the New Orleans Craigslist, a 1985 Goldwing GL1200.
You’ll notice that pretty much everything is there and the bike isn’t completely caked in heavy rust.
At this point, you hop onto eBay, which will be your selling site, and type in “GL1200” and tick the “Used” and “Complete Listings” boxes on the left. Do NOT click “Sold.” Now you can see if the parts are selling (in green) or not selling (in red). If many of the parts are green, and selling for a reasonably high price, this motorcycle is a good choice.
Looking back at the Craigslist ad, the motorcycle looks complete, including the radio ($110), the wheels (up to $300 total), the shocks ($120), the fuel pump ($80), and many, many other parts. Just those five parts exceed the total asking price of the motorcycle! If the engine even turns over, it’s worth a few hundred dollars by itself. Looks like a great buy! Craigslist pays off again!
Now to go purchase the motorcycle.
Step 2: Buy the Motorcycle
At this point, you’ll be contacting the seller. If he’s asking $500 and you tell him “I’m ready to come NOW with cash in hand,” he’ll probably take less, maybe $400 or even $350.
Obviously, if you own your own pickup truck and some (ideally four) ratchet tie-down straps (for big, heavy motorcycles, you’ll also need a ramp of some kind), that’s easiest. But I didn’t have a truck when I started and found that many of the sellers have their own pickup trucks and will deliver. However, that might cost you more (You might have to say something like, “I’ll give you an extra $100 if you deliver the motorcycle to me”).
Once you’re on-site with the motorcycle, look it over, and try to get the best price you can. Whatever you do, DO NOT tell the owner that you’re going to part the motorcycle out! Many of the sellers have fond memories of their motorcycle and they do not want to hear that you’re going to take it apart. It doesn’t matter that the motorcycle will cost a fortune to get running again, and parting out the motorcycle will keep other motorcycles on the road. Don’t tell them you’re parting it out!
The motorcycle might have a title, or it might not. It doesn’t make much of a difference. It is nice if the motorcycle has a key, though, because you can hook a power source up to the battery terminals and see if the electrical parts work, if the motor turns over, or even if the motorcycle starts (unlikely). Also, parts that include locks are worthless without a key (such as ignition, helmet lock, luggage, etc). Don’t be bothered by the fact that the paint is dull or there’s some light surface rust here or there.
You might be asking, “how do I know if this motorcycle is stolen?” Sometimes the seller has the title. If the bike is newer, they almost always do. If that’s the case, you’re in the clear. If the bike is very old, and obviously very nonfunctional, the sellers don’t always have the title. However, they almost certainly aren’t stolen. Nobody is going to steal a big, heavy, rusty, nonfunctional paperweight from 40 years ago that’s worth pocket change. There are too many shiny, $20,000 Harleys for them to target.
Once you’ve got the motorcycle loaded, you’re ready to go home! Here are some photos of motorcycles I’ve personally picked up.
Step 3: Take the Motorcycle Apart
“But Erik, I’m no mechanic! I can’t even disassemble a toaster without smashing it on the floor,” you might say.
That doesn’t matter.
Disassembling a motorcycle is actually very easy, and lots of fun. Remember, you’re taking a motorcycle apart. You’re not fixing it or putting it back together, which is much harder. Usually, you just look at a part, figure out how it’s attached (usually a bolt or two), remove that bolt or two, and the piece just lifts off. Keep doing that until your motorcycle goes from this:
That’s it. Anyone can do it. Take off bolts until the part comes off, then go to the next part and the next part, until there are no parts left.
I do recommend you start with the seat and the gas tank. Removing those first will expose many screws and bolts you can also remove. Also, put all the bolts and screws you’ve removed into an old coffee can or something. That hardware set can be worth $20–$50 on its own.
While you’re taking stuff off, separate anything that’s damaged or rusted beyond use. Complete Goldwings produce about 130 parts, while an old dirt bike might have only 60. However, the old dirt bike is easier to load, take apart, etc.
Step 4: Clean, Photograph, Weigh, and Catalog the Parts
Grab a part, any part. Take that part to a table, spray it with degreaser from your local auto parts store, and wipe it clean. If it’s metal and a little rusty, some metal polish can work wonders. Buff it with a fluffy cloth from the same auto store. You’ll be surprised how shiny old chrome can get.
Make a little spreadsheet with the name of each part, the weight of each part (you’ll need this later), and any condition remarks (“small crack on bottom left,” “looks almost new,” etc). Then take a couple of nice pictures. Take two, in case one turns out blurry. After that, put the parts into a nice, neat, clean, shiny pile against the wall. Your spouse will thank you if you can keep the pile as small as possible.
If you don’t know the name of the part, you can find your motorcycle on Bike Bandit. There are complete schematics of every motorcycle ever manufactured with labeled names for every single part from your bike. It’s also great for figuring out search terms to enter on eBay for your part. Once you’ve done this process with just one or two motorcycles, you’ll know what every part is called by memory.
Step 5: Edit Your Photos and Make Your eBay Listings
You can edit your photos with any free photo-editing software. Mostly you’re just cropping the pictures to include only the part (not anything surrounding it), and perhaps turning up the brightness/contrast a little.
At this point, you should already have a PayPal account. If not, get one and link it to your bank.
Creating a listing for sale on eBay is a very straightforward process. If you’re worried about this, there are plenty of videos and help guides. However, if you just enter the information eBay asks for, that’s all you have to do. You’ll include a title you will want to load with keywords (“Rear Shocks Suspension 1993 Honda GL1200 Goldwing”), a description, and some nice, detailed pictures, the package weight (for postage), etc.
I recommend you use the free eBay Turbolister desktop app. It will let you make a template with much of your information already keyed in for you. Please note that if you’re a new eBay seller, there’s a limit to how many items you can list at first. That limit will go away with time. You can also call eBay once you’ve had some successful sales and ask them to raise your limit.
I recommend using a ten-day listing (Buy It Now is the best format) because it lets your listing run through two consecutive weekends. As far as the price you set, I’d just search for what other people are selling the same part for and undercut them by 5–10%. It’s a cutthroat strategy, but that’s business. Note that parts sell for less in the winter because no one is riding.
Step 6: PROFIT
Package your items as they sell and ship them off
As soon as you’ve received instant payment in your PayPal account (which is how everyone will pay), you will box the part(s) and take them to the post office. Taking them to the post office the same day is best, and never later than the next day. People want their stuff fast.
You can get free Priority Mail boxes at your local post office. Anything you can squeeze into a Flat Rate box is good, because it keeps shipping low, especially for heavy motorcycle parts.
For larger items, I would just go to the local Dollar General or grocery store and use their broken-down boxes. These businesses typically have boxes outside the back of their store, and they often don’t care if you take them.
If an item is REALLY large and unwieldy (like a motorcycle exhaust), you can literally wrap them in cardboard from unfolded boxes, and then wrap multiple times with regular kitchen plastic wrap. It’s usually worth the trouble with these items because large and unwieldy items are expensive items that someone has paid you a lot of money for.
I use newspaper for packing material inside boxes. You can crumble it up into balls and it works as well as packing peanuts or bubble wrap. Go to your local newspaper — they often print more than they need. They’ll usually give you stacks of old newspapers for free.
Step 7: Pay Your eBay Fees
Typically you incur eBay fees only if you sell an item. Items you don’t sell normally don’t incur fees. If you do sell an item, the fees tend to run about 10%. It’s not that expensive, because, in return for that 10%, eBay is allowing you to reach the world’s largest audience for your parts.
Step 8: Clean Out Your Garage
Just FYI, you won’t be able to sell every little part from your motorcycle. If you’ve selected the right motorcycle, however, you’ll sell most parts. From the example of the Goldwing, you should be able to sell maybe 100 of the 130 parts for anywhere from $5 to $250 apiece. Any parts that are made of metal should be thrown into the back of your vehicle and taken to the metal scrapyard. They will pay you money for your metal by weight. Some scrap dealers will even pay for steel.
Any parts that aren’t metal and can’t be sold for scrap can be removed simply by placing a “free motorcycle parts” ad (with photo) on Craigslist. They’ll usually be gone within the hour. Your Goldwing cost you $500, your fees were another $400, and your miscellaneous expenses were another $100 (transport, packing materials, etc). That’s $1,000. Assuming you sold your parts for $3,500, that’s $2,500 free and clear. Now spend $600 of that to buy another motorcycle and transfer the rest from PayPal to your personal bank account. If you bought a simple 1970s CB250, maybe you only spent $200, got $150 in fees, and grossed $1400 in sales. That would be a profit of around $1000 after all was said and done, but with a much lower time commitment than the huge, complicated Goldwing.
That’s how you do it, folks! Without a doubt, selling on eBay takes time and patience. Once you include listings, weighing, cleaning, actually getting the motorcycle, shipping, etc., you’re talking about some fairly significant work. However, I found that after the second or third motorcycle, I was actually quite fast during the entire process. The process is no different from selling parts from a car, except that a car is harder to transport and takes up more space. Otherwise, it’s the same.
I wish you luck in your endeavors! The amount of money you can make is entirely determined by how much time you’re willing to put in. If done correctly, you can supplement your money or even make this your prime source of income.