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10 tips for buying at a motorcycle swap meet

Swap meet

Motorcycle swap meets are a great place to gawk at old bikes, but also a great place to find that missing part for your restoration, buy some accessories or cheap riding gear.

The Laidley Motorcycle Only Swap Meet 50km west of Brisbane is on this Saturday and Sunday at the showgrounds and visitors can possibly win a 1950 350c Model G Royal Enfield. Vendor and buyer entry is only $5 for each day. Click here for details.

And what a world of motorcycle nirvana will be on show!

So we thought it timely to pass on some tips on what to do and not to do at a motorcycle swap meet.

Top 10 tips for a motorcycle swap meet

  1. Take a list. If you are looking for specific parts for your restoration project, write a comprehensive list of what you require. Take part numbers, interchange data and drawings, or even photos. Don’t rely on your memory. You may find the part you buy does not quite fit when you get it home.
  2. Take cash. Most vendors don’t have credit card facilities and no one takes cheques these days! If you snag a deal, but can’t pay there and then, the vendor may be nice and promise to hold it for you. But chances are they will take the cash if someone else shows up to buy it. Most venues have ATM machines on site.
  3. Go early! Yes, it’s nice to include a swap meet as the lunchtime venue for your weekend ride. However, all the good bargains could have been snapped up in the morning. And they usually start early. The Lockyer swap meet opens at 6am for the public. So ride straight to the swap meet, do your deals, then go for a long and satisfying ride home.
  4. Luggage. If you are riding, make sure your bike has enough luggage capacity to take your purchases home. Don’t forget to take plenty of stretch straps and tie-downs. Otherwise – and I hate to suggest it – go by car, truck or ute. Vendors usually don’t like hanging on to goods to be picked up later and very few will deliver them.
  5. Never buy electronic components without somehow validating that they work. They may be selling them because they are faulty!
  6. Haggle. That’s what it’s all about. But haggle nicely because the vendors are usually enthusiasts, not hardened business people.
  7. Take your time. A quick glance over a stall might not reveal the hidden treasures. It pays to take your time and look carefully. We suggest you go by yourself or with a dedicate enthusiast. Riding mates might pressure you to leave too soon.
  8. Ask questions. It’s a whole lot easier to find a specific part if you ask the vendor right up front if they have it. They might have it hidden away or did not bring it with them. Or they might point you to the right vendor. They all seem to know each other.
  9. Avoid buying a complete resto. It’s ok to buy project bikes, but “complete restos” are never quite as complete as they make out. Checking parts, numbers and whether it actually works is a long and complex process. It’s not something that should be rushed at a swap meet.
  10. Have fun, chat and learn. You can learn a lot from taking some time to chat to vendors. They are often the most knowledgeable people on a particular brand or era. They also have some great stories to tell and advice to pass on.