The Best Search Terms For Used Motorcycles

How to sort through the junk and find the good stuff on used motorcycle sites

Finding good bikes on Craigslist or any other used motorcycle site is a challenge. Such bikes are often wildly overpriced or have terrible work done to them, none of which the owner will ever acknowledge. But knowing the right search terms can help you cut through the weeds and find the best gems. The diamonds in the rough. The Vincents in the barn. Here are some of the terms we find ourselves using to get the goods.

Survivor

This is a great one when you're looking for unmodified classics or period-correct customs. It basically just means a bike that has survived relatively untouched since its prime. The prices under this search are generally a little high, but that's because the owners know they have a survivor. Whether or not you're actually shopping, "survivor" is one of the more entertaining searches.

Motorcycles and scooters search on Craigslist.
Searching “chopper” on Craigslist often finds a mix of cool old-school choppers, radical (often terrible) home custom jobs, and 1990s and 2000s chopper-style production bikes like American Ironhorse and Big Dog.Craigslist

Plated

“Plated” is a great search when you’re looking for roadworthy dirt bikes, or old-school enduros that you can still rip on the pavement. These will generally be priced appropriately, or close, and can be a great way to find bikes that normally shouldn’t be plated that are (these are usually the fun ones). If you’re looking for a street-legal two-stroke, this is what you search.

Race Ready

This is one search term that will help you find the rare and exotic bikes of Craigslist, even if they’re not totally street legal. Old road racebikes, rare dirt bike models, a lot of custom frames and built engines in strange or unique combinations. This is another one that’s fun to browse even if you’re not seriously shopping.

Chopper

I will admit that this search can be somewhat masochistic for me. I love seeing the garbage that people on Craigslist call choppers. Stock Sportster? Chopper. Riding mower with sheepskin on the seat? Also chopper. You will occasionally come across that perfectly '70s Amen Savior-framed CB750 for $800 here, and that's what makes it all worth it. Well, that and… Who doesn't secretly love reveling in some backyard customizer's missteps.

Restored

If you want all the work done for you, check out bikes with the keyword “restored” in their description. You’re not likely to find too many smoking-hot deals in this section, but, hey, those usually take a little elbow grease. These are bikes that have been gone through and brought back to their original glory, usually with new old stock parts or reproductions, rather than aftermarket replacements. Expect to see a lot of bikes worth restoring here, which again, usually means expensive. Lots of European bikes from the ’60s and ’70s, some classic UJMs, and a lot of pristine old dirt racebikes.

Trade

I have a long-standing tradition of putting “All trades considered” in each of my Craigslist ads and it has never steered me wrong. Do I want a sort of running old hearse for my CB750? No way. Three dirt bikes that ran great when they were parked for my 2003 Dodge Ram? Keep dreaming. I do, however, find these offers endlessly entertaining. If you have something in your yard that you might be looking to swap, type “trade” in that search bar and see what people are looking to exchange. You might be surprised at what you’ll come across and even more surprised by what offers are accepted.

Passed Away

Oftentimes when a loved one passes away, their belongings are left to family with little to no knowledge of the specifics of each item. It’s common for families trying to sell a deceased rider’s bike to feel overwhelmed and out of touch, usually mispricing a motorcycle either too high or too low. Don’t be discouraged if the price posted is too high, but also don’t call and berate someone for mispricing an item. Make a reasonable offer on the bike and, more often than not, the person handling the deal will just be ready to get rid of it and move on. Be honest, don’t take advantage of someone grieving, and you’ll be getting the motorcycle back into the hands of a rider and someone who will care about it.

Got any good search terms you use? Let us know in the comments and if we like them, we’ll add them in!