MILWAUKEE — Used motorcycle sales have heated up. Some dealerships are clamoring for used bikes, especially as motorcycle manufacturers have produced fewer new ones this year. • "There is a little bit of a scramble now for inventory," said Chaz Hastings, owner of Milwaukee Harley-Davidson.
In December, Hastings said, a Harley dealership in Europe offered to buy 24 used bikes from him. But he rejected the offer because it would have cut too deeply into his own inventory of used motorcycles.
"I would be in a lot of trouble now if I had done it," Hastings said.
Milwaukee Harley-Davidson recently had a used Fat Boy on its showroom floor with a customer deposit on the bike and two backup offers. There's been increased interest in used bikes that, when new, sold for more than $20,000.
"Now if you can get a used 2006 Fat Boy for $12,000, it opens up the market to a lot more people," Hastings said. "As the economy comes out of the funk we have been in, people are being more careful about how they spend their money."
Especially in the Midwest, it's not unusual to find a late-model, low-mileage Harley for sale in pristine condition.
Last fall, used bikes were "real tough to sell," said Jeff Marshall at Wisconsin Harley-Davidson, in Oconomowoc. "I think it was because there were so many bikes out there," Marshall said.
But as the economy has improved, more people have decided to go ahead and buy a motorcycle. And if they can't afford a new bike, it could be a used one.
"I think people are starting to come out from being cooped up financially," said Dan Burdett, general manager at Action Power Sports, a Waukesha, Wis., motorcycle dealership.
Wholesale prices of used motorcycles at dealership auctions have risen about 30 percent in the past two months.
"What was a $3,000 bike is now $3,900," Burdett said.
Harley-Davidson has throttled back motorcycle production — resulting in shortages of some models, according to dealers, and making used bikes more appealing.
The world's largest maker of heavyweight motorcycles has reorganized its business through layoffs, factory closures and shutting down Buell Motorcycles, a sport-bike division in East Troy, Wis.
Some Harley dealers worried about getting flooded with used Sportsters, the company's least expensive bike, following a national sales promotion that protected the trade-in value.But Harley kept a tight rein on production, so the glut of used Sportsters did not materialize, Hastings said.
Suzuki, one of the largest Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, also has not built as many bikes for 2010.
"They're selling off 2008 and 2009 inventory at hugely discounted rates," Burdett said, which has hurt used motorcycle sales.
The motorcycle market naturally picks up with warmer spring weather and a better economy.