Buying and Registering a Written off Motorcycle

write off auction Whats involved in buying and registering a motorcycle thats been a write-off? We look at some of the obstacles.

damaged bike auction

*The following is written as a guide only, please do your own research in your own state, as rules and fees can change.*

In every capital city in Australia you will find a regular auction of damaged motorcycles, the by product of those both sensible enough to have insurance, and unfortunate enough to crash them. Whilst buying a damaged motorcycle and repairing it used to be a relatively straight forward process, the past few years have seen things get a little more complicated.

A lot of bikes are purchased for use as a race or track bike, or perhaps off road use only, so a lot of what follows is not applicable. But in the case of those brave – or foolish- enough to wish to purchase and repair a bike to put back on the road, we can’t stress enough that you need to be fully aware of all the issues, and do your sums BEFORE bidding on what may turn out to be an expensive garage decoration.

We’ll run you through the basic issues involved, but you would be well advised to make your own enquiries at the appropriate motor vehicle registration authority in the state you live in, as some details and costs vary. Firstly buying a damaged bike. Although damaged bikes appear from time to time through friends or newspaper ads, most damaged bikes these days are sold through auctions, with an auction center in all capital cities. Auctions are held approximately once a month. Bidding online is possible, but it would take a brave man to bid on a damaged bike sight unseen.

damaged motorcycle

First up, some advice, if you don’t have a good understanding of things mechanical, and can’t repair things yourself, it’s unlikely that you will benefit from buying and repairing a bike from an auction with major damage. However, not all written off bikes have major damage, often a low speed fall will cause enough scratched parts to make it uneconomic to repair for the insurance company. So if you can live with a few scratches on your pride and joy, it may simply be a case of replacing a few simple parts like levers or pegs. But beware, this type of damaged bike will usually attract strong bidding, so do your sums carefully before you bid, or you can end up with a scratched bike, with a permanent history of being written off on its VIN number records, for not a lot less than you could have just gone to a dealer and bought a good one.

Also be prepared to spend a fair amount of time carefully checking the damage, a lot of major damage can remain unseen until you get it home. Things like dented rims, cracked crankcases, damaged radiators can be hard to spot in a casual inspection. Late model sportsbikes in particular are built so lightweight that even a minor impact can damage major components like forks or triple trees.

Before bidding, check whether the bike has keys, including any “dealer” keys, especially with fuel injected motorcycles. Late model bikes are often equipped with an immobiliser inbuilt into the computer, and without keys, you may be faced with the prospect of having to replace not only the key, but the ignition switch and computer.  This could cost you plenty, several thousand dollars in some cases! Most importantly, when a bike is put up for auction, it is accorded a status with the registration authority as being written off, either as a “Repairable Write-off”, or a “Statutory Write-off”. If it’s the latter, it cannot ever be registered, as it is deemed to be too badly damaged to repair, and is sold for parts, or off road use only. Also make sure you carefully read the auction houses terms of purchase, there is usually a “Buyer’s Administration Fee” added to the successful bid.

Assuming you are successful and purchase a bike, you will probably now spend weeks ringing wreckers, and scanning classified ads and EBay in the search for the elusive cheap spare part. We won’t go into any of the issues regarding the actual repairs, but it’s important to note that when reregistering it, you will be asked to show invoices of all parts purchased.

wrecked bike

Once the bike is repaired, it must be first roadworthied, so off to the local bike shop for the safety check. Then after the bike is roadworthied you then make a booking for the Written Off Vehicle Inspection. Before the bike is presented for the inspection, you must fill out a statutory declaration, which includes the details of the bike, along with a complete list of every part you have replaced, and every part that has been repaired. This must be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace. Penalties for false declarations range up to several years in Bubbas close company. JPs can be found at most local shopping centres at a set time for a few hours a week.

After the bike has had the Written Off Vehicle Inspection, if it passes, you are now free to register the bike. You must take the bike to the local Department of Transport office, along with a completed “Application for Registration”, proof of identity, the receipt from who it was purchased from, and a large stack of cash, or a suitable credit card. Costs for this process in Queensland were approximately as follows

Roadworthy: $50.00
Statutory Declaration: Free, but must have witnessed by JP.
Written Off Vehicle Inspection: $350.00
Then the usual costs of registration, CTP insurance, and stamp duty, varies between states, but between 2-4% of the market value of the repaired bike.

An average total for all inspections and registration charges with a six month term would be around $750-$1000 depending on which state you live in, and the value of the motorcycle. The VIN number of the registered bike will now carry a permanent record of the motorcycle having been written off, any prospective purchaser can discover this by having a check done, and this will no doubt lower the potential resale value of the bike.

In our own personal experience, a damaged bike is a great starting point for a track or race bike, or project build up, but as a method of purchasing a discounted road bike is less attractive given the extra costs involved in registering. We can’t stress enough, carefully check over any bike you will bid on, and spend the time to add on all the costs as outlined above. Good luck!


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