Thousands of motorcycles are damaged or stolen each year. And there are free online checks you can do! DVLA's site gives free information on a bike's registered keeper and MOT status, including what it failed on last time. Other sites will tell you if its: Rung, Cloned, Accident Damaged, have HP outstanding, be an import, had replacement bodywork, or been clocked..... One of these Motorcycle Data Checks might save you a world of pain. Even if you only do the free online data checks at DVLA its worthwhile. Do the free online MOT check and find out what it nearly failed on at the last MOT!
Check these records...
|Date Manufactured||Date First Registered||Full model eg. K100RTIC||Colour||Engine Size||MOT Status||Number of Keepers||Stolen||When tax due||Security Watch||Colour change||Accident Damaged||VIN Number||Police Interest||Engine Number||Mileage Check||Serial numbers||Description||Outstanding HP||Plate transfers||DVLA||Police||ABI||SMMT||MCIA|
|Cost||Checks for these things||Databases||Reports|
|Motor Insurance Database||Free||Is the vehicle currently insured - i.e. on the Motor Insurance Database|
text to your phone
There are a few sites on the web which give you model-specific information:
- BMW - If you have the VIN number, this site tells you the precise model, and exactly when it was made. Ed's 94 Boxer turns out to have been made in April '92 !
- If you know of more club, manufacturer, forum 'data checking' resources like this, please tell us. Lots of club sites include historical records of: frame number, engine number, VIN Number and year-of-manufacture, colour options those years, .....
Some good advice
Before you go to see a bike, talk on the phone. Their land-line number is best - its tied to an address. Ask detailed questions about the bike and its history, and don't talk too much, let them talk. 5 minutes listening to bullshit on the phone may save you a 200 mile drive before you realise you need to ....walk away.
Meet at their house. And check it really is their house, ask for a cup of tea. If they don't know where the kitchen is, ...walk away.
Have a good look at the Frame Number, which is a motorcycle's VIN number. Is it clear and not tampered with? Is it where it is supposed to be on that model? Is the engine number clear and visible - and where the manufacturer put it?
Have a good look at the bike's paperwork, in good light. Colour photocopies can be very good. If the paper quality and watermarks don't seem right. ....walk away.
Look at all of it the paperwork, including any service record history, old MOTs, receipts for stuff that you find under the seat. If anything looks suspicious, or the seller doesn't have a good explanation for discrepancies ....walk away.
Phrases like "that's the previous owner's name on the V5" "that's my old address, I moved recently" "the V5 isn't back from Swansea yet" "the MOT Certificate looks scruffy because my dog ate it". Dig a lot more deeply, ....or walk away.
Or is it: in a car park 'outside my work, mate', the seller is insisting on cash, they don't look like they could afford that kind of bike in the first place, the ignition key doesn't seem to fit right. Doh!
(...and if you are suspicious, a phone call to your local Police anonymous phone line might help catch some scumbag lowlife.)
Buying from a Dealer, you are not completely free of worry. Yes, you can sue them if they sell you a dodgy one. If you can find them. If they haven't closed shop and done a bunk. (Or if they aren't in Los Angeles and you are back home in Scotland - are you listening Freddies Cycle of Santa Monica, just wait till I'm over there again!)
What things mean
Ringing refers to a stolen bike with the identity of another. Say I nick a Yamaha 600GSXRR. And buy off eBay a 'Yamaha frame with log-book' from a breaker. I just need to buy a new number plate, butcher the VIN number onto the stolen bike's frame - either over the top of the existing frame number, or I hide that with a sticker and stamp it in somewhere else - and the stolen identity is hidden. It can be hard to spot because the identity is perfectly legal, and I've got a proper V5 registration document in my name in my hand.
Cloning also refers to a stolen bike with the identity of another. Say I nick that Yamaha. I spot a similar Yamaha on eBay and ask the owner for the VIN number (I want to do a data check !). Then I butcher the VIN number onto the frame, get a new number plate, and sell it to you with "the V5 ain't back from Swansea yet". Cloning is hard to spot, because the records will show the bike seems to have a perfectly legal identity - it has, there is a bike running around Inverness with a perfectly legal identity. The one you are looking at in Plymouth may be an imposter !
This is why its now harder to get a number plate, and why you need to produce the V5 to get one made. Its an effort to stop cloning.
You can look for signs of Ringing and Cloning by checking for:
- Butchered or newly-stamped VIN number / missing engine number.
- Different reg number on the tax disk.
- No tax disk - I took it off because its got a different reg number on it !
- MOT has a different reg number / VIN number on.
- No MOT - And I'm not taking it for one because the MOT station now connects to DVLA's computer......
- Shiny new number plate just fitted.
- Seller is vague when questioned on the bike's history.
If a bike is rung or cloned, having a Data Check may simply say 'Stolen', and you know right away.
If the data check doesn't flag it up right away, then you still have the benefit of lots and lots of information about the bike. If its data check records don't match exactly the motorcycle you are looking at in a back street in Bolton - the seller had better have a damn good explanation for any and all discrepancies... or walk away.
An 'Accident Damaged' or 'written-off' motorcycle or scooter will be 'Category C write-off' or simliar phrase. It might have been repaired very well and be fine. Or the seller maybe didn't tell you huh ! A Data Check will tell you this bike was damaged, and when, so you can check a lot more carefully if it has been repaired right. There's a page about the various Categories here.
More importantly, you may be looking at a frame identity that was written-off, stuck on a stolen bike to 'ring' it ! If the bike doesn't look like its been worked on in ages, but the records show it was written off 6 months ago...
If the seller bought the bike with a loan or HP, and any of that loan or HP is outstanding when you buy it, the finance company has an interest in the bike. If the seller subsequently defaults on the payments, the finance house owns the bike, and when the previous owner stops making payments, you will get pulled 'in possession of stolen property'.
If the bike is only worth some hundreds, and the owner has had it a while, its probably not Financed. But a newer bike the seller hasn't had long... That's a classic scam - buy a bike on tick, flog it, do a midnight flit.
A Data Check that tells you there may be Finance Outstanding is very worthwhile.
'Importing' is more common than you think with bikes. With classics, being an import isn't a problem, indeed an XS650 in US Custom Spec is quite a desirable motorcycle - and the owner will tell you all about it. With newer bikes imported to the UK, their origin is sometimes worth hiding.
Recently manufactured motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, whatever... are all supposed to have an EU-Certificate-of-Conformity to be used on the public road in the EU anywhere, so a 2-year-old trail bike imported from Holland should be OK to use in this country. BUT, if it is a vehicle that wasn't officially imported into the UK, you may need to prove it complies with the UK's Construction and Use Regs for motorcycles- which means you need to get the right Certificate from the manufacturer. This can be hard.
If a Data Check reveals a bike is 'Imported' - at best, you'll be fitting a left-dipping headlight. At worst, you could be entering a nightmare of paperwork hassle.
A Data Check will sometimes say a vehicle has been 'Exported' from the UK. Well maybe it was and it is being re-imported again. And maybe it was exported, is happily running around Portugal, and the bike you are looking at is a ringer or clone.
A 'change of colour' recorded at DVLA may be quite innocent. But more likely it is evidence of accident damage and replacement bodywork - on a bike which may not be on the official records at DVLA (I stuffed it in a hedge, I've only got Third Party cover, so I'll just put another fairing on myself, tell DVLA its now red, and sell it on !). On sports bikes, it may indicate a thrashed ex-race bike (been dropped a few times, new bodywork fitted to hide its scars).
Of course, the colour change may not have been notified to DVLA. So you may be looking at a bike that has shiny new green plastics, when the Data Check says it is blue. You will want to ask why.
This refers to winding the odometer back to make a vehicle look its done much less mileage. Mileage should be recorded on each MOT (be suspicious of 'I've only got the last one, mate'). Look closely at the digits of the odometer, if they are mis-aligned in any way, be wary. A Data Check's Mileage Check may well show its gone a lot further than the clocks show.
SORN - Statutory Off Road Notification
If a data check shows the vehicle to be 'SORNed', the owner should have the relevant paperwork for the most recent annual renewal of SORN. And it should be 'Off The Road', not taxed and running about (though it might have an MOT).
If you do buy a SORNed bike, make sure the SORN declaration is up to date. If the seller didn't renew it annually, you are liable for the fine for allowing it to lapse. And you must re-declare SORN immediately you get the bike, not at the 'annual renewal' of the previous owner doing it, a fine if you don't.
Can't find the VIN number?
All motorcycles, scooters, whatevers... will have a VIN number - there are no exceptions. It is a motorcycle's Frame Number. It will be stamped into the frame, and should be visible without having to remove acres of bodywork. Take a good torch so you can make it out clearly. You can call 0870 241 4259 and be given advice on where the VIN is on any vehicle. Or look around some Owner's Club web sites before you go, or ask in a Forum for where the frame number should be on the model you are going to check out.
There is no excuse for a bike not having a VIN number on the frame. And there are no excuses for the VIN and the Registration Number on the number plate not matching up on the paperwork.
Can't find the Engine number?
There is no valid reason for a bike not having an engine number. It should be clearly visible somewhere stamped into the engine cases. If not, chances are it has been filed off. Ask any Make/Model club web site, or Dealer, or ring the Manufacturer, for where to find it on the model you are interested in.