By on June 12, 2014


Troyochatter submits this request for your perusal.

Hey there, I have a dilemma that you might be able to help with.

Got a sec?

My brother had a motorcycle accident. All is well, but here’s the issue.

The bike is a 1996 Honda Nighthawk that books for $1895…except I have never seen one sell for  that cheap.

AND.. his is a one year only model, in yellow, and it is mint.

The insurance company wants to total it. But I have looked at it and, honestly, high end, maybe $600 total in parts and labor puts it back to 98% before it was wrecked.

Steve flippantly Says: Offer to keep it with a salvage title and find out the price difference. Then you can paint it purple with green zigzags like those old Kawasaki Ninjas.

Troyo:  See, that’s the thing, it’s not even close to totaled. So can he keep it and request a salvage title and xxx amount of dollars?

Steve: Yes and no. Older vehicles are historically undervalued and typically, you have to offer examples of why their valuation is wrong. All older vehicles, cars and motorcycles, have been historically undervalued in certain price books. The best thing you can do is visit them all. NADA often provides higher valuations due to their primary clientele (banks and finance companies), while Kelly Blue Book does a good job as well with the consumer side. Although older vehicles in general tend to be a bit of a hit or miss, depending on their rarity and the fact that average older vehicles tend to have fewer accurate data points.

He should use Ebay’s completed items, Craigslist, and Cycle Trader to find examples that reflect what he had, which won’t be easy. Even an expert’s opinion in the industry can go a long way. I have helped insurance companies with automotive appraisals. But motorcycles are a very different animal.



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20 Comments on “New or Used? : Vroom! Crunch! Cha-Ching!...”

  • avatar

    I’d like to add that price isn’t the only difference between insurance policies and companies. What happens when you file a claim is when you find out what you were paying for. I’m not going to plug anyone, just point out that while it’s too late in this case a good take away could be that we all should read up on ratings and reviews of the various insurers. If all you need is to check off the legal requirement of liability insurance, and you don’t have any assets worth protecting when the clowns don’t actually cover your liability shop with price as your only consideration.

  • avatar

    You say the bike is “mint”. How can it be “mint” if it’s been in an accident? A bike in a accident is a far different animal than a car that’s been in a wreck. If all that happened was some scrapes and bent pegs, keep the bike and withdraw the insurance claim. Otherwise, if the accident was more serious (bent forks, bent frame…which you will not necessarily ever see, etc.,) junk it. If you try to fix it up and sell it to somebody and then they get into an accident and it is found out that the bike had “damage”, YOU will end up with all sorts of pitbull law-yuhs up in your behind. Do you really want to take that chance? This is why wrecked bikes are a different animal and usually either get junked or parted out. However, if you like having pitbull law-yuhs up in yo’ behind…….

    • 0 avatar

      If it was a solo accident like a lowside and you just had some fairing damage then it might not be too bad but if you hit or were hit by anything then you really need to have the frame and forks inspected by a professional.

  • avatar

    I guess I lucked out, when my 1989 bike got crunched in 1999, the insurance company gave me about half of what it cost new.

  • avatar

    I just switched to a new policy that has an interesting twist. It’s an agreed-value policy like those offered for classic cars, but for daily drivers. So no limitations on how the car is driven etc. Only kicker is you have to have at least one actual classic car on the policy. The way it works is that at renewal time you have the ability to negotiate and agree upon the valuation of the car for the policy term. So for the next year, I know that the payout if my BMW is totaled is $33,500, my Rover is $8000, and my Fiat Abarth is $19,200. I used their valuations for the BMW and Rover, both seemed very fair. I specified the Rover valuation myself. And the Spitfire is also $8K. No ifs, ands, or buts, in the event of a total loss, that is what I get for a check, plus other applicable expenses. Next year the amounts will be re-negotiated, and the premiums adjusted accordingly. If I improve or modify the cars, I can have those amounts increased. So if I have the Rover re-painted, I can up the coverage to $10K, with a corresponding increase in premium. Very fair way to do it, takes all the mystery and BS out of the process. And to top it off, the new policy is ~$600/yr cheaper than my previous already cheap policy. Grundy Worldwide is the vendor, the actual coverage is with AIG. Hopefully I never actually find out how the claims servicing is. Only two claims in 13 years with my previous insurance, both minor.

  • avatar

    Take it to reputable shop and have them check for frame damage. Everything else should be easily repairable with used parts.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I forgot to add that damage to the front fork may also be minute. But in a real world situation where you’re going 60+ mph, it can make an epic difference.

      I had a Vespa ET4 I bought for extremely cheap at an auction a little over ten years ago. It was literally hit while on a Vespa tote (overpriced scooter hauler) as it left an Atlanta Vespa dealership. Only about 6 miles on it.

      Long story short, the fork was an exceptionally thin steel bar that could have been bent by a hipster in a bad mood. I paid an obscene amount of money for it at the time because there was nowhere else to find one back then.

      I put the tote and Vespa on Ebay. Sold both. The tote actually sold for $1000. I later saw it about six years later on Craigslist where it was being sold for $100.

      Motorcycles depreciate like stones, and the other commenters are right. Mint usually doesn’t count for much if the model happened to be unpopular back in the day.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 I have that same bike (just a black one) and I low sided at about 20mph last summer. I have no insurance (just liability as legaly required).

      I replaced:

      -Fork struts: US$80
      -Rear brake pedal: US$25
      -New Battery: U$40
      -New aftermarket handlebars: US$50
      -Right front peg: US$15

      I also broke the tach and cracked some plastics, but I fixed that with some epoxy.

      Bike rides like always… I also took advantage of the downtime to replace the chain and sprocket set and to install a center stand kit.

      There is no other bike that fit me and has the torque to move me in downtown traffic for so little money as this small monster, so I am keeping it on the road as long as I can. Ebay is chock full of junked parts for peanuts, so it should be easy to, even though mine seems to be the only post-90 Nighthawk in the country as far as I can tell.

      Its fast enough to get to the track on weekends and get in the ‘open’ category and not come DFL. I once managed to get a second place in a very tight circuit where off corner torque was much more important than top speed. Did I mention I love this bike? :)

  • avatar

    The answer to “can he keep it and request a salvage title and xxx amount of dollars” is absolutely yes, and that’s where all the problems will start. As noted the $XXX the insurance company will offer will be lower than you’d like, hence Steve’s suggestion to collect any documentation suggesting the bike is really worth what you think – remember, its a negotiation. A bike with a salvage title however would be much harder to insure and sell, even if fixed correctly. Riding it yourself depends on how you feel about the damage and repair. Bur really, you might get the salvage bike +$1000 -$600 to fix it, seems like a lot of work for $400.

  • avatar

    Bikes are an odd animal in relation to what constitutes mint condition and or damage. I purchased a “mint” 1983 Nighthawk off of a buddy and I replaced the tires, wheel bearings, chain, sprockets,and brake pads and changed all of the fluids and dismantled the carbs even before I rode it.
    Partially because I broke a chain on a Ninja my buddy had and scared the shit out of myself (low speed incident but the day before I was running 240kph with it).I don’t trust people’s ability to look after a bike. I’ve run across the same issue with dirt bikes and quads.

    As pointed out, a “low-side” is no big deal but even a centre punch on a car door at low speeds can tweak things. It isn’t worth the risk.

  • avatar

    Ditto on the potential for fork/frame damage. And frame damage is something that even a lot of motorcycle shops won’t find. Most frame repair work is done by specialty shops with pretty hi-tech equipment.

    Not saying that the bike should be scrapped. But be aware of the potential for it to handle funny and take $$$ to fix.

  • avatar

    Something here doesn’t make sense.

    Totaling a vehicle is usually [(Value of Salvage)+(Cost of Repair)] >= [(Vehicle Value)+(deductible)] then it is totaled.

    You are saying that you can repair this for basically $600 including labor to 98% condition. So they have a bid for salvage already-how much? Make sure there is no hidden damage, then assuming there is none, offer to take the $600 as an agreed price and do the work yourself and don’t call it a total. If it’s a borderline, than they will want to total it to eliminate insecurity.

    NADA and the like don’t undervalue old vehicles, older vehicles just have a larger delta for price paid and conditioning adjustments which sucks the average down. For every $3500 mint condition nighthawk, there are 10 $1200 nighthawks gathering dust with bad seals.

    It is possible to talk up an adjuster on value. Ebay records may not do it because only your local area is relevant for a relatively low value vehicle. The place to talk to is the local Honda dealer. The adjuster won’t value at full used retail, but the Honda dealer should be able to say how much nicer this is than average and add some money to the deal.

  • avatar

    I can find a dozen or so Nighthawks for well under $3k in 5 minutes on Craigslist. Most are under $2k. They aren’t all that valuable these days. And you have to see what they actually sell for, not what the owners ask. Motorcycle owners tend to be dreamers on the value of their used bikes.

    • 0 avatar

      You said it, Mnm4ever. Especially with 750 Nighthawks. For some reason, Nhawk owners think their bikes are worth mad money. It’s like they see Civics fetch big used money, so they figure their bikes should too.

      The 750 Nighthawk was an unimpressive bike when it debuted 20 odd years ago. I really don’t know what the attraction is with these bikes. And I know a bit about this family of bikes, having put 30k miles on a 550 Nighthawk. At least the 550/650/Nighthawk S had shaft drive.

      Take the cash and buy something better.

    • 0 avatar

      My ’09 Ninja 650 is covered for comprehensive. But that gives me little feeling of security because I know I’d get hosed on the replacement value. Yes, some of us value our bikes somewhat highly. Mine happens to be in excellent shape, barely distinguishable from new. Yet it’s four years old (I bought it as a leftover in August of ’10 and the depreciation is a bitch.

  • avatar

    Motorcycles are a bit funny. Buddy of mine had some sort V-twin Suzuki fake Harley sort of thing. Tons of chrome, fancy leather saddlebags, that sort of thing. But it used from a dealer for IIRC $3500 or so. He had a low speed spill due to a car pulling out in front of him that broke a bunch of the plastic and scarred up the chrome exhaust on one side of the bike. The price of the new chrome bits was enough to total the bike. He bought it back for the salvage price and fixed it himself for about $1000 less than the insurance company gave him. Got a used exhaust and set of saddlebags that was nicer than his originals. Even paid a shop to do the work, as he saved so much on the parts. A year or so later he sold the bike for what he originally paid for it, salvage title and all. Got married, had a kid, bike had to GO! So he basically made $1000 on the thing! Crazy.

  • avatar

    The insurance company wants to total it because it is easy. And their claims processes are built into the price of the premium. And they see thousands of motorcycle physical damage claims per year.

    Yes, you have spent 100 x the time analyzing your particular bike than the adjustor — but he has seen at least 100 similarly damaged bikes.

    Negotiate the settlement amount. Part of their logic for totaling it is that they are motivated to settle it quickly. Closed claims are a performance metric for claim departments. You have more leverage than you think. Just say that you aren’t going to settle until you find a similar mint Nighthawk , however long it takes. Of course, they have heard every argument you can think of and hundreds more. So, any reason for saying no is about as good as another. You don’t need a good reason to say no, although it helps a lot to show some conviction. And if the adjustor starts getting technical about anything — don’t engage. Just say — I just want a fair settlement. And if he persists in talking about anything remotely technical about the responsibility of the insurance company — just say, “I’m not a lawyer.” On a $2000 claim, the L word is might get some traction. Don’t say you ARE going to get a lawyer– because that would be stupid. Although, if the guy is a jerk, say, “I’m not a lawyer, but my Brother In Law is”. These are just some negotiating ideas.



  • avatar

    id consider it, if you can do the work yourself AND its strictly cosmetic. you dont want frame or fork damage, and insurance companies assume one or both happened when they total it, OR extensive plastic work which gets expensive for OEM parts…

    between salvage cycle yards and parts stores there are deals. just be prepared to ride it yourself…

  • avatar

    Having ridden for over 20 years on a variety of bikes including a 750 Nighthawk, one of the best aspects of riding an older bike is:

    If you have an accident and you’re OK, who cares about the bike?
    If you have an accident and you’re not OK, who cares about the bike?

    So in this case,who cares about the bike? Your brother should count his lucky stars that he’s OK, take the money and get another bike that he likes, be it another generic Honda (sorry, yellow 750NH = not special)or something different.

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