Used bikes are the best deal you will find, but there is risk. You really should do a lot of research to get a good deal and a quality bike. I’ve bought quite a number of used bikes and hope this guide will help you.
If you haven’t figured out what type of bike you want yet, check out our guide for choosing a bike type:
What kind of bike should I get? – Frugal Average Bicyclist
Once you know the type of bike you want, you need to have a good idea of the size bike, check out our guide for that:
Bike Sizing Tips – Frugal Average Bicyclist
If you are looking for a good deal, I recommend you don’t limit yourself by single brand. It will be easier to find a nice mountain bike in size small, than a nice Trek mountain bike in size small. And your chance of getting that steal price really goes up. These are all great brands for your search: Trek, Felt, Fuji, Giant, Liv(ladies), Specialized, Cannondale, Raleigh, GT, Diamondback, Kona, Salsa, Nishiki. Make sure whatever brand you buy is sold in regular bike shops, not stores like Walmart.
Are used bikes worth buying?
They are for sure, but you have to do some research. Lots of people decide they are going to ride and buy a bike which ends up just sitting. Years later they decide they just want to get it out of the way and offer it up for sale often at a really fair price. This means you can get a like new bike for cheap.
Where should I buy a used bicycle?
I find that Craigslist and Facebook marketplace are both great places for finding used bikes. It’s really best to find a bike locally so you can look at it and test ride it. I think you can find local bikes on Ebay, but bikes on Ebay seem more expensive from what I have seen. Finding a great deal might take a bit of time, but in my area, there are always a few decent deals listed. Rummage sales generally have the best deals, but you won’t have many options. If you are lucky, you will see a bike you like that fits and get a great deal. Finally, bike shops often have used bikes. These will be more expensive than other sources, but cheaper than new and much less risky. A shop will have already made sure everything is fixed on the bike.
How much should I pay for a used bike?
I won’t buy a used bike unless it is significantly less that new. You are losing a lot by not having the bike shop service that you get with a new bike, and there is always some risk of issues with a used bike. The bicycle blue book is a guide you can use from prices.
Bikes in my area tend to sell for quite a bit more than what blue book says, but it’s a base and possibly a negotiating point. You should compare the price to other listings in your area.
For me I would expect to pay 20% less than new for a bike 1-3 years old in great condition. 4-6 years old 40% less, 7-10 years old 60% less. You can often find nice bikes much more off than that.
Finding great deals takes time
I generally find there to be 3 different types of sellers.
- Really great price. Somebody who has decided they just want to get rid of the bike and are selling cheap. These go fast. You have to constantly watch the listings to get one of these and be able to go check out the bike right away. I usually miss like 3-4 of these before I finally get one.
- Fair price. These are the most common. It’s cheaper than a new bike, but not a steal. Fairly easy to find and will usually be listed for a while.
- High price. These people are either attached to the bike, need the money, or are a reseller. In my area I’ve come to recognize several listers who are reselling, and they are really trying to make a lot of money. I’ve missed the really great price bikes only to see them relisted a couple weeks later by these snakes, and they triple the price. Best to avoid any of these scoundrels.
I would recommend looking for something 10 years old or newer. If you go much older than that you will probably be missing out on a lot of newer features, bikes are always improving. The best used bikes are the ones bought and literally ridden a couple times and then just stored. Lots of people decide they want to take up riding and buy a bike, but never really ride it. Often you can find these bikes offered at a great price, but they go fast! Next you will find bikes with miles on them but are properly maintained. These bikes should also be fine, but you may have to replace some of the common wear parts. The worst bikes are those heavily ridden and not properly maintained. These can be ok if you can fix everything yourself, but you really need to check them over.
The frame is going to be the most important part of your inspection. All the parts can be replaced, but you don’t have much if there is a bad frame. You want to check it for any dents or cracks or bends. If there are cosmetic problems that are going to bother you, you might also want to pass on the bike. I’ve had some success touching frames up, but it can be challenging to get a paint that will match ok. I use the old Testors enamel paint and mix it for a close color.
How do you inspect a bike?
Here is a great guide from GCN to check the condition of a used bike:
How do I know if a used bike is good?
Brand is one of the best ways to tell if a bike is good. Choose a bike that is sold at bike stores, not the big box stores. Next you need to look at the condition of the bike. If it looks brand new it’s probably a good bike. If it looks really beat, there might be worn parts waiting to go wrong. Finally, ride the bike. It should be comfortable for you to ride, shift well and not make lots of creaking or clicking noises.
Good luck hunting!
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