Buying a Used Bicycle–Part 1–Where to Look

A bike shop can offer you the best chance of getting a decent set of wheels. Not all offer used bikes, so do some checking to find out.

I have recently been exploring the world of used bicycles.   I was into buying, fixing, riding, and selling old bikes in my youth.   Much has changed and many things have not, in the used bike universe.   Let me give you some tips and advice on this practice.

Buying a brand new bike is a really good way to get a bike that fits you and one that will come with service and a warranty.   A quality and honest bike shop is not that hard to find.   There are many brand name bikes in every price range.   And price range might be the reason you don’t want to buy new.   The other reason is if you are looking for a vintage bike that is no longer made.   If you are reading this, I would imagine you fit into one of these two categories.

New bikes can be very expensive.   If it does not cost that much, you may want to raise your sights to a better bike.   The bikes at the big box stores are low-priced, but not very high in quality or strength.   Shopping at a bike shop, the salesman will do his best to steer you to a decent bike, without blowing your mind with the price tag.   They have high-end bikes for the people who need them, but that might not be you.   Needless to say, a used bike will save you money on the initial purchase price.

When you are shopping for a used bike, you should have a good idea of what you are looking for.   Be flexible as you search, but try to stay on track as you sift through the many choices.   I do mean many, as the variety of types and brands is staggering.   Most likely, you will be looking for a bike to ride, but you might be trying to recapture your youth with a hangar queen to remind you of days past.   I find myself in this mode on occasion.   Searching for a vintage or classic bike can be a lot of fun.

Bike Shop

A bike shop will often offer used bikes that are trade-ins or purchased to be fixed-up and sold for a profit.   You might pay more, but it will give you the best chance of getting a solid bike at a good price.   It will come with a warranty and a limited service agreement.   It will be fully checked and tuned.   You will be able to test ride it and they will make sure it is sized to fit you.   They will not want to risk their reputation on selling you a junker.   If you are not too mechanically inclined, this is your best bet.

Ask a friend

There are tons of nice bikes sitting in garages and porches everywhere.   Get the word out that you are shopping for a good, used bike and you might be surprised how many people can guide you to one that will be just right.   Be aware that you, and you alone are responsible to make sure it fits you and is in riding condition.   Most people will be honest about the history and initial worth of their bike.   Some won’t.   Look it over real closely, and ride it enough to see how you like it.   For a small fee, a professional bike mechanic can evaluate it, and a friend (or friend of a friend), will be more than glad to let you take it to one (a mechanic) before money changes hands.

Craig’s List

There are many bikes coming across the pages of Craig’s List everyday.   Complete bikes, frame sets, accessories, parts, and cycle clothes in high numbers will be found there.   It is a buyers beware, type of situation.   But with a little luck, and a lot of perseverance, you can get a great deal.   You have to watch the site often and closely.   You have to contact the seller as soon as possible to beat the other buyers to the deal.   Between the present economy and reasons unknown to us, some people are practically giving their bikes away there.   I would be wary of stolen or broken bikes.   The bike might not be rideable for several different reasons.   This is where your handyman (or women) skills will come into the picture.   Evaluate, calculate repair costs, and make the best deal you can.   Don’t be afraid to walk away, there will be another chance to find the right bike before long.


EBay is a little like Craig’s List, except you will have to rely on the seller’s word and a set of photos.   You can message back and forth with them, but you will not have the chance to touch and feel your desire.   They do have some return policies, but with the cost of shipping what it is, that is not a good option.   From what I have seen, shipping rates vary from 40-150 dollars.   There are some people offering free shipping, but not too many.   Of course, the whole bidding against other buyers thing can be fun, but it can also raise the going rate higher that you are willing or want to spend.   Watch out, ‘they’ say Ebay can be addictive.

Swap Meet

Who doesn’t like to spend a morning at one of the local swap meets?   Depending on where you live, there can be a lot of bikes to choose from there.   Once again, beware of stolen bikes, (how do you know?).   You will also probably find that most of the bikes there are not that high of quality to start with.

Bicycle Swap Meet

A bike swap meet will have the the largest selection of different types of bikes in one venue.

Now this can be a great place to find your bike.   Not all towns have them, but if yours does, by all means, have look.   Some areas have them monthly, while others can be bi-yearly.   You should find many bikes in one place that can make your chances of getting the right one much easier.

Newspaper and other places

Lately, the newspaper doesn’t seem to list many bikes.   The Recycler used to be a good source, but I haven’t seen one for a while, (out of business?).   I recently saw an ad for another online bike sale/swap site.   I will look into that and report back.

How do you know if it is a good deal?

Most used bikes will come with added accessories like racks, locks, lights, or upgrades.   The seller will sometimes be able to tell you how old it is and the original price of the total package.   The question comes to mind if you should believe them.   I would recommend some investigation on the net to verify their story.   Often it will be noted that the bike was just tuned up or has a specific problem that needs to be dealt with.   I like to think that all people are honest in these kind of dealings, but we all know that is not the case.   It is up to you, the end-user, to dive deep in the condition and value before parting with your hard-earned cash.   And once you have the bike, check it well for things that could compromise your safety and it’s dependability.

Parts and accessories

You can use these same venues to save on things you want and need for your bike,   All the same basic rules apply.   Take the time to do the leg work and that next trip to your local bike shop can be averted, with the savings going right into you pocket.

Happy shopping, Turbo Bob.

“I think a lot of people harbor some guilt, even if it’s not on the surface, for living unsustainable lifestyles; bikes give people the opportunity to make a part of their life more sustainable.”—Charlie Cunningham.

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About Turbo Bob's Bicycle Blog

E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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