Why Used Bikes Are The Best Bang Per Buck

Demo of Santa Cruz Bicycles


Why buy new when you can buy used? For some folks, just like buying a new car, buying a used bike is a far better value. However, for those new to cycling without any real knowledge of bikes and what constitutes a good deal, sometimes buying new from a reputable bike shop is an easier and more rest-assuring process. But for those who know what they want and know where to look, buying a used bike can net the most performance per dollar.

As we discussed in this article, buying a bike on your own requires that you’ve verified the seller is legitimate and that you know how to determine whether or not the bike has been severely damaged or even stolen. If you’re not confident being able to identify potential serious red flags with a used bike, then it is probably better to either buy new or purchase through the BicycleBlueBook.com Marketplace, which certifies all bikes to be free from serious mechanical flaws. Further, the Marketplace will ensure that you’re getting the best value possible, as the list prices are based on the extensive database of our Bicycle Value Guide.

For those who are confident in what they’re searching for, buying through sites like Craigslist, eBay or Classifieds on cycling-oriented forums can provide some screaming good deals. Here’s how to ensure that you’ll be getting the most bang for your used bike purchase.




Look for Last Year’s Model

Sometimes private sellers only want to get rid of their bike because the newest and latest version of the same bike just came out. In situations like this, room for negotiation is greater because most people want the latest and greatest, not last year’s model. However, unless there was some kind of dramatic suspension reconfiguration or new frame material or geometry that dramatically improves the bike’s performance, model year changes are usually limited to color and minor features like cable routing or product spec.

If you’re unsure of how a bike from one model year to another differs, simply go online and read reviews of both bikes. The Internet can arm you with all the information needed to make an informed purchase, and if you don’t care about what features are lacking in last year’s model, you can get a very high-end bike for a very reasonable price.


Look for a Seller Who Never Really Got into the Sport

When it comes to finding a used bike in primo condition for a good deal, the best possible scenario is finding a seller who decided to give cycling a try, but just never really got into it. Usually these folks are less knowledgeable about the bike they have, never rode it more than a few dozen times and simply want to get rid of the bike so they don’t have to look at it collecting dust. Over the years I’ve picked up some incredible used bike deals on Craigslist from sellers of this type. Of course, there are some sellers out there who think because they bought a bike at full retail and never rode it, that it’s still worth what it was new, but generally, lightly used bikes like this can be picked up for as little as half of what the original retail value was; especially if you are local to the seller and show up with cash.




Mechanical Know-How Can Pay Off

For those do-it-yourselfers who can’t imagine ever taking their bike to a mechanic, the most killer used bike deals can easily be had. For instance, a seller with little mechanical knowledge might have a used bike that has something wrong with it. They might think it’s an expensive fix, but if you’re mechanically savvy and know the problem, that knowledge can be transferred into some serious savings. Of course, don’t share with the seller what might be wrong with the bike, because then they might decide to keep it and fix it themselves.


Don’t Worry About Cosmetics

This is especially true with mountain bikes. Let’s face it, mountain bikes are designed to be ridden, and ridden hard. Sooner or later your nice, clean, perfect bike is going to get scratched or dinged. And we all know that the first ding or scratch is the most painful. So why not avoid that agony all together and look for a used bike that’s already got some cosmetic imperfections? Not only will it be less stressful when you eventually muck it up, but you’ll also save a lot of money in the process when buying used, as you can point out the imperfections to get the selling price lower.

Unless you have a serious case of OCD and must wax and clean your bike after every ride, used bikes that are mechanically sound but have cosmetic imperfections can be had for a bargain. Just make sure that if you’re purchasing a used carbon fiber bike with cosmetic imperfections, you know the difference between what a scratch or chip in the clearcoat or paint is and what an actual structural crack in the carbon fiber is.

The easiest and quickest way to determine this is by using a quarter. Simply tap from a known part of the frame that is not damaged towards the area in question. A structurally sound tube will make a sharp, resonant click noise, while a damaged tube will make a dull, muted thud noise. If the frame makes a clear and obvious thud – caveat emptor. You might want to keep looking. And in general, if you’re looking at a lightweight carbon fiber cross-country race bike or a featherweight carbon fiber road bike, be more vigilant when inspecting. These frames are made with much thinner tubing and can be far more easily damaged than longer-travel all-mountain style carbon fiber mountain bikes, which can take more of a beating that you think thanks to much thicker tubes.


Bicycle in need of repair


Small Wheels = Mega Deals

The popularity of modern 29-inch and 27.5-inch wheel mountain bikes has essentially made the traditional 26-inch wheel mountain bike obsolete. As a result, there are thousands of awesome used 26-inch wheel bikes out there that can be had for a song, and if you’re someone who is 5’5” or shorter, a 26-inch wheel is the most proportionally correct for your body size.

Hopefully these tips will help you find that ripping deal on a new used bike. Happy hunting!


BicycleBlueBook.com – What’s Your Bike Worth?
Used Bicycles for Sale

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