Guide to Buying a Second Hand Bicycle

Looking for a cheap bicycle? Finding the right second hand bicycle for sale can save you money, but read our guide to avoid the common pitfalls.

Looking for a cheap bike? Second hand bicycles are a great option to investigate. Whether you want a commuter bicycle, a cheap road bike or a second hand mountain bike, there’s bound to be something out there if you don’t mind searching.

Don’t have time to read this? Skip to our Essential Second Hand Bicycles Buyers Checklist.

Why buy a second hand bicycle?

If you are a savvy shopper, a second hand bike can be a real bargain. If you aren’t bothered by cosmetic marks, don’t mind doing a little bit of cleaning and repair, and are happy to have a bike that’s not new, then you could get yourself something that performs brilliantly for a fraction of the cost of a new bike.

However, the search can be time consuming, and there are things you’ll need to look out for.

You can also get cheap bikes from other places, such as buying last seasons bikes from retailers, or inexpensive bikes from shops like Decathlon and Halfords.

Where to buy a second hand bicycle

The Internet is the obvious place to start looking for a second hand bicycle. Sites like eBay and Gumtree have thousands of bikes for sale. Many cycling websites and publications will also have their own classifieds sections, and and people also post bikes for sales on cycling website forums and facebook groups.

Be aware if you buy a bike online though – it is all too easy for someone to post a bogus listing, or use the web to sell damaged or stolen bikes. Make sure you read our Tips for Avoiding Stolen Bikes and our Second Hand Bike Checklist.

You can also sometimes find bikes for sale in private listings on sales boards in your local shop, bike shop and supermarket.

Some independent bike shops will sell second hand bikes, but this is becoming rarer. These bicycles are often also called reconditioned bikes, because the shop will do all the hard work of making sure the bike is safe and in good condition to sell on to you.

There are several social enterprise schemes that refurbish bikes and then sell them on, such as the Bristol Bike Project, which have their own second hand bike shop.

What type of second hand bike to go for

Are you looking for a commuter hybrid bike, a comfortable bike for general use, a speedy road bike or a rugged mountain bike? Narrowing down what you are looking for will make it easier to find.

Make sure the bike is the right size too! Read our guide on How To Find The Bike To Fit You to make sure you get it right. The wrong size bike will be uncomfortable to ride and can cause injury, so it might be a bargain but if it’s too big or too small, walk away.

What to look out for when buying a second hand bike

When you are searching for a cheap bike, you want to make sure that the second hand bicycle you are looking at is in good working order, and isn’t stolen. The seller should list any damage on the bike, ideally accompanied by photographs – you can ask for these if they aren’t present.

There can be several warning signs that a bike might be stolen. If it’s price is too good to be true, it probably is. Ask the seller if they have the original purchase receipt and why they are selling it. Pictures on listing should be of the actual bike for sale, rather than catalogue shots.

Read our Tips for Avoiding Stolen Bikes article for all the information you need.

In terms of damage, some cosmetic scratches and bumps are to be expected, and add to the character of the bike, we reckon! Cracks are a deal-breaker though so check the frame for these, especially around joins in the metal. Check that both wheels are true and have no spokes missing, that the brakes work and that the gears are not rusted through.

Read our complete Second Hand Bicycle Checklist for a full run-down on what to look out for.

Brake pads and tyres are fairly quick, cheap and easy to replace, but the costs can quickly add up if you need to replace more parts. If you want a project though it can be fun to refurbish the bike, so long as you have a good frame to start with.

Try and take it for a short test ride if you can, even if that’s up and down the road in sight of the owner.

Buying a second hand bike – Making the purchase

Auction sites like eBay offer some degree of buyer protection if you purchase a bike through them, but the likes of gumtree and online classifieds etc are ‘use at your own risk’ affairs.

Again, paying through services like PayPal will offer you some protection against fraudulent sellers.

Gumtree recommend meeting in person to complete the deal. That way you can see the item, and only exchange money at that point.

If you are meeting the seller in person, it’s a good idea to take someone with you and let people know where you are going. Make sure you have confirmed the sellers’ identity as much as possible through asking questions, and getting details like a work email address, phone number or home address.  You should also aim to meet in a brightly lit and public area.

Make sure the seller gives you a signed receipt with their address on it. If you want to have the bike checked over by a mechanic, your local bike shop should be able to do a safety check for you.

Buying a Second Hand Bike – Quick Checklist

1. Decide what kind of bike you are looking for, and what size you need.

2. Make checks to ensure the bike isn’t stolen. Read our Guide to Avoiding Buying a Stolen Bike for help with this.

3. Contact the seller, ask for more details on the bike, and if you’re satisfied then arrange to meet to complete the sale.

4. Meet in a public place, bring someone with you and tell people where you are going.

5. Check the bike for damage and take it for a quick test ride. Read our Essential Second Hand Bicycle Buyers Checklist to find out what to look for.

6. If you are satisfied, make the exchange, making sure you get a receipt.

7. Ride your new steed off into the sunset!


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