Children out grow bikes so quickly it makes perfect sense to buy them second hand ones instead of brand new to save a bit of cash. But when buying any used bike you need to be careful that it is in full working order and is in good condition. This is even more important when buying a second hand kids bike as you’ll be wanting to ensure that your little ones are as safe as possible.
We’ve put together this buyer’s guide so you know what to look for when buying a kid’s bike second hand and where to find the good ones.
So many second hand kid’s bikes on the market are actually stolen; be sure the bike you’re interested in purchasing isn’t stolen by asking the seller about the bike’s history, previous owners and where it was first bought from – like you would when buying a used car. If the seller seems shifty when you ask these questions or can’t answer them, walk away – there will be other bikes out there.
Need more information? Check out our comprehensive guide to buying a second hand bike.
As well as making sure that the bike hasn’t been stolen you need to make sure it is suitable and safe for your child to ride. Whenever possible arrange a test ride so that you can check not only that the bike functions properly but that it fits your child well. Ideally your kid’s toes should touch the ground when the saddle is at its lowest, this way the bike will last them another couple of growth spurts as there is room to increase the saddle height.
You also want to make sure the bike isn’t too heavy for your child to lug around and that the size is in proportion to their frame. In general under fours need a wheel size less than 16 inches; four to six year olds will need 16 inch wheels; six to ten year olds will need 20 inches and nine to twelve year olds will need 24 inch wheels.
Got all of this in check? Then you just need to make sure that the bike is in fully working order so that you don’t end up splashing out on expensive new parts, or worse – find yourself with an injured child.
Buying a Second Hand Kids Bike: The Checklist
Before you hand over any form of payment for your child’s new used bike, make sure you run through this checklist thoroughly first:
- Is there any rust anywhere on the bike, especially on the chain? A rusty bike is a poorly looked after bike and there are likely to be more hidden problems too if this is the case.
- How are the tyres? If they are flat, cracked or bald you are going to need new ones. Decide whether the bike is still worth buying and if you do decide to still purchase it be sure to ask for a discount.
- Is the paintwork scuffed? Sure with a second hand bike (especially a kids one) there is likely to be a few scrapes and scratches but any serious scuffing may be evidence of a bad crash which could mean that there will be other damaged parts to the bike too.
- Can you wobble the wheels? You shouldn’t be able to. Also check the spokes thoroughly to make sure none of them are broken or loose.
- Are the brake pads worn? Test the bike yourself to check the brakes and then let your kid have a go. It should be possible to brake on a children’s bike with the lightest of touches.
- Do the pedals spin smoothly? Get your child to cycle a small circle so that you can see (and they can feel) if the pedals spin properly. Listen out for rattles and other unwanted noises at the same time – any of these sounds are likely to be signs of a poor conditioned bike.
- Are the forks symmetrical? When bike forks are bent it usually means the bike has been a crash.
- Does the bike come with mudguards? If so you will need to check that they aren’t cracked to ensure that a piece doesn’t brake off and get stuck in the tyre whilst your child is out cycling.
- Is the frame dented? This is another easy way of spotting whether the bike has been a crash. If there is a dent it may not be a problem so long as all of the vital mechanisms have been properly fixed – ask the seller how the bike got dented and if it was in a crash, whether it has been serviced and had any work done since.
- Is the chain worn? If the chain is just clogged up with grease then a good scrub and a dash of oil is probably all you will need to fix it, but if it is properly worn you’re going to need to buy your child a new one.
For further peace of mind, it’s always a good idea to pop into your local bike shop for a quick safety check or service whenever you get your kid a new second hand bike. With a professional’s okay you can be completely convinced that it’s in good working order.
Where to Buy Second Hand Kids Bikes
Often people buy second hand kids bikes from family members or friends that they trust, but sometimes you will need to look further afield and this is when you have to be slightly more careful. Of course eBay is great for finding heaps of used kids bikes all in one place but it is incredibly hard to pick a good second hand bike from a couple of photos and a quick description. Try to choose a bike from a seller local to you and ask to pop by for a test run before you start bidding.
There are other websites that are great for finding second hand cycles online such as Gumtree and Preloved, but again try to buy from a local seller so that you can follow the checklist above to make sure you’re not caught out.
But the best place to look for used kids bikes have to be the little local second hand bike specialist shops. If you buy a bike from one of these the shop owner will be able to help you run a safety check and advise you on the right size bike for your child. Other great places to find bikes for sale are in newsagent windows and in the free ads section of your local paper.
Wherever you end up purchasing your child’s second hand bike from, be sure to complete the ten-step checklist above before you commit to a purchase.
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