As parents, we want to give our children the best… or at least, better than we had. This desire often translates into spending way too much on the latest and newest, rather than going for used. In some cases, that’s a good idea; however, when buying recreational items, like bicycles, you could be better off going with a used item. A new bicycle from a department or toy store could cost anywhere from $150 to $300, and they may not last more than a season. A bike from a specialty store could last much longer, but it will also cost upwards of $500.
If you go used, you could find a high-quality bike at a fraction of the cost.
There are several options available, for purchasing a used bike. Ultimately, it depends on how quickly you need one, and whether or not you are willing to put a little work into it.
The Bike Co-op
A bike co-op, also known as a bicycle collective, is an organization that takes old bicycles and either rebuilds them or breaks them down for parts. A bike co-op may have an “adopt-a-bike” program where you can pick out an old bike and fix it up, with their assistance. You can also have the option of becoming a member of the co-op and, for a small fee, you can have access to frames, parts, tools, and technical support, year-round.
The advantage to using a bike co-op is that the prices are cheap (usually between $50 and $150), you can customize the bike, and you can learn basic bike mechanics.
The disadvantage is that it can take several weeks, to several months, to make your bike road-ready – depending on the available parts, the amount of time you have to work on the bike, and your mechanical skill.
You can find a bike co-op in your state at sites like communitycycles.org.
For Sale by Owner
You can find lots of used bikes for sale on places like American Listed, your local classified newspaper, thrift shops, and even garage sales. Like the bike co-op, buying from the owner could require some knowledge of bike mechanics, or at least a willingness to learn. After all, that $60 steel Schwinn could run like a dream if you have the time to replace the broken gears or update the seat.
The advantage to buying from the owner is that the prices are generally low. However, it is also possible for someone to overprice an item for sentimental reasons, or because they are unaware of the value.
The disadvantage is that it might take you a while to find the bike you want. You may also need to put a little work into them, to make them road worthy.
Used or Refurbished Bikes from Specialty Shops
It’s not unusual for a specialty bike shop to have return items that they refurbish and resell at a discount. It is also possible for someone to trade in an older bike toward the cost of a new one.
The advantage to buying a used bike from a specialty store is that the bike is already ready to go. You can actually ride it out of the store if you want. Another advantage is that you can be sure the bike is in great condition.
The disadvantage is that buying from a specialty store is significantly more expensive than the other options. You may also be limited as to the number and type of used bikes available. If you need to customize or alter the bike, that will increase the cost even more.