Used Bikes (Bicycles): Definitions, Types, Buying And Selling

used bikes definitions and explanations of how to buy and sell

A used bike (second-hand bike) is a kind of bicycle that has been previously owned and ridden. Used bikes can range from nearly new to very old and worn. Used bikes inevitably have more mileage (kilometrage), and component deterioration than new bikes.

Buying a used bike brings various advantages, including significant cost savings, access to higher-quality bikes, and a positive environmental impact. However, before buying a used bike, carefully inspect it for damage and take it for a test ride. Research prices to ensure you're getting a good deal.

You can buy used bikes from private sellers and dealers. When you’re choosing between a used and a new bike, consider your budget and your tolerance for potential repairs.

What are the Pros and Cons of Used Bikes?

A used bike refers to a bicycle that has already been ridden. Buying a used bike is a smart financial decision as it brings many benefits like better ecological impact, lower cost, more seller options, and higher resale value than a new bike. Some of the drawbacks of buying a used bike include hidden wear and tear, unknown history of an item, limited options, obsolescence, and lack of warranty.

Benefits of buying a used bike:

  • Significant Cost Savings: The most important advantage is affordability. Used bikes offer substantial discounts compared to brand-new models, especially for premium brands or bikes with custom features.
  • Better Value for Money: With a used bike, you can often get a higher-quality bike with better components than you could afford new.
  • More Seller Options: You can choose between private sellers (potentially finding better deals and getting insights into the bike's history) or dealers (offering bikes that have been inspected and may have some level of warranty).
  • Good Resale Value: Depreciation hits bikes hardest in the first few years. Buying used lets you avoid that initial depreciation, meaning you can often resell the bike for close to what you paid, minimizing your overall cost of ownership.
  • Positive Environmental Impact: Buying a used bike is a sustainable choice. Choosing a pre-owned bike is more eco-friendly because it reduces the demand for new bike production. This lowers the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators.

The disadvantages of buying a used bike are:

  • Hidden wear and tear: Used bikes may have underlying damage or worn parts that aren't immediately obvious, leading to unexpected repair costs.
  • Unknown history: You may not have complete information on the bike's accident history, maintenance records, or previous ownership.
  • Limited choices: You'll have fewer choices for specific models, colors, and features compared to buying new ones.
  • Potentially outdated technology: Older bikes may lack the latest advancements in components, frame design, and overall performance.
  • Lack of warranty: Most used bikes don't come with a warranty, leaving you responsible for potential repairs.

The differences between used bikes and new bikes mainly come down to price, warranty, performance, and maintenance. The main difference between a new bike and a used bike is the price. When buying a used bike, you save significantly more money due to a decrease in the value.

Another difference is the warranty. Most bike warranties cover manufacturing defects for the original owner only. They generally don't transfer when buying used or selling your bike. The main reasons for these limitations are:

  • It's difficult to verify if a used bike's problems stem from manufacturing defects or owner misuse.
  • Limiting warranties protects the manufacturer from potentially high costs of repairs on bikes they didn't directly sell.

However, some high-end brands DO offer transferable warranties, often with certain limitations (like a reduced period for the second owner). Also, specific component warranties (like those from Shimano or SRAM) may transfer, regardless of the bike frame's warranty status.

Total Cost Of Ownership: New vs Used

Used bikes often require more frequent maintenance, which can increase their total cost of ownership. This is because you never truly know the previous owner's riding style or maintenance habits. The total cost of ownership includes the initial purchase price plus all expenses over the bike's lifespan.

Examples:

  • New Bike:
    • Purchase price: $1500
    • Yearly maintenance: $100 (around 7% of the total cost)
    • Lifespan: 10 years
    • Total Cost of Ownership: $1500 + ($100 x 10) = $2500
  • Used Bike:
    • Purchase price: $800
    • Yearly maintenance: $150 (around 19% of the total cost due to potential pre-existing wear)
    • Lifespan: 8 years
    • Total Cost of Ownership: $800 + ($150 x 8) = $2000

When considering used vs. new bikes, a new bike typically offers greater performance due to newer, unworn components. Upgrading the parts on your current bike can be a cost-effective way to improve performance without spending a lot of money on a new one.

Well-maintained or refurbished high-end used bikes can also perform great. For example, Certified Pre-Owned Bikes from Lebel. Lebel’s Certification process verifies that the CPO bikes are functional and safe. This means you get the quality of a high-end bike at a reduced price.

What Are The Types Of Used Bikes?

There are several types of used bikes.

  • Certified Pre-Owned Bike: A certified pre-owned (CPO) bike is a used bike that has been thoroughly inspected, serviced, and restored to like-new condition by a certifying authority or a manufacturer. Bike shops usually act as a certifying authority. These authorities offer a great way to get a premium bike at a lower price point compared to buying a brand-new model. Some CPO bikes may come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Some bike shops offer a guaranteed buyback on select bikes for a certain period after purchase.
  • Refurbished Bike: A refurbished bike is a used bicycle that has been repaired, restored, and cleaned to improve both its appearance and function. The level of refurbishment can vary depending on who does the process. Manufacturer-refurbished bikes offer the highest quality assurance with rigorous processes and warranties. Bike shop refurbished bikes provide a reliable option with varying standards. Individually refurbished bikes have the most unpredictable quality.
  • Ex-Rental Bike: An ex-rental bike refers to a bicycle that was previously part of a rental fleet and is now being sold to the public. These bikes are typically used for a season or two before being replaced in the rental program.
  • Vintage Bike: A vintage bike refers to a bike that has been manufactured during the 20th century, typically between the 1920s and 1990s, that includes the design aesthetics and technological characteristics of that time.
  • Ex-Demo Bike: Ex-demo bikes are bikes that have been used for a short period as demonstration models by bike shops or manufacturers. They may have a few minor cosmetic defects, but they are generally in excellent condition and are mechanically sound. Bikes end up as ex-demo due to being used for test rides, display purposes, promotional photoshoots, or as a result of customer returns within eligible return policies.
  • As-Is Bike: An "as-is" bike refers to a bike that's sold in its current condition without any warranties or guarantees. This means there may be some issues with it, ranging from minor to major.
  • Police Auction Bike: Police auction bikes are bicycles that have been recovered by law enforcement agencies and are then sold to the public through an auction process.

What Is A Certified Pre-Owned Bike?

The term Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) bike refers to a used bike that has been thoroughly inspected, refurbished, and certified by a certifying authority or a manufacturer. Lebel is a certifying authority of used bikes offered on LebelBicycles.com. Lebel’s CPO bikes go through an extensive multi-point inspection (MPI) process covering over 100 different areas of a bike performed by trained mechanics. This ensures the final product is reliable, safe, and enjoyable to ride.

Certified Pre-Owned bikes are more affordable upscale bikes that retain the functionality of a brand-new bike.

What Is A Premium Used Bike?

A premium or high-end used bike refers to a pre-owned bicycle originally manufactured with top-tier components, advanced materials, and superior craftsmanship. Buying a premium used bike offers the quality and performance of a top-of-the-line new bike at a lower price. These bikes were designed with the latest technology and innovations of their time and usually still provide an exceptional riding experience despite their pre-owned status.

Premium bikes have lightweight and strong frames made of materials like carbon fiber, titanium, high-grade aluminum alloys, or composite materials. Depending on the type of premium bike (Mountain Bike (MTB), Cross Country (XC), Enduro/All-mountain Bike, Downhill Mountain Bike, Trail Mountain Bike, Road Bike, Gravel Bike, Cyclocross Bike, Racing Bike, Competition Bike, Touring Bike, Electric Bike, Triathlon/Time Trial Bike, Hybrid Bike), their key features are:

  • Lightweight and durable materials like carbon fiber, titanium, or high-grade aluminum.
  • High-performance components (shifters, derailleurs, brakes, etc.) from well-respected brands like Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo, Specialized S-Works, Crankbrothers, ENVE, DT Swiss, Tektro, and others.
  • Aerodynamic, lightweight carbon or performance aluminum wheelsets (Mavic, Zipp, Reynolds, and others.)
  • Meticulous attention to detail in frame construction and component assembly.

Some of the top high-end and premium bike brands:

  1. Pinarello
  • Origin: Italy
  • Specialty: High-performance road bikes with a racing heritage.
  • Known for: Innovative designs, advanced materials, and a long list of Tour de France victories. Pinarello bikes are associated with speed, lightness, and precise Italian craftsmanship.
  1. Specialized
  • Origin: United States
  • Specialty: Versatile bikes across multiple disciplines.
  • Known for: Advanced technology, huge research & development investment, and a wide range of bikes for road, mountain, and gravel.
  1. Trek
  • Origin: United States
  • Specialty: Performance bikes for diverse types of bicyclists.
  • Known for: Comfort, durability, and a large network of dealers offering excellent support. Trek is one of the biggest bike manufacturers in the world.
  1. BMC
  • Origin: Switzerland
  • Specialty: High-end road bikes and premium mountain bikes.
  • Known for: Swiss engineering, precision, aerodynamic designs, and integration of technology into their bikes. BMC often focuses on cutting weight while preserving maximum stiffness.
  1. Cannondale
  • Origin: United States
  • Specialty: Innovative & performance-driven mountain bikes & road bikes
  • Known for: Pushing boundaries of bike design, use of unique materials (especially aluminum), and a focus on creating a balanced and responsive ride.

What Is A Cheap Used Bike?

A cheap used bike refers to a bicycle with low-quality components that can wear out quickly or fail to work properly. Cheap used bikes can range from $0 to about $500. An inexpensive bike can be a good option for casual riders.

For example, a $100 used bike can be good for short rides. Longer rides can be risky in terms of safety. Improperly installed or broken forks and suspensions can cause injury to the cyclist, such as losing balance and falling into traffic.

Some of the critical components that can brake on cheap used bikes are:

  • Wheel skewers: Low-quality skewers can cause the wheels to fall off the bike over time.
  • Brakes: Worn or low-quality brakes can be extremely dangerous
  • Other common areas: Defective wheels, cracking during manufacturing or use, and defective frames and forks

A $200 used bike can be a good option if your average cycle is around 5 miles (around 8 kilometers) over 40 minutes and you are not concerned about speed.

How To Buy A Used Bike?

Choosing a bike is a personal decision depending on your needs and goals. Therefore, consider the terrain type you'll be riding on (mountain, road, hybrid, etc.) and research the features best suited to your preferences.

Bike size is critical for comfort and safety. Get measured at a bike shop or use online size charts as a guide.

Used bikes can be good deals, but carefully research prices, compare features, and thoroughly inspect the bike's condition before buying. The best time to find used bikes is usually during the fall and winter.

After buying, make sure the bike is in good working condition and maintain it properly for a long and enjoyable riding experience.

Choose Your Bike Type And Size

Identify the type of riding and surface type that you prefer. The most common types of biking include mountain biking, road biking, hybrid/comfort biking, fat biking, and e-bike cycling.

Here’s an overview of the most popular biking types:

  • Mountain biking is a type of off-road cycling. MTB is mostly designed for rough uneven craggy terrain like mountains, trails, deserts, dirt, and rocks. Mountain biking increases your muscle strength, balance, and coordination.
  • Road biking is the most popular form of cycling in which riders cycle on paved roadways. It can be recreational, racing, and commuting. Road biking is perfect for beginner cyclists. Endurance road bikes are comfortable for long-distance cycling. Gravel biking is a subtype of road biking. Riding a gravel bike is more difficult than a standard road bike because riding on gravel is harder than on smooth pavement.
  • Hybrid biking is a type of cycling for people who want the speed of a road bike with the comfort of a mountain bike. Many beginners prefer hybrid bikes for the feeling of safety. Comfort and fitness are the main variations of hybrid bikes. These bikes are great for everyday use.
  • Fat biking is cycling on a bike with fat tires. A fat bike is a bicycle with very wide tires, usually at least 3.7 inches (around 9-10 cm). Fat bikes are harder to pedal, especially uphill. Like mountain bikes, they can go over diverse terrain, from snow to sand, but much more effectively and comfortably in certain conditions.
  • Electric bike riding is great for commute if you want to save money on petrol or public transport fares. Most e-bikes can go between 15.5 mph and 28 mph (25 km/h and 45 km/h). Batteries on electric bikes last 3 to 5 years.

A bike's frame size is one of the most important factors. Get your height and inseam measured at a bike shop if possible. Online size charts help identify the right size of a bike according to the rider’s measurements.

All types of cycling contribute to weight loss and positively impact stress and anxiety. Cycling also causes less strain and injuries compared to most other forms of exercise.

Do Your Research

Search on online marketplaces (like Facebook Marketplace or eBay), bike shops, and classifieds to get an idea of average prices for the type and model of bike you want. Be aware of deals that seem too good to be true - they might be. Know the original components and features of the model you're interested in. This will help you compare against the used bike's condition and spot any upgrades or downgrades.

If you are buying online, look for sellers with good ratings and clear descriptions. If they have an established presence on a marketplace or forum, it's a good sign of trustworthiness. Bike availability and pricing can vary regionally.

The best time to buy a used bike is usually during the fall and winter months. The best selection of used bikes is at the beginning of fall. Don't wait too long for the winter if you want the best choice of used bikes. This time of the year bike manufacturers release their newest models in the fall, and many cyclists start looking to sell their current bikes. 

Asses

used bike assessment

Assessing a used bike is about meticulously examining its condition to determine its value and ensure it's safe to ride. The frame condition is primary as it more than anything else affects both safety and durability.

Start by closely inspecting the frame for cracks, dents, rust, or signs of repairs. These can indicate structural damage that compromises safety and lifespan. Examine components including wheels, brakes, shifters, chains, and tires. Worn or broken components will increase your costs. Look carefully at the bottom bracket, cassette (rear gears), and chainrings (front gears). Excessive wear on these components indicates heavy use and the need for imminent replacement.

Test ride the bike. Ride it in a safe area, shifting gears, braking, and turning. Listen for weird noises and note any handling issues. If something feels off, it might indicate a hidden problem.

Negotiate

Here are simple tips to negotiate a used bike price:

  1. Start with an offer that's lower than your maximum budget but still fair considering the quality and condition of the bike. This will show the seller that you are serious and respectful. Negotiations should be beneficial to both parties.
  2. Ask for a discount but be prepared to walk away.
  3. If you are negotiating in person, offer cash. Many used bike sellers prefer cash as a payment. Cash transactions are simple and immediate.
  4. Take your time, consider the seller's counteroffers, and don't rush the process. A little patience can be quite helpful in securing a good deal.

Aftercare

used bike aftercare

After you’ve bought a used bike, check the tire pressure, lubricate the chain, and adjust the brakes and gears. Take the bike for a few spins and pay attention. Do the brakes feel responsive? Do the gears shift smoothly? Any unexpected sounds? Note anything that feels off. Regular cleaning prevents grime build-up and helps you spot potential wear and tear before it becomes problematic.

How To Sell A Used Bike?

Determine the value of your used bike, and consider factors like its condition, age, upgrades, and comparable sales across various marketplaces. Begin by assessing your bike's overall state and factor in any depreciation. Research similar models on platforms like Bicycle Blue Book, eBay (with 'sold' filters), and specialized cycling marketplaces. Consider selling options such as direct-to-buyer, online marketplaces, or dedicated bike resellers that handle your evaluation and selling process.

Evaluate

To determine your bike value, check the “comps”. “Comps” is industry-speak for “comparable sales,” meaning sales of bikes that are similar to yours. Compare the prices of your bike on marketplaces, forums, reference books listing the used bike prices, and valuation sites. Search your bike’s brand and model and see how the results are comparable to your bike. This will give you a reference of how much your bike might sell for, which indicates its value.

To evaluate a bike means to determine its value. To determine the value of your bike is to find its best price on the market. This can mean knowing supply and demand, the quality of the bike, the availability of the specific model, market conditions, and other relevant economic factors. Bicycle value determination is about knowing how much a bike is worth.

These are the steps to know your bike’s value:

  1. Know your bike’s condition: Examine your bike’s components (frame, tires, suspension, brakes, shifting). If you find any issues, you can either have them repaired (at a cost), sell the bike as-is with a reduced price, or use a reseller who will handle repairs.
  2. Understand your bike’s depreciation: Straight-Line Method: Divide the original purchase price by the bike's expected lifespan in years. This gives you an annual depreciation amount. Subtract that amount multiplied by the bike's age from the original price to get a baseline value.
  3. Consider upgrades: Recent professional tune-ups, new components (seat, wheels, etc.), or accessories can increase the resale value.
  1. To research prices use:
  • Lebel Bicycles: Offers a valuation form to know the real value of your bike.
  • Bicycle Blue Book: Provides suggested resale values.
  • eBay: Search for similar bikes and use the "sold" filter to see recent sale prices.
  • OfferUp: A mobile marketplace that provides many bike offerings.
  • Craigslist: A popular tool for finding local listings.
  • Pinkbike: Specializes in mountain bike parts and bikes.
  • Local Marketplaces: Check Facebook groups for your area

Places to evaluate your bike:

  1. Lebel Bicycles: Fill out a simple form to evaluate your bike. Lebel’s trained bike technicians will quickly and precisely calculate the value of your bike. After the evaluation, they can buy your bike for cash or provide you with an opportunity to trade it in.
  2. Bicycle Blue Book: They'll give you different numbers for your bike's value: the original manufacturer's suggested retail price, the price you'd get if you sold it privately, and the trade-in value.
  3. Use Bicycle Value Calculators: There are several tools to calculate the value of your bike that can give you some additional perspective.

Where To Sell

Choosing the right way to sell a used bike depends on the value of your bike, your comfort level, and time constraints. Higher-end bikes might find greater success selling on online retailers like Lebel Bicycles, The Pro’s Closet, or Pinkbike. If you prefer minimal hassle but lower return, selling to a pawnshop might be ideal. Selling directly to someone can provide a faster sale, but it can take a while to find a buyer.

These are popular places to sell your used bike:

  • Online marketplaces: Sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay offer massive reach with potential buyers in your local area or nationwide. Another underrated place to sell your bike is Nextdoor app. Nextdoor is a great place to buy and sell items locally.
  • Cycling Marketplaces: Websites like Lebel Bicycles, The Pro's Closet, or Pinkbike focus on buying used bikes and offering trade-ins. With these, you'll target a more niche but highly passionate audience of cyclists.
  • Local Bike Shops: Some bike shops accept used bikes on consignment, selling them for you in exchange for a portion of the sale price. This offers convenience but may yield a lower return than selling directly.
  • Direct to Buyer: Advertising through word-of-mouth, or social media groups lets you sell with no intermediary fees.

How To Keep A Bike In Good Condition?

To keep a bike in good condition you need to: regularly inspect the components of the bike, keep the bike clean, and lubricate the chains. It depends on how often you ride, the type of bike you have, and the conditions you ride in. No matter how often you ride, inspect your bike at least once every 3 to 6 months. If you ride frequently or in harsh conditions, you need to inspect your bike once every 2 weeks.

For chain service, lube the lower run of links. For brakes, do not lube the brake pads or rims. Apply a lubricant on pivot points of the parts that move against each other. For derailleurs, lube the pivot points, the center of the rear derailleur pulleys, and the adjustment barrel. While washing your bike keep an eye out for cracks, dents, or loose parts.

Questions to ask yourself to understand your bike’s condition:

  • Are the tires pumped up to the correct air pressure?
  • Are your brakes working well and do you have plenty of brake pads left?
  • Is your chain dry, and does it need lubrication?
  • Is anything rattling, rubbing, or feeling off?
Back to blog