This is a complete guide to how to buy and sell bikes on Craigslist. Whether you are looking to buy a bike at a bargain pfrice, or trying to sell your own bike for a fair price, this post has all the information you need. This post includes a video showing you how to check a used bike, a list of reputable bike brands, and a Contents List to help you find the information you need. Also included is advice and a video on how to check out a bike. We hope this huge post will help you to buy a bargain priced bike online, or help you to sell your own bike for a fair price that makes you happy.
Contents of Post
Where Can You Buy Used Bikes Online?
Narrow Down Your Search: Type of Bike, and Size
Research Reviews of the Used Bike on the Internet
Research New Bike Prices Before You Buy a Used Bike
Check the Manufacturer’s Website
Make Sure the Price is a Good Deal
Verify the Year the Used Bike was Manufactured
Consider a New Bike from a Previous Year
Research Used Bike Prices Before You Buy a Used Bike
How Can You Judge the Value of Older Bikes?
Safely Dealing with Bike Sellers
Check the Condition of the Used Bike Before you Buy
Video Showing How to Check a Used Bike
Before you Buy a Used Bike, Take it for a Test Ride
What You Should Check on Your Test Ride
Red Flags to Watch out for when Buying a Used Bike
Phrases to Watch out for when Buying a Used Bike, and What they REALLY Mean
Sellers to Watch out For
Good Quality Modern Bikes
How to Buy a Good Quality Used Vintage Bike
Used Bikes to Strenuously Avoid
Possible Extra Costs to Consider when You Buy a Used Bike
What Price Should you Ask for Your Used Bike on Craigslist?
How to Get Your Advert on Craigslist Right
Be Sure to Include a Photo of the Bike You Are Selling
Include All Important Details about the Bike You Are Selling
Size is Very Important
Supply All the Details the Prospective Bike Buyer Needs
Example of an Effective Advert to Sell a Used Bike on Craigslist
Photos for your Craiglist Bike Advert
Getting your Bike Looking its Best, So You Get a Good Price
Safely Dealing with Potential Buyers of Your Bike
While all of us are still fighting the Covid-19 epidemic, please be wary of meeting strangers to buy or sell a bike. Please refer to the CDC website for information about how to safely conduct yourself.
This first part of this post is a complete guide to help you buy a good-quality, bargain-priced used bike online, without getting ripped off. Thinking of buying a used bike on Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay, LesPAC, or any other Online Market Place? This guide will show you what research you should do, what to watch out for, and which brands can be trusted when you set out to buy a used bike. This post also includes a video that shows you step-by-step how to check over a bike you are thinking of buying.
Used Bikes are a Way to Save Money and Have Fun
Buying a used bike is one of the cheapest ways in the world to save money and have fun. For between $100 and $250 you can find a decent used bike that should not require much fixing; and for $250 to $500 you could find a really great used bike that would cost you well upwards of $1,000 new. I have bought many bikes on Craigslist, and loved all of them.
However, buying used bikes on Craigslist, eBay, or any other online source is most certainly a case of Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware! There are bargains to be had, without a doubt. Lots of people have great bikes that they just don’t use, which you may be able to buy at a bargain price. But there are also potentially serious pitfalls in buying used bikes. This post will help you protect yourself from being ripped off.
Alternatively, you can now buy excellent, brand new, name-brand bikes on Amazon at bargain prices – Check out some of them in the post below:
There are many good options for buying used bikes online, depending on where you live. Craigslist, Kijiji, Gumtree, road cc, local cycling forums and eBay with a distance filter are all good places to look for your bike. Many areas have cyclist groups on Facebook. You may even be able to find swap meet groups where you can look for cheap bikes.
Personally I always use Craigslist, because I travel a lot, and there are Craigslist sites for most big cities. Whether you use Craigslist, eBay, LesPAC or any other online market place is mainly up to your personal preference – they are many good places to look. Personally I always use Craiglist for used bikes, and Kijiji for puppies!
First, think about what kind of bike you want, and what size it needs to be. For example, maybe you want to do bike training on paved roads. In that case, you probably want to get a road bike. We have a post about the different kinds of bikes you can choose from, here.
Once you are sure what kind of bike you want, you also need to be clear on what size bike you need to fit you well. If you are not sure, read our post about figuring out your bike frame size. This post includes charts to determine what size bike you need, whether you are looking for a road bike or a mountain bike (they have different sizing systems).
Once you find a used bike that sounds interesting, the best advice I can give you is to spend some time on Google, reading everything you can find about the bike, especially reviews.
As an example: let’s assume you have figured out that you are looking for a men’s road bike, size 54 cm, price range between $400 and $900. You search the ads, and you come up with an advert that reads “2017 Specialized Sequoia road bike 54 cm – $850.” So you know it’s the right size, the right kind and the right price range. Now it is time to start doing a bit more research.
To do this, go to Google and type in the bike name and the word “Reviews,” as in “Specialized Sequoia 2017 reviews.” This search will bring up tons of good information. Some of it will be contradictory, as people tend to have different opinions, but overall you will definitely see a trend.
What you will learn from this search is that most cyclists love this bike, and that it is renowned for being a very comfortable, endurance road bike. That means you could comfortably ride it for very long distances. You will also learn that it is a high-quality road bike, and is referred to as an entry-level racing bike. In other words, you could use it to do your very first road race, or to participate in a social biking event such as the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.
So if this is your plan, you are on the right track, and this bike is a definite possibility.
But even though you know that this is a good bike, you still don’t know whether $850 is a fair asking price for this particular used bike. That’s why you also need to research new and used bike prices.
Once you know what kind of used bike you would like to buy, go online or go to a bike shop, and check the prices of new bikes. That way, you will be more informed about whether you are getting a bargain or not. This is necessary because there are people who post used bikes at outrageously high prices.
That might be because they are trying to rip people off. However, it might just be ignorance about the price of new bikes. For example, this might be the case with someone selling off his child’s bike after the child grows up and leaves home. Bottom line: it’s up to you to learn a thing or two about bike prices.
For example, I would not pay $350 for a brand-new bike from Sears (actually I might pay almost that much to AVOID riding a Sears bike). So why would I pay that much for a Sears bike that is close to 40 years old? But I have seen such ridiculous prices actually advertised online …
In our example above, the 2017 Sequoia Specialized, you would need to go to the Specialized website and research new bike prices. There you would encounter a common problem in bike price research – Specialized no longer sells bikes called Sequoia. As with smart phones, they keep changing the names. Really annoying. But don’t despair; all you have to do is look for a similar kind of bike.
A little research will show you that the Specialized Secteur Sport Triple is also an entry-level road/racing bike, admired by users for its comfort and speed, and with similar components to the Sequoia. But you can get a new one for $1,100. Not only that, but the bike at the bottom of this range, the Specialized Secteur Triple, would probably meet your needs just as well, and this one only costs $880 new!
This information tells you that the asking price on the Sequoia is too high, and you need to keep looking if you want to find a bargain. Or, you could see if the seller will accept a more reasonable offer. Show him or her your research, and he or she may just be willing to see reason and accept a more realistic price.
Here’s another example of how knowing new bike prices can help. Say you decide to want to buy a rugged urban commuting bike, made by Trek. A new bike like this could cost you anywhere from $529.99 for a Trek Earl, to $2,649.99 for a Trek Valencia. That’s a wide range of costs, and a wide range of quality. The equivalent used bikes reflect an even wider range of costs.
A quick check on Craigslist turned up a used Trek Earl for $275, and two used Trek Valencias for $450. Of those two Valencias, one said it was a 2010, and the other said it was “a few years old.” I would go for the one that was 2010, because the other could be much older, and because if the owner does not know the year, the bike could be stolen, or it could have had multiple owners.
Also, if I could afford it I would go for the Valencia rather than the Earl, because the used price represents a greater savings on the new price of the Valencia, in comparison to the Earl. From this you can see that it is worthwhile doing your research on new prices.
Most years, bikes are only made in one specific color. This gives you an excellent way to verify sellers’ claims. For example, I once saw a 2011 Specialized Dolce road bike advertised for $749 on Craigslist. A pretty good price – eBay showed me that the same year and model bike had recently been sold for $999.
But the catch was that the photo showed a dark red bike. If you Google “2011 Specialized Dolce” (and I did), you will find that there is no such thing as a red 2011 Specialized Dolce. That year, all of those bikes were manufactured in white. This alerts you that it might not be wise to trust the seller. It could be an honest mistake, but it could also be deliberate.
My suspicions were verified when the ad changed a few days later, with the photo replaced by a generic photo, and the year of manufacture deleted from the posting. The price stayed the same, though! But my Google searching had made me pretty sure that dark red Dolces were manufactured in 2008. And other people were posting the same year and model for around $550, so I was definitely not interested. That bike was over-priced by around $200.
One other thing to keep in mind is that bike shops sometimes have models that are from one to three years out of date. For example, they might be selling a 2018 bike in 2020. That bike has been gathering dust in their store for at least two years. You can often get an extremely good price on this old stock, possibly even rivaling the price you would pay for the exact same bike in a used condition. And, bonus, this one would come with a new bike warranty.
You are more likely to be successful in this quest if you are an unusual size, such as extra small, or extra large – these bikes might not have sold simply because a tiny person or a huge person never showed up to buy them! I have also noticed that these kinds of unloved bikes are sometimes unusual colors, such as pink or lavender racing bikes.
Apart from new prices, you should also research current used prices. For example, check what other sellers are asking for similar bikes on Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay, and other online market places. Check the closing auction prices on eBay of similar bikes. This will give you a good idea of whether the seller’s asking price is reasonable.
There are also some excellent online cycling forums where you can communicate with more experienced cyclists: ask them if the seller’s asking price is fair, and see if anyone has experience of the particular bike you have in mind. You can get a lot of useful information, for free. In return, you will soon be able to give advice yourself!
Bear in mind that the year of manufacture makes a huge difference. As with cars, the newer the model, the higher the price is likely to be. That means that if you can find an older model that has had just one careful owner, you might score a great deal.
It is much harder to know the value of older bikes. A bike that is only a year old is going to be a lot more expensive than one that is ten years old. However, once a bike is more than about 30 years old it might qualify as a vintage bike, and then it could be as expensive as current models, and possibly even more expensive.
Of course, you have to do your research and make sure that a bike really is a quality vintage bike. Moreover, you should have a good reason for buying a vintage bike. Generally if you only have one bike and you want to use it for casual recreational use, you should not be looking at vintage bikes. These could turn out to be higher maintenance than you want or need.
If you DO want a vintage bike, don’t be fooled just because the advert says “Rare” or “Vintage.” Don’t take the seller’s word for it – check for yourself by researching on the Net.
Once you’ve done all your research, it’s time to get out there and look at some of the advertised bikes. As with any time that you deal with strangers, you must of course be careful. If you are vulnerable in any way, don’t enter the home of a stranger – meet the seller in public. And before you take the bike for a test ride, be prepared to leave something of value, such as your driver’s license.
When I take someone else’s bike for a test ride, I usually offer to leave my driver’s license and my car keys. That way, they know who I am, and if I take their bike, they have my car! This is enough to reassure anyone that you are not planning to steal their bike.
When you are thinking of buying a bike, you should check as much as you possibly can. Of course, this will depend a lot on your level of bike knowledge, but do check at least the following:
Hold both cranks and try to move them from side to side. This should not be possible (if it moves, it indicates a loose bottom bracket).
Do they work? If they don’t, are they rusted solid or do they just have loose/broken cables? The brake cables and the plastic sheath around them should be rust-free and should not be frayed. If they are, they will need to be replaced. Or it might just be that the brake pads need replacing – a very cheap fix.
Check for rusted, kinked, or broken cables.
Check the condition of the bike chain, as this will indicate how much use the bike has had. First of all, check if it’s rusty, sagging, or filthy. All of these are signs that the bike has had a lot of use or has not been well taken care of.
Check the chain for wear and tear. Even if the chain is clean and looks OK, it might still be almost worn out. Unfortunately it’s pretty much impossible to check how much wear the chain has had with the naked eye. Which means people can pass off a bike that has had a lot of use as “barely used,” and get away with it. So if you’re serious about getting a good bike deal, you might want to invest in a little tool called a chain wear indicator.
A chain wear indicator costs less than $11, and allows even technical novices to immediately assess how much wear the chain has had. You simply rest the tool on the chain and see how far down it sinks. If it’s saying the chain has 75% wear and the seller says the bike is “barely used,” you know the seller is lying. Because the chain cannot go out all on its own, it has to take the rest of the bike with it! This can alert you to not trust anything else the seller says.
Look at the forks carefully to check they are parallel. Make sure the forks cannot move forwards and backwards in the frame (which would indicate the headset is loose).
The bike frame should not be damaged or bent in any way. Run your hands along it to check for dents or cracks. Look from the side at the areas where the top and down tubes meet the head tube. If you see a dent or a bulge in these areas, the bike has probably been in a crash that has damaged the frame. Never buy a bike with a damaged frame! You can always replace components, but the frame is the bike.
While pedals are not very expensive, significant wear and tear on pedals indicates they have been around the block a few times – as in thousands of times. If someone says the bike is “like new” but the pedals are worn out, the bike is not “like new.”
Check steel frames carefully for excessive rust. Serious rust is impossible to get rid of, and indicates the owner has not loved and cared for the bike. He or she has left it lying out in the rain, rather than lovingly cleaning and oiling it. A little surface rust is acceptable, but serious rust can weaken the bike and make it dangerous.
Can you move the seat post up and down? Usually you can test this with a quick release lever. However, with some saddles you need a tool.
Sometimes the seat posts have rusted solid, meaning you will not be able to adjust the seat to your optimal height. These posts can be extremely hard to get unstuck. So if the saddle is at the wrong height and you cannot move it, you should probably pass on the entire bike. If you ride with the saddle too high or too low, you will develop knee pain very soon.
Check for loose, damaged, missing, or bent spokes, which cause a lot of problems, and are not easy to fix.
If the tires are really worn, the bike has seen a lot of use, and a decent set of tires will cost you quite a bit of money. Also, the tires should not be dried or cracked.
First of all, the wheels obviously should not be badly bent. However, some wheel damage is less obvious. So you need to check if the wheels are true (i.e., not wobbly). Pick up each end of the bike and spin the wheel, looking out for a wobble. If you keep your eye on a fixed point, such as a brake pad, you will be able to see if parts of the wheel pass by it more closely than others.
A slight wobble might indicate the rim has to be replaced. If there is a significant wobble the wheel is useless, and the bike might have had a pretty serious accident, which might have damaged other things as well.
Here is a video that takes you through the process of checking an entire bike:
If You are not an Expert, Take a Knowledgeable Friend with You when You go to Buy a Used Bike
As you can see, there are quite a lot of things to check. So if there is a bike you are serious about looking at, and you don’t know anything at all about bikes, try to take along a friend who does.
If you don’t have a knowledgeable friend, your best bet is to get a bike shop to assess the condition of the bike for you. To achieve this, it’s helpful to have a good relationship with a bike shop. If you don’t because this is your first bike, you could always let them know that you will be bringing all your future business to them once you find a bike. A good bike shop will usually oblige, even if it’s just to give you a quick “Run away!” or “Looks pretty good.”
Of course, you can only do this if the seller is willing to let you take the bike to a store before paying for it. This is not likely when you are buying from a complete stranger who you connected with online.
It’s absolutely essential to get on the bike and ride it before you buy a used bike. This applies even if you are buying a new bike. Fit and comfort will dictate whether you will actually use the bike, after all. And it’s really hard to predict. You may know your size, but a particular brand in that size may not suit your body.
When I sell a bike, I usually suggest that potential buyers take the bike for a ride first. If they are complete strangers, I ask them to leave their ID with me. It is reasonable to ask a potential seller to do the same. If you are a man, it helps to take your wife along with you. People tend to trust couples more than they trust single men. I am not a psychologist, so I have no idea why this is, but it is generally the case.
Here’s a picture of Maggie test riding a folding e-bike in Skagit, Washington. This was a new bike. Whether you are buying new or used, test riding is essential to ensure the bike is going to fit you. Of course, you can make some adjustments, but if the frame is too small or too large, there is nothing you can do.
Before you ride the bike, adjust the seat height to suit you, and check the brakes are working. Then take it for a spin down the nearest road. Be sure to change the gears all the way up and down while you are riding!
Once you are riding the bike, check all of the following points:
- Do you feel too stretched out?
- Can you see where you are going without hurting your neck?
- Do your back or shoulders hurt?
- Could you comfortably stay in this position for an hour or more?
- Can your hands comfortably reach and control the brakes and gears? (This can be a problem for those with smaller hands, which is why many bike manufacturers make women-specific bikes.)
Also, if you ride a used bike up and down the street a few times, you will quickly discover whether the gears and brakes are working correctly. Watch out for gears that stick or jump. These problems may be easily fixed, but they may also be expensive fixes if the damage is great.
Don’t Support Bike Thieves!
While stolen bikes may be cheap, buying them is supporting the people who bring great unhappiness to their victims when they steal their often-beloved bikes. Besides, in most jurisdictions if you are found with a stolen bike you are in the wrong, whether you knew it was stolen or not. You will have to give the bike to the police, you will almost certainly not be able to get your money back from the thief you bought it from, and you may face legal prosecution. So you really do not want to go there!
There are some excellent bargains to be found online, for those who have patience and some knowledge. However, some of the advertised bikes are rusting relics that someone wants to offload. Others are so hot they’re sizzling (that is, just stolen).
Fortunately, there are many red flags to help you figure out which used bikes should be avoided. Here are some of the most important ones.
Repeated Postings of Bikes on Craigslist
The same bikes keep getting reposted over and over and over again. If they were such a bargain, wouldn’t someone buy them?
And when those unwanted bikes are reposted every single day, it’s also a serious red flag. If someone is this desperate, this could be his or her main form of income. Therefore, the person might be a bike thief. BUT do bear in mind that some people take pride in fixing and selling old bikes, and some even do it as a social service. So some of these adverts could be from genuine people who have lovingly restored a good bike. If that’s the case, you couldn’t buy from a better person, generally speaking.
If in doubt, talk to the seller on the phone. It won’t take you long to get a pretty good sense of who you are dealing with. For example, I once called someone who wanted to meet me at a transit station, immediately, and who would knock $50 off the $200 price tag if I could get there in 30 minutes. The man sounded edgy and slightly manic. I got a very strong impression I was talking to a bike thief who was feeding a drug habit. So even though the bike was a great bargain, I passed it up.
Always ask a couple of questions about the history of the bike, such as “How old is it?” and “Did you buy it new?” and “How much have you used it?” If someone becomes cagey or defensive when asked questions about the history of the bike, run away. The bike might be stolen. If however the seller is happy to talk openly about the history of the bike, you are probably talking to an ethical seller.
I know that one of my best buys was from a lovely woman who candidly shared that she had almost never ridden her bike because of back surgery, and showed me where the bike had been stored in her garage for three years. Before I left, she rummaged around and found several brand new accessories still in their boxes, including an expensive front light! I had a great feeling about that bike, and it turned out to be a great buy. It was a 2009 Trek 7.5 FX – three years old, yet essentially brand new. It became Maggie’s favorite bike for quite a long time.
Beware of Empty Superlatives
Watch out for lots of empty superlatives, such as these, from an actual ad on Craigslist:
“incredible bike – I love this bike so much, it is a total head turner and people are always asking me where they can find one! … black beauty … work of art … sexy bike!”
The worst thing about this ad was that it did not mention the brand, model, size or age of the bike – although it included a photo of what looked like a department store bike with low-end parts! Basically, strings of superlatives may be used when there are no solid facts that would sell the bike.
Beware of Generic Photos of Bikes on Craigslist
If the seller posts a generic photo of the bike, it could be a red flag. It could mean he or she does not want to post a photo of the real bike, because the real bike has recently been stolen from someone who might be scanning the online ads, watching out for it. This is not always true – some people just haven’t mastered digital photography. But do take it as a warning sign.
“I don’t really know anything about bikes.”
Watch out for this; because it might mean: “I know the bike is wrecked/bent/broken beyond hope, so I want to pretend ignorance so that you won’t phone back and yell at me when it falls apart.” Of course, it might also just mean they don’t know anything about bikes – which is all right if you do. But it might very well also mean: “It’s stolen.”
“My roommate left it behind.”
This could mean all kinds of things, such as “I know the bike is wrecked/bent/broken beyond hope, so I want to pretend ignorance so that you don’t phone back and yell at me when it falls apart,” or “It’s stolen”.
“The photo doesn’t show a saddle but I do have one/you can buy one really cheap.”
Most likely this means “It’s stolen.” (Because some people remove their saddles when they park their bikes, to discourage bike thieves, but sadly it doesn’t always work.)
“The photo doesn’t show a front wheel but I do have one/you can buy one really cheap.”
“It’s stolen”. (Because some people take off their front wheels when they park their bikes, to discourage bike thieves, but again, this doesn’t always work.)
“Must sell this bike today!”
“Barely used!” or “Ridden only 4 times!”
Well, there may be a very good reason why it’s barely been used. And the reason may be that it’s a horrible bike and a horrible ride. And if the current owner hates it that much, why would you want to pay money to ALSO have a bike that you don’t want ride? (BUT if they have a really good reason for not riding it – such as back surgery – that’s a whole different story. And let’s not forget that many people buy bikes with good intentions of taking up cycling and getting fit, but then don’t follow through. Of course, that will not happen to you!)
“Rare!” “Vintage!” “Seldom found!”
Usually these phrases mean there is nothing good to say about the bike, so the seller hopes you will believe that it is a rare gem that you should buy before anyone else notices it … and usually, the bike is not at all rare, as you will quickly discover if you do a bit more searching on the Internet.
Then there are the ignorant and/or sneaky posters. Watch out for these ones, because it really is better to buy a used bike from someone who knows what they are talking about, and who is honest and decent. Therefore, generally try to avoid the following:
Sellers who think that “old” is spelled “vintage”
When will these sellers realize that we know that a worthless bike that is really old is still worthless? Just because it is old, it does not miraculously morph into a “vintage” bike that is worth hundreds of dollars. In almost every advert I have ever seen that had the word “vintage,” the word merely meant “old.”
Of course, writing off all bikes labeled “vintage” would be a problem if you were actually looking for a real vintage bike (and there are sometimes some of these for sale online). Again, it’s a case of doing your research to verify the seller’s claim.
People who over price their used bikes
There are a lot of these, but provided you have done your research and know what new bikes cost, you will probably spot these right away. Another clue is that over-priced bikes will usually be posted over and over and over again. Bear in mind that when you buy a used bike, you don’t get a warranty, or any after-sales service or care.
Not to mention that the used bike may have been thrashed for years. So a used bike better be a lot cheaper than the equivalent new bike, to make it worthwhile!
People who say “the bike comes with Shimano gears”
OK, this does not mean that there is anything actually wrong with the bike. It’s just a pointless thing to say. Given that Shimano has pretty much cornered the entire market on bike gears, this is like saying “the bike has two wheels!” And given that Shimano gears range from very poor quality to superlative quality, this tells the potential buyer precisely nothing about the bike.
Advertisers who don’t bother to mention the size of the bike
How can you, the potential buyer, possibly know if the bike is any use to you, if you don’t know its size? You might be 5 foot tall, and the bike being advertised might fit someone who is 6 foot tall! Bikes are not one-size-fits-all, and human beings come in all shapes and sizes. Again, this type of omission says more about the seller than the bike.
However, it is certainly my pet peeve when it comes to stupid bike ads. And then there are the ads that say “man-sized” bike or “woman-sized” bike – um … now would that be my 5-foot-tall Uncle Pete, or my 6-foot-tall Aunt Emma? The problem with these ads is that they force potential buyers to waste time trying to find out the size. And once you do make contact, you may find that the seller does not even know the size of the bike! This means the whole thing is just a waste of time, as I would not waste time and money driving across town to check out a bike if I did not even know its size.
Also, I have experienced a seller who simply refused to be specific about the size of a bike I was inquiring about. Exasperated, I finally sent him an email saying “I am 6.1 and my wife is 4.11. Which one of us would it fit better?” He replied: “I have bikes for both of you.” Then I looked for more ads, and realized the same guy seemed to be selling quite a few bikes, and was vague and clueless about all of them. I concluded he was probably a bike thief, and gave up on him.
Sellers who don’t bother to mention the make or brand
This just makes your life harder, as you cannot evaluate the bike if you just know that “it’s a bike.” In this case I just assume it’s not a good brand, and ignore the ad.
Sellers who don’t post a photograph, or post a generic photo
It takes time and trouble to go and see a bike, so you should be able to see a photo first. Generic photos scare me as they might indicate a bike is stolen. Sometimes they are used so that the buyer cannot asses the age of the bike.
Sellers who post almost no information about the used bike
Again, as it takes time and trouble to go and see a bike, you need a lot of information up front. As an example, someone recently advertised a Colnago for $750 on Craigslist. The text in the advert comprised just one word: “colnago”! Now admittedly, this one word speaks volumes in the cycling world, as Colnago is a great brand.
Nonetheless, I found it very disrespectful to potential buyers to ask $750 for a bike, without having enough respect for prospective buyers to give any details about the bike. The seller hasn’t given the buyer enough details to check whether this is a reasonable price. It might be a good buy, but the would-be seller should have taken the trouble to tell us about it. How many words would you type for $750? More than one, I’m guessing … and I suspect you’d find the energy to hit the Shift key and achieve a capital letter. I know I would!
I couldn’t help thinking that if the seller did not have enough energy to type, he was unlikely to have had energy to maintain this bike. This is one of those ads that tempts me to send a short email saying “Dude, are you kidding me?” – but unfortunately I’m far too nice to do that. One thing’s for sure though: I’m not giving $750 to someone who shows that little respect for prospective buyers.
Sellers who post nothing but generic cut-and-paste information
It’s fine to cut and paste the bike’s specifications and put them in an ad, as long as the seller also puts in some personal information, such as what condition the bike is in, how much it’s been used, why it’s being sold, etc. But just giving you the specs that the seller has obviously copied from another web site does not tell you anything you could not find on the Internet yourself.
When it comes to bikes, it is usually safe to judge quality based on brand and new price. There are certain bike manufacturers who pretty much only make good quality bikes. When new, these are sold almost exclusively in bike shops – you will not find them in department stores such as Target, Canadian Tire, Sears or Walmart.
Each Brand has a Range of Quality and Price
Each brand encompasses a range, ranging from lowest-level of quality frame and components, to highest-level of quality frame and components. The price range reflects the quality range. For example, an entry-level Devinci commuter bike would cost you $459 (the Devinci Milano), while the top-of-the-range Devinci Sydney would set you back more than three times as much – $1,599. Of course if you wanted a carbon-fiber frame Devinci commuter, the Devinci Helsinki would set you back a cool $2,299. Ouch. Fortunately, the average cyclist really does not need a carbon-fiber bike.
So there is a wide range of quality and price. However, what you can be sure of is that any bike made by one of these manufacturers was of reasonably good quality when it was manufactured and assembled. Providing it has been reasonably well cared for and has not been used for purposes it was not designed for – such as a single-track mountain bike that has been used for downhill jumping – then it should still be a good quality bike.
Good quality bikes give a better, more efficient ride. Also, you are much safer on a good quality bike – it is not unheard of for department store bikes to literally fall apart on their first outing. They are, after all, assembled by people who may know nothing at all about bikes. Imagine a bike falling apart while you are on it – you could really do yourself a lot of damage.
List of Good Quality Bike Brands You Can Look for on Craigslist
Below is a list of better quality bike brands that are usually worth buying (in alphabetical order, not in order of preference). This is NOT an exhaustive list – there are just so many good bikes that it is hard to include all good bikes:
- Brompton (for folding bikes)
- Cannondale (especially their road bikes)
- Dahon (for folding bikes)
- Devinci (especially their hybrids)
- Diamond Back
- Eddie Merckx
- Gary Fisher
- Kona (especially their mountain bikes)
- Le Mond (now part of Trek)
- Norco (especially their mountain bikes)
- Raleigh (not all of them, be discerning)
- Rocky Mountain
- Santa Cruz
- Schwinn (not all of them, be discerning – quality has been on the decline since these started being sold through big box stores)
- Specialized (especially their absolutely beautiful road bikes and incredibly versatile tricross bikes)
Consider Buying a New Bike Online
Sometimes a new bike is a great deal too! Amazon offers several decent bikes for sale online at great prices. For example, recently I was happy to see that Raleigh has started selling on Amazon. Because bikes are eligible for prime shipping, you will get your bike quickly. Amazon also offers some really good options for assembly. For example, some bikes that cost over $500 can be shipped for free to a local Performance Bike or Velofix location, which will assemble the bike for you for free.
Choices with Amazon
You can also choose to pay $77 to have a bike shipped to your home, where a mechanic from Amazon’s network of shops and vendors will assemble it for you. You can of course assemble your new bike yourself, if you have the skills. And finally, if the specific retailer offers no assembly options, you can always pay your local bike store a small fee to assemble it for you. Check with them about this before you order, to make sure that are willing to assemble the specific bike that you are planning to order. If they are, this is also a good indication that it is a decent quality bike. Many bike stores refuse to work on “department store” bikes.
Here are two bikes from Amazon that might work for you. Both of these get good reviews, and have great prices. The first one is rated to carry riders up to 350 pounds (most bikes are only rated for people up to 200 pounds).
Buying older or genuine vintage bikes is much more tricky. Again it comes down to brand, but it’s more difficult because things change over time. However, if you want to find a good vintage bike, here’s advice from Retro Grouch:
“Here are the bikes to sell your soul for:
- Masi (the genuine older ones)
- Olmo (ditto)
- De Rosa
To this list, I would also add Bridgestone. Unfortunately, I rarely see any of these for sale online.
Retro Grouch also warns about several bikes, and regrettably, these are all too common. He describes the bikes that must be strenuously avoided as follows:
- Western Flyer
- Free Spirit
Remember these Brands, which are Not Recommended
Remember these names, and be wary of them! I have heard from some people that some of these bikes can be OK, so if the price is very low, the bike feels good to you, and this is the only bike you can afford right now, go for it. Any bike is better than no bike, and will provide a starting point to get into cycling.
I have seen a woman riding a Supercycle to work – the bike was groaning and squeaking, but I admired the woman for getting it to move at all. Personally, I agree with Retro Grouch that these are bikes to be strenuously avoided, if you can afford better. If you can’t, inspect them very carefully to try and make sure they don’t fall apart while you’re riding them.
Also, bear in mind that for the price many advertisers are asking for a used bike with one of the names above, you might be able to get a perfectly good bottom-of-the-range quality bike from your local bike shop. And most of those bikes come with lifetime guarantees on their frames.
Bear in mind that the price you pay for a used bike may not be the full price. This is because it is essential to take a used bike to a bike shop and have it checked, after you have bought it. (Unless you are an expert and can assess it on your own.) If you don’t get a used bike checked (and probably serviced), you run the risk of a potentially serious accident. So it really is best to pay to have your newly acquired bike properly checked.
If your new pre-owned bike needs to be serviced you will of course have to pay for that, and you may also have to pay to replace a part or two. And you may have to get the saddle and handlebar height adjusted, if you don’t know how to do it yourself.
Commuting on Your New Used Bike
If you plan to commute on your new used bike, you may have to add mud flaps, a kickstand, a good set of lights, a bell and a rear-view mirror (such as the Mirrycle).
Another really excellent investment if you plan to commute to work by bike is a set of puncture-resistant tires, such as the completely excellent Schwalbe Marathon tires.
For a few extra dollars, puncture-resistant tires can save you many hours of unnecessary frustration and hassle. Flat tires can make you late for work, and just generally ruin your day. And believe me, if you’re going to commute by bike in a big city, your tires are most definitely going to ride over many different things that could give you a sudden puncture. I had a few myself, before I switched to Schwalbe.
So in short, you could be looking at anywhere from $30 to a couple of hundred dollars to get your new-but-used bike ready to roll. The best advice is to try and buy a used bike that matches your needs as closely as possible, and that is in really good shape.
If You Can, Buy a Great Used Commuter Bike on Craigslist
Many people sell perfectly good, fully-fitted commuter bikes online. If commuting by bike is your goal, this can be an excellent bargain. Buying all those bits and pieces adds up to a whole heap of money very quickly.
Yes, You Can Find a Bargain Used Bike on Craigslist!
There are some ethical people around who fix bikes and then sell them online. If you can find one of them, you may score an excellent bargain – and also keep a bike out of the landfill! Also, in affluent societies many people have valuable bikes that they simply don’t use, and these often end up for sale at bargain prices.
Example of a Great Deal I Got on Craigslist
For example, I used to own two great entry-level mountain bikes, a Norco and a Scott. I bought the Norco new, and the Scott on Craigslist.
The Norco is an excellent bike, and cost me around a thousand dollars, with tax. The Scott is an excellent bike, and cost around $500 ($450 to the seller, and $50 to the bike shop to get it perfect). The bikes have near identical components. The Norco rides slightly better than the Scott, but it is not $500 better, and it is definitely not twice as good.
For the purposes I use mountain bikes for, both bikes are perfectly adequate. Of course, the Scott did not come with a warranty, but I have never needed a warranty on either of them as they are both in perfect condition. I no longer have either of these bikes. I sold them both on Craigslist for fair prices.
Yes, You Can Score a Bargain Bike on Craigslist
In short, it is possible to meet one’s cycling needs for around half the cost by buying a used bike – and sometimes even for less. And after all, even a new bike becomes used after you’ve used it for a day …
In fact, I have to say that I got my best bike deal ever on Craigslist (and that one great deal is probably why I am still hopelessly addicted). It’s this 1990 Bridgestone MB-2, loving and cleverly crafted in the days when basic mountain bikes were made amazingly well.
Bridgestone bikes were made in Japan, under the direction of master bike designer Grant Petersen, and mine is a pure joy to ride. In fact it is more fun to ride than any of my other bikes, but I bought it on Craigslist for a couple of hundred dollars. It had not been very well cared for, but it also had not been trashed, so it needed minimal work to be back in fine running form. I loved this bike! Of course, I only knew that this was a great buy because I had done a lot of research about Bridgestone bikes – all on the Internet.
So there are great bikes to be found online, whether on Craigslist, eBay, Kijiji or other sites, but you have to put some work into making sure you get a good deal. And the same applies to getting a good price when you want to sell a bike online …
One of the best ways to sell your bike is on Craigslist. It’s free, it’s popular, and it works – what’s not to like? I have sold many bikes on Craigslist – often for just as much as I paid for them. In fact lots of people successfully sell their bikes on Craigslist. However, it does not happen by magic. Here are some tips to help you have success with selling your bike for a decent price on Craigslist.
Bikes are just like cars – the minute they are not new, they lose value. Even if you never ride it. So if you bought your bike new, don’t expect to get back what you paid for. It almost never happens. (I did it once, but that was because the bike was deeply discounted when I bought it, and I took super good care of it.) So what you want to figure out is what is a fair price that you can reasonably expect to get.
Figuring Out a Fair Price
To figure out a fair price, check what the same model is going for new. Then work downwards from there. If the bike is almost new and in mint condition, at the most you might expect to get 75% of the new price. Probably less. Think between 50% and 75%, and that’s your ball park.
Then cross-check that ball park by going online to see what similar bikes are going for on Craigslist. If you can’t find any in your own city, look in Craigslist for a much bigger city. This will give you the correct ball park price. From that, figure out whether your bike is in better or worse shape than the listed bikes, and price accordingly.
Leave Space to Bargain about the Price
It’s always a good idea to post a little higher than the price you want, so you have room to bargain. Some people love to bargain, and just don’t feel good about buying something if they can’t get some kind of a “deal.” Other people think it’s not cool to bargain. On Craigslist, you have no idea what kind of buyer is going to show up.
Some People Bargain, Some Do Not
Two examples I have had in selling bikes on Craigslist: one guy asked me on the phone straight out, “What is your absolute bottom line price?” I told him, and he showed up and test rode the bike for quite a long time. Then he came back, and pulled out of his pocket the exact bottom line price in cash.
Done deal, happy buyer, happy seller!
On another occasion, the man was fairly non-committal on the phone. He showed up, and took a good close look at the bike. I invited him to take it for a test ride. He declined, which surprised me (I would never recommend this when buying a used bike). He said he didn’t need to ride it, because he had read my review of the bike, so knew it was the right bike for him, and he could see it was in mint condition. Then he pulled my exact asking price out of his pocket, in cash, and off he went with the bike.
Done deal, happy buyer, very happy seller!
That was the bike that I sold for the same price I bought it a year before, but I bought it at a 33% discount, so the buyer was still getting a good price. Especially because I care for my bikes like new born babies. (And I have had three new born babies, so I know how to take good care of people and things.)
This section explains how to advertise your bike on Craigslist, so that you can sell your bike online. Getting the advert just right is crucial. Craigslist is a great, free online selling site – but it only works well if you use it well.
Example of a Really Bad Craigslist Advert for a Bike
First, here is an example of an ad that is totally wrong.
What is wrong with this advert? Where do I start? First of all, it is listed in “Bikes for Sale.” So, calling the ad “Bike” is redundant to the point of being downright stupid. Insulting to the reader, even. Then, the bike is upside down! What does the seller want the potential buyer to do? Turn the computer upside down?
Also, there is so little information and reader help in the ad that it is like an Anti Ad. We don’t know the brand, size, age, or … anything at all. This ad makes me want to slap my forehead and say “Duh!”, rather than click on the ad and buy a bike!
Have at least one photo of the bike, and make sure it looks like your own photo. A stock photo from the Internet may be quite impressive, but it does not reassure the potential buyer that the bike is really yours. See more about photos below.
- Mention the brand of the bike (such as Giant Trek, Specialized, Raleigh, etc.). People really want to know this – it’s vital information.
- Also mention the model of the bike in as much detail as you possibly can (such as Trek Valencia, Specialized Secteur Triple, Raleigh Detour City Sport, etc.).
- List the year of manufacture if you possibly can (such as 2015). If you don’t know the year, give the age as accurately as you can. If you go online and do some research, you should be able to figure out what year your bike was made. Don’t try and fudge this one – bikes come out in different colors in different years, so it is easy for a discerning buyer to know if you are lying about the age of the bike. On the other hand, this makes it easier for you figure it out too.
Specify the size of the bike as accurately as you can (e.g. 15 inches for a mountain bike or hybrid, or 54 cm for a road bike). There’s a very useful post about bike frame sizes here, if you need some help with this.
If you don’t know the size, at least try to figure out if it is a small, medium, or large. It is also really useful to say something like “It fits me perfectly and I am 6’8″.” That way, people who are 5’2″ don’t have to waste their time coming to try out a bike they couldn’t even climb onto. Failing to specify the size wastes your time and wastes the potential buyer’s time.
Say (Truthfully) Why You Are Selling the Bike
“I have decided road bikes are not for me; I am selling this so I can buy a mountain bike.”
“The bike is too big for me.”
“I have to give up cycling because I had knee surgery.”
“Turns out cycling is just not for me.”
“I want to buy a new bike, and my partner says I can’t until I get rid of this one.”
“I need to buy an electric bike because my commute is now much longer.”
Basically, try to say something that is genuine and that people can relate to.
Include Information on the Condition of the Bike You Are Selling
“This bike is in as-new condition – I have used it about 30 times, mainly in dry weather, in urban conditions.”
“This bike is in used but in good condition – I have put several thousand miles on it, but I have maintained it well and it is still in great shape”.
“It has been standing in the garage for 30 years – I cannot vouch for its condition.“
Be honest about this – you don’t want someone bringing the bike back two days later and demanding a refund. And you definitely don’t want someone getting hurt because you didn’t mention that the brakes were not working!
Include Information about the Technical Specifications of the Bike You Are Selling
If you can, include details of components and specs of the bike. You can easily copy this from a website, if you don’t know all the details (and really, who does?)
If you can find a good review of the bike online, include a link to it. This will save the potential buyer a lot of time and effort in research, and is very likely to convince them to buy.
Below is an example of an effective advert for a used bike on Craigslist. Note that it has all the relevant information in the subject line, so buyers don’t have to waste time clicking on the ad, only to find the bike is too small/too old/too expensive, etc. The subject line includes the year of manufacture (2018), the make of the bike (Trek), the fact that it is a woman’s bike (WSD = Women Specific Design), the model of the bike (7.5 FX), the size (small), and the price you hope to get ($400 or best offer).
For sale: 2018 Trek 7.5 FX WSD, small, $400 obo.
Body of your Craigslist ad:
Selling my beautiful Trek bike. It’s a Women Specific Design. Size: Small – 49 cm. Would suit a person around 5’3″ with smaller hands (glove size Small). I am selling this bike because I have had to quit cycling following knee surgery. The bike is lightly used – probably around 500 miles, in good weather conditions. Well maintained and recently serviced; ready to ride away. Includes rat-trap, mudflaps, and lights. Great commuting bike, light and easy to ride! Asking $400 or best reasonable offer.
Include Full Technical Details of the Bike
Include full technical details of the bike next, if you know them. They can usually be copied from somewhere on the Internet. If you can, add a link to a good review, such as this review which helped me to sell my Specialized Sequoia.
One time a buyer told me that he realized my advert linked to my own review, so how could he trust it? I pointed out that I wrote the review 18 months before I was selling the bike, so it was not written with the intention to sell the bike. He bought the bike, and he was happy and I was happy!
Remember to include at least one recent photograph. Most people won’t bother with a bike advert that has no photos. Craigslist lets you easily (and for free!) upload multiple photos, and it is definitely a good idea to do this. Take photos of the gears, the brakes, the wheels – basically, photograph everything, and include it all in the ad. Make sure that the first photo is the best one, as this is the one that will show up on the ad preview.
Below are examples of the photos I used to sell my BH Emotion Electric Race Bike with Panasonic battery (reviewed here). The photos might look a bit random to you, but trust me – these kinds of photos sell bikes! Notice that I start with a photo that shows the whole bike, obviously in my home (with my dog!).
This gives the potential buyer reassurance that I am not selling a stolen bike. On the other hand, a stock photo from the Internet creates the impression that you are afraid to show the real bike – perhaps because it is stolen.
Here are some of the photos that I included, which helped me to sell the bike within 24 hours, for my asking price, to a very happy buyer. I still miss this bike!
Plan to spend at least two hours cleaning the bike until it shines like new. Clean the wheels, the frame, and the chain. This kit below is a great deal from Amazon – for a low price, it includes everything you need to clean a bike.
Get that Bike Chain Squeaky Clean!
Make sure the chain is squeaky clean! Here is a useful post about an easy way to clean a bike chain. Also – very important – scrub the tires clean with a scrubbing brush, soap, and elbow grease. You will be amazed how much better they look! If you look at the photo above of the front tire of my bike – before I scrubbed it, it was just black, with no words at all, and the reflective stripe was completely invisible. I could not believe how much better it looked after ten minutes of scrubbing!
How to Clean Your Bike
Here is a post about how to clean your bike. And here’s a video about how to clean your bike.
Tip: to make the frame shine, gently wipe it down with a good degreaser. This can make it look almost as good as new!
Another tip: If there is any rust on the bike, try to get rid of it. If it is just superficial rust, you can usually remove it by putting some light oil on it, then scrubbing it with some fine steel wool (bronze or brass steel wool works best), then cleaning it off with a cloth. If it is deep seated rust, you probably cannot fix it, and should not expect to get much for the bike. I know an excellent product that removes superficial rust in just one good cleaning. It is also a good product to protect bikes from rusting. I use this product all the time, and can personally vouch for it. Because I travel a lot, my bikes have to stay outside a lot, which kills me. However, this product protects them, and restores them when I am forgetful. It also lubricates.
As with any time that you deal with strangers, you must of course be careful. If you are vulnerable in any way, don’t invite strangers into your home – meet them in public. And don’t let someone take your bike for a test ride without requiring that they leave something with you, like a driver’s license.
When I take someone else’s bike for a test ride, I usually offer to leave my driver’s license and my car keys. That way, they know who I am, and if I take their bike, they have my car! This is enough to reassure anyone that you are not planning to steal their bike.
Be Safety Conscious
I have had nothing but good experiences buying and selling bikes on Craigslist, but there are bad people out there. Recently in Canada a man was murdered when he went with two strangers on a test ride of the truck he was trying to sell. That’s very unusual, of course, but it is a reminder to be very careful with strangers.
Be prepared to bargain about the price, and have a final, bottom-line price in your head. If you still have the receipts for your bike, producing them can very often seal the deal, as it proves you are the legal owner. And usually shows the buyer what a great deal they are getting, compared to the new price.
Always Insist on Cash
Once you agree on a price, never accept checks from strangers – insist on cash.
Good luck with selling your bike on Craigslist!
Good luck with buying and selling bikes on Craigslist!
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