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.
While all of us are still fighting the Covid-19 epidemic, please be wary of meeting strangers to buy a bike. Please refer to the CDC website for accurate information about how to safely conduct yourself.
What price should you ask for your used bike 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.
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.
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.)
Writing a great ad to sell your bike on Craigslist
The main thing is to get your Craigslist ad right. First, here is an example of an ad that is totally wrong.
What is wrong with this picture? 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? There is so little information and reader help in the ad that it is like an Anti Ad. It makes me want to punch something, rather than buy something!
Here’s the right way to do it!
- Most important of all, 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 make of the bike (such as Trek, Specialized, Raleigh, Fuji, Mongoose, etc.). People really want to know this – it’s crucial 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, Mongoose Crossway 150 Fem, 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 it is. 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. Specify the size 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 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. Recently I inquired about the size of a bike, and the over-eager seller told me it would “fit any adult.” That irritated me so much that I moved along to the next bike. After all, adults range in height from 4.5 feet tall to over 7 feet.
- Say (truthfully) why you are selling the bike, for example: “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 some information on the condition of the bike, for example: “This bike is in as-new condition – I have used it about 30 times, mainly in dry weather, in urban conditions,” or “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”. Or “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!
- If you can, include details of components and specs. 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 a lot of time and effort in research, and is very likely to convince them to buy.
Example of a good advert to sell a used bike on Craigslist
Below is an example of a good 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 (2013), 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 ($500 or best offer).
For sale: 2013 Trek 7.5 FX WSD, small, $500 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 $500 or best reasonable offer.
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 ad 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 intent to sell the bike. He bought the bike and he was happy and I was happy!
Photos for your Craiglist bike ad
Remember to include at least one recent photograph. Most people won’t bother with a bike ad 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.
Examples of photos for your Craigslist bike ad
Below are examples of the photos I used to sell my BH Emotion Electric Race Bike with Panasonic battery (reviewed here). The photos look a bit random, 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 because it is stolen.
Here are all the photos that I included, which helped me to sell the bike within 24 hours, for my asking price.
Getting your bike ready so you get a good price
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.
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. I also use it to protect my 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, and it kills me. However, this product protects them, and restores them when I am forgetful. It also lubricates.
Dealing with potential buyers of your bike
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. It is always best to meet strangers in public – for example, outside their condo block, not in their apartment.
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.
Once you agree on a price, do not accept checks from strangers – insist on cash.
Good luck with selling your bike on Craigslist!
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