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Buying a bicycle, whether used or new, should be a considered decision, with time taken to make the right choices. Whether novice or expert, you want to take time to weigh up the pros and cons.
We’ve given some guidance on how much you should spend on a bicycle here. New versus used is a conscious decision being made more and more by consumers, as we consider the impact and availability of any product we would like to own.
There are bicycle frames made to last a lifetime. Many component parts must be replaced as you use them.
Stores in the UK are now selling second-hand bicycles, and new businesses have been set up offering a range of used rides from well-known manufacturers.
Buying new provides the most flexibility. Your choice of colours, frames and options are endless. You have the opportunity to enter into a relationship with one brand. This might be of use if there is a store or independent in your neighbourhood that you can rely on to help you take care of your bicycle.
Buying from a specialist store means that they are likely to set the bicycle up for you to ride away, and you will receive some great advice too – bicycle shops are always willing to answer questions.
Buying online is a favourite option for many. The upside is usually a reduction in cost. The downside is losing some of the individuality of the purchase, and buying new online will mean your bicycle arrives in a cardboard box for you to set up.
If a manufacturer wants to get rid of old stock, you sometimes get a decent saving on a machine that will still give you everything you want and need out of a ride.
Do Bikes Have Good Resale Value?
Generally speaking, bicycles are not made, nor consumed, to hold their value. They’re designed so that some of the parts wear down, and need replacing. There is a depreciation rate for bicycles, and some models perform better than others.
As a minimum, you could expect to lose around 50% of the value of the new machine in the first year.
We’ve covered the practical side of buying a bicycle to hold its value here.
Is Buying a New Bicycle a Good Investment?
How much commitment are you willing to give to owning, riding and caring for the bicycle you have bought? Your ownership should include simple maintenance and checking over the bicycle once in a while. It really pays to give it a once over every few rides.
Then you can enjoy years and years of fruitful and enjoyable riding. Riding that will, if you want, give you time during a spin to calculate how much you might have saved by owning the bicycle. No gym fees, reduced commuting costs, fewer prescriptions or medications (possibly) and lower fuel costs – fueling up for a bicycle ride is important but less costly than filling your car up.
There are longer-term renting options here that you could consider as an alternative.
Cycle to Work Scheme
Cycle to Work schemes have been a choice for people returning to owning a bicycle. It’s a simple concept offering qualifying UK employees the chance to enter into a salary-sacrifice process with an employer, usually for between 12 and 18 months.
They get a new bicycle and accessories (including essential clothing if needed) straight away. This spreads the cost when you are starting cycling from scratch. A wide range of shops accept cycle to work schemes.
The financial incentive is in the salary sacrifice element. The deduction from salary is made before Income Tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) are taken. So you pay less tax and less NICs. We have an article on Cycle to Work schemes here.
Second Hand Bikes
Although the essence of a bicycle is unchanged, the pace of development is steady and frequent. As products develop, riders who have caught the cycling bug will look to upgrade and trade in. Some will also decide cycling is not for them and look to make some space in the garage or shed. This keeps a steady flow of second hand bicycles in the marketplace.
Is It Worth Getting a Second Hand Bike?
There is a strong case for getting a better return on a second hand bicycle by treading carefully. Given that the value of a new ride reduces by 50% in the first year, you should be able to find something suitable on paper.
You must invest time in checking the machine out and checking the owner out too, especially if buying from an auction site. We would very strongly recommend taking along someone who has an understanding of the mechanics of a bicycle to check it out, if you’re not 100% confident of doing so yourself. Taking another person along often helps balance out the pressure of a sale too.
eBay is a general site that includes second-hand bicycles, and it does create some accountability to sellers by providing their contact details, and feedback from other purchasers. You can still get your money back via PayPal if you don’t get what you thought you would.
Another option would be to consider a more specialist website or store selling second-hand bicycles. In the UK, Halfords offers ‘pre-pedalled’ rides. These come with a 12 month warranty.
Can You Buy a Second Hand Bike on the Cycle to Work Scheme?
Some do, subject to qualifying criteria. Popular schemes include Bike2Work, Cycle Solutions, Green Commute Initiative and Cyclescheme. Though aimed at moving new bicycles to the market, some do offer refurbished bicycles that have a 12-month warranty. Cyclescheme is one such facility.
How to Inspect a Second Hand Bicycle
A priority should be to examine the frame. Whilst components can be swapped, a badly dented or cracked frame spells the end for the bicycle. Check the welds and joins for cracks or workmanship. Ask if the bicycle has suffered any crashes. Take a mechanic if you can find one.
Check for movement or ‘play’ in the areas where bearings are used to assist motion – the wheel hubs, headset and bottom bracket are all areas to look at. If you want a suspension-bicycle, check the pivot points for wear and tear.
Try to obtain original sale documents. Find out how often the bicycle has been serviced and by whom. Check for modifications. It’s reassuring to know that you can build trust in the person you are buying from. Take someone with you if you don’t feel confident.
Perhaps most importantly, you can check the frame number against a number of checking sites – some are paid sites and require the original owner to have done the work but there are blogs and forums to cross-reference against.
Which Bikes Are Best to Buy Second Hand?
The less ‘action’ that the bicycle is likely to have seen the better. A mountain bike may have had more tumbles and stresses than a simple hybrid. Whilst they are built to withstand different stresses, your trust and instinct would be to select a bicycle that you believe has had less chance of barrage.
Unfortunately most bicycles lose their warranty once ownership passes to a second-owner but there are some brands that are better than others when it comes to running a second-hand steed.
The most important consideration would be the willingness and readiness of a mechanic to deal with repairs. Trek and Giant are two very well-known manufacturers offering a strong service, parts, and repair element to their businesses.
Is it Better to Buy a New Bike or Used?
You need to invest more time considering used over new. You’ll have the same considerations about frame size, materials, components but then you must build in the unknowns and lack of guarantees that come with buying second-hand.
Weigh up why you are buying second-hand carefully. You won’t regret taking extra time or walking away.
New Bike v Used Bike [Pros + Cons]
New Bike Pros + Cons
|New Bike PROS||New Bike Cons|
|Warranty||Mark-up to retailer|
|Recently checked parts||Delivery time|
|Follow up support from retailer||Models change very little from one collection to the next|
|Peace of mind – should last longer||No room for customisation or mini-upgrades|
Used Bike Pros + Cons
|Used Bike PROS||Used Bike Cons|
|You can find a cheaper model than the new equivalent||No warranty|
|Immediacy||Challenges of buying from someone you don’t know|
|Great for novices or beginners – no massive investment if you decide you don’t like it||If you are not mechanically minded you may not identify significant issues|
|Lower ecological footprint||Takes more time to make the right purchase|
Should I Buy a New or Used Bicycle?
If you don’t have a budget the obvious choice is to buy new. You’ll get a warranty, more choices and of course, the comfort of being the first rider. You can still maximise your budget in the used market but must research, tread carefully, and be prepared to take more time over your purchase.