Should I Buy a Used or New Bicycle?

lots of different commuter bicycles parked on a san francisco street
So many bikes!

If you’re in the market for a bicycle, you may be asking yourself “Should I buy a used or new bike?” The answer is often not clear. Let’s go through some tradeoffs so this decision can be easy!

If you don’t know what kind of bike you want yet, checkout my post on where to buy a commuter bike, where I discuss some different bike types, why you’d want them, and where to get them.

How Much Time & Money Do You Have?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much time do you want to spend on this task? If a quick browse of Craigslist or other used marketplace doesn’t show any bikes you’re interested in, a new bike will usually save you time in searching around. But don’t forego the time saving benefits of a commute ready used bike if one is out there waiting for you!
  2. How much money do you plan to spend? If your budget is low, your money can go farther with a quality used bike instead of a “cheap” new bike that will fall apart faster. (Make sure you don’t get a “cheap” used bike!)

Be careful of marketing campaigns. Marketing of all these new bikes can be enticing, but until you ride the bike and experience it yourself, don’t trust what companies say about it. I’ve test ridden plenty of bikes that sound amazing on paper, but sometimes the innovative features don’t live up to their expectations.

An add for an electric bike, the wing
Some random new e-bike that claims it’s the best, as they all do. It actually does seem cool for sure…. Disclaimer: I have never ridden this bike, so I have no opinion on it. I scrolled in my @biketoeverything instagram until I saw the first bike ad (doesn’t take long), and this is what I got.

With bicycles and anything else in life, I first try to find something used, but I’m not afraid to go for something new if that’s what will give me the most satisfaction. Biases (mostly) aside, let’s go into the advantages and disadvantages of used and new bikes.

Advantages of Used Bikes

  • A used bike can depreciate from its new price with no loss in utility value, so you can get a lot more bang for your buck.
  • The bike has already been broken in, so no need to worry about manufacturing defects or any extra maintenance as the components settle into place.
  • Used bikes can have a lot of “extras” that people have added to the bike that add up to be worth a lot of $$$. Think rear rack and/or basketbike lockupgraded components, and even helmetlights, and a bag if someone is selling the whole commuting outfit. (be wary of using a used helmet though).
  • A used commute-ready bike can be the fastest way to get a bike to use with everything set up already from a previous owner.
two commuter bikes secured to a bike rack. no one is stealing anything.
Some commute-ready bicycles with all the fixins. If these went up for sale you’d be able to get the ground rolling.

Disadvantages of Used Bikes

  • There could be wear and tear and problems that can cause more maintenance and issues down the line. Fortunately, bicycles can’t hide problems like a used car can, so this risk can be mitigated by a proper inspection. Additionally, unless the frame is broken, most worn out parts are easy to change out, making a used bike with a few broken parts still a potentially good deal.
  • If you’re looking for something specific, it can take a long time to get what you want.
  • Usually no warranty, but this can be discussed with a bike shop or individual.

Advantages of New Bikes

  • Newer technology, innovation, and components that can be more efficient and effective. (this is especially true in the fast growing e-bike markets).
  • You can get exactly what you want fast (if they still produce what you’re looking for!).
    • Can customize all the features (like color, style, disc or rim brakes, etc.).
  • If you buy from a local bike shop, they’ll usually fix your bike for free or reduced prices for some amount of time (sometimes the lifetime of the bike!).
  • Usually comes with some kind of warranty.
a custom built Mission Bicycle Company bike with bullhorn handlebars
This is a bike I fully customized and bought new. Even though I chose everything myself, I was much less satisfied than I expected. Since it was built before I could ride it, some of the customizations that looked nice on paper didn’t feel as nice (or look as nice) when I rode it, and it was no one’s fault but my own!

Disadvantages of New Bikes

  • Usually much more expensive than a used bike, and the value drops significantly once you ride it off the floor so if you resell it you’ll be out a lot of cash.
  • If you buy a “cheap” new bike (for example from a department store), you may end up with a bike that doesn’t hold up and breaks quickly. Make sure you get a quality new bike that won’t fall apart.
  • Coming straight off the factory floor, new bikes haven’t been ridden like a used bike has, so may have some breaking in time before it’s maintenance free.
  • Unless you have a local bike shop do all the work, it may require some assembly, and if you’re not savvy you could put something on wrong. My uncle put his fork on backwards and that was dangerous!
  • You may have unreasonable expectations for your bicycle to always look perfect, therefore you might freak out if you put a tiny ding in it.
  • “New” things have more unseen consequences for the planet and society at large. If you can get what you need used, why not?

Conclusion

If you’re still not sure, I always recommend a browse of the used market first to see if the perfect bicycle is already out there set up and waiting for you. Sometimes the serendipitous nature of the used markets can provide something better than you expect. But luck is not always on your side, so it’s nice to have the option of getting a new bike.

Now that you know more about used and new bicycles, head over to my other post about what type of bicycle you want and where to buy it!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: