I've done a considerable amount of cycling in and around Boulder, Colorado.
What I Bought and What I Sold
Within the last two months of the publication of this article, I have purchased both a used mountain bike and a used road bicycle. I also purchased a bike for my 11-year-old. I purchased all three bikes on Craigslist. I have also sold my old mountain bike as well.
I had different reasons for buying the two bikes. I purchased a mountain bike first. The reason for purchasing the mountain bike was to upgrade from my old mountain bike, a 2000 GT XCR2000. I ended up purchasing a 2006 Specialized FSR Expert.
On the second bike, I decided it would be nice to try road riding again, so I didn't want to spend too much in case I changed my mind. I ended up purchasing a early 2000's Bianchi Giro.
After I purchased the Specialized FSR, I sold my old mountain bike.
While buying and selling bicycles on Craigslist is not rocket science, I did feel that the whole process went well and I learned some valuable lessons that are worth passing on to those who might be looking for a bicycle on Craigslist.
In all cases, I was on a budget. Buying a bike on Craigslist is easy if you have a lot of money. You don't need to read any articles. However, if you want to get the best deal you can, then read on.
Spend Time Looking at Bike Listings
One of the important things I learned through the process of buying and selling bikes is that spending ample time going over listings on Craigslist helped me get a good deal on both bicycles and helped me determine a good selling price for the bike I was selling.
I found that it was important to have a comprehensive idea of what kind of bikes people were selling in my area. The more familiar I became with the bikes for sale, the more I began to understand what constituted a good deal and what didn't. That's because some bikes would sell right away and others remained listed through my entire search.
The drawback to this method is that I definitely missed out on some great deals. Just like any other online selling platform, the laws of supply and demand determine what sells and for what price.
As a result, when I attempted to buy a bike for what I thought was a great price and somebody else got to it first, I knew I was on the right track. In fact, one bike was priced so well that the seller offered it to the first person who could get to his house in the mountains first. That proved more effort than I wanted to expend, but it gave me a basis for making offers on other bikes.
This strategy proved especially useful when buying my road bike. As I continued to compare bikes and prices and equipment, I realized over time that the bike I bought was really well-priced and the reason nobody was buying it had little to do with its quality, but with its age. However, since it had been rebuilt with new components, I understood the value I was getting.
Just remember, you're going to lose out on some deals. Fortunately, another bike will always come along. So be patient. Don't feel rushed to buy something right away and you're more likely to find what you want at a good price.
Factor in the Cost of a Tune-Up
This might be the number one issue when buying a used bike on Craigslist. In other words, if you can find a bike that has been professionally tuned, you can save yourself somewhere between $200 and $400. Remember, a professional tune-up is not cheap. I've spent as much as $400 on one. So, if you're looking for a bike and the price is $500, but it requires a $400 tune-up to be safe and in good working condition, the actual price of the bike is $900.
Likewise, if you are comparing two bikes with the same bluebook value where the sellers are asking $500, but one has been professionally tuned and one has not, clearly the tuned bike is the better value. Of course, this comparison doesn't always work as neatly as this. Regardless, always consider a tuned bike as a significant, extra value.
When selling a bike, you should consider paying as little for a tune-up as possible. While it will be an advantage in your listing, you will not recover your money if you spend too much for the tune-up, particularly if it's an older bike. It's worth some amount of money to say the bike was tuned, but you don't want to go crazy.
Know Your Component Groups
Do you know the difference between Shimano 105 and Shimano Dura-Ace? Or how about Claris and Ultegra?
If you don't, it's absolutely critical that you know your component groups in order to determine the best value for your money.
In my case, I ended up buying my road bike specifically for the component group. Although the original Bianchi Giro did not come with a Dura-Ace group set, the seller had rebuilt the entire thing. What I ended up realizing is that the bike I bought had parts on it that were worth more than most of the other bikes I was looking at in my price range. Even though I was buying an older frame, there was a nearly new bike attached to it. The decision turned out to be a good one.
Shimano Group Sets
|Group Set||Rider Level||Cost|
Claris, Sora, Tiagra
The Art of Negotiation
Usually, I expect everything on Craigslist is negotiable. Unusually, I was unable to lower the asking price on the two bikes I purchased and the person who bought my old mountain bike did not try to talk me down at all.
One reason for this was that the market for used bikes was extremely busy and everyone knew it. Most bikes were selling for more than bluebook value and demand was high.
However, if the seller is asking a fair price, there often isn't much need to negotiate. In the case of my road bike, it became clear to me after seeing the listing that the seller was asking a fair price and had no intention of lowering it. He knew the bike's true value and ultimately, I realized that fact made the bike a good value.
In the case of the mountain bike, I tried to offer a lower price and quickly learned the seller had several other interested parties. Since I already thought the bike was a good value, I made the purchase.
So, while it never hurts to offer less than the asking price, sometimes it doesn't work. If you're the seller, it's always valuable to mention any other interested parties you may have or the fact you've received a lot of calls or emails or texts. If you're not afraid to pass on a low-ball offer, you should be firm about your price.
One thing I particularly hate as a seller is when people try to negotiate before they've even seen the bike. I try never to do this and I don't like it when people do it to me.
Determining a Fair Price
The site linked below, BicycleBlueBook, is one of the best places to get an idea of the fair market value of a bike you are buying or one you are selling.
In my experience, the prices the site gives are usually lower than the sale prices. You can certainly try to negotiate using Bluebook value, but it's better to just use it as a basis. Call it the low end of the price spectrum.
Ultimately, Craigslist itself is a better measure of fair price and that can take some work. Compare the bike you want or the bike you're selling to similar models with similar component groups in similar condition.
Also remember that selling an older bike is much harder than selling a new one. If you have an older bike (more than ten to fifteen-years-old) you'll want to price it reasonably to sell and you'll want to be flexible with potential buyers.
A critical site for determining the fair market value of a bike. However, just remember the market value isn't always stable.
How to List Your Bike
Whether your bike has been sitting around in the garage or you've been riding it every day, the details of how you used it matter.
Because there are so many scams on Craigslist, it's best to be honest about the condition of the bike and provide detail about how you used it. That detail will give buyers the confidence to contact you about buying it.
Answer questions like: when did you buy it? How much did you use it? When was the last time it was serviced? Is there anything wrong with it? Why are you selling it?
While some people list their phone number as their contact, I prefer to start all my Craigslist interactions through email. Depending on the cost of your bike, you're likely to be contacted by some scammers who want to pay with a money order or meet you in a parking lot somewhere. If somebody wants your bike, they'll come to your house and pay with cash or Venmo.
Here's how I listed my bike for sale:
Selling my well-used GT XCR2000 Mountain bike. At $250, I haven't seen anything comparable to this for value on Craigslist. I've been riding this bike a lot over the past 4 weeks and it's performed very well. It could definitely use a tune though. However, you could ride it right up Sunshine Canyon right now and be fine. I'd continue to ride it if I hadn't upgraded to a newer bike.
Very good downhill bike. Very plush ride. Both shocks work well. I added the disc brakes. Newer WTB seat. I just threw on some pedals in case somebody wants to take a test ride.
The bike has scratches and nicks on it, as you would expect. The rear disc brake rubs just slightly. Doesn't really affect much. The shifting could use adjusting and it will not shift into the largest front ring. I believe it just needs some lubrication. The rear shock locks so you can ride it like a hard tail.
Great, cheap way to start mountain biking. I've gone everywhere on this bike. I'm 6'2". Frame is large. Bike is heavier than newer bikes as well. I believe this was made around 2000.
Will also consider a trade for a road bike in case somebody has one and wants to make a switch. Depending on the road bike, I'm willing to add cash to the deal.
Will take cash, Venmo, or PayPal.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Allen Donald
Allen Donald (author) from Colorado on October 22, 2020:
Thanks for the comments!
Liz Westwood from UK on October 22, 2020:
This is an interesting article and it puts your experience to good use. I have heard of Craigslist. I also think that many of the points you make are relevant to buying and selling on other platforms too.