6 Steps to Selling a Bicycle for Top Dollar

There comes a time when a bike has served its purpose.  The signs are there when it’s been sitting in the garage gathering dust for too long. Or you can’t stop thinking about the new model you’re saving up for, and you look at your old bike with dollar signs in your eyes.

The problem is, selling a used bike can feel like hard work. There is lots of research and lots of potentially costly mistakes that can be made. Everyone knows a story about a guy who got ripped off or someone who only received a few dollars for a bike that was worth thousands. 

In truth, it can actually be fun selling a bike, and there are ways to ensure you get maximum value for your old ride. We put together a step by step guide to help you sell your bicycle the right way.

1. Find Out How Much Your Bike is Worth

The best transactions leave both the seller and the buyer feeling good. If both parties are happy and the listing was online, positive feedback is usually given. And if you met your buyer face to face, you’re not scared to run into them again if things go wrong. But as a seller, while you don’t want to completely over value you’re bike, you do want to try and sell your bike for top dollar.

Watch Other Listings

So how do you find out what it’s worth? You should allow yourself at least a week for research before you list your bike. You will only need a short amount of time each day, but tracking similar bikes over the course of a week will help you understand how quickly they are selling and at what prices. 

During that time, you can still be taking photographs and working on your listing. It’s important to see which places have the most potential buyers and get the best prices for the type of bike you’re selling. 

A good place to start is eBay and there are different ways you can gather information to help you calculate your potential sale price. First, find the same or similar models and choose ‘watch this item’. This will allow you to follow any bids and also see any potential questions the buyers get asked. You can then make sure you add this information to your listing once you’re ready.

Bicycle selling on eBay
Bicycle selling on eBay

You can also see previously sold bikes and models selling under the ‘buy it now’ format. Look carefully at what the minimum AND maximum price your model is selling for. Calculating the difference between a well looked after model and one that’s falling apart will be helpful later on.

It’s also worth looking carefully at the listings. Look at the photographs and the description in the models that sell for the highest price. You can use the ad copy as a basis for your listing and use the photos as inspiration.

You should extend your research to include Craigs List, LetGo, Facebook Market Place, and any specific Facebook Groups. There are a number of active groups that are solely for buying and selling specific models. If your bike fits into a niche (mountain bike, racing bike, BMX, etc.) there may be large media websites that have forums with a sales section.

Bicycle selling on Facebook Marketplace
Bicycle selling on Facebook Marketplace

While you’re doing this, you’re not only researching prices that your bike could sell for, but also finding the places that have the most active and serious buyers.

Get an evaluation

There are specialist sites that value bikes such as Bicycle BlueBook, but it’s important to note that a valuation is only a useful guide and not a guarantee. You might not achieve the price given in the valuation. But on the other hand, you might exceed it. GoodByeCycle will make you an offer to buy your bike if it’s a high-end model. However, you could use their price as a guide if you decide to sell elsewhere. 

Bicycle Bluebook evaluation

For high-value bikes, you can contact your local bike store for a valuation. They may give you an estimate or offer part exchange. It may also be worth looking at bike stores further afield.

Not Worth Selling? Consider Donating

At the other end of the market, unfortunately, some bikes are unsellable. From personal experience, I have had bikes with good specifications but weren’t from recognizable brands. These were bought as value for money purchases but had little value in the resale. In most cases, people are using a specific model or brand name to search for, and if your bike isn’t searched for, it’s unlikely to sell. 

So, what do you do with a bike that you can’t sell? Before you throw it away, you can check with friends, family or list it for free – that somewhere people in your community will see it.  There are also a number of ‘not for profit’ groups that accept bikes including CommunityCycles and the EarnABike initiatives.

The different initiatives work in different ways, but it’s worth looking to see If you have a local organization. Often they will teach disadvantaged people mechanic skills or allow people who might not be able to afford a bike to own one. 

2. Prepare the Bike

Cleaning bicycle with jet washer
Cleaning bicycle with jet washer

Whether it’s an old car, a room, or a garden, everyone enjoys a fixer-upper. It can be good fun bringing your bike back to its best, but you need to do some quick calculations before you start.

From your research, you should have at least a rough idea of how much you might expect to get for your bike. You will have seen the difference between pristine models and ones that have a lot of wear and tear. It’s important to keep this in mind when you decide how much time and money to invest in preparing your bike for sale. If a similar condition bike to yours is selling at $200 dollars, there is a limit to what you want to invest in replacement parts. 

Go for a Test Ride

The two things you should do when you’re getting any bike ready to sell is a test ride and clean. If the bike has been sitting gathering dust for a while, it’s important to make sure all the parts are working correctly. You want to be confident that you’re listing something in good working order. This way, you can avoid potential issues with buyers. Be sure to check that everything is tightened and take it on a medium length ride to test for any faults.

Clean the Bike

Once you’re sure the bike doesn’t have any issues, you can put an hour aside for cleaning. If you don’t already have cleaning equipment specifically for your bike, you can get by with household cleaning items. The only real exception is you may need a degreaser or oil depending on the state of your chain. In a previous post, we show you how to use WD-$0 to clean your bike. For the actual cleaning, there are some very good guides on Youtube using quite basic equipment, and some that are specifically for people using a jetwasher. 

If your bike isn’t of particularly high value, then the test ride and clean will most likely be enough. But if you’re selling an expensive bike, consider getting your bike professionally serviced. This will show potential buyers the level of care the bike has been treated with.

Replace Worn Parts

You can look at replacing worn parts. The trick here is that doing this needs to be cost-effective. You should base this on whether the new part would increase the value of the sale. A new set of tires on an expensive bike could be an advantage that helps you reach a higher price point. A new set of forks could eat up most of your profit, so make sure you’re only spending on something that brings at least the equivalent value back. 

It’s important to consider that the new owner will most likely make some changes. As soon as the bike arrives, they are likely to adjust the seat and stem to fit their size and riding style. Make sure that the fastening bolts are still easy to open and not rusted together. Worst case scenario you can replace the bolts without too much cost.

3. Take Photographs

While the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” wasn’t written with bike listings in mind, your photographs will definitely tell the story of your bike.  You want to convey that the bike has been taken care of and that you are an honest seller.

A set of 7-10 images should cover most platforms and will give the potential buyers a very good understanding of the bike. Before you start, write a list of the images you will take and plan how they will look. As you start photographing, look at the shot and see if there is anything in the frame that distracts from the impact of the photograph. A TV or car in the background will make the images have less impact. If you can’t move the items out of shot, then move the bike to a less cluttered location. 

Finding the Best Spot

To do this, you should consider each shot carefully. The first shot should include the whole bike so the bike is positioned lengthways in front of you. You can choose to photograph indoors or outdoors depending on the space you have available.

Keep in mind, anything behind the bike will cause a distraction. If you have a large room at home with no clutter and a plain wall, that could work well. Equally, if you have a decent-sized garden or yard where the bike could be placed away from cars, tools or other bikes, this could work well too. 

You should also consider the light available. If you have small windows indoors then outside might work best. If it’s dark and raining outside then waiting for a brighter day would be sensible. 

The Right Parts

As well as the main photograph, you should highlight any parts that you intend to mention in the ad. If you’re drawing attention to the expensive disc brakes, make sure they have a supporting image. Some bikes will be sold with issues such as scratches on the frame or damaged parts.

To be responsible, you need to include images that convey this to the buyer, but they don’t need to be the main feature. These shots can be placed in the middle of the set of images. You should aim for your first image and last image to be the strongest ones so they leave a lasting impression. 

4. Write the Ad

Along with the photographs, your copy is critical for making your ad stand out. Getting the basics right is the key. Make sure your spelling is correct and use spell check. Avoid the temptation of writing anything funny or using crazy fonts or emojis as you want your listing to look professional. The copy is your chance to answer as many questions as the buyer might reasonably have. 

In reality, people have lots of choices and limited time. Some people will not want to message you to have questions answered. You can use your copy as a way of answering these questions beforehand. For instance, if you’re not willing to mail the bike, it’s much better to state that in your copy rather than be contacted by people wanting to check. 

While you don’t want to give people too much text to read. The ad below would leave so many questions that potential buyers could be put off.

This ad copy, on the other hand, gives much more information and allows the buyer to learn more about the bike.

So what should be included? The bike model, brand and frame size are crucial. If it’s a child’s bike you should mention the age bracket it’s designed for. The frame and wheel size is useful and you can usually get this information and a detailed spec of the bike parts from the manufacturer’s site.

Any changes like replacement parts or upgrades should be included. Also, mention any defects like scratches or noticeable wear and tear. The ad above gives an approximate idea of tire usage and this along with the age of the bike will help the buyer. How the bike has been ridden might be good to highlight if it’s been used lightly, and any accessories that go with the bike such as lights or bags should be included. 

Your ad should be thorough but focused and should explain why this is a great bike to potential buyers. The best ads make a concerted effort to highlight the bike’s best features, but at the same time still being accurate and honest. 

5. List the Bike

Now, you should have your photographs and copy and plenty of places to list your bike. Hopefully, you’ve found a few places and a range of prices. You’re not limited to just choosing one, and should try a few different places. This will increase your chances of selling the bike and appeal to different sellers.

eBay has always been a good choice and still is due to the volume of people using it. However, the fees are high compared to other low and no-cost options. If you can make a sale somewhere else you might save a lot in fees. Craigslist might suit you especially if you’re selling at the budget end. LetGo is another good choice too. The Pros Closet has developed into a popular choice for riders selling their bike for cash or looking to trade. 

Facebook has even more users than eBay, and you can take advantage of this by posting to your friends and on Facebook Market place. The growing number of groups for buying and selling bikes is increasing and full of motivated buyers. If you search for the type of bike or model within Facebook groups there is a good chance you will find someone with an interest in your bike. Bike Forums are also an excellent place to sell and can find specific ones for types of bikes, such as mountain bikes or BMX’s as well as general bike forums.  

Bike shops will often buy used bikes to resell or to put in part exchange if you’re considering a new model. This isn’t limited to local bike stores and you can try bike stores across the country. In practical terms, you need to factor in the cost of shipping and whether your bike is likely to be attractive with the increase in price. You can find a quick estimate from ShipBikes. If your bike is a specialist bike and there is a related store out of town, it would make sense to give them a call as well.

6. Finalize the Sale

It’s a great feeling when you have interest from buyers. You’re nearly ready to reap the rewards from the hard work you spent on your bike, the photos, and the ad. But there are still a few boxes to check first.

You may get an offer or a buyer who wants to negotiate. The best way to handle this is by making a decision on how much you’re willing to take off beforehand and stick to it. You don’t want to walk away regretting not getting as much as you wanted. Remember you can always relist your bike and sometimes for free.

Lookers Vs Buyers

If you arrange to meet a buyer, firmly establish whether it’s to view the bike or to buy. If someone has committed to a sale on eBay, you don’t want them coming to take a look or to negotiate. They had their chance for that when the bike was listed. Equally, if someone wants to come and view the bike, let them know you’re still accepting offers from other buyers until they make an offer that you’re happy to accept. 

Basic common sense applies to meeting anyone who you have come into contact with online. Verify as many of their details as you can, such as verifying their phone number and have someone with you when you meet up.

Accepting Payment

The same caution can be used for accepting money. It’s often a good idea to arrange payment beforehand by Paypal or a bank transfer. As you have listed the bike accurately, there should be no come back from the sale. If there is an issue, you have the photographs as evidence and it’s usually best to get eBay (or the other platform you used) involved as quickly as possible.

If it has to be a cash transaction, make sure you check every note. Most people are genuine and honest, but you do want to check that you haven’t been unlucky and ended up dealing with someone dishonest. 

Final Word

Hopefully, our guide helps you navigate around some of the tricky issues of selling your bicycle. It does take some time and effort, but it’s a great feeling to see your old ride going to a new home once you have finished with it. It’s even sweeter if you have put in some time and effort to create a great ad and maximized the value of your bike. Especially if you have enjoyed the selling process.