Should You Buy a New or Used Bike?

Sport road bike
A bike doesn’t have to be new to be a quality ride. In reality, most people buying new bikes today would probably save money and be just as happy riding on a used bicycle; they just don’t know what they are looking for or how to navigate the used bicycle market. The Bike Bro hopes that this website will save people cash by helping them find used bikes, but for many customers a new bicycle would be more appropriate. When deciding whether you’d like to buy a new or used bicycle, you should consider the following aspects of a bicycle: cost, performance, and reliability.



When you want to buy a bicycle, how much cash you have on hand is one of the easiest ways to point yourself in the right direction. I suggest coming up with a number that represents the maximum amount of money that you are willing to spend, and from there consider whether you’d like something new or something used. At a certain arbitrary price point – about $400 – you’ll see a whole bunch of options open up.

This price point of $400 roughly correlates to where the overall quality of a used bike is equal to the overall quality of a new bike. If you have less than $400 dollars to blow I suggest sticking to the used market to get the most for you money, but if you have more than $400 you might want to check out what nearby bike shops are offering.

However, depending on what type of bicycle you are looking for, this $400 “equality price” will change. For example, high-end road bikes used for a few seasons can easily sell for a thousand bucks, and brand-new department store junkers that are usually a waste of money can be picked up for around a hundred bucks.

I generally advise the buyer to beware when looking at fancy brand-name bicycles, as they can demand a much higher price point than the same bike with an off-brand name even though both were made in the same factory and are equipped with the same components. Off-brand bikes like Scattante (sold by Performance Bicycles) and Motobecane (sold by are great buys.

So what does buying a new bike actually get you over buying a used bike? To answer that question, we must consider the next two aspects: performance and reliability.



Pure and simple, newer bicycle components function astoundingly better than their predecessors, with a big jump in quality occurring in the mid to late 80’s and again in the late 90’s. The first jump in the mid 80’s led to the development of the fairly universal 700C road wheel size that had rims made of lightweight aluminum. The second jump in the 90’s introduced the modern threadless headset systems and sealed cartridge bearings. During these periods, companies building the shifter and brake components were out-innovating each other and producing novel mechanisms for their parts. These newer components had refined engineering that made them shift better and brake stronger, all while weighing less.

If you’re following along from the above paragraphs, a used bike selling for around $400 should have components on it that were of relatively high quality for their time. Depending on their condition, these used components can function just as well as, if not often better than, the components being sold on a new bicycle that costs $400.

Some innovations, however, are only present on the newest bicycles. These are things like hydraulic disc brakes, superlight air suspensions, tons of different gears to help maximize your efficiency, and affordable carbon fiber.

As a rule of thumb, the more performance you demand out of your bicycle, the newer the bicycle you should look for. The magic ingredient we are looking for, then, is how “new” your bike must be. Generally, something made in the mid-eighties or later that was of good quality should still be a good quality bike today, even if you plan to ride it every day. However, if you plan to ride your bike in a competitive manner, or absolutely want to ensure that your parts are free of strange clicks and whirrs, think about a bike that is new or used only lightly for a couple years.

Finally, if you are sure you are interested in buying a new bicycle, take note of the component sets of the bikes that you look at and the price ranges associated with them. New bikes made by any manufacturer often have identical or comparable framesets, and the real differences in price will reflect the quality of the component set used on the bicycle.



Everyone wants to buy things that, should it come down to a nuclear apocalypse, could be used forever without any upkeep. Bikes aren’t one of those things. Every bike requires regular maintenance and periodic overhauls to keep them performing as intended, and even then constant use can wear down crucial parts of the drive train or shifting systems. Tires pop, so get used to showing your bike a little love every once in a while.

Although bikes need regular TLC, some parts are indeed built better than others. Higher-quality components have better seals, better bearings, more precise machining, and more robust construction than their counterparts.

To differentiate between the levels of quality, most important components that make a bicycle go or stop are grouped into different tiers. On the bottom tier, you find the “budget” level items that are characterized by being relatively heavy, clunky, and having standard seals and bearings. On the highest tier you’ll have more streamlined items that tend to be lightweight and are made of more expensive materials. Various tiers lie in between the budget and the top tier, and paradoxically the most robust items are often right in the middle. This is because the highest-end components are often made of materials that save weight (the holy-grail of competitive cycling) but sacrifice some durability, and have machining with precise tolerances that can wear down over time.

Read this next paragraph carefully. If you buy a good-quality used bike, its components may be at a higher tier than those found on a new bike that costs the same amount of money. As an example, Used Bike A costs $400 and has a Top Tier Component Set, whereas New Bike B costs $400 but has a Budget Tier Component Set. A word of caution: although Used Bike A may have a higher tier of components, those components may have been used excessively or simply be outdated and impractical for you.

As above on the Performance aspect, any bike made in the mid-eighties or later and equipped with components from the mid-range tier or better will most likely remain in good condition today. Also important is the fact that many parts on a bike made in the mid-eighties or later can be easily replaced with affordable modern components.

It is worth considering is that a new bicycle should come with some form of warranty. Usually the frame can be under the manufacturer’s warranty against defects for life, and components under warranty for a few years.