Congratulations, you bought a nice new, shiny whatever. Problem is, your serviceable old steed is still taking up valuable space in your basement/garage/spare room/bedroom. Now your spouse has threatened divorce if you don’t get that old bike out of the house (for some strange reason, spouses don’t like bikes in the bedroom). So how does one go about unloading that trusty old steed?
Here are some tips from someone who buys and sells used bikes on the regular and, as such, has seen every dumb thing people get wrong.
Donald Trump said it best: Only a fool wouldn’t take the trouble of washing his car before he sells it. A little wax, some steel wool and some bike grease can make an old bike look practically new. It doesn’t take much time to clean a bike. Sure, mountain bikes sometimes need a good hosing down to eliminate trail grim and dirt, but is it worth it? Most definitely. You can probably get $50 to $100 more for a quality bike that shines.
Replace anything on the bike that's worn (considering what your targeted profit will be and if that new tube is worth it). Tune everything that needs tuning. Nothing devalues a bike like poor shifting or poor brakes.
After you have a shiny bike to sell, you have to let people know it's for sale. Who is your target audience? If the bike is your son’s beat-up old mountain bike, the best place to advertise it may be the local bulletin board at Wal-Mart. If it's a $2,500 Trek Madone, maybe eBay is better. Here are your advertising options:
• Local Bulletin Boards—These work best with low-end bikes. It's best to have a picture and tear-off telephone numbers so they can reach you. Many bike shops let you advertise on their bulletin boards, although some don’t want the competition.
• Newspapers—While new media has supplanted many newspapers, some still move a lot of product (especially shoppers or weeklys). Of course, there's a fee involved, not to mention a time limit. Spring is the best time to sell a bike.
• Yard Sales—People go to yard sales to get cheap stuff. If you have a cheap old bike and some other stuff to get rid of, have a yard sale. A note of caution: That old three-speed bike may well have a Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub that would sell for $40 on eBay.
• Bike Shop eClassifeds—Many bike shop websites have free classifieds for used parts and gear. If you're going to sell a high-end bike to a crowd that might appreciate it, these are a good choice.
• eBay—For an expensive or vintage bike, eBay is a good choice. They charge for posting, but it's very easy to sell on eBay, since you're reaching millions of potential customers. Shipping could be a hassle, but many local bike shops will sell you their old boxes or actually pack the bike for you for a fee. UPS has a pick-up service. Know your options before you list.
• Craigslist—Craigslist is the local alternative to eBay. There seems to be a local Craigslist for almost every city, town and four-way intersection in the world. There's no charge for posting here, but be ready for flaky customers. I frequently have people call about one of my bikes, and then never show up to buy it.
Some things to remember about advertising:
• Spell check your flyer or ad. I once bought a fairly rare Trek mountain bike for $10, because the ad said Trec. The owners couldn’t understand why no one came to look at it.
• Always use a picture. Pictures sell bikes. If you can’t take a picture of your bike, use a stock one from the company’s website and describe any ways the bike differs from the stock photo.
• Always put down the size of the bike and the price. Don’t make people guess or email to find out it's a 60cm frame or it costs $3,000.
• Price your bike properly. Don’t ask $300 for a Schwinn Stingray just because you learned to ride on it (anyway, it may be worth much more). Go on eBay or Craigslist and search for your bike. Find out what those bikes are selling for, and price accordingly.
• Include manuals and paperwork, if you have them. Be sure to mention it in the ad. For some reason, people like to get the manual with the old bike.
• Take your ad down after the sale. Don’t disappoint 10 people by leaving ads up online or on your local bulletin board. Keep a record of where you posted to make sure you've taken it down everywhere.
More and more people are collecting and reselling bikes as a hobby or part-time business. Some of these people are not to be trusted. Here are a few tips:
• Always move things out of the room or area where you are showing the bike, or show the bike outside. There's no need to give potential thieves an inventory of your expensive toys.
• Set a price in your mind and stick to it. You can always cut it later after a few people have stopped by.
• Take cash. (You can state that in your ad.) Recently, I had to go to an ATM 20 minutes from the bike sale, because the seller wouldn’t accept a personal check. I don’t blame him.
If for some reason you bike doesn’t sell, you have options:
• Lower the price and try again.
• Donate the bike to a local goodwill or bike co-op and take the tax write off.
• Strip the bike for parts and put what you don’t want out with the trash.
There, that bike is gone. You have averted divorce court for yet another day. Until, of course, you see that oh-so-hot carbon-fiber bike in black with silver trim and all Dura-Ace components. It's 12 ounces lighter than your present bike. You can see yourself stomping the competition at the local club ride, moving effortlessly at near-light speed. Its siren song calls. You think there's probably $20 or $30 extra in your checking account that you can use to make the bike almost pay for itself. You are powerless to resist.
Looks like you’ll be selling another bike. Call me. I’ll make you an offer.
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