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Buying a Second Hand Mountain Bike on eBay

Updated on June 10, 2011
2001 Marin Palisades Trail from eBay
2001 Marin Palisades Trail from eBay

Why buy a used mountain bike on eBay

Buying a used mountain bike is a great way to save money and eBay is the best place online for selection and price. You can find some great deals on eBay. Mountain bikes on eBay for auction or buy-it-now sales come from several sources. Some hardcore mountain bikers buy new bikes every few years and sell their old bikes on eBay. Other people sell their bikes because they are clearing out their garage to make more room; or they no longer ride their bike and want to sell them, or they need money. There are also brick and mortar bike stores and online bike shops that sell new and used bikes and bike parts. Lately, more and more charities, such as Good Will Stores, are auctioning mountain bikes and other stuff from donors to raise money.

Most of the auctions are by people selling their bikes on their own. Some people consign their bikes to one of the many eBay sellers to sell for them. Some of these mountain bikes will have been well taken care of and will be in like-new condition, while others will have been neglected and should be in the junkyard.

Buying online is risky and maybe more so at eBay. For one thing, you are buying a bike from someone you don’t know and more importantly, you are buying the bike without seeing it first. EBay does have a system in place to take some of the risk out of buying and selling on its site, such as the rating system for sellers and anti-fraud measures that weed out dishonest sellers and provide some measure of assurance than you won’t get from buying from someone advertising on Craig’s List, for example.

Keep in mind that if you have never bought or sold anything on eBay, your will need to educate yourself on the basics of eBay. You can find plenty of tips from veteran eBayers right at eBay’s website. If you are new to mountain biking or bicycling and buying your first bike, you will need to educate yourself about mountain bikes. There are also many websites on the Internet that should provide you with plenty of the information you need be able to recognize a quality mountain bike. In addition, when you buy a bike from eBay, the bike will be delivered to you in a box, partially disassembled. When you get it, you will have to put it back together before you can ride it. If you don’t know how to do it yourself, you can bring the bike to a local bike shop to pay for the service.

Once you are confident that you have learned the basics of eBay and know a derailleur from a headset on a mountain bike, you should be able to buy your first used mountain bike on eBay.

To help you get the best deal, save some money and not get ripped off on eBay, here are some basic tips that may be useful:

Evaluating the sellers on eBay:

Check the seller’s feedback. Feedback is eBay’s way of letting buyers rate their transaction experience with sellers. The more feedbacks and the more positive feedbacks a seller has the lower your risk of buying from the seller. Check how long that seller’s been selling on eBay. Avoid doing business with a new seller selling an expensive bike for a first item or a seller that sold 10 or 20 low value items and listing an expensive bike for the first time. Your lowest risk is to stick with sellers with 40 to 50 feedbacks with 95 or above positive ratings. Read the reasons for any negative feedback. Many times, a seller get negative feedbacks from buyers that just cannot be pleased.

Read the listing descriptions carefully. Stay away from sellers that put up poorly written descriptions with many spelling and grammatical errors. It may be indicative of other errors or lies in the description for the mountain bike. Read the descriptions very carefully. Some sellers get creative with their description as a way to describe some negatives aspects without actually stating the negatives. The more pictures with the auction, the better. Sellers usually take pride in their bikes and show the bikes off with pictures. Be on alert of auctions that include few or no pictures. If you are unclear about something in the description, ask the seller questions. Sometimes sellers responded and sometimes they don't. If a seller doesn’t respond to your questions, move on to another seller. Communication is the best way to flush out unscrupulous sellers.

Watch the price trend. The prices paid for similar items on eBay can vary widely. There are many factors that account for the disparity. It is best to watch a few auctions for the make and model of bikes that you are interested in getting and get a feel for the activity for those particular bikes and the price trend. Understanding the market will help you get a sense of the price that you can expect to pay for a particular bike. You may have to wait weeks before the type of bikes you are looking for come on the market. Be patient and don’t pay more than the average going price. Be prepared to pay more for well-maintained used bikes. Take into consideration any repairs you may need to do to the bike and bid accordingly.

Evaluating the mountain bike:

To get an idea what a used bike was worth when it was new and what price you should limit yourself to on any particular bike, check out and other sites. These sites list almost all bikes marketed by all bike makers going back at least 9 or 10 years. The websites normally include the MSRP and the parts that were on a particular year’s models.

You will have to decide how much to spend on a bike but keep in mind that higher end mountain bikes with recognizable brand names on the frame and components will be better values. Not only will you have a better bike, you will have an easier time, and get more money, if you decide to sell the bike later on. For a decent used starter mountain bike, that is ready to ride, expect to spend in the range of $250 to $350.

Follow the tips below to help you focus on what is important while scanning through the many listings of the bikes you are interested in buying:

Frameset: Make sure the frame size fits you. The frame is the heart of the mountain bike. Stay with brand names such as Trek, Jamis, Cannonade, Kona and Specialized. There should be no defects of any kind or rust to the frame. Rust could mean that the bike was exposed to the weather at one time and got wet. Any description of cracks in the frame or the frame being twisted, move on to another listing. Don’t be too concerned about paint chips, though. Paint chips are not defects and are to be expected on a used mountain bike. A typical listing will have description of the condition of the frame pointing out any major chips or dings. There should also be pictures showing any major problems

Wheels: You want to have wheels that spin true with no hops. Wheels are another major component making up the mountain bike. They are expensive to replace – relative to the cost of the whole bike. If the wheels need truing, the seller should state that in the description. If the seller makes no mention of the condition of the wheels in the description, ask the seller about them. A bike shop can usually true a wheel (correct a small amount of side-to-side motion) for about $15 - $25. However, a hop caused by a dent in the rim usually cannot be fix and a new wheel or a rebuilt is needed. Tires should hold air and in good condition with at least a few hundred more miles of useful life. If the bike has rim brakes, the rims’ sidewalls should not have any deep gouges or hollows. Ask the seller about the condition of the rims’ sidewalls if they are not mentioned in the description.

Brakes: V-brakes or disc brakes, make sure the brake pad are usable and have plenty of miles on them. If you have to buy new pads, they can cost anywhere from $15 to $25 to replace. There should no indication of any bent to the brake levers or any “play.” There should be no broken, frayed or rusty brake cables.

Drive train: There should be no mention of “play” with the crank, which may be an indication of problem with the bottom bracket. The same goes for the pedals. The chain and cassette should not be rusty. The seller should indicate whether or not the shifters shift smoothly or if there are any problems, such as skipping cogs or not shifter to the smallest or the largest cogs.

Buying a complicated machine such as a mountain bike on eBay can be scary, especially for someone new to eBay and to mountain bikes. However, with a little preparation and patience, you will be able to buy a reasonably priced, quality, ready to ride, used mountain bike on eBay.

Assembled 2001 Marin Palisades Trail


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    • EricOnline profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New Jersey

      Ask questions and ask for more pictures. If still in doubt, move on to another auction. Get eBay and PayPal involved when dealing with dishonest sellers.

    • profile image

      Megan Bupp 

      8 years ago

      Do not buy from fishbuster1--this individual sold me a Trek bike listed in "excellent" condition. The bike had a bent rear rim and rust on all exposed bolts, just to name a couple defects. The listing said the bike looked to have been used only once or twice, and the seller refused to comment on why the description stated that it was in excellent condition when it was well worn and not cared for properly. Seller said condition was a difference of opinion and responded very rudely to my messages. Please contact me at for more seller details--I have never had complaints about an ebay seller before, but this one is definitely one to avoid!

    • maotianwu201 profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub and good info, thank you to share!


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