Why would you buy a bike at a garage sale?

For many, waking up early in the morning to be the first at garage sales is thrilling and adventurous. Garage sales generally offer great deals because people want to get rid of their stuff they no longer use. You may never know what you will find, and that’s the exciting part. You may go garage sale hunting for a specific item, or maybe you go because you are curious to see what you’ll find.

If you are in the market for a bike, garage sales are a good place to look. Secondhand bikes are a great option if you want to get into biking, and if you don’t want to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a new bike. Maybe you have a nice road bike, but you want a bike to run errands. And if your bike gets stolen, you wouldn’t feel too bad about it because you spent little money on it. Maybe you want an extra bike for when your friends come to visit from out of town. Or maybe you are looking for a project bike that you can flip for extra money.

With routine maintenance, a good quality bike can last for decades. Garage sales are great because you can find bikes that haven’t been ridden in years or sometimes decades. Either because the owner loses interest in biking or physically can’t bike anymore like they use to. When that happens, the bike sits away in a garage, just waiting for someone to ride.

What to Check on a Bike before Making an Offer

Ideally, when you are looking for bikes at a garage sale, you don’t want a bike that needs a lot of work. It’s not wise to buy a bike for $30 than have to put another $150 to get the bike to a ridable condition. At that point, you might as well look for a new bike.

Tires –

Inspect the tires carefully for wear and tear. Look to see if the tires are cracked or have stretch marks. If there are, then it would be recommended to purchase new tires. New tires cost around $30 each if both tires need to be replaced then that’s another $60 going to the bike. If the tires are in good shape, then that’s a great start.

Tubes –

Are the tubes flat or inflated with good pressure? In case you find a bike with deflated tubes, bring a bike pump with you so you can inflate the tubes and see if there is a hole or not. Tubes can lose air slowly over a long period if the bike hasn’t been ridden for a while.

Brakes –

Check the brake pads to see how worn down they are. Brake pads are fairly inexpensive, so this shouldn’t make or break the deal. Then check one brake at a time. Squeeze the brake lever for the front brake to see if the bike pads make contact with the tire and releases from the tire when you let go of the brake lever than do the same for the rear bike brake. Also, lift the tires off the ground and spin the tires to see if they make contact with the brake pad. Without the brake lever engaged, you want the wheel to spin freely.

Gears –

Gears are a little harder to check without a proper bike stand or riding the bike. If you are by yourself, you can flip the bike upside down, so the bike sits on the seat and handlebars. Spin the pedals, so the chain engages the wheels. Now, as the tires are spinning in the air, change one gear at a time on the front gear shifter, then do the same for the rear gear shifter. Do the gears change smoothly, or do the gears jump around? Do you hear any scraping of metal? If the gears change smoothly without scraping sounds, then you are in good business. If not, it’s not the end of the bike. To adjust the gears, so they do not jump around is a quick fix for a bike mechanic. Or you can explore on the web on how to adjust gears on your own.

Cassette –

Can you find evidence of rust? If so, the bike may need a new cassette. You can still ride a bike with a rusty cassette, but it wouldn’t be ideal for commuting around the city.

Test Ride –

If the tubes have air, ask the owner if you can take the bike for a spin. When biking, first test the brakes. Do they respond in a manner that would make you feel comfortable biking around town? How does the bike feel? Do you feel any vibrations or bumps? If you do, the bike might need the tires trimmed or new wheel bearings and may not be worth purchasing. Check the gears. Do they still change smoothly and not jump around?



Should You Make an Offer?

It all depends on the purpose of the bike. Only make an offer if you feel the bike will meet your needs. If you are looking for a bike to get around town, then it might not need to meet the whole checklist above. It may just need good brakes and decent tires. If you are looking to get into biking as a form of exercise, then having a bike that meets the criteria above will be important. Because there is nothing fun about riding a squeaking bike. However, it also depends on the price. If you can find a great road bike for under $30-50 that may need a little maintenance work or new tires, then it may be worth it.

How to Negotiate                                                                                                  

Always negotiate, but before I do, I always like talking to the owner about the bike and my biking experience. The owner might be very fond of the bike and would be more willing to negotiate if he or she knew the bike was going to a good home.


Garage sales offer a great way to purchase a great bike for a low cost without sacrificing the quality as long as you closely review the bike beforehand. It’s a great way to get into biking without spending the money on a new bike. As long as bikes are well maintained, they will hold their value and quality for years of enjoyment. To find out more about biking click here.

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