The trials and tribulations of buying a second hand bicycle

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My seven-year-old daughter has outgrown her bike. The search is now on for a replacement that will meet the needs of a surprisingly tall seven-year-old.

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Helen, on her bike when she first got it. The same machine needs replacing as she has outgrown it. 

The last time I bought her a bicycle, it was a painful process. I insisted on buying Helen a second hand bike, reasoning that she would outgrow it very quickly.

I also prefer to buy second hand for environmental reasons. Items like bikes should be reused. If properly maintained, they can last years and years. Most of the bikes I had as a kid were second hand.

Little did I realise that the second hand bike market had been decimated since I became a father. As a boy I recall going into bicycle shops and seeing rack upon rack of second hand bikes, especially for children.

I expected to swan into my local outlet and swan out with a perfectly good, second hand bike for my daughter. Alas, I looked in numerous bicycle shops and struggled to find anything that had already been used.

I asked one shop owner why no one seemed to stock them. He explained pre-used bicycles are now subject to VAT, something they historically were not. In addition to this, they can be made very cheaply in China and elsewhere. Add VAT onto a second hand machine and the price is almost comparable to a new item.

I have checked the facts and it’s not quite as simple as my shopkeeper friend claimed. Even so, if you look online you will see incredibly geeky discussion between accountants as they argue about what is and is not subject to VAT when buying and selling bikes.

The result of all this is that you either have to buy a second bike through a private sale or search high and low for one of the few, specialist retailers that sell nothing but used machines.

The problem is, the specialist retailers are very thin on the ground. On this occasion I am resorting to eBay and other similar sources. Of course you have to factor in courier costs, although I have just discovered Shiply.com. It’s a service that enables courier firms to bid for your business. I have used it to get quotes for couriering large items and the results have been very impressive, both in terms of the speed I’ve had responses and the prices quoted.

I could just buy her a new bike. Only thing is, I am too stubborn! If something is difficult I tend to see it as a challenge and try even harder to get my way.

Having set myself the challenge of getting her a second hand bike, that’s exactly what I am going to do! Wish me luck.

Are you like me and insist on buying your children second hand bikes?  Do you think I am making life difficult for myself? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.


This post was produced in association with Shiply. 

3 thoughts on “The trials and tribulations of buying a second hand bicycle”

  1. That’s more true John Adams, it is more tough to buy Second hand bicycles. Most people are not ready to buy used products because the shop owners only aims at marketing the bicycles and they doesn’t worry about our safety, so they sold bad conditioned cycles for an expensive price with their marketing skills. Hence most people prefer to buy the new ones. Great Post!

  2. As a mother, I found your article on point and very true.
    I have been avoiding the decathlon as much as I could (except for the helmets and protection gears) and I think second-hand bikes for kids should be the way to go : most of them are still in mint conditions as the kids grow up quick and don’t have time to deteriorate the cycle.
    I found my luck several time on the website Secondbike, where they have dedicated page for kids and teens bikes which is more convenient than going through gumtree or ebay, in my opinion.
    Anyway, keep on with the nice articles, me and my husband love it!

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