Second Hand Mountain Bikes: Buying on Ebay and Beyond

No matter how much we think they’re worth it, mountain bikes are pretty expensive when you get to the higher end models. A brand new, decent full suspension bike will normally set you back at least £1,500 and for a quality component spec you can go far higher. Add to that the fact that you lose a huge percentage of that value in terms of resale price as soon as you wheel it out the door and you soon end up with a wallet full of scared looking VISA cards. Second Hand Mountain Bikes make the sport  a bit more accessible, though, and today I want to offer a bit of advice from my own second hand market experience.

Since graduating beyond my first £500 hardtail I’ve always ridden second hand mountain bikes, and while I’ve had a couple of problems along the way, the huge saving in cost far outweighs the disadvantages. High-end bikes are built to last, especially the frames, and if it’s been looked after and you confirm this with the seller, then there’s no reason why you should have any trouble.

So, in case you’re thinking about it, I thought I’d post some ‘buying second hand bikes’ advice that I’ve picked up over the last few years and this first post concerns mountain bikes on ebay in particular.

Buying on Ebay


I’ve done a lot of shopping on Ebay in the past and, touch wood, I’ve never been stung badly yet. I know it’s entirely possible to be completely ripped off but I think with a bit of advice you can reduce the chances hugely. Obviously, buying on ebay is completely at your own risk but here’s a few tips based on what I’ve learned over 5 years on ebay shopping.

  1. Check their feedback. This seems obvious but it’s ebay’s prime way of avoiding dodgy sellers, and it works. I would never pay £600 for a frame from a seller with less than 10 feedback. Make sure you only pay the big bucks to folks with over 40 or 50 in their feedback rating. Obviously there are sellers out there with less who are completely trustworthy but I just don’t think it’s worth the risk.
  2. Read the ad carefully. I always trust a well written ad far more than one with tons of spelling and grammar mistakes. From experience you get far better service from those that can write a decent ad, and the description tends to be more accurate. Hastily and badly written ads seem to be far more likely to include lies about the quality of items and completely miss out the fact that, say, the back derailleur is knackered.
  3. Do some research. The prices on ebay can vary wildly, but it you know what kind of bike you’re looking for you can watch a few of them and see what they go for. You’ll notice that there’s an average price for everything, but sometimes individual items go for far more. Be patient and don’t bid above the average. You might have to wait another week or so but other bikes of the same spec will come up and you’ll get them for a better price.

With these tips you should cut down on a lot of the problems, and always remember, as long as the seller has a good amount of feedback, then Paypal cover you if the bike’s not as advertised. Anything massively wrong and you can apply for a refund. Above are a few examples of the type of frames you can pick up for a bargain these days. Browse on through and check out the rest.

Good and Bad experiences

My worst experience of ebay shopping centred around the first full suspension bike I bought. I spent £600 on a 3 year old Specialized Stumpjumper and despite my worries, it turned up a mere 3 days later. I discovered straight away though that the back derailleur, a Shimano XTR rapid rise, was completely knackered and needed replacing. Further inspection showed me that the chain rings were in pretty bad nick too, and a quick test ride produced copious amounts of chain-suck. All in all, I wasn’t best pleased with my supposed dream machine. I fitted a new XT derailleur and rode the bike for a few months, but I just didn’t get into it after my initial disappointment and sold it locally soon after, losing a bit of money (around £150) when I did so due to the derailleur, damaged chainset and general condition.

Coincidentally my brother had bought a very similar machine at exactly the same time and received his in perfect condition. He got a bargain of a deal, the bike arriving with a higher spec than mine and looking like it had hardly ever been used. He did get his dream machine and is still riding it today.

How to tell the difference between the two is a tricky one though, and to be honest, apart from sticking to the three tips above, I’ve not sure what else you can do. You can save a lot of money though and get yourself an awesome bike so, as long as you can afford the risk, it’s definitely worth browsing the second hand mountain bikes eBay space.

Obviously, you can entirely bypass these dilemmas by buying locally and making a good inspection of the bike before buying. You lose the variety and choice gained by shopping nationally though, and could spend months trying to find the perfect bike. It can be worth it to bypass the risk however, and the prices can be even cheaper. Anyway, look out for a separate post on that subject in the future, and good luck with the ebay shopping!


Colin started mountain biking in the early 2000s and has haphazardly, and with barely increasing skill, dragged his bike around the majority of Scotland's trail centres since then. Colin has oodles of hard earned experience in how NOT to do things - listen, be warned and don't repeat his mistakes...   More about Colin... Google+ Colin

7 Responses

  1. Marc Crowley says:

    I’ve had mainly positive experiences with buying second hand, though a few bad ones.

    Over 15 years of changing bikes about the same number as years I’ve had 3 bikes which just weren’t as described. 1 from a cycle shop who refunded immediately on return and two from chancers who I managed to recover all but the postage cost through PayPal. The extra point I’d add onto your advice is ask several questions about the bike before buying so you have email evidence to present to PayPal/Ebay that shows you had agreed a condition of the bike before the sale and that it’s not just a difference of opinion with regard to wear and tear.

    To finish on a positive point, the few times I’ve lost out on £60 postage for a duff bike I’ve probably saved myself more on the good ones.

  2. Colin Gray says:

    That’s pretty much the view I have on it Marc – thanks for commenting.

    You’re always going to get a few lemons over the years. I’ve had to send back 1, and get part refunds on another 2 or 3 bikes, but Paypal and eBay are pretty good for making sure you get a fair deal, and most people are reasonable as long as you are too.

    Great point there too when buying any second hand bike, not just mountain bikes – always ask the questions. As you say Marc, it’s hard to come back and complain about the condition if you haven’t really drilled down to what they’re claiming it’s like. It’s a lot harder for them to argue with something that they’ve told you directly by email before the sale went ahead.

    Thanks again Marc, and keep us updated with your future 2nd hand purchases!


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  5. Benn says:

    Hey I’m looking to start cycling. I am quite technical so looking at getting a second hand bike. What would you recommend.
    Im 5ft 10″ so looking at an 18″ bike

  1. July 9, 2014

    […] and have picked up a few tricks on how to weed out the good from the bad (Click here for my tips on how to search for a quality second hand bike online) – if you’ve ever done much searching yourself you’ll know there’s a […]

  2. December 16, 2015

    […] 4 bikes on eBay now, some good, some not so good, so learn from my mistakes. Read about it here: Buying second hand mountain bikes on eBay. There’s a great range on eBay a lot of the time, for […]

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