8 Tips For Buying a Used Electric Bike You May Not Know

Hand with finger on the button

If you are on a budget and want to buy an ebike, then you have two options, buy a cheap new one or brave the uncertainty of buying a used one. In this article, I will give you 8 tips for buying a used electric, but not the typical ones you may have heard before. Hopefully, this will increase your chances of getting a decent one.

These will be tips for when you have found a potential ebike that you may want to purchase. If you want to know How to buy your first electric bike then please read this article – “9 Insights to Know Before You Buy Your First Electric Bike” (don’t worry, this will open in a new tab)

Here are my tips for buying a used electric bike

  • #1 Don’t buy any used electric bike without seeing it first
  • #2 When you show up to see it, check it over thoroughly 
  • #3 Make sure you are able to test ride it first
  • #4 Make sure you are buying from the owner
  • #5 Ask the owner why they are selling it
  • #6 Make sure it comes with the charger
  • #7 Ask the owner if they are the original owner and where they bought it
  • #8 Always be friendly and courteous 🙂

If you have just started looking into buying an ebike, you may notice that the prices can vary by thousands of dollars. There are many cheap electric bikes on the market and by cheap I mean under $2000. That doesn’t seem all the cheap, right?

Consider that 75% of new electric bikes sold in the US are between $1500 and $4000. So under $2000 is on the cheaper side of new electric bikes. Most of the ebikes in this price range will be ones that are sold online only and will have their pros and cons.

Read –The Pros and Cons of Buying an Electric Bike Online” (this will open in a new tab, too)

If you have read the above article you can see that cheap online ebikes can have some challenges, but they can get you ebiking without breaking the bank. But sometimes you can find an amazing ebike second-hand that will last you for years.

So here is a deeper dive into the 8 Tips for Buying a Used Electric Bike

Tip #1 – Don’t Buy a Used Electric Bike Without Seeing It First

I would not even try to buy a used ebike from someone online and just have it shipped to me, hoping it is a gem. Shipping ebikes in and of itself is a pain and not worth your time. Expect to pay $150 to $400 just to have it shipped 🙁 (after paying that, it still may show up damaged)

Search your local area and find someone selling their electric bike that is near enough to you, so that you can go over and check it out.

I have worked in the bike industry for over 2 decades and never recommend to anyone they buy a used bike, sight unseen! Bikes get ridden hard sometimes and electric bikes can really be abused, so make sure you can buy it in person.

Tip #2 – When You Show Up to See It, Check It Over Thoroughly

Now that you are able to see the ebike in person there are some things you check out – 

  • Observe the overall appearance.

Is it covered in dust? Did the owner at least clean it up a little before you came over? Does the frame have a lot of scratches? Is it ready to ride?

These things will tell you a lot about the owner and a bit about the bike.

  • Does the ebike look like it’s been well taken care of?

Check for rust on the chain, wear on the tires like skid patches, funky looking grips (grips can get really grimy) scratches on the pedals (usually means the bikes been laid on its side a lot or ridden pretty hard around rocks)

Also, check the shift and brake cable housing to see if any of its cracking. Just follow the cables from the levers to the brakes and derailleur(s). Cable housing can start to crack over time and this would be something you would need to replace right away.

  • Could you hop on it right then and there and go for a ride? 

Is the saddle in good shape? No tears or mold. (foam saddles can get moldy if left outside in the rain for long periods of time)

Are the tires properly inflated? Just sit on the bike and see if bounces a lot. Most people don’t keep their tires inflated well. All tires lose a little air just sitting around.

This is not a deal-breaker if the tires are low, but good to know before you test ride it. Also says something about the owner if they at least pumped up the tires before you got there.

  • I know it’s gross but, look for cobwebs

If have had people bring their neglected bikes into the shop, only to find out that spiders have made it their home (not fun). This should be pretty easy to see if there are spider webs forming on it.

  • Turn it on and check the display

Electric bikes have a display that will tell you the total mileage on the bike. If you are unfamiliar with the ebike brand, then ask the owner to show you how the electric controls work. If the display is cracked or does not work, don’t buy it. The display is crucial for an ebike. Some displays are not easy to replace.

Also, make sure they show you the total miles on the bike. If there is no way to tell or they say that function does not work anymore, then I would not buy it. You wouldn’t buy a car with a broken odometer and just go by the word of the owner, right?

Just use common sense, if the bike looks neglected it has been neglected, and neglected bikes will need a lot of work.

Tip #3 – Make Sure You are Able to Test Ride It First

Kind of seems like a no-brainer, but make sure the bike is ridable. It does not have to be perfect. Show up ready to go for a ride!

Most used electric bikes will need some attention. People don’t go and get their used ebike all perfect before selling it, but it should at least be ridable.

Before test riding it, if there was anything you noticed from Tip #2 that needs attention make sure to get it resolved first. We want the ebike to be safe to ride.

These include – 

  • Proper tire pressure (ask the owner to use their bike pump, if the bike has been taken care of, then the owner should have a pump)
  • Make sure the stem is tight (stand in front of the bike and put the front wheel between your legs, then try to twist the handlebars. If the stem is loose and you go for a ride, it will end badly)
  • Make sure the seatpost is tight (try to turn the seat)
  • Check the battery level on the display (don’t go out for a long ride with a low battery)

If everything checks out then go for a test ride and see how the bike rides.

  •  Shift through all the gears. If it has a throttle, make sure that it’s working properly. 
  • Squeeze the brakes hard and see if you can get it to skid a little. Don’t purposely try to skid a bunch, but good working brakes should be able to skid a tire.
  • Go through each assist mode and feel that the motor is assisting well in each.

Just give it a good thorough ride. Any red flags should be apparent.

Tip #4 – Make Sure You are Buying From the Owner

I would not recommend buying a used ebike from someone that is selling it for someone else. You will want to know some information about the bike that only the owner of it can tell you.

Anytime there is a middleman involved always seems a bit suspect to me. This tip is mostly for peace of mind knowing that you are not potentially buying a stolen ebike.

If the person selling the ebike is not the owner then no matter what their story is, I would walk away. There is a lot of theft in the bicycle industry and this apple to ebikes as well. 

Important! – If you buy a stolen electric bike then you are responsible for the consequences. The law often works out the same as if you stole it!

Tip #5 – Ask The Owner Why They Are Selling It

Anytime you buy something expensive used it is always a good idea to ask why they are selling it. This definitely includes electric bikes.

It may seem a little forward but I would just ask if you can ask. Just say “May I ask you why you are selling it?” Most people will be happy to answer. I’m sure you have been asked this when selling something used. It is not a big deal but can be revealing.

When it comes to used electric bikes the answer can be something like – 

  • I just really need the money right now (lets you know you can negotiate price)
  • I had an injury and can’t ride anymore (unfortunate, but also a good answer)
  • I bought a better one (this is a good answer, happens a lot)
  • I just don’t ride it anymore (with this answer I would ask some follow-up questions)
  • I don’t like it (ask follow-ups, but not a deal-breaker, some people buy the wrong ebike)
  • We’re moving (always love people on the move, they get rid of stuff)
  • I got old (they should have ridden their ebike more) 🙂

Just to name a few, but be attentive to their response. You can learn a lot.

Tip #6 – Make Sure It Comes With the Charger

This is easy to forget! Make sure the owner has the charger and it works. Try plugging in the ebike and checking the display to see if it’s getting a charge. Every ebike will be a little different.

I would recommend you look up that particular ebike before you go over to check it out and see what to look for when it’s charging.

Don’t buy a used electric bike without a working charger. Some older electric bikes are hard to find chargers for. If it is a pretty good ebike system i.e. Bosch, Yamaha, or Shimano, then you can probably find a replacement.

If it’s a random online brand x, there may not be an available charger to be found.

Tip #7 – Ask the Owner if They are the Original Owner and Where They Bought It

It’s always best if you can buy from the original owner. The original owner will know the entire history of the ebike and whatever maintenance has been done on the bike.

By this point in the sale, you should have some rapport with the owner so you can chat about the bike and how it’s been ridden. Just get a feel for whether they take care of their stuff or not.

Also, ask the owner where they bought the bike. This could be good to know if they bought it at a local shop that you can also go to for help or if they bought it online.

Electric bike warranties are almost always for the original owner only, even if you are still within the warranty period. So if there is a local dealer that you can go to, wouldn’t that be good to know?

If they originally bought the bike online, make sure it does not need any repairs. Many bike shops will not take in electric bikes that they do not sell.

#8 – Always be Friendly and Courteous

This should be a mantra for healthy living! Being friendly and courteous can go a long way. Some people may even give you a break on the price just because you were nice to them. 🙂

This does not mean being ingenuous, Just Be Nice. You may find that after all this you don’t want to buy the bike and if you’ve been a friendly person the whole time then the ebike owner won’t feel like you’ve wasted their time. 

At The End of the Day

I hope you can use these tips to make your purchase of a used bike a good one. Hopefully, there was something in all this that you did not think of and it saved you some hassle.

Buying a used electric bike is a gamble, but so is buying a cheap new one.

If you do your due diligence and search around with patience, you may just be able to find a diamond out there and have of amazing ebike journey, not to mention save some dough too!