Used Bike Inflation?

Median price, First 50 items for sale on Craigslist 8PM PDT 8/13/09

via Freakonomics blog

This Freakonomics piece made me chuckle. I’m pretty sure we’ve visited a couple of those used bike shops in Portland and were shocked by the prices as well.

In our quest to get more people to use bikes as transportation, we’re constantly telling people to check craigslist. We also tell people they can get a commuter/grocery getter for around $100. Am I telling lies?

How much for a decent used commuter bike in your city?

– Anne

8 responses to “Used Bike Inflation?

  1. As a seasoned Craigslister I’ve seen this inflation first hand. Prices have just gone through the roof. I can’t believe the number of “vintage Japanese steel” touring bikes that people for $300+. I’m old enough to remember seeing those things first hand in the stores. Many were $250 or less new.

    Maybe this means I should finally sell some of my old crap?

  2. you can find an old 3 speed for $100, but i doubt you could find a safe one that wouldn’t require another 200-300 worth of work to make safe. Rust, tire rot, and stretched cables makes for a dangerous ride to work.

    All of these numbers are way too low–especially if you need a mechanic to help with the fixes

    • I think you are right on, Robin. Most of these will need tuneups and the care of a good wrench. Considering that many of them (vintage steel or no) weren’t that great to begin with (mild, gauge, seamed, non-butted tubing was pretty common), it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to pay the CL averages and _then_ dump in another $2-300 in parts and labor.

      So are we telling lies? Well, the $100, working bike is harder to find. And instead of being ready to roll, the deal probably also involves pulling from a friends parts stash and bribing them into some wrenching w/ pizza and beer.

      Sure deals are out there, but it takes some time (and knowing whatyou are looking for. One thing is certain: A bargain “transport” bike doesn’t start w/a $300 “vintage CL find. If that’s the only entry point, then new riders are probably better off finding a solid new bike with warranty.

  3. I’ve noticed that the prices of bikes from the 70s on Boston’s Craigslist have gone up in the course of this year. There was a time you could buy a vintage French roadbike for next to nothing, but not anymore.

  4. I’m guessing not? I live in Harrisburg PA and I rarely see a good bike in the $100 price range. So I broke down and bought a $400 folding bike online with my tax refund. Still haven’t really used it because the gears are wacky and I cringe at the idea of taking it to my local bike shop and paying $50.00 to have the gears tuned. I did get a beat up Schwinn bike at Salvation Army for $30, it needs new tires, wheels, etc.

  5. Punditus Maximus

    You start getting non-crap around $200 here in Honolulu. You really wanna spend $300 tho, unless you’re knowledgeable.

    It really is worth $50 to have a bike nicely tuned.

  6. I live near Sacramento and regularly surf Sacto CL. Some of the prices I’ve seen for crappy bikes just blows me away. $150 for a beat up Varsity? Anything old and steel is termed “vintage” and priced almost as much as it cost 20 or 30 years ago. Newbies beware.

  7. Try garage sales – more leg work for you, but you are more likely to find the bargain that someone else just wants to get rid of.

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