If you're looking to grab a bargain bike from an online auction site such as eBay or Madbid, make sure you read our advice first. It could save you a wad of cash in the long run, or keep you from falling into the pitfalls that surround making a purchase without seeing the item first hand.
There's no doubt that you can find a lot of good deals online and potentially in an auction. Generally we wouldn't recommend buying your first bike online unless you're an experienced mechanic or you're able to get a professional to look over your potential purchase.
If you're buying a second-hand bike then you should pay heed to our 10 essential tips to make sure you don't buy something that's damaged.
Ask about the condition of the bike. Rust and and reduced tyre tread are two things to specifically look out for when buying online. It's definitely worth asking a seller for further pictures to check any areas of the bike you're unsure about.
It's also worth asking why the owner has decided to sell the bike.
Suspension can be difficult to check from pictures, but you can ask if a newer bike is still under warranty. Cheaper bikes' suspension often has a short working life, so rigid bikes can be the way to go here.
Keep some money aside
If you do buy a bike on eBay remember to set aside £50 to 75 to get it sorted mechanically at your local bike shop during the first month of owning it. You won't be able to send your bike back to the buyer.
Make sure it's the right size
Another obvious thing to bear in mind is to make sure you're getting the size that's right for you. If possible, check out the size of the same (or a similar) model of bike at your local bike shop so as to be able to check that you're choosing the correct frame size. Don't be tempted to buy a bike that's too big or too small just because it's a bargain.
Is it a stolen bike?
It is prudent to check that a bike has not been stolen before buying it. If a bike is being sold way below market value, ask yourself why. If it's too good a deal to be true, it probably is. Does the owner know the bike's full history? You can check frame numbers (ask for a picture of it; it's usually under the bike or on the frame and sometimes on a sticker) or BikeChecker ID numbers on the national database or checkthatbike! to find out whether a bike is stolen. If you have doubts, don't purchase.
Is the seller reliable?
View a seller's feedback to see their selling history. Lots of satisfied previous customers is ideal, while you can scrutinise any negative feedback before making your purchase decision.
Check the postage
It's also worth keeping an eye on the postage costs – sellers can specify rather large costs if they're to send the bike to you. If possible, go and collect your new purchase yourself, at which point you can then examine the bike for defects. If that's not an option then ask for a rough quote for the postage if none is stated, ask for the bike to be disassembled and cleaned before they send it – excess mud and so on can add to the weight and hence the cost.
Don't drink and buy
Finally, don't purchase anything when affected by alcohol. Seriously. We know of plenty of people who have bid more than they really wanted to after a couple of drinks. Set your maximum bid limit and stick to it, although many sellers will only set a Buy It Now price.