Buying a second hand bike can be a great option for a lot of people, but you want to make sure you aren’t buying a stolen bike unaware. Having your bike stolen is an awful experience, and by buying a bike no questions asked, you could be encouraging the behaviour just because it’s a good deal.
There are some red flags that you should look for when buying a second hand bike, and also some great ways for you to try to reunite the bike with its original owner if you think it is stolen.
Is the price too good to be true?
If the bike is stolen, a lot of times the thief is looking for a quick sell to get it out of their hands. If you don’t know a lot about bikes yourself, do some research on the make and model of the bike and what similar second hand bikes are selling for in your area. If this one is way below the average asking price, then there might be something going on.
Are there photos of the bike itself?
Sometimes sellers can be a bit lazy, and stock photos may be used in an online ad, but in a lot of cases this can be a way to avoid the bike being recognized. If there are only stock photos within the ad, email the seller and ask to see some photos of the bike.
Is the ad lacking detail?
This can go for both the ad and seller themselves. If things are kept overly vague, this is a red flag. Often when someone has their bike stolen, they will be looking online for it to show up for sale, so many thieves will keep the ad as broad as possible. The make and model of the bike should be included in the ad, and the seller should at least have an email or phone number listed.
Check the serial number
If the seller won’t give you the bike’s serial number, walk away. The serial number can be checked within databases like Bike Index or Bike Register, so if the bike has been registered as stolen you can then take steps to involve the police. If the serial number has been filed off or covered in any way, this is also a sure sign that the bike was stolen.
You can never ask too many questions, and not just to check if the bike was stolen. Ask about any maintenance or work done on the bike over the past few years, and ask for the reason behind any mismatched parts. Is this a bike that would even fit the seller? Where is their favourite area to ride? If they don’t know much about the bike, or cycling in general, then that could be another red flag.
When it comes to taking a look at and even buying the bike, always pick a public place to meet and take someone with you. Don’t pay cash, but instead pay through something that can be traced like Paypal or an e-transfer, and get the seller’s name and phone number.
Buying a second hand bike is a great option, but you don’t want to buy a bike, only to realize it was stolen and be left with an empty wallet and no bike. So, do your homework ahead of time, and ask questions before even meeting up to look over the bike. Investing in insurance for your bike could also be a good idea.
If you do suspect a bike is stolen, contact your local authorities immediately!