Tips for buying a second hand bike (that is not stolen)

Buying second hand can be a fantastic way to buy a bike; there are some great bargains to be found. But you have to be careful to make sure you don’t end up buying a stolen bike.

Here are five tips for buying a second hand bike (online) that is not stolen:

1. Proof of ownership

An original receipt is a golden nugget when it comes to proof of ownership. But, if the seller has genuinely lost their paperwork they still might be able to find an email or some sort of payment confirmation.

Ask for photos. Ideally there would be some history to the photos, as well as a brand new photo. If the photos show different locations then that will show that they have had the bike for some time (especially if the seller is shown riding in the photos as well).

One item definitely to ask for is the bike frame number. When you have this frame number, do run it through an online bike checking service and ‘Google it’. The BikeRegister database checker can be found here – But do take this sort of service with a pinch of salt, BikeRegister have registered around one million bikes (since they began). This sounds like a lot of bikes and is, however it’s very small compared to the number of bikes in circulation. Over three million bikes are sold every year in the UK alone.

2. Ask questions

Ask for a phone call. It’s usually easy to get a feel for a person over the phone. Do they sound knowledgeable about the bike or cycling in general?

Ask probing questions. If they are selling a ‘Pinarello Dogma F10’ and can’t tell you about the different bike parts, or fail completely at basic cycling lingo, then that should ring alarm bells. If someone is a genuine seller and a cyclist they should be more than open to discussing the bike with you. It’s worth pointing out that some people might not be comfortable with handing over their phone number to you for their own genuine safety reasons, in this case try to keep to the messaging system within the platform/website (if available).

3. Analyse the listing

Is the price ridiculously low? It might be that the seller is still genuine and you have fallen on a true bargain. But, 9 times out of 10, a much lower than normal price could be a warning sign. As with most things in life, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Even if you are not buying through ‘Ebay’, it can still be a useful platform for researching the average price, (look at live and completed listings) the bike model/brand you are looking at is usually listed as sold for.

As well as the price, how does the description read? Is it very short and lacking detail? It’s common for thieves to keep the listing very short, not to name the bike parts or condition. Even as far as not mentioning the bike brand name and just listing it as say a ‘blue road/racing bike’. It might be that they don’t know the details, or don’t want the true details to be easily searchable online.

Are the photos of the actual bike or are they ‘stock photos’? If the photos are lacking detail or just a standard stock photo, then ask the seller to send you some photos. Thieves tend not to post a real image of the bike.

4. Research the seller

If you are looking at Ebay or Gumtree, then does the seller have any seller history?  Do check the feedback if it’s on Ebay and avoid the seller/bike if they are either new, with no feedback, or have already sold an unrealistic number of bikes.

Do a quick online search for their username as some sellers may have been discussed on forums such as LFGSS.

5. When meeting the seller

If you meet the seller face-to-face, make sure it’s at their home or business address. Do not accept a meeting place such as a local park or down an alleyway.  Consider taking a friend with you, especially if you have any sort of concern.

Remember that if it turns out to be a bike thief, they’re most likely involved in other crimes as well as stealing bikes. They are not people you would want to meet in a quiet place (or anywhere…)

Paying in cash? If you are then do check the bike over (including the frame number – if it has been shaved off, or does not match what you had been previously advised, then make your excuses and don’t purchase) before getting your wallet out and make sure you are comfortable with the seller, so ask some friendly questions about the bike and about their experiences riding.

Get a receipt and include the full name of the seller, address, signature and price paid for the bike. When doing this, ask them to show you a form of ID with their name and address. This might seem excessive and awkward, but it will add to your overall peace of mind.

If you buy through Ebay or via another online platform, then you might not actually meet the seller face-to-face, if the bike is shipped to you. In this case, points 1-4 become even more important. Though one slight benefit of sites like Ebay (there are other smaller sites), is that they do offer a form of buyer protection and you can also use PayPal as the payment method. So if things don’t go to plan, then there are some fall back options.


If you find a stolen bike listed, don’t buy it. Instead try and find the owner (they might have posted it on @StolenRide or elsewhere) and tell the platform (some have a reporting/flagging mechanism) as well as contacting the police by calling 101.