We don’t like being ripped off, and we’re guessing you don’t either
The Internet makes it easier for us to buy and sell used bicycles, and we love it. Unfortunately, there is a small percentage of sellers out there looking to make a dishonest buck by selling you a stolen bike.
Here are some tips to make sure you don’t accidentally purchase a stolen bicycle and get ripped off.
Snoop The Serial Number
We cannot stress this enough. It’s easy to do and it takes roughly 15.7 seconds (and yes, we actually timed it out). Find out the serial number of the bike, then copy and paste into an online bicycle registry.
Tips For Getting The Serial Number
- If you’re buying online, it might be listed in the advertisement or post
- Ask the seller for it before agreeing to meet up
- If you’re meeting in person, try finding it engraved near the cranks or look for a QR code to scan
The registry will let you know if the bike has been reported as stolen and if it’s a valid serial number (also known as a frame ID).
If the serial number is stolen: Don’t buy the bicycle!
If the serial number is invalid: Either the bike was never registered, or part of the serial number engraving has been altered.
Try a few different registries, but we recommend starting with these.
Use Your Thinking Cap
We have gut feelings and it’s important to notice them. If something about the bicycle or the seller seems off, you should listen to that. Some red flags to look out for include:
The bike doesn’t match the seller. Is the seller an 8’ tall adult trying to flip a bicycle more fit for a teenager? There are always exceptions and people sell bikes for different reasons, of course. But if it’s not matching up and doesn’t feel right, it could be a legit red flag.
There’s fresh paint. If there’s a fresh coat of paint, the seller may have recently tried to change its color to avoid being caught if the bicycle was originally stolen. It is certainly possible they were trying to fix it up for the listing, just be careful and keep your eyes open.
Signs of vandalism. Does it look like the bike’s frame is bent? When a bicycle is stolen, sometimes parts other than the lock also get damaged. However, frames get bent for a variety of reasons.
Some of these indicators may not necessarily be red flags on their own. But when you add them up, does the situation see sketchy?
If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
That’s right! If the price seems unreasonably low (or high), the seller may be looking for a quick buck or trying to unload it quickly. A seller who understands the true value of a bicycle is more likely to value or price it appropriately than someone getting rid of a stolen one.