Many customers have asked if we sell second hand e bikes or if we can help sell their one. Until now we haven’t been able to assist with much in the way of the secondhand market. So we have launched a classifieds service allowing anyone, not just Powerbikes customers, to advertise for free their old bike, e bike and any unwanted accessories for FREE! This means anyone can take advantage of the thousands of people who visit the Powerbikes website. Or the avid bargain hunters among you can find a bike, lights or maybe set of unused pannier bags, at a wallet friendly price.
You can find the new classified section in the main navigation menu at the top of the page or by clicking on the link below.
The new classifieds section is still in trial stages so there will be changes and updates as we go forwards. Please feel free to contact us if you have any suggestions or notice any problems with the new section. There are many pros and cons to buying second hand vs buying new. Second hand you get a cheaper price and less depreciation. But you must take into consideration the lack of warranty, after sales support, wear and tear already occurred, battery condition and if the bike has a history. Sometimes the lure of a bargain is all that it takes to buy second hand instead of brand new. To make sure you don’t end up buying a rotten egg here is a rough guide to buying a second hand e bike.
Buying a Secondhand E Bike
First before even contacting the seller, do your research. Some bikes have common faults that are well documented on forums and review websites. A little bit of research can help steer you in the right direction and gives you good model specific questions to ask. Doing your research will mean you know what to look out for. Maybe model X of 2014 had major motor problems? Or Model Y had an upgrade in late 2015? You’ll also be able to find out what the availability of spares will be like for that bike, and the price of them. They say knowledge is power. This is very true when buying a second hand e bike.
Ask, ask, ask! Don’t be afraid to ask questions as the seller shouldn’t be afraid to answer them. During your research you’ll probably find a few model specific ones to ask. Here are a few that always need answering before buying a second hand e bike.
- Does the seller have the original documents and receipt that came with the bike? Not everyone will still have the original documents but it’s a good indication that the bike is not stolen.
- Why are they selling it? Lack of use may mean you need to question the battery condition. If it’s been plugged in for an hour every couple of months that will help the battery. If it was left for 18 months with a flat battery in a shed at the bottom of the garden then this doesn’t bode well for the bike or the battery. However if they are upgrading and just want to free up some funds for the new bike then they will probably still be riding it and may well have been properly looked after.
- Battery Key and Charger? Again another good indication if the bike is stolen. If they don’t have either and can’t produce good proof of purchase or ownership then best walk away.
- Any manufacturer warranty left? If the bike isn’t too old it may still have a warranty. Not always transferable to new owners but is good to know. A little extra reassurance can be backed up if the owner has the original documents.
- How many miles has it done?
- When was it last serviced and by who? These questions go hand in hand really. Yes it is possible to “clock” an e bike but if the seller is honest you will get a good idea of the condition of the bike. If he isn’t then you can make up your own mind there by checking what he said to what you find when you view the bike. e.g. tyres, brakes, bearings all worn out but mileage mentioned and on display suspiciously low. Or you were told a low mileage but the display says otherwise. If you know who serviced it you can ask them about the bikes condition or if it even was serviced by them.
- What is the sellers address? If they don’t want to meet where they live or are suggesting a public location alarm bells should start to ring. If they are happy to meet at their house then there is less chance of the bike having been stolen.
This goes without saying really. Once you do go and see the bike, give it a good coat of looking at. Before you even turn the e bike on inspect for any obvious damage. You’ll soon be able to tell if the bike has been well cared for. Check for play in the head stock by holding the front brake and rocking the bike forwards and backwards. Any play can sometimes be adjusted out but it can often be a sign of hard use and frame damage. Make sure the bars are attached tight and don’t turn. While you’re at the handle bars check the brakes, condition of brake and gear cables or any leaks from hydraulics if it has any. Lift the rear of the bike and make sure gears change and select smoothly. Once you are happy with brakes, gears and handlebars move onto the front forks and wheel.
Front Forks and Wheel
If suspension forks make sure they are free from corrosion, not weeping oil and operate correctly. Fork Seals should be clean with no leaks and there should be no knocking noises when weight is applied and released. Don’t worry too much if brake blocks or pads are low, these are cheap serviceable parts. Lift the front of the bike and spin the wheel forwards. Check it runs straight and true with no wobbles. Try and wobble the wheel side to side checking for any wear in the bearings. Make sure there are no damaged, broken or loose spokes. This is especially important if there is a motor in the hub. If it has disk brakes make sure the disk is not warped.
Moving back on the bike look at the Chainrings, chain, bottom bracket, pedals and front derailleur if it has one. The Chainrings and chain should be free from build ups of dirt and rust with no visible signs of wear. If there are lips, sharp edges or uneven wear on the chainrings they will need replacing. A handy tool to have is a chain wear indicator. (These are cheap, regularly checking your chain and replacing when necessary greatly reduces the wear on the rest of the more expensive drive train.) If you have one, drop in a chain checker tool and you’ll immediately know if it needs replacing. If you don’t then you can still get a good idea by pulling the chain forwards on the largest chainring. It shouldn’t lift further than two thirds up the valley of the teeth. Spin the pedals, everything should move freely with no gritty noises. Try pulling the crank arm in and out, there should be no play or movement in the bottom bracket.
On the back wheel now repeat the process you performed on the front wheel. Wheel straight and true, brakes, spokes, bearings, tyre condition etc. One additional job will be to check the cassette and derailleur for wear or any signs of damage. When viewing from the rear you should see the derailleur in line with the chain.
(If it has rear suspension)
Although everything is supposed to be attached and torqued to manufacturer settings it’s unlikely you are going to be carrying the spec sheet and a torque wrench with you. So for a quick idea of rear suspension condition the first thing to do is check for any lateral play. Or a more technical term, “give it a wobble”. There should be no movement side to side. Look for any signs of corrosion or leaks. Some oil is normal but larger amounts can be indicative of a leak. Lastly inspect the swing arms, mounting points and main shock housing for cracks or any signs of damage.
You can check this as you go round the bike but if you haven’t yet, now is a good time. Any cracks, splits, bends, dints? Pay particular close attention to welds looking for any cracks in them. If you find any cracks you’re normally best walking away there and then. If you can, take down the frame numbers (normally under the bottom bracket) and any security marking numbers. For your own peace of mind you can enter these into databases such as the National Bike Register or contact Datatag (if it has datatag markings) to see if the bike is stolen. Partially removed datatag sticker or frame number filed off? Walk away.
Once you’re happy with everything you can move on the the electrical side of things.
I know you want to turn it on but I’m sure you can hold off a moment longer. Start with a visual check of the battery. Make sure it has no obvious signs of damage. If there is damage it could be a potential fire risk. Ask about it’s age, condition, range. These are normally the single most expensive component on the bike and older batteries will normally need replacing. Does it have a key to remove? Charger? If the owner doesn’t have the battery key or charger there is a possibility the bike is stolen. Remove the battery and check the terminals on both the battery and mount. These should be free from dirt, corrosion, burning and pitting. A good indicator of how well the bike has been looked after.
Just a few simple checks to help determine if there are any underlying problems before a test ride.
Hub Motors you can check as you are going over the wheels. Firstly make sure where the cable enters at the spindle there is no fraying or damage. Spin the wheel forwards and make sure it runs smoothly with no bearing noise. Look for any obvious damage or signs of burning.
Crank Motors, the first thing to check is the casing. Finding damage here doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a problem with motor operation but can show it’s had a hard life. Just like checking a bottom bracket, rotate the pedals and listen for any gritty or bearing noises. Try pulling the crank arm in and out and make sure there is no play.
Cables, Connections and Controller
Once you have finished with the motor you can follow the cables back to the controller checking for any damage or breaks. Look for wear at points where cables enter the frame. On folding bikes make sure to pay close attention to the cables around where it folds. As this is a pinch point it’s common for cables to wear and break here.
Now that you’ve had a good look over everything and all seems okay, switch the bike on. Ride slowly testing the motor, throttle if one is fitted and motor cut offs on the brakes if it has them.
Finally after all that it’s time to actually ride it!
If the seller is unwilling to let you take it for a test ride then I’d recommend walking away from the bike. A test ride is often the only way to discover electrical faults. If you can’t test it properly then you will never know it’s true condition until you’ve handed over cash – when it’s too late. There are plenty more e bikes available on the classifieds.
You might have looked over the brakes before and all seems well but before you get going it’s always good practice just to make sure they function properly.
Pedal Assist and Motor
The bike you are testing may have a Cadence sensor, Torque sensor or both! This is a part the research beforehand can come in handy with. Starting on the lowest power setting pedal slowly and make sure the assistance comes in. On Torque sensing e-bikes the power delivery is generally smoother and more natural feeling than a cadence sensor. With a cadence or rotational sensor as some people call it you often feel the motor kick in as it turns on. This varies bike to bike depending on how the manufacturer programmed the software. Try all the different power modes as you are riding. You should feel a noticeable difference between each mode as you change them. Listen out for any unusual noise from the motor. A slight whine is normal. Anything other than that could indicate problems.
Cycle through the gears. Make sure they all select quickly and smoothly with no clunkyness. If you can, find a hill to go up as this can help highlight any problems.
A good way to test the battery condition is to find a hill, put it on maximum assist and try going up the hill with as little pedal input as possible. Use the throttle as well if it has one. The idea is to maximise the power draw on the battery. If the bike cuts out then chances are the battery is in poor condition and needs replacing. Or there is a problem with the contacts for the battery.
Cheaper batteries will have a shorter life span than the more expensive ones such as Bosch or Shimano. If you’re looking at a Chinese bike then the battery will probably last about 2 years. On a more expensive bike it could last 4 or 5 years. This also all depends on how much it has been used, how it has been stored, how many charge cycles it has been through. Battery technology is constantly evolving. The more modern the bike, the better technology the battery should have.
Listening to the bike will help you find any problems. Any unusual knocks from suspension? Hear any creaking noises? Grinding, clicks or a rubbing noise? If there is a strange noise try to decipher where it is coming from. It could be nothing but when buying a bike you really don’t want to take the chance on an unknown.
Have a Think
Some people will try to pressure a quick sale. Tell them you still need to think about it and don’t fall into the trap of a quick sale if you have any doubts at all. Assess your findings and decide if the bike is worth the asking price or if you’ve come across a rotten egg. What needed replacing? Remember the battery is often the single most expensive part of the bike and you need to take this into account if buying a bike which needs one. Maybe go to a local cafe for a coffee while you mull it over. This is an ideal time to contact Datatag or the Bike Register to see if the bike is stolen. If in doubt either walk away, call a friend with more experience to have a look with you or see if you can take it to a professional for a look.
This is not an exhaustive guide but should help give you a good idea what to look for and steer you in the right direction when buying a second hand e bike. If you feel I have missed anything important or something needs adding or amending please feel free to contact me on email@example.com or leave a comment.
I’ll leave you with two last things to remember.
Do Your Research!
If a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is.