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How to Buy a Used E-Bike: Online and In-Person Tips for Smart Shopping

Yes, you can safely buy a high-quality used e-bike on the internet.

Used e-bike ships with padding(Photo/Kraig Becker)
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It’s no secret that electric bikes have been wildly popular in recent years, winning over traditional cyclists and nonriders alike. One study estimates that more than 300 million e-bikes have been sold worldwide, up an astounding 50% since 2019. It doesn’t look like demand will slow down anytime soon, either. The market is projected to grow from $18.66 billion last year to $40.98 billion by 2030.

With so many e-bikes sold, it should be no surprise that there is a growing secondary market for preowned models. Typing “used e-bikes for sale” into any internet search engine yields no shortage of options for would-be buyers. But not all those options are as trustworthy and reliable as others, and finding good deals can be time-consuming and challenging.

Recently, we looked at the current state of used e-bike sales online and in brick-and-mortar stores. We found plenty of options available.

Unfortunately, most online offerings are little more than classified ads offering almost no support or protection for buyers. They could send thousands of dollars to someone online who may or may not have a bike to sell. And even in person, the adage caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) frequently came to mind.

But not all websites or stores selling preowned e-bikes immediately set off alarm bells. Some outlets are taking this emerging business opportunity very seriously.

We took one such online service for a spin, getting a sense of how well it operates — and whether or not it can deliver on the promise of selling a broad range of electric bikes at substantially discounted prices. That site is called Upway and could soon emerge as the leader in used e-bike sales. We will also dive into the potential perils and pitfalls of shopping for a used e-bike in person.

In short: Buying a used e-bike can have pitfalls, but there are services and methods that can mitigate potential downsides and deliver significant savings. Here’s our take on how to buy a used e-bike.

Why Buy a Used E-Bike?

Specialized Turbo Levo received in our test of Upway for "how to buy a used e-bike."
(Photo/Kraig Becker)

The most obvious reason for buying a preowned e-bike is to save money. Most of the models that we found for sale online were anywhere from 10% to 30% off the regular retail price, sometimes more. That translates to thousands of dollars off the cost of the bike when it was new.

Buying used also allows riders to purchase a bike that may have been out of their price range. Higher-end models are usually lighter, handle better, and have more sophisticated components. Buying that same e-bike at full retail might not have been possible. But at a preowned price, it becomes more of an option.

Pros and Cons of Used E-Bikes

There are several pros and cons to consider when purchasing a used e-bike. The significant upside is that you could get a fantastic bike at a price well below what it sold for new. You’ll also have the opportunity online to shop for brands and models that may not be available in your local shop. Having more choices means you’re also more likely to find a model that meets your needs at a price within your budget.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of downsides to shopping over the internet, like not being able to test-ride it. Even if you’ve ridden that particular model before, if the bike you’re buying hasn’t been adequately maintained, it may not provide the expected performance.

An e-bike’s added components — most notably, the motor and battery — bring additional complexity and concern to both forms of shopping. Those parts are incredibly challenging and costly to replace if not correctly cared for. And since the bike isn’t likely to still be under warranty, you’ll have to pay for any repairs.

You’ll also need a lot of patience when shopping, especially if you’re holding out for a specific model. Some e-bikes are in higher demand than others, and buyers snatch them up quickly once they become available. Being flexible about which bike you want to buy can help make the process a little faster and easier. But you may compromise on specs, components, or brand and model.

Where to Buy Used E-Bikes

When shopping for used e-bikes online, you’ll find many options on familiar websites, including eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace. Most of those listings are from individual sellers, although occasionally, local bike shops have an online presence through these outlets.

Generally, you won’t get a warranty on the products you purchase through those sites. And often, there is little recourse for the buyer should the listing turn out to be a scam. But you can sometimes find great deals from individual sellers looking to unload a bike they’re no longer riding.

You’ll also find plenty of local bike shops from across the country advertising their new and used inventories online. Most of those shops are looking to sell new bikes. But occasionally, some offer deals on closeout models, used trade-ins, or bikes they’ve taken in on a consignment basis. While there are some excellent deals, it can be time-consuming to wade through dozens of sites and visit stores looking for a suitable model at the right price.

A quick Google search for used e-bikes also reveals several websites best described as online classified ads for selling bikes. Most of these sites have very little inventory, sometimes just advertising four or five models. The postings usually come from individuals looking to unload a bike they no longer ride. Using one of these sites can reveal some hidden gem deals, but it requires a lot of due diligence to ensure the bike has been adequately cared for and doesn’t require extensive maintenance.

Online Used E-Bike Shopping: Bike Exchange vs. Upway

Upway shipping box for our "how to buy a used e-bike"
(Photo/Kraig Becker)

While sorting through the options of where to buy a preowned e-bike, two websites stood out above the rest: BikeExchange and Upway. Both have slick-looking, easy-to-navigate designs and a large inventory of bikes. But their business models are very different at their core, as is the customer experience.

Bike Exchange has been around for more than 15 years, connecting customers with local bike shops nationwide. Those shops partner with the site, posting excess inventory, closeout models, and used bikes for sale — often at steep discounts.

If customers have questions or inquiries about a specific model, Bike Exchange helps facilitate communication between them and the store. The site even indicates the name of the bike shop and its location. And when you’re ready to purchase, the Bike Exchange site can seamlessly process the transaction.

In contrast to that approach, Upway buys and sells used e-bikes directly. It builds inventory by purchasing bikes from previous owners and then offering them for sale online. When the company buys a bike, it puts it through a 20-point inspection, checking everything from the motor and battery to the brakes, derailleurs, and crankset.

On-staff mechanics fix any issues and gives the bikes a basic tuneup to ensure they’re in top condition. Some of the bikes advertised had incredibly low mileage, indicating they may come from bike shops or manufacturers. But all transactions are with Upway directly, with no third-party interaction.

Both websites offer extensive search options to help you find models that meet your needs and size. Each has a 14-day return policy, and Upway backs its used bikes with a 1-year warranty. Bike Exchange customers may not get any guarantee, as post-sale support is entirely up to the shop. That said, Bike Exchange does strive to keep its customers happy. It will assist where it can to help repair, replace, or smooth over any potentially troublesome transactions.

Taking Upway for a Spin

Since Bike Exchange has been around for years and is more of a known quantity, we decided to put Upway to the test. The company promises to deliver high-quality preowned bikes at prices well below retail. We wanted to know just how smoothly that process would go. We found a mostly seamless customer experience, with a few hiccups.

We ordered a Specialized Turbo Levo, a decidedly high-end e-mountain bike. This model starts at around $6,800, but Upway sells it for 20% off the regular retail price. Considering the bike was essentially brand new — it was advertised as having less than 5 miles on the odometer — that’s a pretty substantial saving, especially for a model that consistently ranks as one of the best on the market.

After a customer purchases a bike, Upway ships it directly to them for a flat rate of $99. The bike arrived in a large, well-packed box and was already mostly assembled. The only problem was I got the wrong bike. Instead of the Turbo Levo, I received a model designed for comfortably cruising city streets. It was a little disappointing.

I immediately contacted Upway and found that they accidentally confused my shipment with one intended for another journalist. Upway quickly corrected the situation and scheduled a pickup of the box. It took a few additional days for the correct bike to arrive, but eventually, the Turbo Levo arrived at my door.

Assembly and First Impressions

Upway provided all tools required, including the wrenches to install these pedals on the used e-bike.
Specialized Turbo Levo pedals; (photo/Kraig Becker)

After unboxing, I removed protective padding around the frame and components, added the pedals, straightened the handlebars, and the bike was ready to ride. It even came with all the tools needed to complete the assembly process, saving me from having to dig out my toolkit. My only issue was that Upway mislabeled the left and right pedals, which could confuse customers.

Our test bike appeared to be brand new. The frame and components looked factory fresh, free from dirt, scratches, or other blemishes. It was entirely possible that it was unridden. But if it had, the team at Upway had done an excellent job in getting it ready for the customer.

It even arrived with the battery at almost full capacity, but I decided to top off the charge before my first ride. While I waited, I attempted to pair the e-bike with my smartphone using the Specialized Misson Control app. This would unlock several features, including tuning the bike’s performance, tracking ride metrics, and providing a snapshot of the Turbo Levo’s system health. This was more complicated than I expected because the bike didn’t come with any manuals from the manufacturer.

A six-digit code completes the process when pairing the Turbo Levo with the app. Usually, that code is on a sticker on the frame, but that sticker was gone because the bike was used. Fortunately, the code is also on the TCU (Turbo Connect Unit), the interface for switching ride modes and monitoring battery life. The code is on the bottom of the device, which I took out of the frame by removing a single screw. The process was simple, but some may not know to look for it there.

Once I paired my phone, it confirmed my suspicions. The Turbo Levo had less than 10 miles on its internal odometer, and the battery and motor were in excellent shape.

Riding a Preowned E-Mountain Bike

Once the battery was fully charged, I set off on my first ride. On flat surfaces, the Turbo Levo rolled along exceptionally well, with and without the electric motor. The bike was responsive and fun, transitioning from paved roads to dirt trails without missing a beat.

Once again, there was little indication that this bike had ever been ridden before. It felt like it had just rolled off the showroom floor with none of the jostle or rattle that could come with accumulated miles.

It wasn’t all smooth riding, though. Once I took the bike off-road and up some steeper climbs, I did run into an annoying issue. When applying significant pressure to the pedals on a challenging ascent, the chain jumped as if attempting to switch gears.

This was accompanied by a loud noise that was unsettling while midclimb. This would occur once or twice while ascending. Then, everything would smooth out again and return to regular operation.

This behavior continued throughout my time with the bike and always on demanding climbs. It never interfered with my ability to keep riding but raised concerns about potential mechanical failure.

Had I kept the Turbo Levo, I would have taken it to a local bike shop for a tuneup and had the mechanics thoroughly inspect it to ensure that all of the components were performing as expected. Unless you are an experienced bike mechanic, that is a good idea when buying a used bike, electric or otherwise.

The Upway Experience

Frame padding provided by Upway for buying a used e-bike
(Photo/Kraig Becker)

So, after putting the Upway experience to the test, what are our thoughts? Overall, I was very impressed with the service. It offered a large inventory of e-bikes, most with discounts of 20-30% or more. This made shopping for a specific model much more affordable. And it provides customers with many options in categories ranging from road and mountain bikes to urban cruisers and cargo models.

Issues on steep climbs aside, our test bike looked and rode like a new model. Its electric drive was powerful and snappy, and its battery pack maintained its charge and offered excellent range. Upway shipped the e-MTB with components that looked like they had almost no use. And since it arrived almost fully assembled, I could have been on a first ride in less than 15 minutes.

Upway’s 20-point inspection process, 14-day return policy, and 1-year warranty should give customers more confidence when buying a preowned e-bike. Because most other online outlets involve buying directly from the current owner, the bikes are usually sold “as is.” There is no return policy or warranty of any kind. This makes buying from Upway safer, especially when spending thousands on a sophisticated bike that should offer years of riding.

If you’re considering buying a used e-bike but have been put off by high price tags, Upway is an intriguing alternative. The company had a large inventory, including some high-quality options that were listed for under a thousand dollars. Most models had prices well below what you would pay for them new, making it easier than ever to own a high-end bike without emptying your wallet.

That alone made the website a must-visit for anyone who wants to buy a used e-bike. With a bit of patience, you might find the dream ride that you’ve been waiting for.

How to Buy a Used E-Bike in Person

Used bikes at a local store; only one is an e-bike
Out of all these used bikes at a local bike shop, only one is an e-bike; (photo/Seiji Ishii/Cycle Progression)

If you’re fortunate enough to find your perfect used e-bike offline, you’ll still want to do your due diligence. Most of the tips that apply to shopping over the internet also apply when buying in person. For instance, you’ll want to give the bike a thorough inspection to make sure that all of the components are in working order and well-maintained. That includes examining the frame to look for cracks, checking the tread on the tires, and generally ensuring that the bike is in good condition.

One of the advantages that come with shopping in person is that you can take the bike for a ride before buying. This allows you to test the gears, brakes, electric motor, and other components to make sure that everything is operating properly.

You should also check the bike’s odometer to see how many miles are on it. Like a used car, the parts e-bike parts can wear out over time, impacting performance and reliability.

In addition to testing the e-bike’s components, be sure to check the health of its battery pack. Make sure that it holds a charge, offers plenty of capacity, and can power the bike’s electric drive.

Batteries tend to lose capacity over time and can be expensive to replace. So, ask how much range or riding time it currently provides. If the bike supports connecting to a smartphone, the app will often provide insights into battery health too.

Once you’ve purchased a used e-bike that meets your needs and expectations, it is a good idea to give it a tuneup. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that yourself, drop the bike off at your local bike shop. An experienced mechanic will go over every inch of it, making sure that everything is working properly and it is safe to ride. Most bike shops can also track down replacement parts if needed, including a new battery or motor.

After that, you’re ready to hit the road or trail.


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