Buying A Used E-bike – A Good Or Bad Idea? (+ a Used E-bike Buyers Checklist)
A used electric bike is not a bad idea. The asking price of a used electric bike is sometimes hundreds of dollars below the MSRP, and a used electric bike is also a better choice from a sustainability point of view.
If you really go through the adverts and take your time, you can find great deals. But a used electric bike also carries the necessary risks.
I want to go through these risks with you and give you a checklist if you are looking for a used electric bike. This way, the chance is very slim that you buy a lemon and you can make the decision yourself which is the best choice for you: a new or used electric bike.
Plenty of used E-bikes
With millions of electric bikes in circulation, there is now an entire generation of e-bikes that are several years old and are now being offered for sale as used (or used) electric bikes.
Many old e-bikes are exchanged for a new model, at a reasonable trade-in value. That is why you see a lot of used electric bikes in bike shops. But you can also see a decent range of used electric bikes on classifieds sites.
If you know the price of a new electric bike, it is certainly not surprising that you are wondering: “Is a used e-bike a viable option, or should I buy a new electric bike””? You’ll have to draw the conclusion yourself, but I’ll be happy to explain how to make a reasonable comparison.
Advantage of a new e-bike
The big advantage of a new electric bike is more modern technology. The latest e-bikes are equipped with smarter software and more efficient batteries than old models. This is partly true, however, as more and more bike specialists are able to update outdated software. But are you considering buying an e-bike via E-bay, for example? Then there is a good chance that the software of that electric bike is not up-to-date.
With a new e-bike, you can also expect that you will receive reliable quality, and you do not have to worry about what the previous owner of the e-bike did or did not do with it.
Advantage of a used electric bike
The biggest advantage of a used electric bike, on the other hand, is that it can be a lot cheaper. Emphasis on ‘can’. Because in many cases the difference in costs when you make the calculation is sometimes not that big at all or can be even just as expensive. What’s up with that?
Where you cannot easily go wrong with a regular used bike once you have made a test ride and checked the known parts, it can be expensive with a used e-bike because you cannot use parts such as the battery. You can immediately see what condition they are in.
With a used electric bike, there is a good chance that you will have to incur additional costs within 1 to 2 years after purchase because parts such as the battery or motor are reaching the end of their lifespan. This means that your advantage of a used model sometimes disappears quickly if you do not include the replacement of these parts in the price.
Pay attention to the bike battery with a used e-bike
The most vulnerable and perhaps the most important part of every e-bike is the bike battery. The ‘problem’ with a used bike battery is that you do not know what influences this battery has had to endure and how good or bad it is.
Maybe the previous owner left the e-bike in the rain? This can affect the lifespan of the battery and the display. Batteries are not waterproof. Or maybe the battery has been dropped hard or has been kept too hot or too cold for a long time. This can also have consequences for the BMS (battery management system) and the individual battery cells.
Another scenario is that the battery has not been properly charged and that the battery has been empty for a long time because the bike was not used. This also has a negative influence on the total life of the bike battery.
What it comes down to is that with a used E-bike you want to know how the E-bike battery still performs. The battery may look good from the outside, but you want to know what the inside is telling you.
You can assume that a used bike battery needs to be replaced in a shorter period of time. It is therefore important to estimate how long you can last with the current battery. Consider for yourself how you want to use the electric bike.
Are you planning to cycle only short distances, for example, to and from the supermarket? Then you will be able to enjoy a battery that only has 50% capacity for many years to come. But do you really want to go cycling long trips on the weekend, or use it daily for your commute? In that case you need to calculate the extra costs of a replacement battery in the purchase price.
It is preferable to always have a used bike battery measured
You can have the battery measured at a bike shop. With this measurement report, you know more about the most important part of the e-bike. Not every bike specialist can read every type of bike battery (lithium-ion or lead batteries). It can also differ per brand at which bike shop it is possible.
I recommend that you preferably have the battery measured in the bike shop where it is offered for sale, and always be well informed about a used bike battery.
There is a good chance that the bike specialist has the correct measuring equipment for the bike brands that he or she sells.
As mentioned, having a bike battery measured gives you insight into the battery. I recommend that you find a bike shop that has the equipment to read the battery while it is under and overcharged. That’s the only way you really know how a battery reacts in certain situations.
How does measuring an E-bike battery work?
The reading measures the battery’s performance. This is done as follows:
1. First, the bike battery is fully charged. This immediately measures the charging voltage of the battery charger itself, and the quality of the battery charger is determined. This way you immediately know whether it is still working optimally.
2. Then the device discharges the battery. It measures the discharge current, what the battery voltage is, and how long it takes before the battery is discharged (note: we are not talking about deep discharge which is harmful to your battery).
*Is measuring the battery not possible? Then make your decision by taking the e-bike for a long test ride and seeing to what extent you run out of battery. Compare the position with the range of the new condition of the bike battery.
A used E-bike battery with a minimal range…
On average, a new bike battery lasts about 5 years, with a full range. The battery capacity decreases slightly every year. As a result of use and charging, and natural wear and tear. How quickly the battery capacity decreases is mainly related to how often you cycle and therefore have to charge.
Does the measurement report show that the battery still has a minimum range? This will soon lead to additional costs. You will probably have to buy a new battery for $450 to $700 in the foreseeable future, or if possible, have the battery overhauled. Having a battery overhauled also easily costs $250 to $600, depending on the brand and type of battery. Whether you need to purchase a new battery or have the cells of the old battery replaced: you can do the math yourself whether the purchase is worth it.
TIP: Do you want to purchase a used electric bike through a bike specialist with a battery that gives a greatly reduced range? Always try to negotiate a discount on a new battery from the seller. You almost never have a warranty on the bike battery.
Would you like to measure a used bike battery yourself?
I read a tip to measure a bike battery yourself with a multimeter. It might be a handy idea to take these with you if you have a bargain in mind and you can at least measure ‘something’. But what you can only measure with a multimeter is whether there is voltage on the bike battery and how much. Nothing more. At most, a multimeter shows you whether there is any wear and tear on a battery by measuring how many volts it contains.
Most electric bike batteries work on 24 and 36 Volts. If you measure less than this value, you only know that there is wear. Not to what extent. Be aware that all used electric bikes have worn-out batteries to some extend. In fact, a multimeter does not offer you more insight, and I would not draw any conclusions based on your measurement.
As far as I’m concerned, don’t go for such a ‘quick’ superficial test, because you don’t measure how the battery is functioning with a multimeter. Always go for a complete measurement with a battery tester at a bike specialist.
Don’t forget to check the other bike parts.
With a used e-bike, it’s mainly about the battery. But in the case of a used electric bike, always check the motor and display. These parts work together with the battery as a kind of trinity on an e-bike.
Always check the display and motor of a used electric bike, and try them out.
If the display does not work properly, it’s best to walk away from the deal. Therefore, always check the display. Check whether there is moisture in the display and whether the control buttons still work properly.
In addition, try out the motor and see if the motor still works in all support positions. If the motor is moderate, you will notice little or nothing of the pedal assistance. In short, therefore, also pay attention to the other valuable parts next to the battery, and make sure you know how these parts look.
Then there are the parts that are no different than with a normal bike, so check these too.
Always check with a used electric bike:
* Stem (can the handlebars be adjusted?)
Take a test drive to thoroughly test all parts.
Some parts can be checked visually, such as the spokes and the lighting. You only know whether other parts are still functioning properly during a test drive. It is, therefore, recommended that you take a long test drive, in which you test everything first hand.
Take a long test drive to properly test a used e-bike.
A tour of the neighborhood is actually not enough to properly test an e-bike. It is preferable to plan a ride of about 5 to 10 Miles and cycle over various terrain. Provided of course that you can do that in your area. Drive up a hill or a bridge. That way you can really thoroughly test the power and consistency of the pedal-assist and test all gears. After the ride, check how much charge you have used from the battery.
Where do you want to buy a used electric bike?
Are you going to a specialist bike shop or have you seen something nice on Craigslist, or have you been informed about a used bargain via email? Rest assured that specialist bike shops have the equipment to read most e-bike parts on site. This way you have a lot more certainty about the condition of the bike.
You do not have this ‘check’ if you want to take over the bike from a private individual. At most, you can take a long test drive, but you do not know exactly what you are buying internally (the equipment), and therefore the risk of a bad buy is considerably greater.
Think of the warranty on electric bike parts
Another disadvantage of buying a used e-bike privately is that you cannot negotiate the warranty. bike shops usually offer a guarantee. The warranty on a used e-bike is often more limited than on a new electric bike and often does not apply to the battery. But a partial warranty is always better than no warranty. It is therefore wise to also check the warranty on the (vulnerable) parts.
Make sure you don’t take over a stolen electric bike.
Perhaps unnecessary to mention, but it’s not the first thing you think of. Make sure you don’t buy a stolen E-bike. Therefore, check that the electric bike has not been stolen. It is possible that the seller does not know this himself.
Buying a stolen electric bike can cost you twice as much and you obviously don’t want to experience it. Not at all if the bike turns out to be tracked with a built-in GPS tracker.
It is important to know that from a legal point of view the consumer is obligated to check whether it concerns a stolen (electric) bike.
How can you check whether it is possibly a stolen e-bike?
1. Always ask for proof of purchase. If the seller cannot present this to you, be alert and cautious.
2. Can the seller hand you a key(s)? If he can’t be cautious.
3. Do you notice (scratch) damage to the frame or around the lock? Then this could indicate a stolen e-bike.
My advice in all three cases is: walk away from the deal. This saves you any trouble. However attractive a used electric bike offer through private channels may seem, always ask yourself whether you want to run these risks.
A used e-bike from the bike shop
Prefer complete security? Many bike shops have used electric bikes that have been traded in when people buy a new e-bike. Who knows, you may find exactly what you are looking for here.
In any case, it is practical to look around first. If there is something wrong with your e-bike after purchase, it is easier to drop by. Especially if this is the specialist who maintains your e-bike.
Checklist for buying a used E-bike
The checklist below summarizes the most important points. This increases the chance that you will find a used e-bike that you will enjoy for a long time.
▪Check the brand and the MSRP
Is it a well-known brand or a lesser-known brand? A-brands are usually more reliable. Because A-brands invest heavily in their bike parts, you can rest assured that they will last longer in terms of quality. A brand can therefore certainly make the difference for a used e-bike.
▪ Check the year the E-bike was manufactured
I believe that it is better to leave a used electric bike of 5 to 7 years old if the battery has never been replaced or overhauled. The chance that the battery will last a long time is slim. Even if it hasn’t been ridden much.
▪Have the battery checked by a recognized bike specialist
I recommend that you purchase a used electric bike from a specialist. Only then can you have the battery tested and you will know what the condition of the battery is. Do you buy a bike through a private deal? In that case, the condition of the battery will always remain a risk and you must take into account in the price negotiation that you will have to replace it in the short term.
▪Check the mileage on the display
The mileage can tell you something about the wear of parts. Especially when it comes to an e-bike that is mainly used for commuting. The more Miles on the counter, the more likely the e-bike will show signs of (strong) wear.
▪Check the e-bike for rust spots
Always check the bike for rust spots. Rust points out that the bike has been outside (a lot). This shortens the further life of the e-bike. As I mentioned before, the most important parts of an e-bike are not waterproof. Therefore, also check that there is no moisture in the display.
▪ Check whether the original battery charger is included
It is important that you receive the original battery charger. This provides the correct voltage and strength for the battery on your bike. A non-genuine battery charger can supply too much current to the battery and damage it. Because the battery life with a used electric bike is already a tricky point, it is extra important that you get the original battery charger.
▪ Always decide after you did a test ride
Always take a long test ride when you want to purchase a used electric bike. You will immediately notice when certain parts function less or fail. It is especially important to pay attention to how fast the battery capacity decreases. With a test drive, you will also quickly find out whether all levels in the pedal support still work, switching between the gears still goes smoothly and whether the display works properly. Test the brakes thoroughly.
Buying a used electric bike – Good or bad idea?
You can certainly strike a nice deal with a used electric bike. Is the difference with the MSRP large and are the frame, battery, display, and motor still in good condition? Then it can certainly be a good deal.
Keep in mind that you incur additional costs relatively quickly with a used e-bike because you usually need a new battery within one to two years. Whether it is cheaper to go for a used model or a new e-bike in regards to the additional battery costs alone, you will have to calculate per situation and include it in the negotiation of the price.
Personally, I wouldn’t buy a used electric bike that is older than 2 years. I also prefer to buy a used e-bike from a specialist. There is a good chance that something is wrong with the most vulnerable parts of an older e-bike. E-bikes that are more than 5 years old are almost always more expensive than a new one if you don’t buy them for just a few hundred dollars. Because the cost of a replacement battery will be added later. And perhaps not only the battery costs, the motor or display can also fail, costing the equivalent of a new E-bike.
I would also be careful with buying a used electric bike through a website such as Craigslist. In the first place because you cannot measure the battery, but also because of the lack of warranty and the risk of healing.
The following applies in every situation: Do you have any doubts about the condition of the battery or about the reliability of the seller, or origin and of the bike? Then don’t buy it. No matter how nice the offer may seem.
Finally, it is wise to collect the bike in person, so that you can take a long test ride. Try out the parts thoroughly. And last but not least: don’t make a rushed decision! Ultimately, you decide whether you think it’s worth it.