Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Northern Nevada
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I've bought several used bikes, at least half a dozen, for my wife and me, and never been sorry. I'm an adequate mechanic (been riding 40 years, the first 20 on a VERY tight budget and the last five with two kids in college, so there's not a lot of money lying around), and i know what to check for and what it takes to fix most common proglems, which has helped. I've paid as much as $1000 for a used Rambouillet that needed nothing but air in the tires and as little as $4.95 for a Centurion LeMans that needed a rebuild, wheels and pedals.
Like buying anything else used, results vary. You can really get screwed or you can walk away with a steal (the Rambouillet, at the time I bought it, listed for about $2100). Google something like "Buying used bike" or "inspecting a bike" and see what you get. if you're planning to spend a lot of money, hundreds as opposed to tens of dollars, you might consider taking it to a shop and paying them for a half-hour of labor to look it over. Some shops don't like to do that, but at least around here the decent ones will. Expect to pay for it, and mention to them that you'll be buying stuff from them in the future.
If you do go to a shop, I'd suggest doing it on a weekday (they're busy on Saturday mornings), and maybe making an appointment in advance.