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How Do You Flippers Make Any Money?

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How Do You Flippers Make Any Money?

Old 02-14-21, 07:49 AM
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markk900
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How Do You Flippers Make Any Money?

I am not a flipper, nor do I want to become one. I find the occasional cheap/free bike, and I like to fix them up and either give them away to friends who need a bike or (in a lot of cases keep them as they have some sentimental value to me). But I tend to stay away from the really crappy bikes.

The other day however a friend called me to say she had picked up an inexpensive bike for her husband and would I be willing to "tune it up"? Absolutely - something to do in lockdown. When she brought it over it was a low end department store "dual suspension" mountain bike. I let her know that it wasn't a very good bicycle and the parts might be worth more than the bike but she said go ahead.....so I did.

Long story short, it got a complete lubrication overhaul since the majority of the problems (besides the basic cheapness of the bike) were lack of maintenance. However, and here is where my question comes in, by the time I was done I had put nearly $100 in parts into it. Maybe its the pandemic but tires were the most expensive part at $28 each (CAD), one tube at $10 CAD (luckily one was still fine), and various cables (after much trying could not get some of the siezed cables undone so used inners (@$5 each) or full cables ($8 each) as sparingly as possible. I reused an old chain (free) I had as the one on there refused to budge after a good soaking..... Still if you are into a bike for $100 just to get it rideble even as a free bike I doubt I could ever sell it for $100...... how do you flippers do it?

BTW - at each stage I confirmed with the owner that I was about to buy stuff and were they *really sure* they wanted it.....Bike is now pretty much as good (or bad) as it was when it left the department store (except for a few scratches).
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Old 02-14-21, 08:01 AM
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To make any money at flipping bikes you constantly have to be searching classified ads. It’s far and few between where I’m at, but once in a while a really good deal will pop up. You have to act fast and be willing to drop everything and go. Plus having parts and consumables on hand helps. I do it a lot but most of the time I don’t buy to sell, everything I buy is my size, I just find something else I like and recycle my profits. For me it’s about finding them and fixing them up for the next person. I’m happy to break even.
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Old 02-14-21, 08:06 AM
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When I buy a bike to flip the equation is pretty simple. How much will it cost to buy it, what does it need, and how much can I sell it for? If those numbers add up to a decent profit, I buy the bike. Otherwise, no. Of course, nothing is perfect, and there are always surprises. But I have never lost money on a bike. In the situation described above, there is no way you were going to come out ahead. I guess you just have to develop a good feel for the numbers, at least in your area. For that reason, you will make more mistakes with the first few bikes than later on.
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Old 02-14-21, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by kross57 View Post
If those numbers add up to a decent profit, I buy the bike.
What's your labor rate?
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Old 02-14-21, 08:13 AM
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Unfortunately the flippers who beat me to the punch around here do nothing to update, refresh the bikes and try to turn them with nothing expended...

Since I am just in amassing mode for my student bike program it makes me jump on some bargains.

I have sold nothing so far in my bike collection mode, but I am thinking of posting a few things here to part out to offset my expenditures a bit and add to the program budget.
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Old 02-14-21, 08:13 AM
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Rule one is don't mess with cheap dual suspension mountain bikes.

I don't flip much any more but when I did I concentrated on bikes that I could pick up for less than $50, put maybe $50-100 into, and sell for a price that I cleared at least $100. As I consider it my continuing education, I consider my labor time to be free.
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Old 02-14-21, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by cb400bill View Post
Rule one is don't mess with cheap dual suspension mountain bikes.

I don't flip much any more but when I did I concentrated on bikes that I could pick up for less than $50, put maybe $50-100 into, and sell for a price that I cleared at least $100. As consider it my continuing education, I consider my labor time to free.
unless you find a gem of a deal (like a rusty Ciocc in a barn for $20...which I have never lucked out into), labor costs would put the bike price well above the market value I would think.

luckily itís a hobby. Unluckily I have no real space.
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Old 02-14-21, 08:27 AM
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Thanks for the comments, though my real question was not so much about how to be successful flipping bikes, rather more what cb400bill was getting at: in my case I wasn't flipping anyway so the bike itself was essentially free, but replacing consumables (and being frugal about it) still put the minimal selling price above $100, no matter how crappy the original bike was. Even a better quality bike (I got a free Raleigh Record once and refurb'd it at my cost for a friend to use) would still need at least $100 in parts (using prices around here) but wouldn't sell for much more in good shape....Bill's numbers indicate a flipped bike that sells for less than $100-$150 is not going to happen, and doing the math more likely would have to sell for over $200. Around here you can still get plenty of decent bikes for that kind of money if you are looking for fairly low end. And iab is right on the money: I put roughly 5 hours of time into the subject bike (mostly dealing with super low end V-brakes and getting them to work reasonably well - who would have thought two pieces of metal that *look* similar to decent v-brakes could be so awful?); I had to replace a couple of spokes which in turn required the right tools and a lot of ooomph getting the freewheel loose.....then truing the wheels, and so on.....

I had fun and every time you do something mechanical you improve your skills and learn something - so I am not grumbling. But when I see bikes that are being flipped I rarely see them at the price range that would cover basic consumables let alone labour - I can only assume that few of them get proper attention before the sale!

Edit: and just to be clear - I wouldn't normally have touched that bike - but it was a favour for a friend and I did make it clear that the bike was not a quality unit!

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Old 02-14-21, 08:34 AM
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I collect parts and consumables more than I collect bikes. I’m friends with a bike shop owner and he orders me things like cables, housings and tubes at his cost. And I have a friend that has more parts and bikes than 3 bike shops put together. I spend a lot of time looking at ads for bikes. I save the ones I’m interested in to see what they are selling for to keep up on prices.
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Old 02-14-21, 08:58 AM
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I buy what seem like good deals and collect them , sometimes sell them so I can buy more of them more so than flip them. For me the easiest flips are newer comfort bikes that might need a tube, etc and are underpriced (much harder to find this past year with the bike boom). If I can't make $100, I don't mess with it. The real flipper in my area beats me to a lot of those deals.

The second type of flip I will do is buy nicer/higher end 80's vintage and resell the complete bike or frame Ebay. While shipping full bikes is a pain, this is the only way to get the real money on the nicer vintage in my areas. Its also fun for me, when I frames only on nice lower value bikes, I have quite a cache of parts for my personal builds. I often end up with nice newer groupsets/wheelsets/etc to use on my nice older frames.

but if you buy very many new parts, I agree its nearly impossible to make any money.

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Old 02-14-21, 09:24 AM
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My master plan is to get access to a QBP acount. The difference between retail and wholesale consumables looks like it would be half the profit for most bikes.
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Old 02-14-21, 09:26 AM
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I inadvertently became a flipper of a few bikes last summer.
I was looking for a decent Miele and went through a few looking for the right set of components and my size.

Basically I ended up making a few bucks on two of them by buying the bike out of the city, where demand was low and prices negotiable.
I was able to list them for a high price after fixing them up and polishing up the finish. With COVID driving high demand they went within a couple weeks at my asking price.

I would not recommend this as a way to make money. It’s more of a hobby that you might make money at in the right conditions.

So yeah, buy low, sell high.
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Old 02-14-21, 09:31 AM
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I don't buy anymore unless it's has some sort of esoteric appeal to me AND has a part or combination of parts that can sell for what I'm paying for the bike. I used to buy any "decent" bike if it was under $25, just for the parts if nothing else. Build the parts buckets.

Example: Just picked up a pink Schwinn Supersport. It had been hanging for at least a decade, the seller wanted $100. The majority of the drivetrain had been upgraded to DuraAce. I should be able to recoup my initial investment selling the duraace and replacing it with 105 I have in my parts buckets. Now the bike is "free" and I can sell it or keep since it's my size.

To flip, you have to buy your consumables as cheaply as possilbe. See a deal on cables, housing, tires, tubes, pedals, grips, or saddles; be prepared to buy extras for the flips. A few years ago, there were crazy deals to be had at "A". I bought a couple completes for ridiculously low prices and parted them out as well as back stocked myself with cheap reels of housing. I probably dropped ~$1k that summer, but I made back almost all of it already and I'm still sitting on 2 frames and some parts to move.
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Old 02-14-21, 09:43 AM
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I've lost my ass on every single bike I've sold. It's not a fun game for me.
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Old 02-14-21, 09:57 AM
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1. Use the cheapest galvanized cables you can find, bought in bulk from China

2. Use the cheapest brake housing for everything, including SIS shifters. Compressionless? Never heard of it

3. Donít bother changing brake pads, even if the current ones could hammer nails

4. Donít bother opening hubs, even if they sound like dry sanding with 80 grit paper

5. If the bike has an asymmetric spindle, ignore its orientation when you ďserviceĒ the bottom bracket and donít stop to wonder why the small ring is rubbing the chain stay

6. Claim the bike is ďcompletely gone throughĒ in your CL ad


Some tips based on my experience with flippers
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Old 02-14-21, 10:02 AM
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It really helps to be in a great bike market. Free and cheap bikes are your friends. I can usually find serviceable parts on them (brake levers, derailleurs, hardware, sometimes saddles, and often alloy wheels...etc). Donít be afraid to cobble together single speeds and fixies from cheap frames. It seems around here more people prefer that anyway. I still often need to buy rubber, bar tape or grips, cables, housing, and brake pads. I avoid most low end mountain bikes with suspension. Iíve learned to deal with cotter pins and 1 piece cranksets so I can service bottom brackets. At first I didnít make much money and anything I made went straight into buying tools. I talk about all of the work Iíve done in my ads and enough people see the value of a properly serviced bike. Low end 80s Schwinns and Raleighís in good condition sell better than anything else I have. Early low end Raleigh Techniums are often available for cheap and will fetch $250-$300 when refurbished. Peugeot UO8s are great too. Low end French bikes are too big of a pain for most people to deal with but I have the proper tools. Timing and location and patience are everything. Here in Minneapolis I sell out of bikes completely in the early spring. None of this would make me a living but I enjoy it. The high end bikes that come along are a completely different game. I rarely make money at that game and Iíve got a nice collection of my own because of it.

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Old 02-14-21, 10:20 AM
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Buy the right bike at the right price. There are very many bikes that just arent worth it. This is rule number one. Midrange quality or better. Complete road bikes are my best purchases. No rust, no need of repaint. Just old, cheap, dirty, dried out but salvageable.

Rule number 2: see 1.

Rule number 3: see 1 and 2.

Don't count your time. My bike time averages recently: 2 hours cleaning and adjusting a modern bike that didnt need a complete strip. Minimum 5 hours for a bike that needs a full rebuild (I was working as fast as I could and timing), closer to 10 hours depending on original condition. These times don't including looking at ads or driving time.

I like doing it. It gives me pleasure to rebuild bikes and I get to ride and experience a lot of different components and frames. Making a few bucks or borrowing a couple parts for your keepers is a benefit but I could work some OT at work and come out way, way ahead instead. I do it because I like it.

Buy consumables in bulk. I buy good quality stuff (stainless cables, lined housings, nice brake pads, decent bar tape, a collection of new inexpensive saddles, brand name chains, tires, etc. But when I need them I buy lots so my per unit cost is low. Figure out where to buy what.

Unless someone were paying me to work on specific aspects of a low end dual suspension mountain bike there just isnt any profit.
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Old 02-14-21, 10:22 AM
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How do I make money flipping. I market well. I buy well. I do good work. And I know what the heck I am doing but it has taken many years of buying and selling to get to the point that I am at now.

Given to me for free, I could have made this old Torpado roadworthy and safe to ride for the price of tires and cables. Where I live, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, a local bike shop ordered me a set of Specialized gumwalls 700c x 28. Cost me around fifty bucks plus 15% sales tax less 15% (my store discount). So, $50.00 CAD for tires and another $20.00 for cables and new casings. Total, roughly $70.00 CAD...


But I wanted to go all the way to get this...



By the time I got there and still waiting for tires (end of March), this is what I have invested...

Tires and cables - $70.00
Paint and supplies - $80.00 (I prefer to paint my bikes with a brush)
Art - $60,00
Handlebar tape - $30.00 CAD
Wee odds and ends - $20.00

TOTAL - $260.00 CAD

I have already been offer close to four times what I have invested. Might sell it - might not. I kinda like this old lady...
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Old 02-14-21, 10:33 AM
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The only way to get any return is buy very low on a ready to ride bike or do a "DKO" flip

Once parts and labor come into the equation, you can forget about "making" a profit.

Exhibit A

I found a 1987 Schwinn Premis in the alley. No wheels, seat/post, rear brake caliper was busted. Otherwise, decent shape. Should be a goldmine.




Here's what I ended up spending on this "free" bike:
  • $10 wheelset that I bought from a coworker years ago. Looking to get rid of these wheels, so better than tossing them.
  • $12 cheap Shimano freewheel
  • $21 seatpost - the Premis uses an oddball 26.4 size, so it was hard find and had to pay.

Stuff from the boneyard
  • Shimano Exage brake calipers
  • Old tires/tubes
  • Seat binder bolt - The one on the bike was seized and snapped. Grrr!
  • Brake cables
  • seat
Additional hassle - I had to go through 2 vendors and 3 freewheels to get one that was functional. The first freewheel I bought was Junk. The second one what a 7-speed, instead of a 6-speed. Got a refund on the first and the other vendor sent the correct part and let me keep the 7-speed.

Here's the finished product. Spent around $60 on parts and 6 hours on labor/parts sourcing. Sold it for $250, so $30 per-hour for the effort. Easier ways to make a buck, and this number would have gone way down if I didn't have a lot of parts on hand. More of a labor of love, than a money making effort. Feel like I saved this one from the dump.




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Old 02-14-21, 10:47 AM
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Flipping bikes for profit seems like a tough racket.
I was considering trying my hand at it when I got furloughed but am glad I came to my senses.
Was actually liquidating my comic book collection to raise money for a small bike shop when I realized peddling comics might be way more lucrative.
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Old 02-14-21, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by bark_eater View Post
My master plan is to get access to a QBP acount. The difference between retail and wholesale consumables looks like it would be half the profit for most bikes.
I believe you'll need "bike shop insurance" to buy directly from them. If you're planning on having a shop let you use theirs, good luck!

Maybe next year QBP will actually have most of their catalog in stock. Right now the cupboards are very bare.
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Old 02-14-21, 11:07 AM
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Like many endeavours, don't count your hours. Do it cuz you like it or forget about it.
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Old 02-14-21, 11:26 AM
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Basic old bike economics: buy high, sell low.

Q. How do you end up with a million dollars?
A. Start with three million and open a bike shop.
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Old 02-14-21, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
I believe you'll need "bike shop insurance" to buy directly from them. If you're planning on having a shop let you use theirs, good luck!

Maybe next year QBP will actually have most of their catalog in stock. Right now the cupboards are very bare.
Access to QBP was part of a recruitment pitch at the co-op i frequent. I was seriously considering it before Covid happened. Their an hour away so there there's an extra time commitment for volunteer hours. Ideally I could find a balance where I can afford the time to work on bikes as a volunteer, and the time and materials at home, selling a certain volume of my own bikes there with the co-op taking 20% but dealing with the public and covering insurance. Of course they probably have all new staff and BOD by now, and the couple times I was in there this year there was fudge all for social distancing/bad bikenutter behavior going on. We shall see what the new year brings.

Last edited by bark_eater; 02-14-21 at 02:10 PM.
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Old 02-14-21, 11:42 AM
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I will say one thing: Like valuation of bikes, whether you can make any money depends more on environmental factors than anything.

For example, the market went to hell in my area when rental bikes and scooters showed up. . At that point, I stopped trying, it was fruitless, everyone would rather rent a bike maintenance-free than buy their own. Bikes I'd list would languish for weeks before getting a 1st legitimate inquiry, even at what many would consider "bargain" prices here on BF. When the pandemic arrived and nobody wanted to share anything, a significant part of the population suddenly needed a machine to exercise, or they found confidence riding on the road due to reduced vehicular traffic, values climbed again.

Sure, there's the other obvious stuff - a significant parts stash, buying generic "good enough" consumables and/or buying in bulk when deals come up, and the most important "buy low, sell high"

Second of all ...

Originally Posted by sloar View Post
To make any money at flipping bikes you constantly have to be searching classified ads ... Plus having parts and consumables on hand helps ... I don’t buy to sell, everything I buy is my size, I just find something else I like and recycle my profits
This. When I get the itch to get something else, my nose is in the ads or I setup search alerts. I only buy in my size and ride what I rebuild, if I don't make money, "I got my money's worth". I use on-hand stuff to take the work. And, while this could piss some folks off, if I repack something and the bearing balls are in superb shape w/o measuring significant wear, I thoroughly clean and re-use. Balls are expensive. I also keep good used tires on-hand, both for flips and to donate to the co-op.

Originally Posted by iab View Post
What's your labor rate?
Exactly "sanity" dollars per hour. Overhauling things is a huge mental off-gas for me, and my mental health is priceless. I could probably average out the exact rate, but it'd be nearly impossible to quantify the value?
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