Thursday, August 1, 2013

Used Bicycle Value/Prices (Bicycle Blue Book)

Here's the scenario. You found a bike on Craigslist that you think will work. You meet up with the individual selling the bike, test ride it, and it looks to be in decent shape. You think you want the bike, but you aren't really sure what the bike should cost. Right now, the new price in a shop is $2,300 - of course, that's the cost for the new model, not the 5 year old model you're currently viewing. Is $800 a reasonable asking price?

Maybe you're trying to sell your bike. You've had it a couple of years and haven't really been on it much in that time. When you bought it brand new it put you back $1,500 (plus tax, and all those little extras you got talked into). You want to get your money out of the bike, but you know you're not going to get retail for a used bike, no matter how little you actually rode it. When you put it up for sale, is $1,000 too much to ask?

Most of the car/truck driving population has utilized some sort of car value book or website in the course of his/her lifetime. Kelly Blue BookEdmunds, and NADA are just a few of the more well-known organizations that are often used. For those looking at buying a bicycle second hand, the value of a bike may well be a guessing game much of the time. The owner may have sentimental attachment to a bike for various reasons, or simply have put a lot of money into the bike and believe that it is worth more than it truly is on the fair market. Of course, all value is subject to personal "equations" and thoughts (how bad do I want the bike, how many people might get here before I make up my mind, is the risk of walking away greater than paying a few extra dollars, is this a "hot" bike in my region, etc). As a rule though, most of us don't want to feel as though we paid too much for a used bicycle. But, where does the used bike buyer look for information?
*Image from Bicycle Blue Book
Bicycle Blue Book is a website attempting to create a bit less confusion for both used bike seller and buyer. The relatively simple website allows you to enter the year, make, and model of the bicycle in question and the results provide both MSRP and current value of the bike. In addition, the searcher gets basic information about the originally sold bike such as tubing material, component groups, and so on.

Taken directly from Bicycle Blue Book's website:
Bicycle Blue Book data is guaranteed to be the most accurate value assessment on the web. How is that possible? The bicycle Blue Book database includes hundreds of thousands of bicycle transactions for models dating all the way back to 1993: used and new, online and brick-and-mortar, makes and models of all kinds. Using a proprietary algorithm crafted by a combination of bicycle industry veterans and technology experts, the resulting valuation is a real-world number based on aggregated sales data and practical evaluation.

We know you have options - but we also know that you want the most accurate information available on your bicycle's value. That's why at Bicycle Blue Book, we've undergone a meticulous process, first poring over two million sales records - both for bicycles and related items - then filtering out the bad data from the good.

The result? The most comprehensive, most reliable, most accurate, and most up-to-date valuation for your bicycle based on year, make, model, and MSRP. In fact, if we don't have all of the necessary information, you're the first to know - as you probably well know, wrong valuation is no valuation at all. That's why we make data accuracy our top priority. It's the only thing that matters.
*Image from Bicycle Blue Book
My first reaction to this website is, "Wow, I can't believe it's taken so long to get something like this up and going!" But, my follow up thoughts are in regards to whether or not one can actually find the bike s/he is looking to purchase or sell. They do have quite an extensive list of inventory when browsing through the current choices, but I quickly took note that, for example, my Rivendell Sam Hillborne is not available. While Rivendell is an option to choose, there are only four generic bicycles listed and one can only select the year 1998, making me think that there is still work to be done with this website. I will concede that even though Riv has been around for a number of years, it's not the most common bicycle seen on the road, so I decided to test out another bike.
*Image from Bicycle Blue Book
How about something more common... my Trek Lexa SLX, for example. That one popped up quite easily, and even had all of the selections available (such as triple or compact) to get the most accurate outcome. I even looked up the '11 Surly Pacer and took note that not only is the whole bike price available, but the frameset alone is a given choice. Very nice to see.

I took note that the website appears to still be in "beta" format, so I presume there are upgrades and bugs still being worked out of the system, but this seems like a really useful tool for used bike buyers. In addition, there is an app available for the iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, and Android, so it seems like it would be a handy tool to have ready on the go as well.

If you have used this for a bicycle transaction, I'd be curious to know if it actually worked well for you... and if you haven't used it, would you look to information like this for your next used bike purchase?


  1. Wow. The value of the bike I got to replace the Batavus has dropped by half since I got it five months ago. I don't know if that's a really low estimate or if Norco bikes really are junk.

    1. I think that it is an unfortunate reality of buying any new bike. I know that in my personal experience, over the course of 6-12 months, what I can get for a bike that was new is about 40-60% of the original price. Totally stinks!

  2. As discovered, each of my bikes is worth around $300. ug.

  3. I think this is a fascinating idea for a website, but there's no way the pricing will be even slightly accurate. Bikes are just too diverse.

    1. Totally get what you're saying, Screech... but as Sam points out, I think additions for upgraded parts could fairly easily be figured into price point. It seems like a nice starting point if nothing else, and then a discussion about upgraded or removed parts could take place, don't you think?

    2. In my experience, "upgrades" don't bring alot of extra money to a used bike sale. In fact, if we're talking about any bike that's even remotely collectible (remember, bikes don't have to be old to be collectible), "upgrades" will reduce the value. Any time you upgrade your bike with, say, a full Ultegra group, the best way to recoup the money is by parting the thing out, slow and gradual..

      Even with run-of-the-mill, non-collectible rigs, money spent on modifying and maintaining the rig is pretty much gonna be lost come sale time. No one wants to pay for old shop labor costs, and no one wants to give the previous owner any money for his/her time/labor either. In fact, whenever i buy an old bike on Craigs, I'm praying that the seller didn't "tune it up", repack anything, or put new tires on it. To me, that just means I'll have to correct some mistakes, and it also means the seller is gonna try to recoup some $$ for whatever cheap/ghastly rubber he just mounted....

      I think this is why I tend to hoard bikes, and either gift or donate(co-ops, or special olympics) any bikes I need to part with.

    3. I'm all for bike hoarding. :O)

      In all seriousness, I can completely understand your thoughts. I have found that even the time of year can change what a bike is worth to a person as well, which could definitely affect this sort of website that's trying to offer an average sale price for a given bike.

  4. I think the site gives a good "base" for a bike price. What makes them diverse are upgrades on components, and condition. You would need to take it from there, and decide what value an upgraded group, wheel set, fork, or whatever is worth individually.

    None of my bikes are particularly "stock", so the assessment does not totally work, but for most people that are buying a bike, a car, or anything else, it does not matter. I look back at people trying to sell older cars "I have put over 10k into it", who cares? It's still an old car, and it's your fault for putting you life savings into it.

    So when someone posts that 2007 Bianchi Brava, equipped with full ultegra, upgraded wheelset, etc. It was still an $800 bike new, and on the bottom, it's worth $300 in any case, now if that Full Ultegra grup is worth an extra $600 to you, then it's worth $900 I guess, and go for it.

    It works for me, and I can think of 3 times I could have used it in the last year!

  5. This site is Bullsh*t! Since they are also a marketplace (in other words they sell bikes) they

    make up very high prices.
    Besides Ebay, there is no aggregate of used bike prices.
    No one goes around reporting how much they sold their bike for!
    The site is a SCAM!!

    1. I don't know if I would go so far as to call the website a "scam," but I agree that the values placed on bikes seem to very often be inaccurate based on the market. Even further, for bicycles that are not in the mainstream awareness, it becomes even more challenging to find any values at all.

      Just as an example, if I go to search for a value on a Rivendell, the only options are four models not even made by Riv in the last several years. It's just one example though because I've searched for many makers/models that are a little less obscure and still not found information on the blue book site.

      When I first wrote this post a couple of years ago, I had hoped that the database would become more broad and a bit more all-encompassing, but that has not yet happened. They've also turned into more of a marketplace for buying and selling as you point out, which, I believe has created a bit of a problem.

      Since this original post, I have sold several bikes and have not used it to figure out a good list price as I've found the values to be off - assuming that I can find the model at all - based on the actual sales prices of these bikes.

      I still believe the idea of a bicycle blue book site could be valuable. I think it's just a little tougher to collect the data needed to provide accurate information, as you've pointed out. I have always advocated for buyers and sellers to use multiple sources for pricing a bike - whether buying or selling.

  6. Just a quick update here. I operate a bike cooperative in New Jersey where we accept donations, repair and resell with the proceeds going to youth programs. I would give BBB a score of being close only 40% of the time. Most of the time BBB severely underestimates what we can sell a bike for in the NYC, NJ area.

    For example, take a mid-range TREK (6000 series) with the full SRAM X-5 groupset. BBB claims this is worth $128. If I were to order the SRAM X-5 9-speed set from my wholesaler, they will charge the coop $175+. How does that work?

    Finally, my local market will value a name brand with premium components at about $200. Customers will tell me they are comparing with WalMart, eBay, or the local sporting goods shop where quality is much lower.

    Even though BBB is an intriguing concept, I cannot see how their data sources are complete or can have such a tight spread (example: Excellent condition-$122-$134, that's a 5% spread around the midpoint of $128.) Home and car sales don't have that type of consistency. Why does BBB say bike pricing will be that close?

  7. NOS... I appreciate your update and sharing your experience. It's been about 4 years since I first wrote about BBB, and like you, I have found that the estimates are on the low side, sometimes even severely low.

    As you point out, it's a difficult task to have complete sources for such a site and have them be entirely accurate. I do know that they sell bicycle goods as well, so I don't know if that plays a role in the values they give, or if the sources just aren't accurate (and I don't know how they can possibly source all sales of bicycles as CL and eBay are just a couple of the places that bikes can be sold, so tracking all sales would be a tremendous task!).

    I think the site is a great idea, but I'm not entirely certain that it's as accurate or dependable as one would hope it would be, such as what one might find with a car value website such as Kelly Blue Book, NADA, or Edmunds (and even they have a fairly wide spread on value based on condition of the vehicle). Maybe BBB will get there one day, but I don't think it's quite there yet.


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