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So, you are in the market for an electric bike – but the cost of new bikes is putting you off, so you decide to look for a second-hand bike hoping to grab a bargain.

We’ve written the following article as a guide for anyone looking at the second-hand electric bike market, and we want to start off by saying – there is nothing wrong with buying a second-hand bike – you just have to be aware of certain pitfalls which could lead to an expensive mistake.

A side view of a bike showing where to look for a serial number

1 - Check whether the bike has been legally acquired

First stop – check if the bike is legal. In Western Australia, you can use Bikelinc. All you have to do is enter the bike serial number and hit enter!

As electric bikes are expensive, they are usually listed on this site by the owners.

Use the image shown to identify where the bike serial number is located, then enter that in the database to check whether it’s been reported as stolen or safe.

If it is stolen, walk away – by purchasing it, you are only encouraging further theft. Even if you purchase it, you would be knowingly purchasing stolen goods, which is a crime in itself.

2 - Make sure the important accessories are with the bike

So, we passed our first step! Next thing, check if important accessories are with the bike – like the battery key. If you don’t have the battery key with the bike you will not have a way to change the battery when it finally decides to go to battery heaven (and it will at some point). Not having a key to remove the battery will likely mean your bike will join the battery in the local tip. You will also need a charger and any unique reset codes if necessary.

3 - The battery – ah yes, the hidden trap!

This one is very important. Batteries are quite expensive ranging from $400 to over $1,000 for specialised bikes. A lot of people don’t realise this, and purchase a bike expecting to replace the battery – only to find that the battery cost is similar to what they paid for the bike in the first place.

As with any device running on batteries – it’s very hard to predict when the batteries would eventually fail. Every battery has a limited number of charge/discharge cycles (600 to 800 cycles depending on the quality of cells used). When these cycles are over, the performance of the battery will fall off a cliff.

Age, and battery charging habits play a key role in determining remaining charge cycles. If a battery is left charging for long periods of time – this uses up charge cycles even though the battery is charged. If a battery has been used for say 3 years, you can be sure it’s nearing the end of its life.

Another pitfall is purchasing the battery itself when it needs replacing. This is easy when it comes to recognised brands and physical stores, but can be tricky online. Not all batteries are made to fit all bikes.

With second hand electric bikes – the battery health and remaining life is the biggest risk to the potential buyer.

4 - Electrics will fail – ensure you can get spares when you need them

Next, we have to consider other electrical parts of the bike. If it’s a recognised brand, keep in mind models change and are upgraded all the time. You might want to check with the store to ensure you can get your hands on a display, controller or any other electrical part should you need to. However small a part – it has the potential to make the e-bike un-rideable. 

5 - The motor

You want to take the bike for a spin (obviously). When you do, listen to the motor – in particular, listen for odd noises. It should feel smooth and even. We recommend riding up a steep slope which will test both the battery and also the motor. Should the battery be on its last legs, it will not be able to maintain minimum voltage and will trip out (good sign … for the buyer at least). If the motor is not healthy, you should get some indication when riding uphill.

6 - Post purchase tasks

Following the successful purchase of your bike (let’s assume you got to that stage), we recommend servicing it. Like with all machines, it’s good to get the other mechanical parts looked at by a professional.

Take away thoughts..

-Second hand electric bikes are not always the bargain they appear to be.

-Understand why the owner wants to sell.

-Ensure you can get spares when you need them (especially the motor, battery & controller).

-Make sure any important accessories are with the bike (like the battery key).

-If you do want a bargain – look for refurbished quality electric bikes from reputable stores. We at WEDGETAIL Bikes offer bargains from time to time. Our bikes also come with limited warranty. 

You can start by renting one of our electric bikes for $160 for 30 days and we’re sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Not only will it save you money, but your health will also benefit. 

If you like what you see, you can rent to buy or continue renting for a small monthly fee. 

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