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Aside from just knowing the best time to make the purchase of your bike, what other specific tactics can I make use of in negotiating price on a bike? For instance, what devalues a bike aside from just wear and tear, and how can I use these to get a better price on a bike?

Note: I appreciate all the comments about LBS and local patronage of merchants is something we can all support. However, like going to buy a car, there are always things to know about a product that (when negotiating) play in the favor of merchants (overvalues the car: like when you had to get on a waiting list to get a Prius) and in the favor of buyers (devalues: when you had to be wary of your gas pedal buying a Prius). This is a question to benefit buyers of bikes.

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I assume you mean when buying a used bike? Ideally, when buying a new one, ideally there aren't any dings in it! – zigdon Nov 4 '10 at 16:45
@zig hoping for both, but mostly wanting to know how to negotiate down from sticker price on new bikes especially. Clarified '[dings the price]' to '[devalues a bike]' aside from just wear and tear – mfg Nov 4 '10 at 17:21
Thanks for all the advice. Sounds like I should nix the focus on short term savings, and make an informed buy with LBS advice; and maybe get the accessories and services from local guys (instead of Amazon), and save money that way. – mfg Nov 8 '10 at 19:20

15 Answers 15

up vote 23 down vote accepted

Don't expect much until you know the guys that work at a bike shop. I bought my first road bike (a single speed) from my not-so-local LBS because it was on sale (45 miles from my house, with several bike shops in between). In the process, I discovered that I got along well with the guys that work there. In return for our growing relationship, they started giving me pointers about maintenance, and discounts on accessories (computer, bar tape, etc).

When I referred my father-in-law to them to get a bike (he's a doctor and doesn't have the same price constraints that I do) they gave him a pretty good deal because I sent him. I have no doubt that when I've saved my pennies enough to budget for a new bike I'll get as good a deal as they can offer me, without having to ask for a deal.

Most bike shop employees and owners could make a lot more money doing something else, but own/work at a bike shop because they love cycling. I appreciated the desire to stretch your dollars as far as they'll go, but nobody is entitled to special deals without earning them.

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I bought a carbon road bike recently. All I did was walking into the LBS, asked a quote on that bike, the sales written down a number on a small piece of paper which was 10% off the MSRP, I said OK and handed over my credit card. some people claimed they have 20% off for a similar priced bike. My advise is don't go beyond your affordability and understand the margin the LBS has to make.

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I've found this works in most negotiations. Ask a direct but open question like "what's the deal with discounts on this bike" and then just wait until the other person fills the silence. Even when it feels like they've finished talking, if they haven't really answered your question stay quiet and don't make confirming sounds. They will almost certainly answer your question. Don't be afraid to ask that awkward question either.

Tldr: Make them do the talking, keep quiet

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As someone who has bought bikes at cost in the past, there is more margin in bicycles then what these LBS want us to believe.

For example a 2000 bike, the approximate cost to make at factory is roughly 700 dollars. They sell it to the LBS for 1200-1400 and then they sell it to the consumer for 2099.

If you think these numbers are not realistic, I have purchased a name brand carbon bike from the factory for less then 1/3 of the sticker price at the local store. I had family that worked there.

So I would absolutely feel it is okay to ask for a better price. If the LBS is insulted then they should re-evaluate their customer service practices and pricing.So I would absolutely feel it is okay to ask for a better price. If the LBS is insulted then they should re-evaluate their customer service practices and pricing.

This is why there is such an increase recently with online dealers etc...Why should I pay 900 for a group set when I can get it online for less then 400.

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Who will fix your bike when the LBS is out of business? – andy256 Apr 6 at 23:24
That's nothing new. The entire retail industry operates in such a manner. As for your family, it sounds like they were abusing a manufacturer prodeal program. Most of those programs are meant for shop employees in the industry, not for family. I have seen employees fired for such abuse. – Chris in AK Apr 10 at 19:25
Yeah, its not necessarily that you're getting the bike in such a program at cost -- it may be even discounted a bit. If you're running a bike shop, you gotta cover rent, the people to assemble and check over the bike, account for stock that wont be sold, etc. in the price of things that do sell. I don't believe a LBS is charging 700 dollars over what they're buying the bike for. – Batman Apr 13 at 1:26

Bottom line is NO a bike shop will not lower the price for you just because you haggled! The profit margin is low on bikes and no lead way to discount. Some bike stores will discount their bikes when the next year models come out. Look for a non profit shop in the area where you can volunteer and build a bike for very little.

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This question is not about haggling, which generally insinuates that the person is asking for a reduction in price (1) just for asking, (2) for spurious reasons. The latter two sentences in your answer are helpful comments, but this is not an answer to the question as posed. – mfg Feb 20 at 20:34

Time...going to the same store just to browse and buying little things over the year. That's the best way to get deals. They see you on a regular basis, know you're serious about cycling and will be more willing to cut you a deal when you start asking about this year's models because they know you are not just a one shot sale.
Your LBS survives on the lifetime customer. They make more money on the add-on sale than on the single bike sale. If you're a regular then they'll be giving you a price of cost plus 20% so they don't loose but then they'll start giving you a 10%-20% off on your on going items like helmets, shoes, clothes, tubes etc. Those Items are usually at a 100% mark-up and that's how they keep the lights on.
They will also start doing little things for you at no cost like swapping out a flat tube for you if it's slow.

Remember it's a relationship you are making and that's how you get deals. You agree to keep coming back and buy your tubes, grease, brake pads and they agree to not over charge you and give you good advice on future purchases.

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Instead of asking for e.g. a $50 discount on a bike ask for accessories worth $50. This way the shop will not loose $50 of their profit but rather 50 minus their margin on accessories (typically high for low priced items).

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I can't say enough about as a resource.Most bikes made in the last 15 years are listed.Most will have the original selling price and specifications.Many times a seller will present a bike as being five years old based on how long they have owned it when in fact it maybe six years old.Bikepedia can help with this as some colors or components were only offered certain years.This is very helpful when comparing bike A to Bike B after you get home and are making your mind up because you can't afford both.One cardinal sin is to head to your LBS take up an hour or two of his time, test ride his bike then complain about the price and buy it in line.

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I would definetly negotiate for a lower price. In these hard times it should be expected.

That does not mean you are a "weasel" or a "thief"...Are you kidding me? Pay top dollar if you choose (car dealers must love you). A company needs to earn my business.

That said I do my research as others have mentioned above. Whilst shopping for a bike I would visit at least five bike shops. Some will offer; lifetime service/tune-ups, a rewards program, or a discount if you buy multiple bikes.

I do my best to negotiate a price based on the competitions prices/discounts/specials. I would absolutely prefer the bike shop closest to my home, so I actually create a chart showing what the other bike shops are offering to show the sales rep.

If they cannot match the Service Warranty, rewards, or otherwise they will drop the price of the bike itself or give me a great deal on accessories.

Just because the tag has a price on it does not mean it is final. A Bike shop is still a business, and I am still a customer. I am going to try and get the best price I can.

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I think that the LBS works a lot like most other shops. They don't make a lot selling you a whole bike, but they sell accessories with a much bigger margin. When I bought my bike, they didn't take anything off the price of the bike. But they gave me a good discount on all the accessories I bought along with it (helmet, lock, lights, free water bottle and cage, etc.). Try to shop around and see what other retailers are selling the same/similar bikes for.

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From someone who worked in retail for years: If you have to ask for a discount, you don't deserve one.

Shops know what gear is worth and price it accordingly.

Discounts are usually given to loyal customer (I'm talking years loyal) who the shop staff enjoy speaking to, dealing with and would like to keep them happy so they continue to shop there.

If you're cranky, unlikeable, pushy or aggressive there is no chance you're getting a discount because the staff would probably be glad if you never came back.

Harsh but true.

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I agree with the other answers with regard to LBS. Many of them are doing their best to provide bicycle services and aren't making a mint doing it.

It isn't a filthy-rich business and it doesn't make sense for most of them to sell used bikes. If THAT's what you'r looking for...

If you are looking at a bike from a garage sale, Ebay or Craigslist seller, be sure to look at the components and not just the frame. The frame, saddle, and shiny bits will certainly catch your eye first. Shiny doesn't necessarily make value.

The ANSWER to your question is to KNOW YOUR PRODUCT. Research bikes and figure out what it is you want and know what the fair market value is. Many private sellers have only a vague notion of what their bike is worth and may ask some percentage of what they paid for it twenty years ago. The bike may or may not be worth that now.

If it's a Schwinn Paramount, it's probably worth somewhat more.

Get to know components groups and what levels of quality they represent. Sheldon Brown's website is a great resource to browse before going shopping for 80's road bikes. If you know 600 and Ultegra are the same thing in terms of quality (and good) vs Shimano 2300 which is worth its weight in guano... you can start to get an idea what you're looking at.

What was the quality of the components new? What is their condition now? Will you have to replace the derailleur just to make the bike shift through its whole gear range? This is an added cost for a buyer. Are the brand-new tires covering up some ancient no-name steel rims that are going to cost you $200 to replace? That's something to consider.

Figure out what the bike you want is worth. NOT what you WANT to pay. What is it WORTH reasonably in the condition you want with the components you want...

It's not cool to lowball people or try to weasel them out of their bike. That's a couple steps above theft. It IS cool to know bikes and know what you're dealing with.

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I've worked retail at an LBS and at various other outdoor stores. Even if you come in politely and ask for a discount the fact is that the other 2 guys that did it that day were rude and pushy about it so it's unlikely that we're in any good mood at this point.

We're happy to give discounts to the people that are nice bring donuts by, just come and talk in a friendly manner. We even know what we paid for stuff and can direct you to the stuff that we know can be discounted without making the boss nuts.

I've always got discounts at any outdoor store (even first time) by being nice and accommodating staff. That includes telling them to go help other customers if I'm deciding on stuff. Patiently waiting for them to get back to me and just being easy going. Talking about what they ride and where.

Getting discounts is about building a long term relationship not about haggling one day. Even if they give you a discount that day they're not inclined to point you to the stuff that they can discount on a regular basis. You traded a small discount on one day for a savings that could be paying off for years to come. Heck people who came in regularly will even get employee pricing off and on because we like to see you. You're the type of customer we want so we encourage you to come back.

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If you're buying from your LBS then I would think twice, yes they're making a profit on that shiny bike, but is a few quid/dollars/euros/pesos off the sticker worth endangering them?

I frequent my LBS because the guys in there know me, they've sold me the last half dozen bikes I've bought, so when I come in, we chat, they fit my service and work in even though their diary is full, sometimes they make me coffee, and yes sometimes they'll round the bill down or throw in something for free, but no amount of discount is worth them endangering their business and them not being there in the future.

But they save me money in other ways, their advice over what to buy, that I don't need to go for the next model up, that certain things last longer.

There's no excuse in wasting money unnecessarily, but automatically assuming that all retailers are sleeping on beds of cash and can be fought down isn't going to help keep that friendly local store alive.

Why is it overpriced? Shouldn't you be on the look out for a right-priced, once all the factors have been considered?

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+1 about the advice. The barrier to entry for purchasing a new bike can be a bit of a hurdle, especially with a recession going around. When a dozen eggs appear to be over-priced, so can a $500 bike for simple commuting. I am not looking to endanger local bike sellers, simply to stretch my dollar to its limits. (For the sake of getting an answer, I have removed the word 'over-priced' but am leaving this comment so that your mention of the word does not appear to be out of thin air.) – mfg Nov 4 '10 at 18:56

From my experience, your best bet is to just build a very good relationship with your LBS. Once they know you well enough, they're likely to just make you a good offer to begin with.

Note: This isn't advocating building the relationship for the discounts, but they are a nice side effect.

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