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I'm going to be moving to a semi-urban area in a few months. I'd love to buy a bike to be able to travel around the town.

I don't want to spend too much money. I'd say the best < $300 can get me.

What kind of bike should I get, and what would be the best way to go about this? Visit a local bike shop? ebay? Craigslist?

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    $300 new is a low end bike. Go used. Craigslist has no shipping cost. – paparazzo Feb 10 '15 at 12:52
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    Yep, used. But first visit a few bike shops, explain your needs (in terms of skill, where/when you will be riding, etc) and let them try to sell you a bike. Have them explain the important points of the bike. Some will give you completely bogus info to sell what they have, but you'll recognize the "good guys" and learn a bit about what makes a decent bike. (This is not treating the shops unfairly, as you will need to find a good shop to help maintain your bike anyway, and this is a good way to "audition" them.) Then inspect the Craigslist bikes using what you've learned. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 10 '15 at 13:40
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    There are bike shops which specialize / carry a decent selection of used bikes. You may spend a few more bucks there, but might find something decent there easier (especially if this is a college town). The most important thing is avoiding BSO's. – Batman Feb 10 '15 at 13:52
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This has gone a few hours with no answer so will give it a try.

Consider spend too much. There is the purchase cost and cost of maintenance. Low end bikes commonly refereed to as BSO (bicycle shaped objects) don't last long and are expensive to service. With a BSO you get custom (as in bad can't replace) components. Many bike shops will not even work on a BSO. You need to get up into named brand components (e.g. Shimano and Sram).

Looked used and less movable parts (no suspension and no gears).

My trash (as in lock it on the street) commuter is a bike is a single speed name brand I got used for $400 and was $1200 new. Mile for mile it is as cheap as you are going to get.

New I know an $800 bike is way more than $300 but if you are going to ride it more than a few hundred miles it is cheaper.

Trick is find the guy / girl that bought an $800 bike and did not ride it and is selling it.
Yes people want to get 60% to 80% of what they paid but used you can get it for 30%.

Minus the lights and tires this is a bike I got used for $400. Mile for mile I don't think you can do better. I have put 4000 miles on this bike and two set of tires and two chains.
$400

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I would suggest first deciding what kind of bike you'd like. Road vs. Mountain vs. Hybrid.

Road - more aggressive positioning (lean more forward) for aerodynamic benefits. Thinner tires.
Mountain - more upright, sturdy/heavy. Wider tires for offroad Hybrid/Cross - something in between. Usually road type bike with clearance for slightly wider tires.

In your case I would suggest a used 90s steel mountain/hybrid bike. There are millions of them around and all over craiglist. Make sure the bike fits well (ie. you can adjust the seat/handlebars sufficiently to be comfortable).

A bike such as this (mountain/hybrid) should also have lots of eyelets for attaching fenders/racks/baskets to carry stuff.

Craigslist is a good way but if you're not very familiar with bikes you should try to find a friend who can help. That way they can go with you to look at any used bikes and make sure it's decent. If that's not possible, hopefully a local bike shop can help and not try to up sell you. There are many, many used bikes in your price range so don't let a shop try to talk you into a new bike.

Another option is to ask local bike riders you run into what they like about their bikes and let them point out stuff. I don't think there's a serious bike rider who wouldn't spend hours discussing bikes.

Hope this helps.

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