Bargaining over the price of a bike
August 28, 2006 2:52 PM   Subscribe

When buying a new bike from a local bike shop, is bargaining over the price expected, and if so, how much should I be able to talk them down from the MRSP?
posted by bstreep to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

How much just depends. Like anything you have to shop around to get a feel for good prices. Sometimes it is free accessories rather than price because the mark-up on these can be higher, depending.
posted by caddis at 2:55 PM on August 28, 2006

It's completely variable. If you get a 2006 now, you can haggle a bit since the 2007s are coming in.. but if it's a high end carbon frame that they could easily sell no matter the year, not so much. Think about how many rebates you get on a Chevy Cobalt vs. how much OVER sticker you have to pay to just get in the queue for a Ferrari Enzo.

What bike(s) are you looking at?
posted by kcm at 3:07 PM on August 28, 2006

I have no idea--I have purchased many bikes and never haggled. I am guessing most of the profit in a local (neighborhood) store is in the accessories, replacement parts and service. The bicycle business is fairly competetive and I would also guess that the mark up on new bikes is realtively thin. I have always viewed my relationship with the shop as a long term relationship--I have mid to upper range bikes I am sure they have made more from me in service/parts/accessories than on the bike itself.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:20 PM on August 28, 2006

When buying a new bike from a local bike shop, is bargaining over the price expected

Generally not, because bike shops generally have nonexistent (or 1-2% at most) margins on most bikes they sell. Bargain over what else you get with the bike instead - get 'em to throw in a water bottle/cage, or a couple free tubes or tuneups, or something like that.

Shops are much more amenable to that kind of negotiation because it doesn't involve them taking a loss on a particular bike, just writing off a couple accessories.
posted by pdb at 3:26 PM on August 28, 2006

It's considered extremely poor form. It's not a car dealership, and the margins are very small. Bikes get ordered at Interbike in September, sat on unsold until now. rmhsinc has it right. Unless you are a competent home mechanic, look at the relationship as a long term deal. Parts and accessories are where the money is. Tubes that retail for five bucks cost fifty cents. Then when you need a spoke replaced the night before your century (and don't know how to do it yourself) they'll accommodate you.
posted by fixedgear at 3:26 PM on August 28, 2006

As a shop owner (but not a bike shop owner) I can say this: It depends on what you want to offer in exchange. For example, are you going to point at something and say "I want that" pay, and leave? Saving me time by not asking questions is worth a discount (although might not be the best thing for the consumer). Buying multiple items can be worth a discount. Being a frequent customer means more business for me, so that's a discount. Buying the model with a scratch on it? Discount. Don't want a warranty? Discount. Don't need some parts? Discount.

Saying useless things like "I'll buy more" or "My friends shop here" or "I will send my family" or "I won't buy it" or "I'll shop at the town 2 hours drive away [you'd be surprised, I get that 3 or 4 times a week]" doesn't garner any discounts. Words usually only have a negative value in most stores.

Just being honest. To get you must give.
posted by shepd at 3:30 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The bike I'm looking at is a 2006 Schwinn Super Sport. It's been over a decade since I've purchased a new bike, so I was a little unsure of how to procede. I definitely don't want to come across as a pushy customer, because I would like to form a good relationship with the shop.
posted by bstreep at 3:47 PM on August 28, 2006

Generally not, because bike shops generally have nonexistent (or 1-2% at most) margins on most bikes they sell.

I worked in a shop for three years and I know the shop got bikes for about half to two thirds what they sold for (shop paid $150-200 for a bike put on the floor for $300). Markup on parts was about double what they got wholesale.

I used to haggle when buying a new bike, but I find shop owners are much more into throwing a ton of free parts into a price. So if I was buying a new road bike today, I'd ask for bottles, cages, a flat kit, and small seat bag to be thrown in free if I pay full price. Usually that means about $50 worth of stuff to me, but only about $25 worth of stuff to the owner.
posted by mathowie at 3:52 PM on August 28, 2006

If you're looking at this bike bstreep, I'd say wait until we're in September (when the 2007 bikes come out), and see if you can get it for $300-350.
posted by mathowie at 3:54 PM on August 28, 2006

Find out what you want and then buy it on ebay if you want a cheap bike.

So many people throw so much cash at a flash new bike and then hardly ride it. Bike shops seem to work on the gym model now as it is easier to throw down a few hundred dollars that put the real effort in to get fitter.

My road bike new would be about 2K. It was 750 on ebay.
posted by sien at 4:01 PM on August 28, 2006

I've just been researching bikes and although I eventually decided to build one myself from a custom frame and parts, I was astonished at the quality of bike you could get by NOT buying at your LBS. In particular, check out the following direct-order suppliers (for Kinley, Ibex and Motobecane bikes respectively). Purists get sniffy about these bikes for various reasons but for the majority of buyers they are a steal, and FAR better specified than the bikes on sale at the LBS for the same $.

There are also some great deals on GT and Schwinn bikes here:

or even better from their ebay store:
posted by unSane at 4:03 PM on August 28, 2006 [2 favorites]

While you'll save some cash going the EBay way, I would recommend picking a good LBS and sticking with it. You're forming a long-term relationship with your LBS and it's worth the a few bux (IMHO) to start that relationship off right.

When I bought my mtb (~$2k) I got it from a little shop that was tired of sitting on it. It took me 2 months to get fitted properly as nobody wanted to deal with me; the little LBS was butthurt at having to let go of it too cheap and the larger LBS was unhappy cause I hadn't shopped with them in the first place. YMMV.
posted by crunchyk9 at 4:34 PM on August 28, 2006

Oh, and the first thing you're going to do when you get a used bike is have it tuned up, which is gunna cost yah. Don't forget to take that into consideration.

Also, often times you'll get a free tune-up or two with a new bike purchase, which is good because after the break-in cables tend to stretch and you'll need it anyway.
posted by crunchyk9 at 4:36 PM on August 28, 2006


"markup" is just the retail vs. wholesale price, but "margin" is often understood to be the profit you're left with after paying for rent, labour and other overhead. The former might seem fat, but in reality the latter is razor-thin for most retailers.

I'll throw my lot in with those who feel that haggling over price at an independent retailer is not the thing to do.
posted by randomstriker at 4:47 PM on August 28, 2006

Here in central Jersey it seems that most riders do get a discount and most shops offer one. They are not deep, but most of us don't push too hard either. You get your best discounts on accessories, not the sub 30$ stuff which you just pay retail, but the fancy pedals, helmets, clothing, etc. I understand the margins and I want my LBS to survive so I just usually ask what is the best price they can give me and live with that. I have a lot of shops in the area and if one is chintzy on the discounts I spend more time in the others.

Once you establish a relationship the discounts get better. On a $2,000 bike that is not brand new or super hot, you might get $100 to $300 knocked off the price depending upon how long it has been sitting in inventory, but the good ones come without pedals, water bottle cages etc. so your best bet is to get $300 worth of pedals, cages, computers and other items which they will mount to the bike for you for free. Of course, this does not apply to the hottest pedals, computers etc.

One shop I deal with very, very often never really gives discounts, but they have they really cater to the customer in every other way. Another shop doesn't really have that much of what I want but they offer awesome discounts. When I wanted a roof rack they saved me several hundred dollars. It was cheaper than mail order and they installed it as well.

It pays to shop around, but be respectful. Many shops just can't afford to give too much of a discount, especially to someone they don't already know. The regulars get a little better discount just to keep them regular. (okay, enough rambling.)
posted by caddis at 5:39 PM on August 28, 2006

I agree with those above who say don't haggle much. I worked at a bike shop while in high school, and as many have said above, most of the profit is made on accessories, parts, and higher end bikes. The profit made on $300-600 dollar bikes was pretty slim. So unless you're going to be spending a lot, ($2000+) keep the haggling to a minimum, and try to get some accessories out of the deal. Also, check out the what their service policy is. This may vary a lot from shop to shop, and some places will give much better coverage on future labor and tune-ups than others.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 6:31 PM on August 28, 2006

I tend to ask in any situation, way before I indicate much more than a feigning interest: "Are you negotiable in price?"

In doing so, seller doesnt believe they have a sucker, and must put their best price forward.

Many times items are not negotiable, then I look for high quality, great service or whatnot before making a decision to go elsewhere.

FWIW, I recently bought a several year old S-Works road bike for less than a third of original retail. As mentioned above, there is a ton of great used stuff out there.
posted by vaportrail at 6:40 PM on August 28, 2006

Used bikes often don't need much of a tune-up. Get yourself a copy of Zinn [Road] or Zinn [MTB] and you'll find you can do a basic cleaning & tweaking job yourself. I've taken apart, cleaned, & reassembled several bikes, both road & mtb, without any drawbacks (some frustration, yes, & i didn't go much farther than taking out the BB/headset, but still).

I would never bargain with a local bike shop owner unless I was a very regular customer. If there was damage or the bike was used, maybe, but otherwise... no way.
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:16 PM on August 28, 2006

Response by poster: Actually, I'm looking at the Schwinn Super Sport DBX. I took it out for a test ride and really liked it. If I knew more about bikes I'd be more comfortable buying used from ebay. I just feel more comfortable buying from a local shop because I can take the bike out and feel it out. What would be the best way to research used bikes on ebay or other used sites?
posted by bstreep at 8:37 PM on August 28, 2006

As a data point I was in california for 3 months and wanted a bike to ride to work. Went to local bike shop and they had a previous-year model they wanted rid of so they just asked me for an offer. Got it for 2/3 of sticker price with no back & forth then spent a shitload on accessories - perhaps the fact that they knew I was going to do that was part of the reason they accepted the offer. Net price with extra bits (speedo, bottles, helmet, pump, bag, tubes, repair kit, etc) came to about the original sticker price.
posted by polyglot at 2:45 AM on August 29, 2006

What would be the best way to research used bikes on ebay or other used sites?

Buying used bikes is a lottery if you can't ride 'em. And that is reflected in the price you pay on eBay. I wouldn't buy used off eBay if you aren't comfortable fixing up the bike and if necessary stripping out some parts and replacing them. At the upper end (>$750) you are often getting a bunch of 'name' parts (Shimano XT or XTR, SRAM X.9 or X.0, Race Face, etc etc) plus a well known frame/fork, and so even if one component is shot there is still a lot of value in the bike. At the lower end... not so much.

Your best source for used bikes is probably Craigslist since you can go see 'em.

The way you are describing using your LBS is exactly right and may be the right thing for you. You can certainly get more bike for less buy buying direct or used but unless you are confident that the bike is going to fit right (they vary a LOT even in the same nominal frame size) you may end up buying a pig in a poke.

When you buy a bike direct/used and have it shipped you also have to pay shipping (unless it's free) and perhaps the cost of having it boxed by the shipper's LBS (unless it's done for free) and perhaps the cost of having it reassembled by your own LBS (unless you are confident about doing it yourself). You may also have to deal with shipping damage or delays... well, you get the picture.

For lots of people it's worth it. The Zinn maintenance books are *excellent* (but figure on buying tools...).

I guess I'm saying for a casual purchase of a first 'decent' bike, the LBS is a good port of call. Not least because the single most important factor about any bike is that it *fits* you. Without that it's a pile of metal and rubber, however much it cost.
posted by unSane at 8:46 AM on August 29, 2006

Technically, all prices in all stores are negotiable..

If you are negotiating price, let them know that you are paying cash (visa takes 2-3%, after all, better you or the bike shop take that money than some bank).

The markup/margin debate is an interesting one, and quite frustrating. Sure, stores have lots of costs, but that isn't really the customers concern. If a business wanted to tell me what their rent is, and what their sales are, then I might care to listen to how terrible it is that they only make 1-2% margin - they won't, and I don't. Lots of businesses claim they are "losing money" if they don't get to make their expected profit on a transaction. There is a certain logic to that, but in the end the claim is just marketing.

I think (no economist here) that Differential Pricing and Efficiency covers the question pretty well.. Basically, if you can convince them you are unwilling to buy at the regular price, it is in the stores interest to find a way to make the sale anyway, so long as the sale price is above their cost (lots of assumptions implied, may not apply at any given time). Some businesses make extensive use of price discrimination and some discourage it strongly - Dell sells to uninformed consumers at Apple's prices, and they offer 'deals' to informed consumers - Apple tries to get the same price from everyone (perhaps I just lack information :P).

Personally, I don't particularly like the whole negotiation thing, but I also really really like getting the best possible price. I've been trying to get a new rear wheel this summer, and I can tell you that bike shops don't want to deal with me on my terms. I'm not certain what the problem is, but I suspect they want maintenance business which I'm not going to give them, and they think that makes me more trouble than my business is worth. (stay tuned to that rear wheel thread for an update on my experiences at Toronto bike shops.. Pain-in-the-ass!)
posted by Chuckles at 10:59 PM on September 2, 2006


Heavy guy + big loads + cheap wheels = problems

A $90 machine built wheel is going to give you even more grief.

You need to get a wheel handbuilt with heavy duty rims and spokes, and probably a 36-hole rather than 32-hole lacing pattern.
posted by unSane at 5:11 AM on September 5, 2006

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