I counted the bills as the man loaded my bike into his car. “Twenty…eighty…one-twenty, one-forty…” I made it to $350 and nodded, mentally saying goodbye to my metal steed.
In two months we will be moving across the country. When we moved here, we shoved everything into the car and drove it three thousand miles to upstate NY from Portland, OR. We planned to ship the car to Santa Barbara in our next move, however, we realized that putting our bikes on the rack on the back of the car probably wouldn’t fly with a shipping company.
Rather than worry about it, or wait until the last minute of loading up the car only to realize (surprise!) there’s no room for our bikes, I listed my bike on Craigslist. As I pulled up the site, I suddenly had flashbacks to when I first bought the bike back in Portland.
Searching for a Bike on Craigslist
When I was looking to buy a bike, I scrolled through the listings for days, struggling to find a decent road bike for less than $400. Then I found 2 in one day. The first owner of a decent looking Kona never responded to my message to ask if it was available, and the second confirmed that I could come by and take the bike for a spin.
Like many other online shoppers, I tend to get sucked into researching a product heavily before I buy it, so I combed through forums and tried to figure out what year the bike came out. I learned a few things:
- It is tricky to find the exact year if the owner doesn’t tell you. However, I did find out that it was a 2007 model based on its carbon fork.
- Prices vary so much that it’s hard to pinpoint the true “market value” of a bicycle.
- The marketing pitch for bikes on the original manufacturer’s site is way more appealing than the Craigslist descriptions.
A Little Experiment
Then I did something I’ve never done before. When I got home I reposted the bike for sale, copying the images from the original posting, but replacing the description with the one from the manufacturer.
On my new and improved listing, I posted the price as $500, over double what I had just paid for it. Five people e-mailed me within the next day.
I took the posting down, as I liked the bike and had no need to sell it, but it taught me three valuable lessons: marketing matters, prices are often arbitrary, and I could resell this bike later without much hassle.
The difference on Bicycle Bluebook between MSRP ($1,100) and buying from a private party ($200) demonstrated how much you can save just by buying a bicycle that is a few years old, rather than new.
Time To Sell On Craigslist
When I made it to upstate NY in September, I had already missed most of the summer days, and the bike went into our basement. Out of sight, out of mind, it gathered dust for the next year. Now as we’re planning to move, it made sense to sell it. There will be plenty of bikes in Santa Barbara, after all!
Yet when it came to listing it on Craigslist, the nostalgia came flooding back. As I reviewed the bicycle specs again, I remembered my first ride when I marveled at how fast I could go with very little effort and suddenly I didn’t want to sell the bike anymore. I recognized this feeling as the endowment effect: an emotional bias that causes individuals to value an owned object higher, often irrationally, than its market value.
There Will Always Be Another Bike
Even though I suddenly felt like no bicycle could measure up to the smooth ride of my 13-year-old Sequoia, of course that is simply false. The truth is that there is an abundance of stuff. It will be easy to find a bike that is just as good, if not better, than this one.
I fired up a new listing on Craigslist and combined the marketing messages with the old Craigslist description I had saved (I now do this with everything I buy online to make reselling easier later). Next, I pressed “Post” and in two days had cash-in-hand and one less thing to worry about in our move.
This is the post I made: