Getting bikes for a cheap price can be a bit of challenge, and will probably require you to bury some preconceived notions about thrift. Like say, that idea that buying something used always less expensive than buying it new. Not so. Because of the labor costs involved in refurbishing a used bike, bike stores tend to only buy and sell used bikes of a certain level of quality. If a bike is a cheap bike, once it gets to the stage of being a used bike, it’s most likely to be stripped and used for parts, not to be sold again. What this means is that used bike stores are great places to get good to excellent quality used bikes, but if you are just looking for dirt-bottom prices, you’re better off buying new.
Take Kmart for example. Checking into they’re online store, it’s clear that deals are to be found. They’ve got a 20in Huffy bike for boys and girls for 59.99 (reg. price: 69.99) and a Pacific 26in Mens and Womens Stratus bike for 89.99. So for our family of five, we’ve got a price tag of $360, plus tax (and shipping, if you purchase online).
While it’s true that for adults you won’t find anything used cheaper for what you can get new, the same is not true for kids bikes. Since kids tend to outgrow their bikes pretty quick, there is a pretty big market of used kids bikes. The best place to look is Craigslist. A quick look recently revealed a slew of kids bikes ranging from $25-$50, depending on wheel size and whether they come with training wheels or not. You can of course also buy an adult bike off Craigslist, but since you never really know how a bike will feel till you ride it, it’s nice to be able to go to a store and try a few out to compare.
Though it will cost slightly more, I’d recommend getting a couple of slightly nicer used bikes for the adults. Unless you plan to hardly ever ride them, it’s worth having a bike that is a bit more nimble than the typical department store clunker. Of course, a cheap used bike is unlikely to be much less than $200, so it probably won’t work for this budget, but we can at least come somewhat close if the kids bikes are cheap.
If you’re going this route, check out Recycle-a-Bicycle, which has a store in DUMBO and in the East Village. There’s also greatusedbikes.com which tends to sell in the $180-$300 range, and offers free delivery to all of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and parts of Queens. Also try calling Frank’s Bike Shop (212-533-6332) in LES to see what they have in stock. It’s well known as a very reasonably priced neighborhood shop.