How to save money on children’s bikes

As the cost-of-living crisis begins to bite, buying a brand new children’s bike might be out of your budget. There are other affordable choices to ensure your child or grandchild has a good-quality bike to ride. Cycling UK’s Victoria Hazael investigates the options

Children’s bikes are not all equal; some brands are too heavy, don’t fit children properly and are built to a price point that will sell rather than being enjoyable for a child to ride. Buying a bike for your child takes a bit of thought and some measuring too. Once you have chosen the right size and style of bike for your child, it’s time to shop around and look at the options.

I am often asked what’s the cheapest way to buy a quality children’s bike? The answer really depends on how many children you have, how much cash flow you have and how much hassle you are willing to endure to save money.

Buying brand new

If you can afford it, a new bike from a quality brand is the easiest option, as the bike will last and can be passed on to a younger sibling. If cash flow isn’t an issue you can usually bank on selling on a bike from the likes of Islabikes and Frog for between 40-75% of the price you paid depending on wear and tear.

Even if the frame on an Islabikes is damaged and out of warranty you can still sell the parts on places like eBay and the Cycling UK forum.

Just to note, though, at the moment (December 2022) it’s not the best time to sell a second-hand children’s bike as the market is flooded with bikes bought in peak of the 2020 lockdown that have now been outgrown. On the plus side this means there are some second-hand bargains to be had.

If you are looking to save money do not be tempted to by a cheap and cheerful brand as this is a false economy. A cheaper heavy ‘bicycle-shaped object’ is made with cheap components which will often break quickly and will not be useable for another child. Ask any bike mechanic – they will tell you they struggle to repair cheap and cheerful bikes.

These bikes are designed to a low price point and to be disposable after a year or so. Cheap bikes rust easily and have parts that seize. I know this makes me sound like a bike snob but if you can’t afford a new quality bike it is much better for your purse, stress levels and the environment to buy or rent a good-quality second-hand bike that your child will find nicer to ride.

Ways to save on a new bike

If you are struggling to save for a bike, ask friends and grandparents to contribute to a bike fund (wrap up a bell and bike gloves so there is a parcel to open on the child’s birthday or Christmas day if you’ve left it a bit late). Then go bike shopping in January when the prices may well be lower in the sales and there should be plenty more bikes in stock.

Don’t forget Cycling UK members get discounts at places such as HalfordsFreewheel and independent bike shops, too, so make sure you have your member card tucked in your wallet ready to show or have logged in to the member benefits page to download a code.

Buying a second-hand bike

The cheapest bike is a free quality bike, so ask family and friends with older children, parents at school or your local cycling club to see if anyone has the brand or type of bike you’re looking for. There are so many children’s bikes hiding in sheds and garages that aren’t being ridden so chances are they will be willing to loan, give or sell.

There’s even a wanted thread on Cycling UK’s forum where you can post about bikes you’d like to buy.

Remember if you buy second hand you will need to check the bike is roadworthy. If you aren’t great at bike mechanics, there’s help and advice available from our Big Bike Revival partners, or get your local bike shop to help and give it a service (this should cost under £50).

Another couple of great places to find a cheaper bike are a bike recycling centre or bike kitchen.

There’s a whole wealth of further information and tips on How to: Buy a second-hand bike.

Renting a bike

This year I have rented a Frog MTB 69 from Bike Club; it would have cost me £755 to buy it new. As Cycling UK members get the first month free I thought I’d try it out and we have been renting the bike since spring.

We chose the Frog MTB as my son (who has another bike) wanted to try a proper mountain bike. It was great: we didn’t have to commit to a long rental and we can send it back anytime, we’ll pay a charge £29.99 to return it.

The bike arrived and all I had to do was straighten handlebars and put the pedals on; it was simple. My son had a brand-new Frog MTB to play with. I pay £25.99 a month on direct debit. I expect like most of the Bike Club’s 40,000+ customers my son will grow too big for this bike after 18 months of renting it.

Does it add up?

The rental for 18 months will cost £467.82 (£441.83 with Cycling UK member discount), but I won’t own the bike or even a percentage of it. It belongs to Bike Club and we’ll need to return it. If my son grows out of it sooner than 18 months we’ll have to pay £19.99 to swap bikes.

Doing the maths on this bike, which we also tested in the Dec/Jan issue of Cycle magazine, if I bought the bike new and it had no damage to it in 18 months’ time I could probably sell it second hand for £500-£600, so the 18 months of use would cost me around £250. This is the cheapest option in the long term, but there are a lot of ifs here.

It’s a hassle to sell a bike second hand and you must have the cash to buy the bike new. You also take a risk on what condition the bike will be in at the end of use. It’s a small gamble you’ll recoup most of the costs by selling the bike on after 18 months. You will also need to have space in your home to store an extra bike while you sell it.

I have more than one child so I can pass bikes down and make more use of any bike we have bought outright but the second-hand value will drop further as the bike acquires more scratches and wear and tear. After two children, the bike will be roughly three years old, and I might be lucky to get 40% of the cost price back.

What I like about renting is that it is hassle free, there were plenty of bikes to choose from and all are well-designed bikes – no bicycle-shaped objects are available on this subscription service. It gives an option to people who don’t have the cash up front. It gives an option to those who are tempted to get into debt to buy a children’s bike.

It’s an environmentally friendly choice: it keep bikes out on the roads and trails rather than sitting unloved in the back of a shed waiting for a busy parent to have time to sell it and deal with the deluge of messages about it.

For busy parents across the UK Bike Club offers quality bikes through a simple rental scheme. It’s clear what you have to pay and you aren’t tempted to get a bike your child will grow into or keep them riding a bike they have grown out of to get your money’s worth. You can get the right size bike and the right style.

You can save more money with Bike Club by renting a bike that another child has rented before. The Frog 69 MTB would have been £22.99 a month that way or £390.83 for 18 months (with one month free).

If you have more than two children who aren’t either too close in age or too far apart it will be cheaper in the long run to buy a bike new and pass it on. But if you don’t have the cash flow to wait to recoup costs or you want to try out a different bike Bike Club offers an affordable solution.


Save money by joining Cycling UK

There are a whole range of discounts on offer exclusively for Cycling UK members. Take a look and it actually might be cheaper for you to become a member before you buy. 

Membership benefits

Warning! Do not panic buy

I know Black Friday deals might be tempting but do your research first. Before you start, measure your child’s height and inside leg to make sure you get a bike that will fit.

Don’t be tempted to buy a bike that your child will grown into. A bike that is too big will be difficult to ride and may cause injury or put your child off cycling. There are lots of tips in How to choose the right size bike for a child.

Don’t panic buy a bike, just because it is in stock. Buy the right size and style bicycle for your child and they will enjoy it until they grow out of it.

Don’t succumb to the pressure of a salesperson in a bike shop, or to buy a bike with your child’s favourite character on it, instead buy the right bike and get some stickers.

Also don’t ask a young child what bike they’d like – they will just go for their favourite colour or cartoon character. It is more important to consult teenagers on what they like.

Buying something in the wrong size is just a waste of money, it’s better wait and get something that is right or you will be buying again.