Don’t buy a stolen bike

Over 70,000 bikes were stolen in England and Wales in 2021/22. This is very unfortunate and the one thing you can do to help is to make sure you don't buy a stolen bike.

More expensive bikes, such as electric cargo bikes or top of the range mountain and road bikes, are more desirable on the black market; so pay more attention when you're buying one second-hand.

Buying a stolen bike could have negative consequences for you, including the risk that the police might knock on your door one day.

You would also not be sure about the history of the bike, what components have potentially been damaged when it was stolen, or which parts were replaced.

This is a particular concern with e-bikes, as sometimes the battery or display will have not been on the bike when it was stolen.

Here are some top tips on what to look out for when you're buying a secondhand bike, to make sure you're not buying a stolen bike.

Check the ad

Check the ad for details and look out for the following:

  1. Check if the price is on the low side; check other ads if you're not sure about the going secondhand price for a similar bike.
  2. Check the photos; do they show the bike in use? If not, ask for a photo of the bike in use by the family. Stock photos are certainly a red flag.
  3. Check the seller; does their profile look genuine and have they sold any other secondhand bikes recently? This is a red flag because it is not very likely for someone to sell cargo bikes on such a regular basis, unless it's a show who sells demo bikes etc.

Frame number

Ask the seller for the frame number. If they won't give it to you, then alarm bells should go off.

If they do provide a frame number, you can check the frame number against the national Bike Register to find out if the bike has been reported as stolen.

Proof of ownership

Ask to see proof of ownership in the form of an original invoice. Stolen bike ads often mention having the original invoice, but the seller will assume you won't be asking for it.

Check details of the bike against details on the invoice.

Always call the bike shop/retailer to ensure the invoice is not fake. In 2024, Cycling Electric found out about a new theft and resale scam where gangs created fake invoices from a well-known e-bike specialist retailer.


If you're looking to buy an e-bike second hand, make sure all relevant keys and accessories are included, such as a display (if relevant), battery, battery charger and the key for the battery lock (if relevant).

Ask questions

Get in touch with them through messaging or a phone call and ask loads of questions:

  • Since when have they owned the bike?
  • Why are they selling the bike?
  • When was the bike last serviced, by whom and what parts were replaced?
  • Does the bike come with accessories?

Look out for enough details in their answers.

Check the bike

Does the bike have any missing parts; a wheel lock that is usually on this type of bike or a battery or display that is missing, if it's an e-bike? These are all things that could point to a stolen bike.

Also, check for any scratches or dents where they may have used force to cut off the lock.

Be cautious about paying upfront

If they're asking for a money transfer which is not protected or before collection, this is a red flag.

If you've agreed for a secondhand bike to be posted to you, make sure you pay through a protected payment method (such as PayPal), so that you can claim your money back if the bike doesn't arrive.

What to do if you think you've spotted a stolen bike

Report it to the police with as much detail as you can. Take screenshots of ads online, as they might disappear again.

Before you go.....

If you're planning on buying an electric cargo bike, here is our advice article on Top things to look out for when buying an electric cargo bike.

We also put together a guide on buying a secondhand kids bike, but most of it applies to any secondhand bike.

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