Buying at a Dealer vs. Buying Online


Sep 10, 2010
Not even five years ago, you'd have looked at me funny if I said you should buy your groceries online. And yes, Ocado is one of the industry leaders turning over millions of pounds and leading all the big name brands into the delivery business.

The advice on this forum is "for heavens sake, try before you buy". That means going to a dealer, taking something they have in stock and try it out. Try lots out.

But that doesn't necessarily mean you necessarily have to buy from a dealers shop. This was raised in this thread yesterday:

In an industry full of startups, saying "don't buy online, period." kinda starves out new entrants. There are good electric bike sellers out there who are working the online space, and they deserve credit.

The trouble is also, who do you choose when everyone is online, selling similar ranges at the same price?

The question I pose to you guys is this:

What would be your preferred way of buying an electric bike, and why?

  • Some folks I've talked to would buy from a brick-and-mortar dealer anyday of the week
  • Others have gone out of their way to avoid branded stuff and pieced together their own awesome machine.

What do you think?


Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 8, 2010
Dealer or On-line

The point of going to a Dealer is to have the machine assembled correctly and provide some back-up if anything goes wrong . The experience for me was spoiled by a wheelnut that had seen a wrench rather than the correctly sized spanner and tyre pressures that were 20 psi !

Deleted member 4366

There's some people, who don't know one end of a spanner from the other. They hardly have a choice and probably would have to rely on a good dealer to do the appropriate setup and PDI. Personally, I would prefer to buy a bike in a crate and set it up myself so that I know its done properly. I don't care where I buy stuff from. Sometimes I've taken a chance on sellers with no reputation and been very surprised at the adequacy of the product. I've been disappointed rarely, and being an engineer, I'm able to sort out any problems. I would say that when I've bought stuff from reputable sellers in the high street, I've often been disappointed in the poor preparation, but this is more likely because I'd have higher expectations, so my philosophy is to buy cheap, expect problems and expect to have to sort them out. When you get better than what you expect, you're delighted.


Esteemed Pedelecer
Feb 2, 2011
I'm with the above and have the same ethos with most things. An sometimes i actually prefer having a project to spend my time on. However i can see why people just buy kits and ready made assembled bikes. But i love knowing how things work. Some people have this and just want to get to a to b with out knowing how. Just depends on your preference.


Esteemed Pedelecer
Oct 19, 2009
It shouldn't be beyond the wit of man to produce durable practical goods at a fair price. Sadly, in the case of some e-retailers, it is. I have a late Stone age combined scraper and awl which is in perfect working order. I rather expect my 21stC goods to function properly for a few years at least. My Brompton bikes, my Elswick % Hopper Stag road bike, my old Skoda and our more recent Juicy Bikes manage to do it. All came from dealers who took/take a pride in the goods they sell. The Samsung printer I bought last year, on line, is a bit of junk. I spent two days of my life trying to get it to work again, including 'help' from the on-line help shop. We're running a small NGO agency on a shoe string. We can't spare the time! I re-installed the 10 year old Epson printer and we're back in business again. If the shoe-string beaks I can knot the ends together and start again ...
Sorry. Rant over!

John L

Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 23, 2007
I suppose it depends on whether you have a choice. In Ireland there are some ebike retailers but they are very expensive. Even ordinary bike stuff is expensive so I tend to buy online a lot - wiggle/chainreactioncycles/dealextreme, ebay in Germany for my suspension forks etc.

I've gotten use to buying online and so far I haven't had too much difficulty. It is awkward returning items (rarely happens) and overall I think I am ahead. The kit I bought from sunlova has had some problems but these have been sorted out to my satisfaction. I suppose I do spend a long time researching items before I buy them and I'm sure this has helped.



Oct 19, 2010
If there were more high street while dealers available I would certainly buy from a dealer.
The try before you buy option is great and very much recommended.

Online stores and large warehouse type places seem to have more pocket friendly prices. And the idea of trying a bike out at dealership and then buying your choice of bike online is a great idea, but nor very fare on the local dealer.
And isn't that why local dealers/ shops disappear?

I have felt a bit guilty in the past when looking to buy toys for kids and spending time in a local toy shop testing the item and asking questions and then going online or to a toy warehouse to buy it at a lower price.


May 4, 2008
Needing assistance to allow me to keep on cycling I bought a Currie motor from the web in a flawless transaction.
Needing exercise I found it difficult to strike a balance between my effort and motor power with the throttle control every time a gear was changed or the gradient changed.

I was overjoyed to find that the Panasonic motor on the Gitane Ebike 8 fitted my needs exactly and my euphoria spilled over to the pre-sales friendliness of the dealer when I posted here.
Unfortunately the after-sales proved to be a negative quantity, the bike was delivered damaged and with parts missing. Many photographs and several emails (all retained) over several months produced promises but no action with the result that I was considerably out of pocket.

I saw a Technium with the Panasonic motor with telescopic forks and sprung seatpost offered at an excellent price on the web and so far I have been delighted with it and after sales correspondence.



Sep 10, 2010
Really interesting responses guys, thank you.

I guess the DIY projects aren't necessarily going to reflect the average consumer, or perhaps more accurately the ideal average consumer. If the holy grail of the electric bike industry is the mainstream commuting market, the 'busy-businessman' isn't necessarily going to order parts from different shops and make it themselves. What do you think?

There seems to be merits to both methods, so I'm curious, what should be "the litmus test" for electric bike brick-and-mortar dealers, and online sellers

  • Have bikes in stock?
  • Have competent technical guys in store, or just a phonecall away?
  • Aftersales service?


Esteemed Pedelecer
Oct 24, 2010
I don't see any reason why you shouldn't buy a bike from an online dealer, providing it's a reputable business of course. There's a lot more choice online and often you can get better deals as online-based businesses are usually more competitive and don't have the overheads of conventional stores.

If you buy a bike online you can always take it along to your nearest bike shop to have it checked it over and any adjustments done. Some online dealers will even arrange delivery to a local bike shop if any assembly needs doing, for a small fee of course.

When it comes to electric bikes because you're spending a lot more money I can see why it makes more sense for some people to favour store dealers where they can test out bikes and get some experienced advice before purchasing. Particularly if you're looking at buying a branded electric bike but can't decide.

I think online sellers have to up their game a bit in this regard when it comes to selling electric bikes. They need to start doing home trials and free returns or low-cost easy returns so buyers have more confidence. Considering the amount of money they make on each sale, it should be feasible to do.


May 10, 2007
Isle of Man
I had bad experiences with the last two bikes I bought online/mail order. The first came in a cardboard box which had obviously been lying flat. The were dirty marks all over it from the soles of someones boots and holes where the boots had gone through. The box was also split. Items that should have been in it had gone missing. The second bike had a deep scrape mark on the paintwork of the frame which someone had tried to touch-up with the wrong shade of paint. It took quite a bit of messing about before I got my money back. I now much prefer to buy from my excellent local bike shop if they have or can get a bike I want.

The local shop deals with the transport risks and you get a pristine bike ready for the road and properly adjusted. Any decent shop will expect you to take it back after a month or two for a free check and adjustment after it has bedded in. I do find it very handy having a good local bike shop and they won't stay in business if they don't get to sell bikes. Having said all that, electric bikes are a particular problem. You probably won't get much choice locally. In my case the shop only offers Giant electric bikes so the choice is between getting a Giant bike, which would not be my first choice, from them or risking mail order. You pays your money ......


Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 17, 2010
Buy a new ebike online only if
1. you have the skills to do the assembly required and the checks to ensure road safety.
2. the seller gives you a free collect service if you are not happy with the goods.
3.the seller will fully refund your money should you wish to reject the bike for any reason whatsoever.
4. the price you pay is much lower than buying from a shop/dealer.
5. you dont expect to be welcomed with open arms by your local bike shop when you ask for help and or a repair to your shiny new bike which you did not buy from him !!!!

expert shop/dealer everytime unless the saving is too big to ignore...even then ask for a price match.....