So you want a cheap bike. Do you buy a new one or a used one? Well, how much money do you have, and how good a bike do you want? Also, where do you live?
That’s right, where do you live? If you live in a city with many active bikers you are more likely to find a good used bike, and less likely to find a new cheap bike. However, if Wal Mart is the only bike shop in town there may be no good used bikes to be had, so buying a new bike might be the cheapest option.
A used bike is much more likely to have something wrong with it, if only the wear-and-tear of normal riding. The cheaper the bike, the more likely it is to have problems. To a point. I call this the yard sale paradox. Often at yard sales you will see bikes for sale that have nothing wrong with them except flat tires. Unable to reinflate the tires themselves they assume the bike is worthless. Of course there are also yard sellers who deflate the tires so you can’t test ride it and see how crappy it really is.
There are several good guides on the web for assessing the value of used bikes. My favorite is on Bike Web Site (http://www.bikewebsite.com/homebikevalue.htm)
But if you don’t want to take the chance or do all that work you need to buy a new bike. You start with a blank slate that, if you’ve done your research, will do everything expected of a cheap bike.