When it comes to buying a kids bike, you may wonder how much should kids bikes cost? The cost can vary greatly depending on the brand, model and features.
One note is that the prices below are related to the original MSRP of a bike, which may be different than your purchase price. There is a lot of value in checking the used bicycle market.
Also, smaller children's bikes (of course) generally cost less. A balance bike will probably cost less than a 16" wheel bike, which in turn costs less than a 20", 24" and 26" kids bike.
Lower-priced kids bikes: under $250 MSRP
You can find perfectly functional bikes in this price range. These kids bikes are typically made with less expensive (and heavier) materials and may have poorer quality components compared to higher-priced models. They are going to be heavier due to frame and component construction, and thus slower to accelerate and harder to get up hills. Frames are usually made of high-tensile steel (Of course hills may not be a concern for you and your kid, and this is okay.) Depending on the model, the brakes may not work as well either. You may not receive professional assembly. You also may not need it! Kids are resilient, and nearly any bike is a good bike. And if your kid loves riding, you may know that you can invest more in a bike in the future.
Some brands in this tier are Huffy, Kent, Razor, and Schwinn. Decathalon also sells some bikes in this price range that look better than the rest.
Mid-priced kids bikes: $250-500 MSRP
In this price range, you'll find a wide range of kids bikes. These are typically made with better-performing materials such as chromoly steel or aluminum. These frames will be lighter and easier for your child to lift and handle. And it'll weigh less so your child's pedaling will more directly translate into better acceleration and braking. They'll typically have better brakes and other components. They may have a derailleur and a gear cassette or an internal hub so that your kid can shift and either go faster or easier pedal from a stop or up hills.
Some bikes brands in the lower end of this range are from the big manufacturers: Trek, Giant, Specialized, Cannondale. Guardian makes bikes for kids with an interesting SureStop braking system that applies braking power to both wheels when one of the brake levers is pulled. REI offers some nice bikes in this range also.
A note about Guardian bikes and their SureStop technology:
The system appears to work by connecting a rear brake pad to the front brake arms via a cable. There is no lever on the handlebars for the front brake, only the rear. When the rear brake is engaged, the pad slides forward a little bit, which pulls the cable of the front brake and squeezes the front brake arms together. This way, the front brake only engages when the rear brake is already stopping the bike. It's a neat way to get extra stopping power from a single brake lever.
Higher-end bike brands within this range are Woom, Priority, Pello, Cleary, Frog, Vitus, Prevelo, Islabikes (we had one, other friends as well), and the Specialized Jett line. These bikes are much lighter than their counterparts. They are more fun to ride. Bikes like the Wooms also have provisions that work better for kids and their small hands: the levers are easier to reach, and the cranks are shorter to match shorter legs.
We have many friends who have children who ride Woom bikes. They are great bikes. We also know many children who ride Cleary bikes. The Cleary bikes are a little different - slightly more aggressive geometry and they look like they would be more comfortable off-road than the Wooms. They are more "classic" looking, and made of steel. The single-speed version of the 20" is a little limiting, because many kids are at the point where they "graduate" to gears. I recommend getting the 3-speed version if you have the choice.
We also have friends who own Frog bikes. These are also great - well-built and with good components.
And we used to own an Islabikes bike. It was fantastic - lightweight and with nice components. We hope to get another in the future as our kid grows into the next size up.
Expensive kids bikes: $500+ MSRP
At the higher end of the spectrum, you will find kids bikes that are priced over $500. These are typically specialty bikes that are very lightweight or high-performing mountain bikes. They open up a lot of opportunities to novice and experienced riders alike, but come with a high price tag. Some of these bikes are ridiculously light for easy maneuverability and easy acceleration and braking. A claim made by high-end kids bike manufacturers is that nicer bikes hold their value for resale, and I think this is partly true.
Used kids bikes
Another option is to consider buying a used kids bike. You can pay a lot less, but it's important to make sure it's in good working condition before your child rides it. I personally prefer to buy used, as you can get a lot more bike for your money compared to new. And I know my kid will bang up and scratch up the bike pretty much immediately. Having said that, there are a lot of bikes out there that don't get much use, and then the kid grows too big for it. So you can find something in like-new condition at a used price fairly often.
Where to buy used kids bikes? I personally look at Craigslist, Facebook marketplace. Also, families in the neighborhood often share kids bikes when children outgrow theirs.
So how much does a used kids bike cost?
There's a lot of variation here. Some people sell for a low price or give a bike away because they just want it to end up in a good home. Others are looking to recover as much of their original investment as possible. Based on my experience, I'd expect that fairly new kids bikes sell for around 75% of their original purchase price. Older bikes maybe 50-75% if in good condition. Bikes with more scratches and signs of use will of course often be listed for less.
The cost of kids bikes can vary greatly depending on the brand, model and features. Consider what your child needs for their kids bike and what you can afford. A lower-priced bike will probably be perfectly functional, while a more expensive bike may be more enjoyable to ride and thus promote more of a love for cycling.