Is it cheaper to rent – rather than buy – your kids' bikes?

There's nothing like watching your child take their wobbly first bike ride – the only issue is as soon as you buy your wannabe Laura Kenny one bike, they seem to outgrow it and need another. One solution to this, The Bike Club, lets you rent decent cycles from £5/month (plus joining and other fees), then swap them once they're too small. It's a nice idea, but can it really beat buying? We've crunched the numbers...

The company launched in 2016 and delivers across the UK. Cycle brands include Forme, Frog and Squish. You can choose from age one to 14.

Update 13 July 2020: Please note it currently has limited bike stock throughout the UK, so most bikes take six to 12 weeks to arrive. 

How it works

Just log on and pick a bike. You can choose from a serviced, used cycle or a new one for £1ish extra.

Now, you might see the £5/mth headline rental fee and think 'saddle do nicely', but there are a few added costs to consider:

  • Joining fee of £20 for the first bike. Delivery is free. 

  • Exchange fee of £20 every time you swap bikes. This covers delivery of replacement bikes, and is a flat £20 every time. (There's no exchange fee if you've had the same bike for over 18 months.)

  • Cancellation fee of £30 to cover returning the last bike you rent. You can cancel anytime by giving 28 days' notice and will have to pay a £30 cancellation fee to send back the last bike you have (no cancellation fee after 18 months). You can keep a bike if you pay for the same one for 32 months (no need to pay the £30 cancellation fee), which is useful if your baby biker has younger siblings.

On the downside, you're liable if the bike's damaged or stolen. While normal wear and tear is fine (eg, stretched cables, worn tyres), you need to pay for what's deemed unacceptable damage (eg, rust, bent frames, missing parts). The cost varies according to the issue – see terms.

How good is this?

The idea of renting a pricey bike for a fraction of the RRP sounds great and could work for some, but you'll need to do your sums.

As an example, we found a Frog 52 Hybrid bike for a six-year-old at £13.50/mth, plus £20 joining fee. Over six months that works out at £131, including the £30 cancellation fee. Over a year, it's £212, 18 months £293 and 32 months £452 (at which point you can keep the bike without paying a cancellation fee).

The cheapest new price we could find for the cycle was £330, and used ones went for £75-£230 on eBay. So if you used the bike for 18 months, you'd save £37 on the new price, but of course would have nothing to show for it at the end. (Frog says it typically expects bikes to last 18 months to two years before being outgrown.)

So the short answer is... whether it wins depends on your situation. The gold-standard MoneySaving method here is probably to buy second-hand, then resell or pass the bike down to a little brother or sister when it's outgrown.

Yet if you want a hassle-free life and have fast-growing kiddos who'll need a bigger bike in less than 18 months, the scheme could be a decent option.

Please bear in mind this is a fairly new concept, and we haven't tested it ourselves. Please do let us know below if you've done it or would consider giving it a go.