Any bikers here?

My wife and I recently started biking and are considering upgrading our bikes before too much longer. I'm riding a POS Murray and she's on a good condition 1970's Kyoto Commuter. We're trying to decide what to buy. The locals here are recommending $500 and higher bikes and neither of us want to spend that much right now. We might consider that much in a year or so if we stick with it but not right now.

What we are looking at is a hybrid bike as most if not all of our riding is on streets or bike trails. My question is, are we better off buying a high end target bike like a schwinn trailway or buying a used high end bike off of craigslist. We're looking to spend $150 to a max of $250 per bike. The schwinn from target seems decent as it uses a lot of the same parts as a higher end bike for considerably less but when I read reviews on bike forums, they all turn up their noses at dept store bikes.
Hey man, you can only do what you can do sometimes. I have been biking for over 10 years, and started with a Huffy-->Mongoose-->Giant/Specialized and have never turned back lol.

Bikers can be snobs at times when it comes to department store bikes, but in most cases... it just depends how seriously you want to bike. Hybrid is a great way to go. It can scale as a serious ride to a very casual ride down to White Hen.

I know about the line that Target and Walmart sells for $250ish... its an ok bike. I don't usually recommend it, but if thats all you have to spend, and you prefer brand new, it's about the only option you really got. But... having the same or similar components aren't the end of it. If you can score a used 04, 05' Sirrus, Trek, or even Giant FCR on Craigslist for just a bit more, like around $300 - that may be your best bet. In my honest opinion, component part specs are overrated. Your best bet is to jump on the bike, and if the shifter feels good, easy to read, shift fine, brakes cleanly and decisively, and GOES when you hit the pedal with power, you have yourself your bike. So if the Shwinn does this for you, cool.

However, the truth is... the difference between a Sirrus or Trek FX vs that Shwinn is pretty distinguishable. If you project yourself as partly serious, you will outgrow the department bike fairly quickly.

Some good reasons to go higher brand shopping?

1. Bikes 05' and up retain their value pretty well. A bike bought for $500 can easily sell for $350 4-5 years later. That cannot be said about a Walmart bike.

2. The bike you are talking about rides, and does it well. But you will not experience flying through the air like you would on like a Specialized Sirrus Sport ($600 ish). Experiment and pick up the bike at the stores. You can tell there is a great weight difference. My experience is, you will only ride as much as you love riding your bike.

3. The build matters, and usually they are built better from the bike shop. Plus, most bike shops take good care of you. If not you, they will with the bike lol. There is a saying, if you buy the bike, you also marry the store.

4. Then you can be snobby too lol. j/k - but i swear, bikers are snobs. lol.

Hope this helps.
I just want to reiterate some of what Waam said. If you can find one, get it off Craigslist. Every area is different, but I live in one where people are very quick to buy the newest upgrade and therefore are just trying to get a few bucks for the bike they won't be riding any more. I bought a good one (Giant) a few years back just so I wouldn't have to take the kid's seat off of my low end Schwinn every time I just wanted to take a ride. The ride is much better and I can't go back. I'm cheap so I won't buy these bikes new, but I recommend a better bike if you can find one used.
A Legend in My Own Mind
Montgomery, IL
2. The bike you are talking about rides, and does it well. But you will not experience flying through the air like you would on like a Specialized Sirrus Sport ($600 ish). Experiment and pick up the bike at the stores. You can tell there is a great weight difference. My experience is, you will only ride as much as you love riding your bike.
If he's looking for a true hybrid that will be capable on roads / trails, then I don't think the Sirrus Sport is what he's looking for. My wife and I bought a pair of Specialized Crosstrail bikes a few years ago and have been very happy. We bought new, but if I were to do it again I'd definitely look at the used market first as others have suggested.
'03 IMPE All Star
Brooklyn, NY
I am a big bicyclist and would add one point of consideration. Used bikes can be great values, but maintenance on geared bikes is often needed, and pricey.

A benefit of getting a bike from your LBS (local bike shop) is that they often come with free maintenance for the life of the bike. At $30-$50 a pop this can be work it in the long haul.

One recommendation I would make is to find a bike you want, and try to wait until the next year's version comes out. You can still find '10s and '11s for a great deal and some shops will work with you to find the bike you want and have it shipped in. You can get a new bike, free maintenance, and hopefully a deal.
Well after reading all this here's where we stand now. As to a new bike, it's not that we can't afford new bikes as much as it is won't. I'm cheap (my wife generously uses the word frugal :) ) What worries me about dropping a grand or more on new bikes is that a year from now they might end up collecting dust in the garage. What worries me about used bikes is that I don't want to risk having to immediately drop $2-300 on repairs/parts. What worries me about the new Schwinn's is that I do realize that the quality is not as good as a lot of higher end bikes.

I think brand new high end bikes are out for right now, at least until we prove to ourselves we are going to stick with it.

Used high end bikes (trek, giant etc.)are on craigslist here for $200 if you are patient, so we may go that route if we can find one that is in good shape. We're not going to rush out and buy something just for the sake of getting something quick.

Some of this is a matter of perspective too, The bikes we are riding were both free so we have nothing in them except new tubes. The kyoto my wife rides is in very good shape and is a decent riding bike even if it is pushing 40 yrs old. The murray is just plain junk though, When we started riding, I worked on both bikes adjusting brakes, lubrication etc. When I did this on the murray I noticed that the wheels actually wobble on the axles (among other things). This bike is just not easy to ride. So in both cases even a dept. store Schwinn would be a significant upgrade.

I think what we will do is this, keep watching craigslist and if we see bikes we like and fit us correctly we will get a high end one off of there. If after a couple months we can't find a good bike on craigslist at the right price, we'll go ahead and buy the schwinn's. We are also going to hit all the local bike shops tomorrow and see what they have. A couple that are local also offer used bikes that they have taken as trade-ins.