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Newbie Buying a MTB
I've been cycling on the road for a few years now but I'm just beginning to get my feet wet on the trails. As the summer winds down I'll be looking to save some dough through the winter and hopefully invest in a Mountain bike for next season.

I know how to handle myself on a bike but obviously road cycling and MTBing are very different.
Unfortunately I have little to no experience when it comes to buying a MTB. What are some of the things to look for in a good MTB? Any advice on this topic is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
First you need to think about where and what sort of riding you want to do, there are several different types of MTB to suit different riding styles and terrains.

These might help you decide:

I also started on road bikes and I ride anything up to 50 or 60 miles on a mixture of on road, cinder paths and the odd jaunt across a field or through woodland tracks, I'm not particularly good at the more technical stuff, so I chose a Hard Tail XC (cross country) bike. An XC bike has a more road bike like riding position than other MTB types and is better suited to longer rides. You can get reasonably light full suspension XC bikes as well, but they will be heavier and significantly more expensive than a similar quality hard tail due to the added suspension components and complexity.

The sturdier, heavier and more upright Downhill/Freeride, and Dirt Jump bikes are designed for shorter more technical rides and All Mountain is designed to be something of an all rounder.
Use a shop, not on-line unless you know what you are doing, my LBD actually offers to price match with web sellers for major makes, plus a bit for assembly, and excluding auction sites.
Yea, ride some bikes. Check out your local shops, let them know your situation. Ride the bikes before you buy. That is most important.
Once you know the size range you want (different makes run different sizing) I'd suggest browsing craigslist frequently, like 3 times a week. It may take a week or 3 months or longer depending how specific your requirements are to find the right bike but you will get more bike for your money than any retail new purchase can offer. Be sure to do a thorough inspection before handing over the cash. Basically watch the "how to tune up your bike" video tutorial here and use that as the basis for inspection.

If your flexible and open to considering you just never know what you will decide on but I have to say with some work and patience pre owned really can get you a lot more bike for the money.
I know a lot of people do buy from CL. But I would never do it my self I always like new not use stuff to me its like buying a use car you my get a good one or a bad one. That's why when buying a bicycle I like it to be new unless I am going to do a total rebuild on it. Then it does not matter to me. And I would never buy from E-Bay either I have been burn two time's with E-bay and that's all it will ever be too. If I can't get it from a good online place or my LBS then I want get it. Not much help I know but this bugs me to see people get took by others. Not saying it would happen to you but it has me. Do like some one here said go ride the mountain bike you like at a LBS then find the same one online then go back to your LBS and see if he/she can match the price for you my LBS will on a lot of stuff I want.
My dad always told me a Sledge a matic can fix any thing.

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