So you’ve found the best e-bike and now you’re trying to make space for it in your budget. If bike riding for you is just a casual thing—a quick trip to the grocery store or school—you may not need an e-bike. But the differences between a regular bike and an e-bike go beyond the level of use (although that is one major factor to consider). And though you might balk at the initial price tag, the benefits outweigh the costs.
Most of the time, the retail cost of an electric bike is a measurement of its features and capabilities. Let’s go over not just the initial cost of a high-quality electric bike, but also how much it costs to maintain one and protect your investment for years to come.
What Are You Using it For?
At first glance, an electric bike looks almost identical to a regular commuter bike. But of course, the added features of an e-bike are what set it apart from the dusty two-wheeler sitting in your garage. Add an electric motor, a drivetrain, a throttle (usually located on the handlebars), and a battery, and you’ve got an e-bike.
In truth, a high-quality electric bike with all the necessary features you need to get you on the road probably won’t set you back more than $2,000-$3,000. But additional features can impact the cost.
If you’re planning on using the bike for mountain trails or rugged conditions, you’ll probably need a fat-tire mountain bike or a hybrid, which costs more. Maybe you want to use your e-bike to help you move or transport heavy objects—in that case, you’ll want one with a high load capacity (these are called cargo e-bikes).
Perhaps your work commute is full of hills—you might want an electric bicycle with pedal-assist. To use pedal-assist, you “kick-start” the movement of the bike by pedaling, and then it powers you the rest of the way up the hill. You save time and energy while your bike does all the work. A pedal-assist bike is sometimes called a “pedelec.” Some bicyclists prefer this time of electric bicycle because you can control how much you engage the motor.
Features That Affect the Cost of an E-Bike
A standard electric bike costs anywhere from $1,500-$2,000. Like we mentioned earlier, different types of electric bikes usually cost more because they have to do more (like mountain bikes or high-capacity models). Other e-bikes come with a variety of extra features to make the bike-riding experience more enjoyable and convenient, but these upgrades aren’t necessary.
Some of the added options you’ll find that may affect price include:
- Batteries that recharge as you brake or go downhill (as opposed to single charge batteries). You can travel around 25-70 miles on a single battery charge, so a rechargeable battery is more of a perk than a necessity.
- Hub drive vs. mid-drive motors. If your bike has a hub motor, it’s situated on the front or rear wheel, making the bicycle a little bit harder to ride. Electric bicycles with mid-drive motors ride smoother because the motor is between the two pedals, balancing the center of gravity.
- Hydraulic disc brakes vs. mechanical disc or rim brakes. Hydraulic brakes don’t need as much adjusting as mechanical disc brakes, but they cost a bit more. However, because they’re a lot more efficient than other types, the extra cost makes it a better long-term investment. You don’t have to replace hydraulic brakes as often as mechanical or rim brakes, so you save on time and money in the long-run.
Electric Bike Accessories
Not all electric bike accessories are optional, like a good bike helmet or a lock. Others you can probably pass on, like a bike rack, lights, or a fancy design.
Your main goal when it comes to accessories should be safety. Always invest in a nice lock to keep your bike safe. Some of the better locks cost anywhere from $50-$150, but as long as it keeps your bike secure, you don’t usually need extra features like Bluetooth capability.
A proper helmet is next on your list of must-buys. A pedelec bike (one with pedal-assist) can go up to 28 MPH. At these e-bike speeds, you need a helmet with superb head and temple protection. All e-bike helmets should be made with overall better protection than your average bike helmet. A typical electric bike helmet goes for around $90-$150. Look for a helmet certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ATSM).
E-Bike Maintenance Costs
The key to a long-lasting, working electric bike is a good quality motor and battery, both of which need proper upkeep and repairs to maintain the bike’s integrity. If you’re not riding your bike much, the battery can actually wear out faster. But of course, using your bike for long distances eventually takes its toll.
A tune-up every 500 miles is the standard—putting off a tune-up can have negative consequences, just like holding off on an oil change for your car. Tune-ups usually run $75-$100 total, and typically include the following:
- Fixing a flat tire is $10-$20 (depending on the type of tire and whether or not you have to replace the tube).
- Adjusting the brakes is $20-$35.
- Fixing the drivetrain can be $20-$60.
Then you have to consider the battery. You can’t have an electric bike without one, and when it comes to e-bike batteries, you get what you pay for. The most common battery types are lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal-hydride, and lithium-ion batteries. Lithium batteries are the gold standard in durability, but they can cost up to $500. Of course, that cost will pay off as you ride for miles without needing to recharge the battery.
If you’re not hauling a heavy load behind you or you only use your e-bike for short rides, you could go for a more economical battery choice.
|Battery Type||Average Battery Life|
|Lithium-ion||1000 charge cycles|
|Nickel||500 charge cycles|
|Lead*||300 charge cycles|
*Lead batteries are not as common with e-bikes anymore, but you can still find some older models that use them.
A Note About Cost vs. Value
As with any product you buy, especially more expensive ones, you should do your research. Make sure the company you’re buying from has a good reputation. Read customer reviews. Do any mention having to conduct frequent maintenance? Keep all these things in mind. The overall cost should factor into the quality of the bike, as well, and you don’t want to pay a pretty penny for something that ends up breaking down fast.
Is an Electric Bike Worth It?
So what’s all the fuss about e-bikes if they’re so much more expensive than regular bikes? Well, an e-bike has all the benefits of a standard bike without the downsides.
For commuters who prefer riding an electric bike to work but don’t want to arrive sweaty and red-faced, an e-bike is a great alternative. The motor can help you get up steep hills and cut long rides in half, but the associated costs can be intimidating. As long as you choose a high-quality machine and parts, your investment should begin to pay off as soon as you start using it. In fact, you might even save money over time as you’re able to shave on commuting costs between gas and car maintenance or public transportation (bus, subway, and train).
Maybe you’re not in the market for an electric bike just yet, but you want to try one out. If you’re bike-savvy, you can buy a conversion kit, which offers all the tools you need to convert your standard bike to an electric one. In many cases, this will cost much less than buying a brand new e-bike. However, in recent years, finding a nice electric bike has become easier as more choices are available within an affordable price range.