Cheap electric bikes, and why you don't want one
January 4, 2023
Pete Prebus

Electric bikes have become very popular recently and with that there have been a huge number of companies jumping into the eBike scene. Many electric bike companies on the market offer good quality electric bikes with reliable customer support and they look like they will be around for the long haul.

With the growing popularity of eBikes, there will inevitably be companies that offer cheap models that can be tempting to consider. They generally lure you in with an incredible price for a bike which - at first glance - may appear to have features found on much more expensive models.

It certainly can seem like a real deal on the surface but to get to the amazing price and features the company usually sacrifices the quality of the eBike and there may be non-existent customer support. Value and price aren't the same thing. Focusing on good value (reliability, support) instead of the lowest price is smart.

In this article we will look at the pitfalls of buying a cheap eBike, and how you can afford a quality eBike that will be reliable and durable.

Yes, it IS too good to be true

Just like the old saying goes “It seems too good to be true” can be applied to very inexpensive eBikes.

What may seem like a great deal at the start can turn into disappointment, real frustration, and eventually a dislike for electric bikes. And that is not the experience we want anyone to have! With a low quality electric bike you can run into issues with both the electrical system and regular bike components.

Low quality electrical system components can have issues such as:

  • Not working at all
  • Working intermittently
  • Battery failure
  • Problems with charging
  • A loud motor
  • Jerky or harsh addition of pedal assist or throttle

In addition to those possible problems there can be issues with the low quality bike components such as:

  • Misaligned frame
  • Suspension that doesn’t really work
  • Weak braking
  • Misaligned shifting
  • Bent wheels
  • Regular flat tires

Even with just a few of these issues it can add up to a bad ride experience. If your electric bike won’t provide assistance because of a connection issue, faulty battery, or broken motor then the ride can become a real headache.

And some of the low quality component issues can give you a less than ideal ride with unintended shifts, regular flats, and possibly a noisy experience.

Repairing and maintaining a lower quality electric bike can really add up when you consider the higher frequency of repairs that may be required and the price at the local bike shop.

Some bike shops charge a higher price for lower quality bikes, especially if they have to spend time tracking down unique electric system parts that they don’t normally carry. That can actually be a good scenario because some bike shops will plainly refuse to work on low quality electric bikes because of the headaches they can cause. It simply isn’t worth their time when they (and the customer) can have a better experience working on higher quality bikes.

Poor support (or non-existent support) for warranty claims or service parts

And that leads to another issue of customer support from the electric bike company, which may not be there at all. Internet forums and social media groups for electric bikes usually have some horror stories of riders that have tried to get support for their cheap electric bikes only to find that the company completely ignores them or has gone out of business. Plenty of brands don't even publish a phone number for customer support at all!

In some cases, a customer can find a replacement part from a specialty electric bike parts dealer but they have to pay for it instead of the original eBike company covering it under warranty.

In the truly unfortunate situation, there may not be any replacement parts available for unique electric components sometimes found on low quality eBikes. That can lead to a junked electric bike because of one part, no fun! Before buying, it makes sense to check whether service and warranty parts are in stock for the model you're considering.

As you can imagine the cost to repair and maintain a cheap electric bike can add up to the cost of the bike itself and in the long run it would be better to buy a better electric bike and eliminate the headache and hassle.

Like many things in life that are important it is a good idea to spend more money on a quality product, especially when you are looking for dependable transportation!

Minimum recommended price for eBikes

For most traditional electric bikes with many of the regular features, the $1,500 price point is a good starting point. As you go up in price you will usually get higher quality components, more features, smoother and quieter bikes, and sometimes a lighter eBike.

There are electric bikes in the $1,000 to $1,500 range that can still be from good companies with decent quality. These eBikes usually sacrifice some features like a single speed drivetrain, smaller battery, no suspension, no accessories, etc.

The cheap electric bikes we are considering are below these price range categories.

Another important / minimum feature to look for in electric bikes are batteries that have cells from reputable brands like Panasonic, Samsung, or LG and the battery has been certified by UL testing standards. The battery is the most expensive component on an electric bike and this is not something to skimp on quality.

eBikes on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have offered some new and exciting electric bike developments and some of them are truly innovative.

BUT, this is a big buyer beware marketplace. There are some electric bikes pitched on these platforms that never made it to market and the backers lost any money they spent without receiving any eBike whatsoever. Not receiving an electric bike is usually a rare case but many contributors have complained about their electric bike arriving much later than originally projected.

Companies that pitch their electric bikes on these platforms may be very new and not totally a smooth running operation. Just keep that in mind when considering an electric bike from a crowdfunding platform.

Do your eBike research before you buy

And that leads into the next part of your electric bike shopping adventure; do your background research on the company you are considering buying an eBike from.

Here are some checklist questions to answer:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • What kind of reviews do they have and how many reviews are there?
  • Search forums and social media groups to get the “average” review of a company
  • If you contact the company (or dealer), does someone answer or get back to you quickly?
  • Do they publish a phone number? Can you reach a human being?

That research should give you some good insight into what kind of company you are dealing with and help you determine if you will get long term support for your electric bike.

Keep Junk Out of the Landfill

As we covered earlier there is a chance that you may end up with a junked electric bike because one part could not be replaced because the company doesn’t provide support or they are out of business.

This can lead to the electric bike being destined for the landfill and that is a sad end for any bicycle. Like other cheap products that fail and end up at the dump, this is not a very sustainable way of life.

Buying a higher quality electric bike will give you a much better riding experience and make for a better environmental impact.

By the way, electric bike batteries do eventually run out of useful life and there is a recycling program through Call2Recycle and there are many bicycle dealers who are participating and will recycle your battery.

Afford a Good Quality eBike using financing or pay-over-time options

If the price of an electric bike is difficult to afford all at once there are some options to consider. There are payment plan options like Affirm, Klarna, PayPal, etc. that let you buy now and pay them back over a few months, with 0% interest in some cases.

For example, affording a $1,500 electric bike could become more feasible at $500 per month for 3 months.

Also, watch out for sales on electric bikes during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday times. Combining a sale with 3 monthly payments could be the ticket to affording a nicer eBike.

Another consideration is that if you use your electric bike a lot for commuting and errands you will be saving money on vehicle expenses. It is worth having a good quality electric bike for your daily transportation.

Enjoy the Good Ride

At the end of each ride you will be happy you went with a good quality electric bike that you can depend on. It is better to spend a little more up front than spend a lot of money and stress on a cheap electric bike in the long run.

Electric bikes are a lot of fun, just make sure you pick a good quality one.

Enjoy your rides!


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