You must be new here. Welcome to the world where logic is irrelevant, and there is no such thing as normal. The e-bike market has been expanding so rapidly since its very first creation in 1994 that nothing can be considered normal yet. There are huge variations in price and quality levels of electric bicycles, and unfortunately, you don’t always get what you pay for. That being said, you don’t get what you don’t pay for either. Because of the relative ease of sourcing parts from around the world, having a product to sell has never been easier. From there, just build a website and start throwing out advertisements, and suddenly you have an e-bike business. This ease of entry has lead to a dizzying number of players in the market selling incredibly poor quality products, add that to the already lengthy list of established players selling top-tier machines, and you get a confusing array of options. So how do we know what makes a good deal?
The short answer is, electric bicycles can run anywhere from approximately $1,000 to well over $10,000. Generally speaking, when you compare one company’s product to their competitor’s product at similar price points, it is usually a game of inches or just preferences, which you like better. In the world of electric bikes however, we are still seeing rigid bikes being sold with the cheapest of componentry for $3,000 when you could get a similarly shaped hybrid with some of the best tech in the world for $2000. What?! I don’t have an answer for why these price gaps still exist, but I want to help establish a new normal, so I have written this guide to help you understand the prices of e-bikes a little better. If you find a bike that has a high price tag but fits one of my descriptions of a lower-priced bike, at least ask more questions and do a little more research. This list applies to new bikes only. Buying used is an entirely different matter. Remember, these price brackets are simply the opinion of a lowly bike mechanic so take this as you wish.
If you are shopping in this price bracket, just be prepared to either become good friends with your local bike shop or get really good at fixing stuff yourself. We see e-bikes at this price point come thru the shop regularly where a person thought they were getting a good deal and wound up with a maintenance nightmare that never quite worked right to begin with. I am sure there are bikes out there that will defy this, but rest assured, buying a new e-bike under a grand will net you essentially the same technology that is in your childhood Barbie Jeep. Bikes at this price point will also be from direct-to-consumer manufacturers. This is not an issue by itself except that you will have considerable assembly costs and warranty support that will be more complicated than necessary trying to acquire your warranty products thru a website.
In this price bracket, you will most likely be looking at either direct sales businesses or bicycles with a list of brand names you have never heard of. While high-quality bicycles can certainly be found here, there is more to be questioned than to be relied upon. Nearly all of the e-bikes in this price range will come with a hub motor and mechanical disc brakes. These will also have entry-level drive trains and unlikely to have any suspension. We do have one great exception to this at Hurricane Cycles. The BUZZ e-bike, with an MSRP of only $1,500, comes with a mid-drive, torque-sensing motor, integrated batter, integrated lights, backlit display, and fenders. I am not aware of any other bike on the market from any brand that can match this level of performance at that price point.
This is the price tier where you start to see the first glimmer of higher-end e-bikes. These will still be primarily hub-driven models but will typically come with upgraded drive trains, nicer brakes, nicer wheels, and perhaps a few mid drives. The big standout is the bike that really started it all. The Giant Lafree 2+ comes in with all the comfort tech you could ask for at an amazing $2000. The Lafree was one of the very firsts electric-assist bikes to ever come to market under the Giant brand way back in 1994 and still stands as one of the most popular e-bikes in existence.
This is where the performance gains should really take off. Torque sensors should become almost mandatory as you get towards the higher side of this range. Internally geared hubs or higher-end drive trains should rule. Proper hydraulic brakes and lighter weigh construction should be the name of the game. For some reason, you can still find bikes at this price point using outdated technology in the form of simple rigid frames, single-speed drives, and rear hub motors. Do not settle for less. If you are paying between two and three thousand dollars for your e-bike, you should demand proper technology.
This is the sweet spot. Now you are talking about premium quality in all aspects of the bike. If it is a hybrid/commuter, it should come with all the attachments. This includes lights, racks, display units, and so on. You will also start to see full-suspension e-mountain bikes in this category. Anything at this price point should be exclusively mid-drive with a torque-sensing motor and preferably more sensors than that with smart capabilities.
$5,000 and up
Once you pass the imaginary line at $5,000, you are well and truly into the stratosphere of quality. While this price tier is generally reserved for the major players in the bike industry, there are a few other brands out there trying to show a bit of competition. If you see a brand name you don’t recognize here, DO YOUR RESEARCH! We have seen some very expensive-looking bikes come thru the shop with a parts list to make any good cyclist blush, but those parts were in fact, not compatible with the frame. It’s as if they were assembled by new brands with little or no experience in the bike industry. Most often, if you are spending this kind of money, you are all but guaranteed the best e-bike experience money can buy or very nearly at least. The reason I stop my pricing guide here is because of diminishing returns. There is an absolute night and day difference between a $1000 bike and a $2500 bike, but the difference between a $5,000 bike and a $10,000 bike is much more subtle. Differences and improvements certainly persist, but the changes are less substantial.
Beyond even the scope of this buying guide is a class of e-bikes that are starting to become somewhat normal and at least deserve a mention. Bikes like the Specialized Turbo Creo SL are being produced for the customer who wants the absolute best of the best in every detail of engineering. The Creo comes in at an eye-watering $13,5000 at the time of this writing but comes with a list of features and materials that would fit in quite well at a Ferrari dealership. If you find yourself with a fat stack of cash and want to know what the finest riding experience that money can buy feels like, look no further.
I hope this guide helps you understand the general outline of e-bike pricing. These are not hard rules to go by and definitely do not hold up to every style of bike, but we believe them to be accurate for a majority of e-bikes out there. As always, if you have any questions about anything e-bike related, call our certified technicians or stop by Hurricane Cycles. We love to talk bikes!