BBB Tip: Your Guide to Buying an Electric Bike

Electric bicycles— or e-bikes – allow riders to go farther and faster than a standard bicycle. Riding an e-bike instead of driving a car can help you lower your carbon footprint, save on gas money, and stay active.

E-bikes come in many models and price ranges, so finding the right one for your needs requires research. BBB recommends the following tips to help you pick the right e-bike for your budget.  

Tips for buying an e-bike

  • Think about what you need. First, think about your riding style. Will your e-bike be for recreation or commuting? Do you need to haul groceries or a child? Will you be riding on dirt roads or pavement? Will you be riding on flat ground or steep hills? How many miles will you cover on a trip? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you narrow down your choices.
  • Get to know e-bike classes. E-bikes are divided into classes. With class 1 electric bicycles, the motor only runs when you pedal, and it stops running when you reach 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes do the same but also have a throttle-powered mode. Class 3 e-bikes work like class 1 bikes but assist up to 28 mph. Think about how you intend to use your e-bike but check access rules too. E-bike regulations vary from state to state and determine where you can use the bike.
  • Choose the right type of electric bicycle. There are many different kinds of e-bikes. The style you pick depends on how you plan to use your bike.
    • Commuter bikes usually come with fenders, lights, and other accessories that make them safer to use in traffic. Some come in foldable models, making them easier to stow on public transportation.
    • Cruiser models are more comfortable and allow the rider to sit upright. These are generally for recreation and don’t always come with accessories that would make them suitable for long-distance trips.
    • E-mountain bikes have thicker frames and bigger tires and are suitable for off-roading and steep inclines.
    • Performance road bikes are more lightweight and designed to tackle longer distances with dropdown handlebars that help you maintain an aerodynamic posture.
    • Cargo bikes are robust and built to haul bulky items or even an extra passenger.
  • Understand the motor options. E-bikes come with either a hub-drive motor, which sits in the wheel’s hub, or a mid-drive motor on the bottom bracket of the bike where your pedals are. Mid-drive motors have a more natural feel, while rear-wheel hub-drive motors make you feel like you are being pushed along.
  • Need more power? Consider a high torque number. The lower the torque number, the less powerful the bike will feel. If you are simply cruising city streets, this may not be a problem, but if you plan to ride trails, gravel paths, or steep inclines, you might need a higher torque rating.
  • Be sure the battery meets your needs. Look at battery ratings and find out how many miles you can ride before you need to recharge. Does this cover your commute distance and other needs? Find out how many charge-discharge cycles you can expect your battery to last. Quality e-bikes generally last for at least 1,000 full cycles. For an average rider, the battery will last for about three to five years before you need to replace it.
  • Get the right size bike for you. Be sure you fit comfortably on the e-bike model you are considering buying. You should feel comfortable when riding and be able to mount and dismount without falling over. It’s always best to check out an e-bike before buying. If you are shopping online, carefully compare the e-bike measurements to those of a similar style bicycle you know you feel comfortable on.
  • Think about maintenance. Like any vehicle, your e-bike will need periodic maintenance and perhaps even repairs. Always understand your warranty and the type of tune-up and repairs needed. Purchase your e-bike from a company that is happy to answer your questions and offers good customer service. This will come in handy if you ever need a repair.

For more information

If you plan to purchase an e-bike online, read the BBB Tip: Smart Shopping Online and see BBB’s tips for safe delivery of your online purchases. Learn more about buying home gym equipment.


Information courtesy of the Better Business Bureau