What is the Difference Between Cheap and Expensive e-Bikes?


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Electric bikes, much like any type of bike, have price tags that range from jaw-droppingly cheap to dizzyingly expensive. Why is this so? What exactly is the difference between the two? If you’ve been in the e-biking for a while now, there’s no doubt that these questions entered your mind at some point.

Well, it all really boils down to the individual components that a particular electric bike uses. You have to be willing to take a closer look at each one and compare the ones used by a cheap electric to a pricier one. Only then will the seemingly subtle line that divides the two be highlighted. More often than not, this is hard to detect by the average rider.

So what is the difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes? The difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes mainly depends on the quality of the materials used in every component. From the battery and motor to the brakes and wheels, there is a vast difference in the prices of these parts based on factors like weight, durability, etc.

Taking the time to learn about the prices of each one is technically the only way for you to gain a solid grasp of e-bike prices. You must have a specific reason why you want to learn about the difference between inexpensive and costly e-bikes. Regardless of what it may be, we will help you pinpoint that difference by diving deeper into the costs of each part. We will go all the way into the specifics, in short. 

In turn, we will complement these facts by comparing cheap, mid-range, and expensive models as well. With this well-rounded approach, we are confident that you will get all the information you need. If it is your intent to make the most out of your money or simply want to buy the e-bike that will suit your specific needs and purposes, then knowing the exact difference between these e-bikes and their respective parts will prove to be worth it. 

The enormous difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes

The word “enormous” can’t be underscored more in this case. This is because the price range alone of ready-to-use electric bikes speaks volumes about the disparity.

Brand-new, low-end electric bikes can usually be bought for as low as $500, but this can balloon up to twice that amount. And it would still be considered as “affordable”.

Part of the reason behind this is that mid-range e-bikes can cost up to as high as $3,000. Any e-bike that goes beyond the $1,000-limit is already considered as a mid-range bike.  

As far as “high-end e-bikes are concerned, on the other hand, the sky is practically the limit. Any bike that goes past the $3,000 mark is already considered expensive by the standards of most e-bike enthusiasts.

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The price breakdown of each primary e-bike component

Now that you have a clear picture of the costs of completed electric bikes, you’re now ready to dive into the prices of each specific element. Be prepared to see just how complex this beautiful beast is, at least, as far as what it is composed of is concerned. By knowing this, you’ll immediately be able to pinpoint what e-bikes readily scream “high quality” and what, well, doesn’t.

Take note that the prices mentioned here are mainly factory costs, so you can expect each one to have higher prices once they hit the shelves (or online stores).

Battery

The battery is a no-brainer element because without it, along with the motor, your e-bike simply wouldn’t run (as an electric bike, at least). Expect this to be one of the more expensive parts of your electric bike for this sole reason.

When considering the price of e-bike batteries, the capacity is often gauged as well as the brand that manufactured it. Cheap models usually incorporate generic batteries with a price range of $15-18.

Even if a more high-end electric bike uses a battery with the same capacity as a cheap one, its brand might balloon its cost to thrice that amount. If it is made by a brand like, let’s say, Samsung, then you can expect it to be valued from around $40 to $200.

Want to know more about different types of e-bike batteries? Check out this post.

Motor

Another very pricey part of an e-bike is the motor. Power and overall performance usually dictate how much the motor costs. Of course, a powerful motor immediately exhibits quality, so it has a higher worth overall.

Whether you are using a mid-drive motor or a hub motor, the price is often dictated by power because it immediately determines riding experience. The brand also plays a role.

For instance, you might encounter off-brand motors that go for as low as $15-20, which can still manage to perform decently. Solid Chinese brands like Bafang normally have an average price of $100. A well-established brand like Panasonic, as a comparison, usually has motor production costs hovering in the $150-200 range.

Would you like to know more about different types of e-bike motors? It may be worth for you to read this post.

Frame

The frame occupies a large part of the expense pie of an e-bike. And for good reason. It is technically what holds all the primary and secondary elements of your bike together.

When it comes to e-bikes, the heavier the frame, the lesser it’s quality. Most heavy frames can be very fragile, after all, so you can expect cheap electric bikes to use them. This is in direct contrast to lighter frames that commonly come in metal alloys made to last.

You might find frames offered for as cheap as $100-200, made commonly of iron or aluminum alloys. The more resilient frames normally command prices that can reach up to $500-900. You’ll find that these are often composed of high-quality titanium or carbon. 

Note: Please keep in mind that these frame prices are already average retail prices and not factory costs.

How much does an e-bike weight? Are e-bikes heavy? Find out in this post.

Electronics

Overall e-bike cost also depends a lot on the electronic parts an electric bike incorporates. This varies in every model. Circuit breakers, LCD displays, and wires and connectors form the bulk of the electronic parts of an electric bike.  

Cheap wiring (made of unshielded copper-aluminum) can go for as low as 30-40 cents. However, if it is shielded copper wires, expect them to cost around $5-6. As for circuit breakers, people can usually get them for $21-25, but there are budget ones priced at $10-11.

LCD display prices are more inconsistent because of the other features they might have. Some cheap ones can be bought for $13-24, while there are more expensive components with prices ranging between $45-65. Please note that the circuit breaker and LCD display prices mentioned here are also based on standard retail prices.

Brakes

While being one of the less costly parts of an e-bike, brakes are no less important for obvious reasons. Like frames, you should pay attention to the materials used in the brakes.

Cheap electric bikes won’t hesitate to use low-quality plastic levers, thin rotors, and less than desirable pads. These commonly cost 80 cents each.

Settling for mid-quality brakes can cost around $9. The high-quality ones, and usually what you will normally see in online stores, have an average price of $25 for each brake. Most use a hall-effect sensor complemented by a magnet for better performance.

Wheels

Materials, performance, and origin of manufacture determine the cost of an e-bike wheel. What materials were used in the body and tire parts? What is its top speed? Parts made in the US commonly cost more.

Not so stellar wheel for electric bikes might cost around $4. While a mid-grade one could be triple that price ($12, to be exact). For companies that settle for quality and nothing else, they usually shell out $40 for the production of a single top-grade wheel.

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Now, let’s compare cheap, mid-range, and expensive models of e-bikes

To get a more complete view of the price difference between e-bike models, you should also look at how each one fares when compared to the other. In this portion, we will carefully inspect the aspects and features of low-cost, medium-priced, and downright exorbitant e-bike models.

Besides cost, we will also expound more on essential factors like weight and durability. Does a certain model, for instance, come with a warranty? How does riding range influence price – if at all? Stick around, and you’ll surely know the answer to these questions in no time. What’s certain is this will give you the most precise answer to the main question presented above.

We are aware that certain electric bikes perform best in certain terrains and environment (i.e. commutes, city rides, outdoor rides, etc.) While the models we have chosen shine in one or more of these specific aspects, we did not use it as a factor when gauging their quality. We will focus more on more fundamental elements that constitute an e-bike. 

That said, we have outlined each one for your easier reference. Take a look at the three models below and see how they differ with these essential factors considered.

700c / 36 Volt Hyper E-ride Electric Commuter Black Bike (cheap)

Weight and frame

The weight of this electric bike is not specifically listed on its product information page. However, many of its reviews say that its heavier weight makes it harder to maneuver. This is the case even if the product purports to be using a “lightweight” aluminum frame.

Battery

As for riding range, its 36-volt lithium-ion battery guarantees a total riding time of 1 hour, roughly 20 miles. The top speed it can achieve is 20 MPH, and it incorporates three different speed modes, namely: Low, Medium, and Turbo.

Durability and price

Its durability does not shine a lot, as can be attested by the lack of mention of it in top reviews. For its very cheap price, it’s no surprise that this model does not come with a warranty at all.

If we are to consider its value for money, $598 is already very cheap as far as electric bikes are concerned. Many positive reviews state that the bike is able to provide the average electric bike experience. A lot of praise is given to the longer-lasting battery for its price. 

Furthermore, this e-bike manages to deliver everything you need if you prefer to commute a lot with it. But there is the apparent lack of additional features. And there is still the lingering question of whether the bike will last with long-term use.

VoltBike Enduro (mid-range)

Weight and frame

The bike’s exact total weight is 26.98 kg, which is decent but is still quite heavy for an e-bike. The frame is made of 6061 aluminum alloy. Overall, its weight is what you normally expect from an e-bike in this price range.

Battery

Its high-powered 48-volt Lithium-ion battery can provide a vast riding range of 35-80 miles while topping at 20MPH. It incorporates a drive mode with advanced pedal assistance that automatically measures torque, speed, and cadence. 

Durability and price

Not much is mentioned regarding its durability in user reviews. But since it’s made of aluminum alloy, expect it to last longer than low-end e-bikes. A tell-tale sign of this is the fact that it comes with a 1-year warranty.

The 1-year warranty that comes with its relatively affordable price of $1,999 makes this e-bike worth it. It also comes with a mid-drive system, hydraulic brake, and full suspension, which are solid additions. Plus, a bonus toolkit and helmet are thrown in as well. It’s very much worth the price with these things considered.

But how fast will such an e-bike lose value if you would like to resell one after a couple of years? Find out in this post.

Specialized Turbo Vado 5.0 (expensive)

Weight and frame

Weighing at 23.85 kg, this pricey model is considerably lightweight. This is what you would expect from an e-bike in this price range. Its frame is made of E5 aluminum alloy which has been “hydroformed with smooth welds”. The E5 aluminum also offers a different riding experience because of its light weight. Additionally, weight distribution has been noted to be “excellent” because of the optimal position of the motor and battery.

Battery

With 36-volt lithium-ion batteries, this beauty can provide a riding range of 30-75 miles. The advanced pedal-assist it has measures rear wheel speed, pedal torque and cadence, and “380% peak multiplication force of rider input”. The top speed is 28 MPH, which is higher than normal.

Durability and price

Durability-wise, E5 aluminum alloy is high-grade, so you can expect it to last long. Also with such a steep price, it’s only apt for this bike to have a 2-year warranty. One notable aspect, though, is that its frame actually has a lifetime warranty. Its maintenance is easier as well because of the brand’s (Specialized) access to numerous dealers.

A fairly new model, the Vado 5.0 is priced at $5,150. Is it worth the price? Quite. The lifetime warranty on the frame and the feature-packed interactive TCD display does justice to the price tag. The hydraulic brakes are also solid enough to handle an e-bike with a faster than normal top speed. Even so, its riding range is quite disappointing for its price. 

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Other factors we looked at

Tech-wise, the Vado 5.0 really trumps the competition because its interactive display is able to sync with various smartphone apps for better usability. You can also utilize its GPS, keep track of routes, and even get a riding range estimate. It is the quintessential modern e-bike for this reason.

The integrated LED lights used by the Vado 5.0 also make it the recommended bike for night riders as it allows you to be visible, besides making it easier to see in the dark.

The Hyper electric bike takes the least amount of time to charge at 4 hours. The VoltBike Enduro and the Vado 5.0 take 6 and 5 hours to charge respectively.

The VoltBike Enduro has the better wheels of the three if we’re to consider the number of benefits it has. Its Maxxis Minon high-volume tires come with puncture protection and have great overall tread.

The Vado 5.0 provides better overall comfort and adaptability to the rider’s build and gender thanks to its Body Geometry saddle.

What really sets an expensive e-bike apart from a cheap one?

As you can see, the difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes is based primarily on the quality of the parts used. The grade of the materials used, particularly on the frame, motor, battery, and wheels do well in ballooning the price. Electronics that incorporate additional advanced features also influence it a lot, as evidenced by the Vado 5.0.

Of course, brand and warranty also have a big impact on what the final retail price of the electric bike will be. Models that can confidently provide lifetime warranties to specific parts are expected to have those soaring price tags you’ll normally expect from a high-end e-bike. 

Certain brands have reputations to keep too, so don’t expect them to skimp on the materials they use.

How long do intend to use your electric bike? Are you looking for something that would last for years? If so, then you may want to steer clear of cheap and even some mid-range e-bikes. Always look at the warranty if you want a guarantee on durability.

If you’re OK with electric bikes that will allow you to have smooth commutes regularly, then, by all means, don’t overlook the more budget-friendly e-bikes out there. This is especially true if you don’t mean to use it extensively.

How to select a city e-bike? You may want to take a look at this post.

What not to forget when looking for a commuter e-bike? This post may help.

So what really is the difference between cheap and expensive e-bikes? With these things considered, a lot. But once you familiarize yourself with them, you should not have a hard time making a decision.

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