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Published Sep 22, 2023 11:00 AM
Budget electric bikes have been popping everywhere, and it’s no surprise given that the electric bike craze likely isn’t going away. It’s easy to understand why because once you’ve ridden one, it’s hard to go back to a standard bike. While I’ve been riding this style of bike for over three years now, it seems like there’s a new brand every time I turn around—which can make things a bit overwhelming if you’re just developing an interest in them.
Fortunately, I’ve already done a lot of the extensive research and tested multiple bike brands. Even better news? It’s a lot cheaper to get into vehicles with electric motors than it was just a few short years ago and you can actually find a quality ride without breaking the bank. If you’re searching for an affordable option, these are our picks for the best budget electric bikes.
How We Picked the Best Budget Electric Bikes
I’ve been riding electric pedal assist bicycles for almost four years now. During that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to test multiple brands and styles of bike. Subsequently, I’ve learned what features are great for this style of cycle and which ones are not.
I personally tested some of the bikes on this list. I rode the bikes over a variety of terrain types and tested the range limits of the batteries. I then compared the results against manufacturer claims. Because this is a list of budget bikes, I tried to only include options priced around $2,000 or under. Electric bikes aren’t cheap, and I feel like this is a fair “budget” range for these products.
Additionally, I considered the following factors when deciding on the best budget electric bikes available today:
- Comfort: Is the seat hard? How does it fare on extended rides? Does the manufacturer have a sizing system?
- Off-Road Capabilities: What type of tires and suspension does the bike have? How do they soak up the bumps when you leave the pavement?
- Power: What is the bike’s top speed? Does it have the torque required for towing or hauling of heavier loads?
- Accessories: What does the manufacturer offer to make the riding experience better? Is the price point fair for these accessories?
- Value: How does the price point reflect the features and style of the bike? Is this model often offered for sale?
Best Budget Electric Bikes: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Aventon Aventure.2
- Price: $2,000
- Motor: 750-watt brushless
- Shifter: 8-speed trigger
- Brakes: Hydraulic disc
- Battery: 6061 single-butted aluminum alloy
- Tires: 26” fat tire
- Range: 60 miles
- Weight: 77 pounds
- Torque sensor pedal assist
- Excellent grips
- Great range
- Turn signals and brake lights
Not many electric bikes in the $2,000 range come outfitted with a torque sensor. The Aventure.2 is a notable exception. This sensor actively reads how much the rider is pushing the pedals and then translates that into the amount of assist. I found this results in a much smoother ride than the other bikes on this list, which are outfitted with cadence sensors. It also translates into an actual workout compared to the other bikes here. This is the one to go with if you want to get some exercise during your outdoor adventures on an e-bike.
This budget electric bike has four different pedal assist modes. The feel between the modes is very subtle. I’ve noticed it’s mainly a battery-saving difference between them. I’ve been running it mostly on “eco” mode. The brakes are hydraulic disc, so they’re also a nice upgrade from cheaper e-bikes.
Aside from an extremely hard stock seat, I love everything about this bike. The grips on the handlebars are excellent, the display screen is bright and easy to read. I didn’t think I’d like the throttle on the left side, but it feels very natural. The bike does about 20 mph on throttle alone. I got it up to 26 while pedaling on a paved downhill.
When the motor kicks in, it takes up gradually rather than suddenly. This makes the bike a lot safer because it’s not going to surprise you by jerking on at full speed instantaneously. Thanks to a nice front suspension fork, it could serve as a solid hunting bike for flat level terrain that’s not too technical. It’s also geared well enough that I was able to easily ride it with the pedal assist completely turned off. That’s no small feat for a 77-pound bike!
Most Portable: Ecotric 500W Folding Fat Tire
- Price: $619 – $699
- Motor: 500w brushless
- Shifter: Shimano 7-speed
- Brakes: Mechanical disc
- Battery: 36-volt, 12.5-amp hour or 48-volt, 13-amp hour
- Tires: 20-inch all-terrain fat tire
- Range: 23-28 miles
- Weight: 65 pounds
- Extremely affordable
- Excellent folding mechanisms
- Solid frame
- No suspension
- Brakes are mushy
I’ve owned the Ecotric for three years now, and after 300+ miles, this bike has served me extremely well. I feel like it’s a perfect first budget e-bike. The price has actually come down even further since I originally paid about $880 for mine. They are now sitting around $700 on the low end. I suspect it’s because parts for this style of bike are becoming much more common. I’ve noticed some crossover in components for this bike and some of the others on this list.
On my first trip out with this bike, I did just over 20 miles using the throttle alone. I’ve gotten 25 to 30 in good weather using the pedal assist mode.
The main reason I chose the Ecotric was because it was one of the few folders on the market at the time. I originally hauled this very easily in the cargo area of my Jeep Liberty. I’ve since put it in the back of my tiny Ram Promaster City with no issues. It’s a fun, sporty little bike that’s perfect for tooling around campgrounds and small towns. It will easily do 20 mph in prime conditions.
As you may have noted, this bike has nice 20-inch off-road tires, but it doesn’t have any suspension on the front fork. I’ve taken it off-road many times, but you are going to feel the bumps. The brakes are also a bit mushy, but I usually compensate by slowing a little earlier than I would with a different bike.
One thing I regret is not paying extra for the version with the LCD information screen. It’s only about $80 more for this version and I feel like the higher price point is worth it because it gives a more detailed, and accurate readout on your battery status than the LED light system on the cheaper model.
Best Value: Lectric XP Step-Thru 3.0
- Price: $1,199
- Motor: 500w hub motor with 1000-watt peak
- Shifter: Shimano 7-speed
- Brakes: Hydraulic disc
- Battery: 500-watt hour (standard) 672-watt hour (extended)
- Tires: 20-inch puncture-resistant fat tires
- Range: 45 miles (standard battery) 65 miles (extended battery)
- Weight: 64 pounds
- Clean lines make for great looks
- Smooth shifting between pedal assist levels
- Excellent range
- Huge bevy of accessories
- Excellent brakes
- Key placement is terrible
- Standard seat is uncomfortable
- Pedal assist level one is not very useful
Lectric is an extremely popular brand, and after I rode the two my parents bought, I understood why. The folding mechanisms are nearly identical to the Ecotric, but the Lectric XP Step-Thru 3.0 offers a tremendous amount of value, and a slightly smoother ride. Part of that can be chalked up to the front oil suspension fork. It really helps soak up the smaller bumps and ruts on the trail.
I wouldn’t call this a full-time off-road bike, but it’s very capable. And the 500-watt hub motor is extremely responsive. I topped this bike out at 21 mph. I couldn’t get it to go any faster than that, even on a paved downhill. However, I think most people will find this speed plenty fast enough.
There are a few very minor things I don’t like with this bike—none of which I feel should sway anyone interested in one. The decision to put the key hole on the bottom of the frame is the biggest annoyance when trying to fit it into the slot. The stock seat is also very hard. I recommend upgrading.
Finally, the pedal assist on level one doesn’t really feel like much of a boost. I recommend either setting it to level two at a minimum, or just pedaling without the assist. The good news is that riding without the assist is quite comfortable because these bikes are geared extremely well. Thus, there’s no real reason to panic about the battery running out. You’ll be able to easily ride back to your home or vehicle. Although you might not need to do that at all considering the standard edition’s generous 45-mile range.
For an extra $200, you can get an extended 60-mile range. I also like the starting $1,200 price point, which I feel is very fair for the amount of features this bike offers.
Best for Pavement: Swagtron EB-12 City Bike
Best for Pavement
- Price: $799
- Motor: 250-watt
- Shifter: Shimano 7-speed
- Brakes: Shimano V-brakes
- Battery: 36-volt
- Tires: 700c x 25mm cycling tires
- Range: 31 miles
- Weight: 39.24 pounds
- Lightweight for an e-bike
- Affordable extra batteries
- Easy to pedal with no assist
- Basic instructions
- Frame might be small for taller riders
An e-bike is a great solution for commuting without the wear and tear on your car or truck. At $800, the Swagtron will easily pay for itself in saved gas money in under a year’s time. It’s ideal for anyone who has a commute in the 5 to 20-mile range one way. The battery charges in about four hours, so you can plug it in at work and it will be ready to go at the end of the day. Because the batteries lay flat, this bike is rather unassuming, and most probably won’t even realize it’s an e-bike without a close examination.
The instructions for this bike are a little basic in nature, which can make for a slightly frustrating assembly. The frame is also sized slightly small. It’s not an ideal bike for people over 6 feet tall. However, for anyone who needs something simple to cut their commute time and avoid traffic, this is an extremely affordable solution that will save you money in the long run.
Best Hybrid: Schwinn Coston
- Price: $1,599
- Motor: 250-watt brushless hub drive
- Gearing: 7-speed
- Battery: 288-watt hour
- Tires: 27.5” x 2.6” wire bead
- Range: 35 miles
- Weight: 56.1 pounds (small/medium)
- Multiple sizes
- Great looks
- Excellent lighting system
- Versatile for trail and city commute
- Size charts are a bit off
- Not built for heavy duty off-roading
For anyone looking for terrain versatility, the Schwinn is a solid choice. It easily handles the pavement of the city while also being able to transition nicely to lightly packed dirt and gravel trails. Schwinn offers a couple different sizes, although the sizing charts are off slightly because this bike has a large frame. Expect the small/medium to be slightly taller than listed. This bike retails for around $1,599, but I’ve seen it on sale for as low as $1,000.
I really like the tight lines and slim lined design of this bike. Even the LCD display screen seems to flow naturally on the handlebars. Schwinn also gave this light some extra lighting on the frame which helps with the visibility in low light conditions. It’s a great safety feature if you need to commute home after dark on busy roads.
What to Consider When Choosing a Budget Electric Bike
When it comes to e-bikes, there are many things to consider. The main thing is how you plan to use it. Fat tire bikes are unquestionably the most popular, although the large all-terrain tires can be unnecessary if you’re just looking for something to commute to and from work on paved roads. Bikes designed exclusively for pavement tend to be less expensive than the off-road models.
The prices have come down a bit in the last couple of years, but I consider a good price on an e-bike to around $1,000. It’s been my experience that bikes under the $700 mark can be very hit or miss. Higher prices usually reflect better and bigger batteries. The better the battery, the more range and runtime you can usually expect. E-bikes are much like anything you buy these days, you’ll usually get what you pay for as far as price is concerned.
When it comes to e-bikes, the larger the battery, the greater the range. However, that also drives the price of the bike up. Generally, the battery will go for about $300-$600 by itself. The good news is that most manufacturers sell extras separately if you want to carry one to extend your range.
Speaking of range, I’ve found the distance I can cover on most electronic bikes varies drastically from one ride to the next. Most bikes will perform very differently on pavement compared to gravel or off-road. Utilizing only the throttle and not helping the bike via the pedal assist also plays a huge factor, especially if you are climbing a lot of hills with the bike.
Most bikes utilize either a 36 or 48-volt battery that charges in approximately four to five hours. Make sure to read the instruction manual closely for battery care as the manufacturer will have best practices to increase the life of the battery. Many manufacturers now offer a larger, extended range battery as an optional add-on. I highly recommend doing this because it’s usually slightly cheaper than buying a secondary, smaller battery. And you’ll find few e-bike owners who regret not being able to go further with their purchase.
Weight and Portability
Electric bikes are much heavier than a traditional pedal bike especially if they have fat tires. The frames of these bikes jst need to be larger to support bigger tires along with a battery that might weigh up to 7 pounds all by itself. Some buyers don’t think about the logistics of transporting or storing a 50- or 80-pound bike until it arrives at their doorstep. If you plan to transport your bikes in the back of a pickup or a bike rack, consider how you will lift them there ahead of time.
Thus, it isn’t too surprising to see the popularity of folding electric bikes has exploded. It’s great to pull a pin, throw a lever, and then have your bike fold up origami-style into a more manageable package for the trunk of a car. Note that right now, you’ll generally only find bikes with 20-inch tires offered as folders.
When it comes to brands like Quiet Kat, Rambo, Rad Power, and Aventon, these bikes have massive tires and frames that makes them extremely difficult to transport without a larger pickup or trailer. Bike racks are an option. But be sure to consider how you will lift up a 70- to 80-pound bike before you go that route.
Seats and Accessories
It’s been my experience that standard seats on electric bikes are almost always universally uncomfortable for long periods of time. Subsequently, I recommend as part of your bike budget, to expect that part to need upgrading. Many major manufacturers are now selling “comfort packages” as an add-on with their bikes. These packages usually include a larger, cushier seat. The upgraded seats also usually include a form of suspension system to soak up the bumps. These packages are nice, but they can add an additional $100 to the cost of the bike.
Additionally, it’s standard these days for manufacturers to offer things like cargo racks, bags, mirrors, phone mounts, and even passenger seats for children as accessories. Hunting-specific bikes often have weapon mounts and even cargo trailers for hauling gear or game. Think about specific case use scenarios such as these when deciding upon a bike.
The hard part is deciding between a standard and a step-through frame. Step-through frames lack the top horizontal tube or frame that’s standard on most regular mountain bikes today. I personally prefer the step-through style just because it’s much faster and easier to mount and dismount the bike if you plan to hop on and off often.
Step-through frames are also easier for people who have arthritis or other medical problems that make getting your leg over the frame difficult. The biggest difference is that step-over style bikes have a bit more strength for more rugged, technical riding. Although most of the electric bike frames I’ve encountered today are so beefy, this is almost a moot point, even with a step-through. In many ways, it is now more of a personal preference than anything else.
Q: How much does a decent electric bike cost?
The cost of a quality fat tire electric bike tends to fall in the $700 to $1,200 range. Most enthusiasts consider a $1,000 bike to be a very good bargain. I have noticed the price points seem to be falling as more manufacturers start jumping on the electric bandwagon. I bought my Ecotric in 2020 for $880 and now it costs $700. These bikes will probably get more affordable as the technology improves.
Q: How fast does a cheap electric bike go?
It varies from model to model, but the most powerful bikes will top out at 28 miles per hour due to legal requirements. Technically, there are bikes that can go much faster. But new regulations are now being put in place in most countries that restrict top end speed. It’s key to remember that e-bikes are not motorcycles, and most people will find the 15-20 mph range more than adequate for their needs.
Q: What are the disadvantages of ebikes?
The two biggest disadvantages I’ve encountered are weight and range. Electronic bikes have much larger and heavier frames than a standard bike. Add in the weight of a battery, and you’re looking at 55 to 80 pounds. That makes them a real bear to load into a vehicle. Most bikes also have a limited range between 20 and 40 miles which limits how far you can go on a single charge.
Best Budget Electric Bikes: Final Thoughts
The quality of budget electric bikes seems to be increasing as the popularity of these bikes grows. While all the bikes on this list are solid, the Aventure.2 is easily the nicest I’ve tested that can be bought for under two grand during a sale. From a features perspective, it’s going to be hard to find one that compares for that price point.
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