Is an electric bike worth it? It's a tough question for some folks given the cost. I've owned an electric bike for two years. Here's my thoughts based on my extensive experience.
Buying an electric bike was never on my radar.
In fact, becoming a mountain biking enthusiast wasn’t on my radar until 5 years ago when we moved to the North Shore mountains just north of Vancouver.
Interestingly, my interest in trying mountain biking resulted in me getting an e-bike.
Because pedaling up a mountain using only brute human force is not my idea of a fun day.
But, powering up and down trails in a beautiful forest using not much more effort than a brisk walk suits me perfectly.
That may come across sounding like I’m lazy and avoid all exercise. That’s not true. I exercise regularly but prefer more moderate forms such as brisk walking, tennis, skiing and light weightlifting. Mountain biking with electric mountain bike provides a moderate level of exercise and it’s mountains of fun.
Of course, you don’t have to buy an electric mountain bike. You can buy an electric road bike which offers the same benefits.
The question is whether buying an electric bike is worth the price. These newfangled modes of transportation are not cheap. A good one will set you back $4,000+. You can go nuts with the wallet spending more than $10,000.
But, as you’ll see below, in many instances, it’s very much worth investing in an electric bike.
Let’s dive in.
There are several considerations when analyzing whether buying an electric bike is worth it. They are:
- Car replacement,
- The exercise factor,
- Fun factor,
- The hill factor,
- Regular bikes are expensive as well, and
- The battery dilemma
1. Car replacement analysis
I can tell you right off the bat that an e-bike is worth it financially speaking if it replaces a car.
If you live within 15 to 20 km from work, you can easily commute with an e-bike. I know, because I did and I live in a rainy climate.
The cost of buying and operating a car purely for commuting to work is astronomical when compared to the cost of buying and operating an electric bike.
The monthly cost for owning and operating a car:
Please note that the following figures are based on a $25,000 car with nothing down and financed at 2.99%.
- Monthly car payment: $332
- Monthly car insurance: $150
- Monthly car repairs/maintenance: $200
- Monthly gasoline cost: $100
TOTAL MONTHLY COST FOR A CAR: $782
The monthly cost for owning and operating an electric bike:
The following assumes a $4,000 purchase price plus $1,000 for biking apparel/gear financed at 2.99%. Note, it’s not usual to finance an electric bike but I did this to break down the cost by month so it’s apples to apples with comparing it to the monthly cost of a car.
- Monthly payment: $66
- Monthly repairs: $30 (I find to keep bikes running smoothly they need servicing once every year).
TOTAL MONTHLY COST FOR E-BIKE: $96
There you have it. The cost of owning and operating an electric bike is a fraction the cost of owning and operating a car.
One BIG assumption
The above analysis assumes you will ditch a car or go without.
If you keep your car and then buy an electric bike, you aren’t nearly as far ahead.
That said, even if you keep your car but drive much less and get a less frequent driving insurance policy, you may break even which means you get a car and an electric bike.
2. The exercise factor
There are two sides to every coin.
The electric bike fitness analysis has two sides to it as well.
Here’s the deal.
Regular bike: You do get far more exercise. Your heart rate is higher. You sweat more. All-in-all it’s a much more rigorous workout. There’s no denying it. I know because I also have a non-electric bike.
BUT, and this will vary person-to-person, if you don’t commute, ride or hit the trails because it’s too much work without an e-bike, you get no exercise. You’re better off getting the equivalent of a brisk walk on an electric bike than not going at all.
Moreover, chances are you’d be far more likely to commute to work, especially if quite far (> 10 km) if you have an electric bike. I know that’s definitely the case for me. I would not ride a regular bike to work. We have huge hills everywhere, it rains and it would take much, much longer. The fact is, I ride far faster on my electric bike than a regular bike.
Only you know which type of bike will provide the most exercise overall.
It boils down to this. If you ride as often with a non-electric bike, you’ll get more exercise with a non-electric bike. If you end up not riding at all, an electric bike is better (assuming you ride the electric bike).
3. Fun factor
This factor in the analysis is personal experience and opinion.
I know I would not go mountain biking if I didn’t have an electric bike. The hills are too grueling. I would not enjoy it. Hence, I would not go.
But, having an electric mountain bike not only mitigates the effort needed to ride up mountains, but it’s a ton of fun. In fact, I enjoy powering up steep inclines more than racing down them.
For me, riding an electric mountain bike is very, very enjoyable – far more enjoyable than a regular mountain bike.
I can say the same about cycling on the road. I’m not big into road cycling, but I enjoy riding my electric mountain bike on the road to get around. It’s fast and doesn’t require a huge effort (did I mention we have a ton of hills around us).
4. The hill factor
I suspect folks living where it’s hilly are more inclined to buy an electric bike. Where we live has huge hills. That partially explains why electric bikes are so popular here.
Riding on flat is actually not bad with a regular bike. I wouldn’ have much of a problem doing that and would enjoy it.
5. Regular bikes are expensive as well
The question about whether an electric bike is worth it usually assumes an electric bike costs more than a regular bike.
While the cheapest electric bikes cost more than the cheapest regular bikes, many regular bikes cost more than electric bikes.
I know folks who spend $5,000 on regular mountain bikes. Same with road bikes. The amount of money you can spend on all kinds of bicycles is unbelievable.
I can say this – $5,000 will get you a very decent electric bike and an exceptional regular bike. I doubt anyone would be disappointed.
However, $1,500 wouldn’t get you all that great of an electric bike but can still get you a decent regular bike.
6. The battery problem
This dilemma is a deciding factor for some folks to choose a regular bike.
Electric bike batteries can only last so long which means you can only ride so far on a charge. It’s sad but true.
My bike’s batter, for example, is drained at the 35 km mark (that’s riding at full power the entire time). That’s about 1:30 riding time.
While batteries are getting better and better, if you go on long rides, you either need several backup batteries with charging opportunities along the way or you must get a regular bike.
There have been instances where I couldn’t go on a ride with my electric bike because my battery wouldn’t make it.
Are electric bikes worth it?
IMO, they are very, very much worth it. I wouldn’t ride nearly as often without it. While I didn’t get rid of my car so didn’t enjoy any cost savings, the fun factor and exercise factor more than make the cost of buying an electric bike worth it for me.