The joy of riding e-bikes, and the cost-effective convenience they bring to everyday transportation has helped electric-assist bicycles, especially the cheap e-bike models that cost less than $1,800 included here, skyrocket in popularity.
The recent increase in gas prices (in early March they averaged $4.39 across the country) has made these lower-cost e-bikes an even more attractive option for short trips or leisurely recreation. And while many non-assist bikes are hard to find due to kinks (or outright breaks) in the global supply-chain, many of the affordable e-bikes sold by consumer-direct brands are still available online and can be shipped to your door in a week or less.
The Expert: I've been testing bikes and other gear for more than 20 years, leading the product review and gear teams for half a dozen magazines and web sites. For the past four years, I’ve overseen product testing for Bicycling, in addition to Popular Mechanics and Runner's World. I've been testing e-bikes since 2013, when the Haibike entered the US market with its firest electric mountain bike. I commute to work and anywhere else I can on a Benno Boost e-cargo bike (often with my kids riding on the extended rear platform) and typically have three to four e-bikes in my garage to test at any one time. Last year, using a decibel meter, I compared the loudness of various e-bike motors to see which had the least offensive output (the Bosch Performance line CX used on many premium bikes had the lowest noise to torque levels). More recently, I reviewed the Woom Up kids e-bike for Bicycling.
We use the term cheap electric bikes here to describe their price relative to the more expensive electric bikes you can find in bike shops and some online retailers. We’ve tested many of those premium e-bikes and electric mountain bikes too and some are truly exceptional. But they can cost three or four times the models here. Some run as much as $10,000. These bikes may cost less, but our testing and research shows them to be very reliable for everyday commuting and riding. To make these reviews as helpful as possible, we focused on lower-priced options from brands like Aventon, RadPower Bikes, and others that you can purchase directly online. In addition to bikes for everyday riding, we included folding e-bikes and even a fat-tire e-bike.
Best Cheap E-Bikes
- Best Overall E-Bike: Aventon Level
- Best Singlespeed: Radpower Bikes RadMission
- Best Value E-Bike: Aventon Pace 350
- Best Folding E-Bike: Radpower Bikes Radmini 4
- Best Lightweight: Ride1UP Roadster V2
- Best New E-Bike: Aventon Soltera
- Best Step-Thru E-Bike: Schwinn Coston
- Best Cruiser E-Bike: Electric Bike Company Model E
- Best Fat-Tire E-Bike: Radpower Bikes RadRunner 1
If you are looking for a higher-performance e-bike, or specifically want the help and service you can get from a specialty retailer, be sure to check out recommendations for our Best High Performance E-Bikes. You’ll find 18 exceptional, award-winning bikes rigorously vetted by our editorial team.
Hub Motors Save Cost
Every e-bike here uses a hub motor rather than a mid-drive motor. Hub motors (the original industry standard and more affordable of the two) can be located on either the front or, more commonly, the rear wheel. They typically don’t allow for the same natural maneuverability as today’s increasingly more common mid-drive motors because their weight is concentrated at the front or rear of the bike. In contrast, a mid-drive motor’s weight is low and centered over the bottom bracket, resulting in better control and a more balanced ride feel, much like a traditional bike.
The Three Classes of E-Bikes
In the U.S., there are three classes defined by the type of assist and how fast the motor will propel you. Most electric bikes are defined as class 1 or 3. Class 1 bikes have a motor (max 750w) that assists while you’re pedaling, up to 20 mph. Class 3, also known as “speed pedelec,” can also have up to only a 750w motor (aka 1 horsepower), but can assist you up to 28 mph. Both are allowed in most states and cities without the need for a license. Rare just a year ago, Class 2 models are becoming more popular, especially at lower prices. These models have a throttle that can propel a bike up to, and maintain, 20 mph without having to continuously pedal. Some bikes blur the lines. Aventon’s popular Pace 500, for example, is technically a Class 3 e-bike in that it reaches speeds up to 28 mph, but it also has a throttle that tops out at 20 mph (the maximum legal speed for a throttle).
Cheaper E-Bike Components
Usually, the cheaper the bike, the cheaper the parts. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be riding around on a rattling tin can. It just means that the bike’s designers took into consideration where they could include lower-level parts without sacrificing safety while putting the money where it counts most—hydraulic disc brakes, decent tires, and a reliable e-system. And although the electrical components on some of these bikes might not be plastered with a familiar name, like Bosch or Shimano, that doesn’t mean they’re not capable. Aventon, for example, pieced together its own e-bike system for the Pace 350—rather than buying a complete one from someone else—in order to keep the price down and allow for higher-quality parts elsewhere.
E-Bike Battery Range and Integration
At this price, most bikes don’t hide their batteries with much elegance. Most have theirs stuck to the top or integrated into the down tube, save for Rad Power Bikes RadRunner 1, which stows its battery behind the seat tube. Don’t expect to ride across the state on these, either. The highest range in this list is 50 miles, but most average about 30 to 35. Check the bike’s battery range before you buy to make sure it fits your daily needs.
How We Tested These Cheaper E-Bikes
Our team of experienced testers spent many hours and miles using most these bikes for their intended purposes. I've personally ridden and tested many of them to and from work, used them to stock up on groceries and beer, tested their passenger-hauling capability, ridden them on questionable terrain to see how they handle, and run their batteries down to officially see how long they last on one charge. Myself and the Bicycling Test Team evaluated every model on performance, price, comfort, handling, value, reliability, fun, and overall e-factor to come up with these recommendations that we believe will best serve the needs of anyone looking to add a little pedal assist to their ride.
Best Overall Cheap E-Bike AVENTON LEVEL
Power: 500W | Weight: 58 lb. | Top speed: 28 mph
Aventon’s Level is a nearly fully loaded, Class 3 commuter that helps you get the most out of the e-bike experience for less. The integrated downtube battery is uncommon at this price and makes the bike look sleeker than exposed battery packs, despite the fact that it packs 672 watt-hours of juice. A 500-watt motor propels the bike up to 28 mph, and a thumb throttle takes you up to 20 mph without pedaling. You also get a big LCD display, racks and fenders, and an 8-speed Shimano drivetrain. Just buy lights, panniers, and a lock, and you’re ready to commute by e-bike.
Best Singlespeed E-Bike RAD POWER BIKES RADMISSION 1
A simple, affordable single-speed that comes in six colors
Power: 500W | Weight: 49.4 lb. | Top speed: 20 mph
One of the most affordable e-bikes right now is RadPower’s RadMission 1, a city bike with commuter potential. For $999 you get a stripped-down single-speed that moves along at 20 mph with a throttle to help you get up to speed or to the top of punchy hills. The 27.5 x 1.95-inch-wide Kenda Kontact tires are slightly narrower than the 2-inch or wider tires we typically see on commuter e-bikes, but they were wide enough to feel speedy and provide comfort on pavement and bumpy bike paths. You also get integrated lights and a bell and a long list of options to add. The Rad Power–branded hub motor drive unit that delivers 50Nm of torque, and a 504Wh battery. The battery is removable and backup batteries are available from Rad Power if you want to have a spare at work or at home. Rad also sells a step through version that makes it easier to get on and off, and to put a foot down at stop signs or when traffic gets sketchy.
Best Value E-Bike AVENTON PACE 350
Power: 350W | Weight: 46 lb. | Top Speed: 20 mph
Drop below the $1,000 price level and e-bikes start to get sketchy. Most use lithium-ion battery technology, which is still pricey, and including it could mean cutting corners elsewhere if the overall price is that low. At $1,099, the Aventon Pace 350 gets close, but our test revealed it’s not too cheap to be high quality. The Class 2 e-bike tops the assistance out at 20 mph, whether you get there by pedal-assist or a throttle. There’s a 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain and five levels of e-assist, giving you various pedaling options. Of the e-bikes we put through our handling circuit, the Pace 350 felt the most balanced and planted on pavement and dirt. You don’t get lights or fenders, but the Pace 350 felt totally viable for daily commuting.
Best Folding Cheap E-Bike RAD POWER BIKES RADMINI
Power: 750W | Weight: 64 lb. | Top speed: 20 mph
This RadMini hits the trifecta of weird but lovable bike niches: It’s an electric folding fat bike. On 20-inch by 4-inch tires, it can go farther and faster on terrain other e-bikes can’t get to, but it also folds up small enough to fit in your trunk or office when not in use. Powered by a 750W (peak) Bafang geared hub motor, in addition to your pedaling with a 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain, the bike has about a 25- to 45-mile range and a max speed of 20mph. A front suspension fork with 60mm of travel smooths out dirt roads and other rough terrain and Tektro mechanical disc brakes lend confident stopping power. The bike weighs 64 pounds, so you probably don’t want to ride it too far without one of the five levels of pedal-assist. But considering the bike comes with a sturdy rear rack that can hold up to 40 pounds with the option of adding a front rack, this bike could be an incredible asset for anyone looking to replace their car commute with a bicycle—especially down country gravel roads.
Best Lightweight E-Bike RIDE 1UP ROADSTER V2
A small motor and battery make for a nimble commuter
Power: 350W | Weight: 35 lb. | Top speed: 24 mph
There’s a lot to like about the Roadster. It’s discreet, lightweight, and makes getting around a big city or small town a breeze. Plus, it’s priced very competitively. It does give up lights, a rack, fenders, and disc brakes to hit both its price point and weight. To gain all that, you will sacrifice range, as well as gearing and disc brakes. Because of that the Roadster is ideal for short commutes on mostly flat roads and paths. But, if you’re looking for a low-cost, durable e-bike, then it’s worth considering the Roadster.
Best New E-Bike AVENTON SOLTERA
Power: 350W | Weight: 41 lb. | Top speed: 20 mph
This affordable single-speed model from Aventon delivers simplicity and style that is tough to beat. The bike also comes as a 7-speed geared option, but we like the easy maintenance and convenience of this one-speeder. Simply push the throttle to get started and the brushless hub motor kicks in, assisting you more gently as you start pedaling. There’s disc brakes (on the 7-speed) or rim brakes (on the singlespeed) and an integrated light. The battery is hidden in the bike’s frame, a surprising feature compared to the bolt-on vibe of many bikes in this price range. Best for smoother roads and bike paths, the Soltera delivers the most essential features a city rider needs in a strikingly light 41-pound package.
Best Step-Thru Cheap E-Bike SCHWINN COSTON CE 27.5 STEP-THRU
Power: 250W | Weight: 55.8 lb. (small/medium) or 56.8 lb. (large/extra-large) | Top speed: 20 mph
It took some time, but one of the most well known bike brands has embraced the fastest-growing bike category: e-bikes. Judging by Schwinn’s first offerings, which are appealing, it should have made the move sooner. The Coston is one of several new electric-assist models that offer a lot of attractive features at a low price. This one has a 250W hub-mounted motor and up to 35-mile range, making it a capable option for commuting, cruising, or exploring. There’s an integrated front light, and one on the battery that makes you more visible when riding at night. There’s also an easy-to-use control unit, 7-speeds, and mechanical disc brakes—nice features for the price.
Best Fat-Tire Cheap E-Bike ELECTRIC BIKE COMPANY MODEL E
Power: 500W | Weight: 53 lb. | Top speed: 25 mph
The new Model E is a sturdy, elegant beach cruiser assembled and painted in the U.S. We tested the brand’s model X last year and it impressed us with its high quality. All Electric Bike Company models are assembled in the U.S., and the attention to detail is immediately evident. Unlike the Model X, this one is sleeker, with an integrated battery. But like that one, it’s fully customizable and built to order with your options. The Schwalbe Fat Frank tires and steel frame and fork combine to deliver a smooth ride, and the comfortable saddle and retro handlebar beckon you to relax and let the e-assist do most of the work. And despite its weight, the disc brakes help you come to a smooth stop, whether you're dodging squirrels on the bike path or avoiding tourists on the boardwalk.
Best Singlespeed E-Bike RAD POWER BIKES RADRUNNER
Power: 750W | Weight: 65 lb. | Top speed: 20 mph
Odds are that you’ve either seen this bike or one that looks a lot like it. Whether you consider it a “bike” is irrelevant—it’s cheap, useful, and thrives in the city. The e-tility design gives you three storage areas: the front rack, the rear rack, and the mid-frame center console. If the latter feature seems gimmicky, that’s understandable, but we instantly found it useful for loose ends and anything that couldn’t get wet. These accessories can quickly turn this $1,200 e-bike into a $1,500 or $1,700 e-bike, but they allow you to retrofit the bike to haul kids or pizzas or fresh fish (as Rad flaunts in targeted YouTube ads). The fat tires and short wheelbase make the RadRunner 1 a capable off-roader and maneuverable urban bike, although the steering is too sharp as you’re moving fast. That said, most customers won’t ride the RadRunner 1 as aggressively; the bike is pleasant and nimble around town, ideal for its intended purpose.