Should You Buy an E-Bike or a Conversion Kit?

Adam Media
5 min readJul 9, 2020

So, you’ve heard a lot about electric bikes, have observed recent trends and you want in. Perhaps you read our article — Ebike Sales Hit Record High. Before selecting a brand, you need to decide on the product type: e-conversion kit for your existing bike, or a brand new e-bike.

In order to get the best electric bike for your needs, you should consider the following six points and see how they apply to your situation.

1) Do you have a good bike?

If you already have a bicycle that’s been reliable and is still in good shape, you don’t need to buy a new e-bike. You can convert your existing bicycle to an e-bike using a conversion kit.

To be converted, your pedal bike should be in good working order. It will need a sturdy frame and solid brakes which can stop you at higher speeds. As standard practice, the tires should be properly inflated and have some good tread on them so that you can ride safely.

If you buy the conversion kit from a local dealer, you can ask them questions about your existing bike. For example, once the kit is installed, you could be travelling at 30 kph using brakes that aren’t suitable for stopping at those speeds. An expert dealer can tell you if the brakes need upgrading and you can weigh that cost against buying a complete electric bicycle.

infographic on electric bike vs conversion kit in six steps

2) Do you have limited space?

If you only have space for one bike and want to keep your current bicycle, converting it into an ebike saves you having to give it up. The conversion kit adds a little weight but your converted e-bike will take up the same amount of space.

A couple riding a tandem ebike

3) Do you have special requirements?

You might choose a conversion kit if you have a special requirement you can’t find off-the-shelf. This could be bicycle configuration, frame, geometry or an electric assist performance you cannot find in a standard ebike. Normally this is the only solution for niche market products such as adult trikes, recumbent trikes, adaptive bikes or trikes. With the conversion kit, you can set it up yourself or see a bike mechanic for extra support.

Your personality type and how you approach buying something new may play a role in an ebike purchase. This isn’t a Meyer Briggs testing quiz or anything to do with astrology, just an observation. It’s also easy to answer. Ask these questions:

  • Would you rather do it yourself, put in the research and get exactly what you want for less money, but more time spent?
  • Or, would you rather take a look at a few reviews, find a complete product that fits your cycling requirements and is delivered brand new, finished — a little more expensive but less trouble for you

4) Do you want a customized performance?

Having a converted bike makes it easier to upgrade your e-bike with new accessories. Having the bare frame means that after the battery and electrical system are installed, you can add whatever you want to improve the bike’s performance. Your existing bike may also be lighter or have a frame and tire size that suits your needs where an off-the-shelf e-bike might not.

Increasing performance, features and range of the electric bike conversion kit will add to the basic price. You will always get better value for money if you convert a reliable bicycle using professionally selected DIY e-assist conversion components.

a dog on the back of an electric trike

5) Do you want to save a few hundred bucks?

Your choice between kit and pre-built could come down to budget. Conversion kits are cheaper than e bikes, if you already have a solid bicycle. We have electric bikes starting from $1,199 ($859.78 US); these are smaller, lighter 250w folding electric bikes. They’re very convenient and can knock out the hills on your commute without a problem, but might not be what you had in mind; larger and more powerful e bikes will cost more.

Are e-bikes expensive? Yes. But when you offset the cost you save in petrol and commuting fees over time, as well as the amount of fun they are, their benefits to your health and the planet, they’re a worthy investment. For reference, the battery is about 1/3 the cost of a complete e-bike. The life of the battery cells is about 6 years or 800 full charge/discharge cycles. How much do you spend on gas in 6 years?

According to Reader’s Digest Canada & Global News Canada, the average annual cost of commuting excluding maintenance and other expenses could go up to $8000:

  • $3000 in gas
  • $3,500 in parking
  • $1,500 in insurance

With various ebike offers on the market starting as low as $700, you cannot always consider conversion as the cheapest option, especially if there is a labour fee involved. However, conversion can potentially offer better value than buying a used or cheap no-name ebike.

As an example, a cheap $700 electric bike may consist of a $200 bicycle, a low-quality Li-Ion $300 battery and a $200 electrical system you can’t depend on over time.

What you’re looking for is a solid, hassle-free conversion kit which offers maximum street legal performance and a minimum 30–40km range. It should have a 5-year expected lifespan, a well-engineered and branded Li-Ion battery pack of around $500 and about the same cost for the rest of the electric system.

Having a local business supporting and covering the warranty of the product, you should be looking at above $1200 for your conversion kit.

A guy in the park with a converted ebike

6) Do you have a non-functional e-bike?

You can use a conversion kit to bring a broken e-bike back to working condition, potentially at a lower cost than having repairs made. Conversion kits include a hub motor kit, and electrical system and a battery pack; the base components to turn a regular pedal bike into an electric rising machine.

We hope these tips have helped you make a decision on whether to choose an ebike or kit. See our other blog posts for ebike reviews, technical information, trends and comparisons of some of the best electric bikes for sale.



Adam Media

Marketing, content, copy and all the other words, based in Vancouver, Canada.