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The Complete Guide to Used E-Bikes: How to Choose, Purchase, and Maintain

Two People Riding Electric Bike

Electric bikes are a popular, eco-friendly alternative to cars and motorcycles for commuting and a fun way to cruise around town, go on road trips, or tackle hills and dirt paths. As their popularity increases, so does the number of used models on the market. Today, it is possible to get all the benefits of an electric bike for a fraction of a new model’s price. 

Have you ever asked yourself, “Should I get an electric bike?” At Upway, we believe the answer is a resounding yes! Follow our guide to learn what to look for in used electric bikes, how to purchase one that fits your needs and tips on how to care for your e-bike.

The Advantages of Buying a Used E-Bike

Purchasing a used electric bike is an excellent alternative to buying a brand-new model. Used e-bikes are available at lower prices despite offering many of the same features and benefits. For example, many used models feature powerful, reliable electric motors, pedal and throttle assist, high-capacity batteries and quick-charging modes.

Besides being more affordable, used electric bikes offer another benefit: eco-friendliness. Buying a used model allows you to extend the life of its motor and batteries. It also reduces the strain on raw material mining and manufacturing needed to produce a new model, making it an environmentally-conscious purchase.

What to Consider When Buying a Used E-Bike

The number of features can overwhelm newbies when shopping for a used electric bike. Follow these simple steps to get a long-lasting quality model that fits your needs.

What Are Your Riding Needs?

The first and most critical question to ask yourself is: “What do I need an e-bike for?” Each model is designed for different applications, making selecting an e-bike suited to your specific riding needs crucial. For instance, a city commuter is generally designed for asphalt roads and may not be the best choice for off-road riding. 

Electric bikes today generally fall into five categories:

City e-bike: Also known as a commuting e-bike, it is the simplest type of electric bike. City e-bikes typically feature relaxed bike geometry and a step-thru frame to promote an upright riding position that prioritizes comfort. 

They are intended for commuting short distances (e.g., to and from work), mainly on asphalt surfaces, so they also feature wider tires and adaptable suspension for better stability. City e-bike brands include Blix, Aventon, Charge, and Gazelle.

Electric mountain bike (e-MTB): A rugged electric bike is often fitted with knobbly, all-terrain tires and features an athletic seating angle. Frames and suspension systems are available as full-suspension or hardtail to absorb the impact of riding on rough trails. These e-bikes prioritize versatility and high performance. Popular e-MTB manufacturers include Fantic, Giant, and Niner.

Road e-bike: A road e-bike is intended for long-distance rides on even road surfaces. They have an athletic seating angle and narrow purpose-built sports tires, making them the asphalt equivalent of an e-MTB. They also have drop handlebars to encourage a more aerodynamic riding position. Some popular brands of road bike include Specialized, Orbea, and Bulls.

Cargo e-bike: Like their non-electric counterparts, cargo electric bikes feature mounting points to transport cargo. Many feature convenient throttle assist, extended-range batteries, and higher-powered motors with increased torque for hauling heavier loads. 

Some specialized models, such as the Riese and Müller Load 75 Vario HS or the Urban Arrow e-bikes, can carry loads of over 600 lbs. To make the most of a cargo bike, equip it with must-have accessories for every cyclist, including racks, side saddles, and front baskets. 

Folding e-bike: A folding electric bike combines the capabilities of a standard city commuter with a folding mechanism and a lightweight design. They are ideal for riders who want to store their e-bike in a compact space like a car trunk or closet or carry it while using public transportation.

How Heavy is the E-Bike?

Have you ever asked yourself, “How much does an electric bike weigh?” You may be surprised to find out they weigh, on average, 2 to 4 times that of a regular bicycle. When choosing a used e-bike, consider its overall weight, particularly when selecting a commuter or a folding model. 

While powerful motors and long-distance batteries improve the e-bike’s performance, they also increase weight. A heavier e-bike is less portable and more challenging to handle on the road. Always ensure you can safely handle the model you choose.

What is the E-Bike’s Mileage?

Like with used cars, the more miles the previous owners put into an electric bike, the more wear and tear it accumulates. This principle is especially true when considering how the motors and batteries power the electric bike’s systems.

The rechargeable batteries found on used e-bikes use similar technology to those in your smartphone: the more miles it has, the more charging/discharging cycles the battery has gone through. After approximately 500 full charging/discharging cycles, the battery will eventually experience capacity loss. A faded battery can’t hold as much charge as a new one, reducing the e-bike’s overall range.

Ensure the model you want doesn’t have excessive mileage. A good rule is to take the e-bike’s total mileage and divide it by its maximum expected range. The result is approximately equivalent to the number of full charging/discharging cycles the battery has undergone. The closer to 500, the closer the battery is to fading. If your chosen model has undergone 250 full charging cycles or less, you can expect it to last several years.

Has the E-Bike Been Maintained or Serviced?

While it is normal to see some cosmetic wear and tear on any used e-bike, you must ensure the model you are considering has received adequate maintenance, repairs, and servicing.

The best way to ensure your used electric bike is in good condition is to purchase a certified pre-owned model from a reputable retailer. Our certified pre-owned program subjects all used e-bikes to a thorough electrical and mechanical inspection, including part repairs or replacement as needed. 

Common Problems and Maintenance Tasks with Used E-Bikes

Although faster and more convenient, electric bikes require more regular care and maintenance than their non-powered counterparts, here are some common problems you might encounter and the best troubleshooting methods to solve them.

How to Troubleshoot Your E-Bike’s Battery

Is your electric bike failing to start? Is the power cutting off intermittently? Your battery may be the cause of these issues. Most e-bike problems can be traced back to the battery, making it the first component you should inspect. 

Follow these steps to troubleshoot potential battery or charger issues:

Check your charger first: Many battery-related problems are due to being out of charge. Verify the charger functions correctly by plugging it into an outlet and inspecting the indicators. The charger may be defective if the lights don’t turn on or flicker.

Inspect the charging port: Unplug your charger, then insert your e-bike’s battery into the charger port. If the indicator light doesn’t turn on, your charging port’s wiring may need to be replaced.

Inspect the battery prongs: If the prongs are damaged or bent, the battery cannot receive power from the charger. If they are slightly bent, consider straightening them with pliers. If they appear damaged or sheared off, you must replace the battery.

Check the battery voltage: Under normal conditions, battery voltage should fluctuate with the state of charge; the higher the voltage, the closer to fully charged. If the voltage is unusually low, the most likely issue is an old battery that can no longer hold a full charge. 

Look for signs of battery failure during a ride: If your battery charges correctly but fails or cuts off when riding, it may be a sign of overloading. A battery experiences overloading when more current is drawn than it can distribute. 

Overloaded batteries can overheat, reducing the e-bike’s range and introducing safety hazards. Try diminishing the load by decreasing pedal assist power or using throttle assist less often. If you continue experiencing overloading signs, your battery may need replacement.

How to Troubleshoot Your E-Bike’s Controller

The controller is an electronic component connecting your motor and battery to all other systems: electric assists, sensors, and LCD. If a controller issue arises, your e-bike may not work correctly.

If you suspect your e-bike has a controller issue, follow these troubleshooting steps:

Check the power switch first: The simplest controller issue is a switch set to OFF. If it is, switch it to the ON position.

Inspect the e-bike’s wiring: Vibrations and bumps on the road can sometimes cause your e-bike’s wires to loosen, resulting in improperly connected or disconnected wires. Inspect your wiring and look for signs of wiring issues. E-bike wires are typically color-coded with their ports (e.g., green wire goes into green port), so you can reconnect the wires yourself.

Reset the circuit breaker (if applicable): Some e-bike models have circuit breakers that you can reset manually. Try resetting it, then test the e-bike again. If it appears to repeatedly switch itself back out, contact an experienced e-bike mechanic to have it analyzed.

Check the fuse: Some controller issues can be traced back to a burned-out fuse. Pull your e-bike’s fuse out and inspect it under a light source. If it has burned out, replace it with a fuse of the same type. For example, if your e-bike uses a 30-amp blade fuse, ensure your replacement fuse is the same shape and amperage.

How to Troubleshoot Your E-Bike’s Pedal Assist

The pedal assist system (PAS) is one of the most common electric assistance features found on e-bikes. Pedal assistance allows the e-bike to supplement your pedaling power with electrical energy, letting you achieve higher speeds. Many e-bike models offer variable levels of pedal assistance, letting you choose how much power the motor delivers.

Without a functioning PAS, your used e-bike is effectively a standard bicycle. If you experience power cutoffs or inconsistent power delivery when using PAS, here’s how to troubleshoot it:

Locate the magnet ring: You can typically find the PAS magnet ring on the front sprocket.

Visually inspect the magnet ring: The magnet ring and its sensor should be aligned. However, harsh movements or impacts, such as during a spirited ride, can sometimes knock it out of alignment. If your e-bike’s magnet ring is misaligned, you can guide it back into place with a flathead screwdriver and gently push it back in front of the sensor.

Check for other loose parts or connections: Magnet ring misalignment can sometimes occur after adjusting or maintaining your e-bike’s sprockets or chain paddles. Ensure none of these parts are loose. If they are, tighten them back into position, then inspect the magnet ring again.

If none of these steps have resolved PAS problems, the issue may be more complicated parts of the e-bike’s systems. Bring your e-bike to a professional mechanic for servicing.

How to Troubleshoot Your E-Bike’s Throttle Assist

Some e-bike models feature a dedicated throttle, allowing you to draw power from the motor to gain speed. Like the pedal assist system, if something goes wrong with the throttle system, it can render the motor ineffective.

Visually inspect the throttle’s position: Under normal circumstances, your e-bike’s throttle should snap back into place when rotating it and then letting go. Most throttle malfunctions cause it to remain locked to the fully-engaged (rearmost) position.

Test the throttle: Pull it back into place manually, then test it to check the response. If the throttle remains stuck to the fully-engaged position or resets itself very slowly, your throttle system may require repairs.

Shop Certified Pre-owned Electric Bikes at Upway

Upway is a leading provider of certified pre-owned electric bikes in the United States. We offer a complete range of affordable electric bikes suitable for all riders and applications. Whether you need an e-bike for city commuting, road trips, off-roading, or transporting cargo, we have something for every rider.

Our selection includes e-bikes made by the world’s most trusted manufacturers: Aventon, Benno, Blix, Charge, Fantic, Gazelle, Giant, Gocycle, Hurley, Niner, Pedego, Rad Power Bikes, Schwinn, Specialized, Super73, and more. All our products are covered by our 1-year warranty and our 14-day, no questions asked return policy. 

Join the e-bike revolution today and discover a new, environmentally friendly way to travel with Upway.

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Upway offers the widest range of certified pre-owned electric bikes, reconditioned by professional mechanics. Thanks to Upway, you'll get a great electric bike at a price that's 20-60% off retail, with a one-year warranty!