You can lease a car or even a smartphone these days. But can you lease an electric bike?
While you can lease an electric bike, choices are still limited, and some options are better described as rentals or subscription services.
Other options are really rent-to-own programs rather than what you might expect if you’re familiar with auto leases.
Location can also play a role. For example, Zoomo, a company that specializes in electric bike subscriptions, currently offers the service in just seven cities in the U.S.
Technically, the difference between renting and leasing lies in the duration. Leasing typically involves a long-term commitment of a year or longer. Renting can have durations measured in months or weeks, or even hours or minutes.
Since the options to lease an electric bike are still evolving, it’s worth exploring alternatives to bike leasing as well, such as financing and the various rental alternatives available.
Lease an Electric Bike Weekly
Once known as Bolt Bikes, Zoomo recently rebranded while targeting the bike courier market. If you make bike deliveries in one of the seven cities Zoomo calls home, their offer is worth a closer look.
You don’t have to work as a courier to subscribe, but Zoomo’s plans are tailored to bike messengers and bike delivery riders.
Currently, Zoomo offers weekly electric bike plans in these cities:
- New York
- Jersey City
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
Weekly rates start at $20 up to $49 per week. Doing the math, the yearly cost can seem steep. However, Zoomo also includes repairs and maintenance. If you’re in the delivery business, downtime equals lost money. This makes Zoomo a fair choice for those in the business.
This past weekend I was in Philly for a convention, and the Zoomo riders were everywhere. I also passed a couple of Indego Electric Bike rental kiosks but didn’t notice anyone riding Indego’s blue bikes on the streets.
Companies like Zoomo fill a market niche, although the electric bike subscription model differs from a traditional lease. In the plus column, there’s no long-term commitment.
If you’re in the market and near one of Zoomo’s seven cities, you might also want to explore their new and refurbished eBikes.
Revel also advertised a similar eBike membership program on its website at one point. However, no pricing information or signup is currently available on the site. I also tried the mobile app (with no success). There is a live page for an electric moped sharing program available in Miami, New York, Washington, DC, and the Bay Area.
Lease-to-Own Electric Bikes
Several companies offer lease-to-own electric bikes. Put simply, some merchants in the space are rent-to-own shops that also happen to offer eBikes.
Rent-to-own agreements can help you buy anything from eBikes to furniture.
However, the overall cost of the product can come in higher than buying it outright. Sometimes much higher.
Some well-known companies, including Best Buy, now offer lease-to-own programs. Best Buy’s lease-to-own program is provided through Progressive Leasing.
Being the curious type, I experimented with the lease-to-own calculator offered on the Best Buy website.
Here are the results for a $1,600 electric bike based on a monthly payment:
|Item cost retail||$1,600|
|Cost of rental||$1,803|
|Total of payments||$3,403|
|Number of payments||13 total|
|First payment (due at signing)||$59|
|Monthly payment (12-month lease)||$278.67|
Other payment options may be available, and availability varies by state.
For example, Katapult, another lease-to-own company featured by some eBike retailers, offers a 90-day early purchase option. In this case, you’d pay just 5% over the cash price (plus a $45 initial payment) if you pay off your lease within 90 days. CA residents are not subject to the 5% fee.
Lease-to-own agreements may have their place in certain situations, and providers often market to buyers with no credit history, less-than-perfect credit scores, or bad credit.
But in the first example, the math shows it could be a pricey way to acquire an eBike.
Choosing a lease-to-own option can also affect your selection of electric bikes. Currently, only four electric bike merchants partner with Katapult. You’ll find fewer bike brands available as well as fewer types of bikes.
Rent-A-Center Lease-to-Own Electric Bikes
If you don’t mind a slim selection and you’re in an area that has Rent-A-Center Stores, you can lease an electric bike for about $30 per week, and the cost to own may be lower than some other options.
For example, a Nakto cargo bike with a cash price of $1473.75 has a total lease-to-own cost of 1709.43. In total, you’ll pay 57 weekly payments. Currently, the Nakto is a special order.
Lease-to-Own Cost vs. Credit Card Purchase
By comparison, paying by credit card over 12 payments at the average interest rate for credit card accounts (14.5%) results in a monthly payment of $144. Total interest costs come out to $128.
Using this example, the total cost to buy the $1,600 eBike with a credit card is $1,728 compared to $3,403 with the Progressive lease-to-own agreement shown in the table above.
Paying by credit card actually comes out fairly close to the Rent-A-Center offer.
To compare the Nakto cargo bike that retails for $1473.75:
- Credit card at 14.5% interest (13 payments): $1601.73 total cost to own
- Rent-A-Center lease-to-own electric bike: $ 1709 total cost to own
However, you’ll have only a handful of eBike choices with the Rent-A-Center option, whereas you can buy any electric bike with a credit card.
Klarna or Affirm Electric Bike Financing
Himiway, for example, offers financing through Klarna.
Rad Power Bikes, however, offers financing through Affirm.
Both options can provide ways to spread out your purchase cost over time.
The industry term for these offers is called Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), and the structure gives you an alternative to paying by credit card.
Both providers also work with other major retailers. Affirm works with Walmart and Target, while Klarna works with Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and others.
Klarna focuses on a pay-in-four payment option, spreading your purchase over four payments. Affirm also offers a pay-in-four option, but both companies offer choices of up to 36 months for some purchases.
Some eBike companies also enable payment through Paypal credit, with interest-free purchases if paid within 6 months. For example, KBO offers this option.
Should You Choose a Lease or a Financing Option for Your eBike?
The current leasing landscape for eBikes is limited in the US. And Europe is way ahead in regard to viable bike-sharing schemes. But if we are to catch up, it will likely be the larger US cities that lead the way.
Lease-to-own companies can be a pricey way to buy, and subscription services like Zoomo, while intriguing, still have a small footprint nationally.
Over time, expect more choices. Right now, in the US, there aren’t as many ways to lease an electric bike as one might hope.
For many eBike buyers looking to keep the monthly costs down, a financing option such as pay-in-four or even a low-interest credit card might be a better choice to buy a bike over time and could be a thriftier alternative to lease-to-own electric bikes offered by retailers.
But remember, always read the fine print before signing the bottom line on any financial product, and be sure any financial commitment you make fits your budget.
In the interim, buying rather than leasing may offer a lower overall cost over the life of your electric bike, sometimes substantially lower.
You can also consider a budget-friendly affordable eBike to keep the cost of entry within easier reach.