5 Tips for Buying a Cargo Bike

The cargo bike movement is picking up speed as more families and businesses realize they can replace shorter car trips with cargo bike trips to add joy to their daily commute, save money, and often be faster!

Not many towns have the good fortune of an excellent cargo bike shop as a resource, so I’m doing my best to create helpful content for your cargo bike journey. Today’s five cargo bike buying tips are really focused on the high-level things I would recommend to a customer or friend when they start looking at cargo bikes.

The Purpose and Intended Use of Your New Cargo Bike

This first step aims to have a good picture of what, where, and when. The goal is to outline how you will use the bike. This is critical when figuring out what style of cargo bike you need and what features will be essential to keep you riding. 

What will you do 80% of the time with your new cargo bike in any given week?

It may be transporting kids to and from school, a more utility daily bike only for you, a bike for work-related jobs, or maybe the bike is primarily for you to bike around on, but you want the option to bike a child to the park on the weekends.

The next thing to think about is the capacity in weight and size you need.

This is one part of what you are transporting and one part of who you are and your unique height and riding comfort. Cargo bikes are good at different things and fit riders differently. If you are 5’1″ and trying to transport a young 18-month-old, you’ll have different needs than a 5’10” trying to transport a 6-year-old or their groceries.

Now that you can picture what you are going to do with it, where and when will you be riding? Is it paved city roads or gravel sidepaths? Will you ride when it is raining and snowing or only when the weather is ideal? How often do you hope to ride? 

If you feel you have a good handle on how you will use a new cargo bike, let’s move on to what type you may need.

Cargo Bike Types and Features

There are three main categories of cargo bikes: cargo bikes in the rear, cargo bikes in the front, and trikes. Each one has advantages. If you haven’t done so, check out my rather long article covering the different types of cargo bikes

If you are going with an eCargo Bike, the electric bike system is very important to consider.

You should consider how much assistance you need, how much range you might need from the battery, and what accessories may be critical for your unique riding. The right cargo bike may end up being the wrong cargo bike if the accessories or features aren’t available. And remember, think about what your life (or growing kids) will look like in 2+ years. 

The last hidden feature I can’t emphasize enough is safety. 

You want your cargo bike tested to “DIN-79010.” This means it has been tested for transporting goods and passengers. 

You want your electrical system to be certified to UL-2771 at minimum, but I won’t review or store anything other than UL-2879 in my household. 

Cargo Bike Maintenance and Storage

Some cargo bikes are small and compact, allowing them to be stored inside your living room, find easy parking at the grocery store, and fit into your local bike shop’s work stand. Other cargo bikes require dedicated work stands and a full parking spot and can’t be lifted over that curb at your grocery store parking entrance.

A few things I ask folks to think about

  • Where are you going to park at your major destinations, and where can you store it at home? 
  • Is your local bike shop set up to service the cargo bike you are interested in? Some local bike shops can’t work on direct-to-consumer cargo bikes due to insurance requirements, and others simply don’t have the room or specialized stand and tools. 
  • Does the cargo bike you like require specialized parts or maintenance? Can you handle these yourself, or can a shop nearby help?

Here are some tips for finding a local bike shop for cargo bike maintenance.

Cargo Bike Budget Consideration

There are two types of buyers in the cargo bike space in my experience:

1st category: Interested but concerned and/or on a tight budget: Those who are trying it out and not ready to spend a lot on a style of bike they are unsure of or aren’t in a position to pay for a longer-lasting cargo bike yet.

2nd category: They are ready to make an investment because they have proven themselves with a cheaper model or prefer to invest in a long-term product in the beginning.

If you are in the first category, look to spend around $2,000-$3,000 for a fully outfitted bike. You might also be able to find a used premium bike that is still in great shape and discounted. Be aware that anything fully outfitted under $3,000 new is intended to last 1-2 years, and you’ll find its warranty mirrors this. This is totally okay if you are testing the waters, but you may need to upgrade once you fall in love with the cargo bike life!

If you are in the second category, a quality DIN-79010 cargo bike with a Bosch UL-2849 system starts at around $2,500 new without accessories. Some car replacement models, like the Tern GSD or Urban Arrow, will be $5,500-$7,000. These are designed to last many years (5-7+) and are truly a car replacement. 

Don’t forget accessories when looking at bikes and your budget. You’ll need the essential accessories to carry the cargo or passengers, but also will want things like a bike pump, helmets, a good lock (or two), and potentially additional insurance.

urban arrow cargo bike with baby seat

Test Rides and Reviews

The best thing you can do is test-ride as many cargo bikes as possible. If you don’t have a dedicated cargo bike shop near you, post on Facebook or Reddit groups to find local owners. 

Compare warranties, customer support, and available service centers of different brands. How committed is the brand and the e-bike system they are using? Can you get replacement parts in 4 years? 

Read customer reviews and seek out recommendations from experienced cargo bike owners. If you are between models or need help, I do offer Zoom consulting.


I want to be the first to say – welcome to the life-changing cargo bike life! You’ll experience your community and relationships with others, like your kids or spouse, much differently from the seat of a bike. 

Research, test ride, and, please reach out if you need additional help!

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