The astute reader of my blog may note that my impetus to start biking to work was financial, yet we are now a little over a month into this blog adventure and I have not directly addressed the issue of money and biking.
This is a purposeful move on my part, because I do not wish to insinuate that my continued use of a bicycle as my primary transportation is in any way financially motivated. I did start out my career with very little money to the point that it necessitated my daily bike commute. However, at this point there is definitely room in Mr. and Mrs. BCBiker monthly cash flow to afford a commuter car for me. I, nonetheless, continue to pedal my way to and from work every day without fail. My motivation is now completely existential. (To see what motivates me to bicycle commute, please see the rest of this blog.) Please note that these existential factors are so overwhelming that even if we lived in some alternate universe where bicycle commuting was more expensive that car commuting, I would continue my pedaling ways.
So despite the non-monetary benefits of Business Casual Biking being incalculably high, it is important to let those of us who have not experienced these benefits to see the monetary gains to be enjoyed by simply changing one part of your day. Perhaps this money-based calculation will motivate you to start your own bicycle commute so that you can then rake in all of the existential benefits!
Be prepared to be amazed!
Most people pay more attention to their favorite team’s box scores or to celebrity gossip than they do to their monthly budget, so it is the rare bird that actually realizes that their car (whether spectacular or not) is a tremendous source of cash hemorrhage!
Table 1 – 2014 Bicycle Commuting Expense Sheet
|6/12/2014||$155.47||Tubes and Tires|
|8/9/2014||$26.00||Spoke replacement and wheel repair|
To summarize, I spent a grand total of $183.97 in 2014 on getting to work. This total includes a catastrophic event in which I had worn all the way through the tread of my rear wheel such that the tube blebbed out and punctured. I purchased front and rear tires even though my front tire was still good so I have yet to put that on. The tires I purchased were also very fancy Hardshell Continentals. I was in a little bit of a hurry so I splurged on a 4 mile bus ride when my tube punctured. The spoke replacement was done because I could not find the tool needed for the repair, and the shop I took it to was new and relatively expensive. I thought about taking it somewhere less expensive but wanted to support the place because it is located near our house.
Now let us compare this amount to a standard car commute in Denver. I will make some assumptions. I am assuming the only purpose of this car is for commuting. I will assume I purchased a 2011 Toyota 4Runner (SUVs are the predominant commuter car in Denver) priced at $28,000 with an average fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon. If I did car commute I would need to purchase this car from scratch so I will say I borrowed money for this car with a small down payment ($2000). Let’s make the terms of the loan a 4 year payoff with a 3% interest rate. I also will assume that I take the fastest way to work which is a 17 mile each way freeway commute (which is slightly further than my bicycle commute – 14 miles each way) 260 days – the approximate number of day I worked last year. Fuel was about $3.50 on average in Denver last year. Because this truck will make me broke, I will assume a standard comprehensive insurance package with a $500 deductible. Taxes and registration are based on estimates from the state web site.
Table 2 – 2011 4Runner Year One Expenses
Now some may state that this is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a car… To those people, just look at your checkbook and credit card statements and do the math.
Please note that some might consider this to be an obnoxious vehicle where as others might say what about the BMW?!
Let’s now see the difference between car and bicycle commuting (Listed as Savings)
Table 3 – Savings table
|Per Daily Commute Savings||$44.98|
That is right, every day I ride to work I am saving $44.98 compared to what I would pay to drive a 3-year-old SUV! The scenario may seem hyperbolic but I guarantee that you can find any number of co-workers who are shelling out at least this much money for their comfort wagon. I promise to repeat this calculation with a more reasonable (and less reasonable) situation in a future post.
Comments are welcome!
*Depreciation is a hidden cost to motor vehicle ownership. Cars are the prototypical depreciating asset. A simple example is you buy a car for $30,000 new and then sell the car 1 year later for $23,000. That is a $7000 depreciation. That $7000 is money you will never get back so is an real expense to you. Please note that in this example, the car is 3 years old so the depreciation is less than if it was a new car. I calculated the depreciation based on the car costing $42,000 when new in 2011. I could have depreciated my bicycle in the analysis but the bike and my spare bike were free. Stay tuned for my future post on getting started in biking for low and no money!
Post script: Some commenters have noted, the first year costs are much higher than in future years so year-two will be much less savings from the bicycle commute but still significant. My intentions in this post was to show just how much a somewhat average vehicle can cost and that a bicycle is a reasonable replacement. Stay tuned for more good stuff on this topic in future posts!