Kiplinger: How Much Can I Save Bicycling to Work?

Thanks to The Orlando Sentinel  Frugal Force Blog for the link to the

How Much Can I Save Bicycling to Work? calculator.

12 replies
  1. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Very rosy post, but in my experience, the savings is – NOT ONE RED CENT, but it’s STILL GREAT VALUE!

    Here’s why – unless you dump the car entirely, you’re still stuck paying stuff like insurance and a lot of the depreciation. That reduces your savings dramatically right off the top.

    On the other hand, 8.9 cents per mile for cycling is ludicrously low unless you’re riding a “trashmo” bike. My new commuter bike, “Buddy,” is running 9X that figure so far. It’d be much higher if I’d bought the bike new. If I could avoid spending anything more on the bike for another 3 years, I might be able to get cost down to 9 cents.

    Don’t believe me? Have Keri figure out how much her per-mile cost is on that lovely Surly so far.

  2. Keri
    Keri says:

    Heh, love the photo of the two clearly recreational riders on the post.

    Steve’s right. I don’t have enough miles on the Surly to get it to 9¢/mile yet. With 1-3 mile trips, it takes a while. It was a relatively inexpensive bike, compared to my 2 road bikes.

    I think the people who see the most significant savings are the ones with longer commutes. I tend to notice the fixed cost of owning a car, because the less I drive the more the per-mile cost increases. But not yet enough for me to give up the convenience of having it when I need it.

  3. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Most of the costs of car ownership are fixed costs that are the same whether or not one actually uses the thing. Costs such as:

    *Car payments
    *Parking spot rent
    *Time based maintenance (EG change oil every 3 months)

    Even if I never drive I’ve still got to pay all these. Which means I save big by getting rid of the car.

  4. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    I’ve been tracking my bicycle transportation miles and the price of gas since Jan. 07. Based on the urban MPG for my car I’ve saved about $1,000 in gasoline alone.

    Yes, of course the fixed costs are significant. Some states are requiring insurance companies offer pay-by-the-mile auto insurance; that would be a pretty significant savings.

    It’s also hard to tease apart the savings from other lifestyle choices. I chose to live close to downtown Orlando specifically because it offers so much within biking distance. Consequently I only bike about 2,500 miles a year, though my car often sits in the driveway for two weeks at a time. If I lived in the ‘burbs and still commuted by bike I’d “save” more money compared to what I save now. (But I’d probably also drive more miles in the car…)

    At the Kelly Blue Book site my car loses $500 in trade-in value if I add in the roughly 17,500 miles I traveled by bike over the past 7 years.

  5. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Keri wrote:
    “But not yet enough for me to give up the convenience of having it when I need it.”

    Kevin’s question:
    Why not rent a car for those occasions? I’m not a total purist myself. For example, this weekend I’m renting a truck to help my brother-in-law move.

  6. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    Kevin wrote:
    “Why not rent a car for those occasions? I’m not a total purist myself. For example, this weekend I’m renting a truck to help my brother-in-law move.”

    This is a personal struggle for me. I live in an area where about 98% of “daily business” can be accessed via bicycle w/trailer.

    Starting a family was on my mind when I purchased my truck. This was 4 years prior to my getting into cycling/commuting. Better judgment now dictates to go car free (myself, present situation) and rent a vehicle as needed.

    My vehicle has mixed use of family/business. I could use my grocery getter trailer, but moving 30-40 cases of oil would take too many trips! My main advertising for my business is on the truck anyway.

    However, with the recent arrival of our daughter, I will cover the expense of keeping the vehicle. The just over $150 a month (fuel, insurance, tag, maint.) would definitely make a nice touring bike/emergency fund in no time!

  7. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    I’d love to be car free but I just don’t think it’s feasible. I live in the ‘burbs and have a 50-mile RT commute to work. There’s no direct public transit in these parts (though I am 10 miles from a city bus route). I’m primarily responsible for ferrying the kids to after-school activities (though they ride their bikes as much as possible) and just don’t have enough time between the end of my workday and the start of their activities to make the 25-mile commute home. And, as most people from these parts know all too well, the thunderstorms usually roll in at about quittin’ time. I’m just not crazy enough to ride home in a thunderstorm…and I’m way too impatient to ride out a storm at the office for several hours.

  8. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Keri is correct that those with longer commutes fare better (if you exclude the car-free ones who make out like bandits). My numbers were based on my 40 mile RT commute.

    Despite what I tell my wife and kids, I don’t ride to work to save money (they don’t believe me anyway). I do it because it’s the next best thing to snow skiing and I can’t ski to work anyway.

  9. eddie
    eddie says:

    it’s really a tough evaluation. I was car free for years b/c I was spending a lot of time outside the country and liked living in compact communities. I have $1500 easy into a surly travellers check for a trip to italy that I financed with my savings from being carfree. granted, there is not much lived difference from the surly to my 80 buck peugeot. but I just bought a 99 mini van for $1800, insurance $31 a month. it’s really not that expensive. i bought it for hurricane season and extended family trips to south beach and cedar key. I rented cars for years and averaged $200 a month. I’ll let you kno in a year what I think.

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