Since the beginning of 2007 I’ve been tracking how much money my wife and I save by biking for transportation. Everybody knows it’s expensive to operate a motor vehicle, but it’s fun to actually add it up and see how you’re doing.
“Saving money” can be a complicated assessment. A very big part of how much money you spend on transport has to do with where you live, where you work (and your type of work), and of course there are other factors — kids, overall health, etc. Carol and I live near downtown Orlando and I work downtown. Carol works at home, but also visits clients on occasion. Even if I never biked at all and drove my car everywhere, my annual miles traveled would only be about 8,000 miles; a good bit lower than the average. I bike about 2,000 miles per year, which is far lower than most recreational club cyclists. Most of my trips are 2 or 3 miles, but I’m on the bike almost every day. If I lived farther out in the suburbs and biked the same types of trips I’d “save” much more money by biking, but I’d also spend more with each auto trip I did take. It’d likely work out costing me about the same, but I’d be spending much more time getting places instead of being where I need or want to be.
The savings calculator spreadsheet I created not only tracks how much we save on gasoline, but also the per-mile savings of total motor vehicle ownership and operation costs (using AAA estimates), carbon dioxide not emitted by our cars, and calories burned — expressed as scoops of ice cream (not the low-fat kind).
So how much have Carol and I “saved”?
$486 in gasoline
$1,478 in total vehicle ownership and usage costs (includes gasoline)
2,654 pounds of carbon dioxide
233 scoops of ice cream
$2,566 in gasoline
$8,916 in total vehicle ownership and usage costs (includes gasoline)
15,935 pounds of carbon dioxide
1,489 scoops of ice cream
The monetary savings will actually project into the future even if we stopped biking today. Why? Because we have two 10-year-old cars with only about 110,000 miles between them. Our 10-year-old Subaru has only 60,000 miles on it and could easily go another ten years before needing replacement even if I quit cycling. Buying an equivalent new car would run at least $25,000, plus the investment opportunity lost from that spending.
Of course this does not include what we’ve spent on bicycles, repairs, related equipment, accessories and clothing. It also does not account for the health benefits we realize by being physically active on a daily basis.
Expecting that some of you might want to see how I calculate those savings and perhaps do it yourselves, I’ve created a Google Document spreadsheet you can copy and use yourself. There is also a document which explains how to modify it for your own specifics.