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I Thought They Said I’d Save Money Bike Commuting


Earlier this week I hit 1,000 bike commuting miles for 2013.  Being the nerd that I am, I thought it would be “fun” to figure out how much money I’ve saved by riding instead of driving.  Let’s just say that I wasn’t too happy when I was done.

sharrowI’m somewhat ashamed to admit that our SUV gets about 18 miles per gallon.  Riding 1,000 miles instead of driving means I saved about 56 gallons worth of gas.  Except I didn’t really save 1,000 miles worth of driving.  Some nights my wife would pick me up at the train station (if we had somewhere to be and I wouldn’t have time to ride home and shower), in which case I saved exactly zero miles of driving that day.  But, for the sake of ease, let’s just say that I really did save 1,000 miles worth of driving.  56 gallons of gas, even at its peak of about $3.89 gallon, adds up to be $217.84.  I know that there are other expenses involved with driving a vehicle besides gas, but 1,000 miles isn’t enough to add in an oil change or that much wear and tear in general.  Plus, we still need our vehicle, so we’re paying for insurance regardless of whether or not I take it to work that day.

We’re not going to talk about how much I’ve spent on my bike(s) in the past year.  That would just send me down the road to needing Zoloft.  And we’re definitely not going to add up how much it costs for me to eat 50,000 calories worth of food, a rough approximation of how many calories I burned commuting 1,000 miles.  Because if we factor those things in, I’m losing money bike commuting.

It’s a good thing I enjoy it.  Because it definitely isn’t saving any money like they said it would.



  1. Jill says:

    If I added up all the expenses for the bike alone for my upcoming half IM, I’d probably have to slit my wrists. Especially because it’s notoriously cold in Boise in June so I had to get a lot of warm gear. Last year some just wore their wetsuits on the bike – this would have been a way cheaper option. Bike crap adds up – quickly!

  2. Jean says:

    I’ve been car-free for last 30 years, cycling for last 22 years. I live in a city that gets very cold winters..meaning -25 degrees C is several times per winter. I do bike even in winter when snow and ice has not piled up.

    Even if my saving/redirected money from car was dialed down from $300,000+ to $200,000, that is still a lot of money!

    Here’s what I wrote:

    And I have 4 bikes. No, I don’t have an interest in shelling out $5,000 per bike. I don’t want to spend energy worrying about a bike when I lock it up and am away from it for a few hrs.

    • That is an insane amount of money! Kudo’s to you for being car-free for so long. VERY impressive lifestyle. I now live in a great climate for year round cycling (never getting close to -25C), but I’d still struggle to go completely car-free. I still use the car for almost all errands, although I could easily use my bike for some of them. Perhaps I should work on that a little!

      • Jean says:

        In Europe where some countries are cycling intensive as a daily mode of transportation, people are cycling no more than 10 km. or less.

        That’s the whole point of using a bicycle for utilitatarian purposes. Practical, short local trips….as a starter to new, healthier lifestyle. And it’s a lifestyle that after you get into it, you don’t see cycling as a chore or a bother to do an errand.

        Saving some money or redirecting saved money for something you really need, is icing on the cake. 🙂

  3. tlsylvan says:

    That’s so counter-intuitive, I would have thought the savings would be enormous! That makes me sad for a split second, but then think about how much fitter you are, the 1,000 miles fewer emissions you put into the atmosphere, and the savings on health insurance down the road because you take care of yourself.

    • Considering my job title is “Environmental Specialist” and I have a degree in environmental science, you’d think that I would consider the emissions aspect a little bit more, but it rarely crosses my mind. I reap countless benefits from bike commuting, the most important is probably the retention of my sanity (Dallas traffic is horrible, and would make me go postal if I drove in it every day). I still was a little bummed by the financial savings though. I don’t see myself going completely car-free, like Jean (previous commenter) did, but I can see that getting rid of a car completely is really where you start to see the savings add up.

  4. I think you are underestimating your savings. Most (almost all) families in Dallas have two cars due to both spouses needing transportation and our almost non-existent public transportation system. Savings of one car is easily $6,000+ per year!

    • Good point. Lucky for us, my wife and I’s work schedules/locations allow us to get away with one vehicle. It would be a lot tougher if I didn’t bike, but we could make it work. Dallas’ public transport definitely isn’t that great, but I make it work for me. We live north of 121, and my daily commute is 10 miles each way to the nearest train station. At least the train drops me off right outside my office.

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