04 January 2008

Pedalling Money - Saving Money by Cycling:

No, there’s nothing illegal going on here… honestly! Rather, this article is about the amount of money you could save by riding your bike to work, instead of either taking a car, or public transport. Bikes are relatively cheap. In fact if your general travel is within say 10 kilometres of you, it would be far cheaper to ride around on a bike and get to work and various other places, than it would to use a car. Let’s get down to the number crunching:

Cost of riding a bike:
If you were to ride a bike it might cost you around 1000 dollars for the initial start up costs over the year (this is Australian dollars I’m talking here). The cost of the bike (as with a car in ways), will of course depreciate with time and once you’ve bought the initial investment. I know from personal experience that my bike cost me $500, and it was more than ample for the task, in fact it works pretty damn well. You could easily go and spend much more on a better quality bike, but I’m really comparing what the average sort of person would be looking at spending. On top of this its worth investing in a basic pair of sunglasses (you’d be surprised by the amount of crap that finds its way into your eyes otherwise!), a decent pair of bike gloves, which will stop you shredding your hands if you ever have a tumble, and of course a helmet. Investing in some panniers would be a good idea too. Panniers are essentially bike racks that typically go over your back wheel, so that you can attach two bag like storage containers on your bike. There essential if your ever going to ride with anything more than what you can fit in a small backpack. So the bike was $500, then the gloves, sunnies and helmet would be about $100, the pannier system might total 100 to 150 dollars (I got mine second hand from my father, but his model only costs about 105 dollars now) and then you might take the bike in for a couple of checkups each year costing maybe another 200 in total.

So our total for bike riding costs for the year is: roughly a 1000 dollars for the first year, but keep in mind that this is only the first year and that its an investment that will pay off long term (more on this in a moment). Now of course this is rather basic cycling gear were talking and you could easily quintuple this by buying the best racing bike and the best pannier system in the world, and so on and so forth. But for the average commuter it can be done, and done well for just under 1000 dollars a year. What’s more the costs will begin to depreciate as years go buy. Chances are that a 500 dollar bike may last a good 5 years and more. So suddenly you take out $500 for the next four years. Admittedly you might have to repair it a little more, so maybe we end up paying an extra 100 or 200 dollars for extra repairs as it ages per year, but even then you’re still saving more and more. Likewise the pannier system, the gloves and the sunglasses will all last a long time if you look after them. This insures that in successive years you only really have to pay for repair costs, as your initial investments should still be road worthy. Therefore over a 5 year period riding a bike would probably cost you something like:

Year: Cost: Total Cost:
1st $1000 $1000
2nd $200 (repair costs only from here onwards) $1200
3rd $250 $1450
4th $250 $1700
5th $300 $2000

So after five years we have a running total of 2000 dollars, which works out to be only 400 dollars per year! Now you could argue that when riding you have to eat more and you would have to buy more food, but I’d probably just laugh loudly, as we (in the western world) all eat much to much anyway, and its unlikely you’ll need to up your food costs. Plus condensed energy is so cheap in our society, a loaf of bread a week would supply you with HEAPS of excess energy, and maybe cost you a buck or two! So $400 dollars a year for transport, keep that in mind, and you could also argue that some even argue that commuting allows you to do away with your gym membership because of all the exercise you get through traveling.

Now onto the car costs:
Car costs can vary quite a bit more than bike costs, because of so many things like insurance and whether you get parking fines and speeding tickets or not, the cost of the original car varies much more as do repair costs. So I decided to have a look at a few other sources. Here is an American site and the link can be found here (the info I quote about half way down the websites page if your looking for it): http://bicycleuniverse.info/transpo/almanac.html

Principal on car loan $3579
Finance charges on car loan 359
Gas & Oil 1279
Insurance 819
Maintenance & Repair 662
Licenses, Parking, & Misc. 534
Total Yearly Costs $7,232

“Annual costs of car ownership in the U.S. is over $7000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gave the breakdown shown in the table at right in 2001. AAA of Minnesota puts the annual cost at $7,754 for 2003 for a vehicle driven 15,000 miles. Cost per mile is $0.517”

So were looking at around seven grand there. However again we must realise that the costs would depreciate once the car had been paid off. As it all gets a bit confusing using other people’s figures I thought I would make some conservative figures as to the cost of a car:

Suppose an average car costs you around $3000, the insurance and maintanence and repair and licensing costs cost you around $1500 per year, Petrol (which is becoming ever more expensive) probably costs you a good $2000 per year (you would be seriously surprised how much people actually spend on petrol). Even these relatively conservative figures come up to be $6500! (This is also providing that you pay for your car outright with no loan!) Of course once the car has been bought the costs decrease as would be expected, but repair costs will also slowly increase, so heres a five year look at a car:

Year: Cost: Total Cost:
1st $6500 $6500
2nd $3500 (cost of car taken out from here on) $10000
3rd $3750 (Repair costs now begin to rise slightly) $13750
4th $3750 $17500
5th $4000 $21500

So after five years we have a running total of $21500! Wow, that’s a bit of money isn’t it? It ends up being an average yearly cost of $4300!

The Comparison:
Now I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a fair bit of a difference to the $400 per year to pay for a bike! In fact its over ten times as much. Needless to say not only can you stay fit and healthy as well as help the environment by reducing carbon emissions through riding a bike, you can also save yourself a small fortune over a few years!

The same website mentioned above from “bicycleuniverse.info” then goes on to provide some more interesting information by comparing the money saved by cycling to the time that would have been necessary to spend earning it:

“One interesting thing we can do with the car costs is convert the car costs into time. The average American earns about $17/hr., or $14/hr. after federal taxes. So $7,754 in annual car costs takes 554 hours to earn. That's over three full months of work each year. Just to pay for the car. And cars are supposed to be saving us time? Drive to work, work to drive.”

Now, even using my more conservative figures of an average cost over five years of $4300, and an average income of say $20 dollars an hour (we’ll say after tax too for simplicities sake) we still find that we’d need 215 hours of work to pay it off!!! Whereas to pay off the average costs of a bike over five years (at $400 per year) would only take you 20 hours!

By these figures if you rode a bike instead of driving a car you would save yourself (215-20) 195 hours of time each year!!! Alternatively you could still work for the same amount of time and either have more spending money, or have more money to save up with!

So by cycling you can save yourself money (or time as the old axiom goes) and also keep yourself healthy. We could also argue that by keeping fit and healthy you’d reduce the cost of needing medication for various problems like diabetes and obesity and so on. Exercise has great benefits for both the body and the mind (see "The Many Benefits of Exercise, Part 1" for further details) and leading an active lifestyle such as cycling promotes will pay great dividends throughout your life. This too could save you money in a sense, although here I think we get to a much more important argument, that is to say what of those things which are priceless?

No value can placed on a human being, nor on the environment, these things are simply to sacred to be commodified like a table or a chocolate bar. Cycling as a form of transport promotes both a healthier body and a healthier environment, really these are the greatest benefits cycling gives. However, for those are concerned with money and perhaps somewhat greedy maybe the above argument will persuade them to start cycling. Alternatively, for those who don’t have money as their primary objective in life it’s simply nice to know that what you do isn’t only ethically good, but also financially viable.


Elaine said...

I'm a cyclist as well, never needed to own a car.

A friend of mine started cycling after doing a similar calculation, basically figure out how much time you spend on your car, not only driving it, but also working to pay for it. To make the math easy, say you spend 10 hours driving every month and you go 400 km. 40 km an hour right? If your car costs you $100 a month and you make $10 an hour, you are spending 20 hours on your car and going 400 km. That's 20 km/h.

When my friend worked that out for himself, he ended up with 14 km/h. You can go a lot faster than that on a bike. That was his motivation.

Megan from Imaginif said...

I have many friends that only own a bike and use buses when they need to go longer distances. I am a total wimp though - I live in Cairns where it is dreadfully hot and wonder why bikes here don't come with an umbrella????

That's a great breakdown of the cost savings. Biking is also a nice way to take the control back from the oil companies and show them the real power of people power.

Thanks for submitting to the Carnival of Australia

GoGirlfriend said...

Love this idea. Not only is riding a bike good for you, it's so good for the environment.

More good reasons for biking it: http://www.gogirlfriend.com/reviews/hertz-green-collection-%E2%80%93-reserve-conserve-690

I work about 25K from work and I'm seriously considering riding my bike back and forth once the nice weather gets here. still not sure if I can do it though!

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