Being unemployed right now means that I probably think about money (and not having any) more than your average bear. Or maybe not, since I hate thinking about money. But either way, I was thinking about it as I biked around today, and I got to wondering how much having only a bike has saved me.
I bought my current bike in September of 2005, so right now she’s about 5 years and 5 months old. I’ve replaced a few things on her, and taken her to the shop a few times. I do most repairs myself, but I know there are some things I haven’t been able to fix. Thinking back over 5 years is, of course, a rather muddy affair, but even so, here’s a wild estimate of what I’ve spent:
- $1049 initial cost
- $300 x 3 new wheel sets
- $40 x 6 new tires
- $10 x 12 new brake pad sets
- $40 x 1 front chain ring
- $50 x 1 cassette
- $25 x 4 new chains
- $150 x 2 for fenders and then replacement fenders when my first ones broke
- $300 for random costs like cables, lube, handlebar tape, seatpost bag, lights, inner tubes, etc.
- $800 for maintenance/shop fees
- And then I’m going to add an extra $1000, just for incidental expenses I’m not remembering (this is approximative, remember?:)
I should add that I’m estimating pretty high for this stuff. I doubt I’ve actually spent $800 on taking my bike to the shop, for example, but since it’s possible I’m going to put it down. So over 5 years and 5 months, my total transportation has cost me roughly $4,899.
Now for the fun part. In those 5 years and 5 months, I’ve generally biked at least 100 miles a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. So let’s estimate a round 25,000 miles biked in that time.
What would it have cost if I’d had a car? Let’s say I bought a used, fuel-efficient car. I don’t honestly know much about this and I’m basically just using Google to find, again, totally approximative costs (feel free to let me know where I’m totally off base). But let’s say, in 2005 when I bought my bike, I instead bought a used 2000 Honda Civic and paid $6000 for it. That’s way too low for a car that’s only 5 years old, but that’s okay.
Now I need insurance. I just found online that the average insurance cost per year last year was about $1400. I’ll just assume I paid that much for each of the five years I would have had my car. Insurance for five years, then, is $7000. So buying my car and then insuring it for five years has cost $13,000.
Okay, now let’s assume I drove the same number of miles as I biked, 25,000. A Civic seems to get around 30 miles per gallon once you average street and highway, so that’s about 833 gallons. At a relatively low cost of $2.75/gallon (those were the days, right?), that’s still $2291 for gas. That’s also assuming, of course, that I don’t make any extra trips simply because of the convenience of having a car.
So assuming I never, ever over 5 years had to take my car in for any repairs (unlikely, since it was a $6000 used car, after all), my theoretical and low-estimated motorized transportation has cost me $15,291, more than three times as much as a very high estimate of what it’s cost to ride my bike. Again, that’s assuming absolutely no repairs, no crashes, no insurance spikes, and no increases in the $2.75 price of gas.
So even though (I can’t say this enough) this is a very rough, sketchy estimate of costs, I feel pretty good that over only 5 years I’ve managed to save myself tens of thousands of dollars simply by using my own human power to get me places. Think of how much freedom that gives me to take lower-paying jobs, not work as many hours, donate to charity, or spend on other things. How different would your life look if you had that kind of extra money lying around?