The Cost of Commuting By Car vs Riding a Bike

Today I rode my bike to work for this first time this year.  Last summer I made a casual goal of riding once per week but was only mildly successful.  I am going to try again this year to see if I can make this happen.  I mean, Mr. SFF does it every day, year round, rain or snow, so I should be able to do it, right?

My "vehicle" this morning.
My “vehicle” this morning.

The commute is only 5 miles each way but does have a long gradual hill heading to work.  Thankfully we have a really nice shower at the office so I can get clean before starting work.  During the summer I keep a towel at work as well as a little toiletry kit so I only need to bring my food and a change of clean clothes.  And interestingly it only takes a few minutes longer to bike than to drive.

The Numbers

Since I am on this frugal journey, I decided to calculate how much it actually saves per day if I do bike to work instead of driving.  After taking a quick snapshot of my recent fill-ups (yes, I actually log every fill-up), I found the average to be about 31 mpg which actually matches exactly to the combined total that I found on the US Dept of Energy’s fuel economy site.

I then took this info and plugged it into Commutesmart.info to get my estimated monthly cost of commuting.  At a total of 10 miles round trip, and avg of 31 mpg (which is probably generous as my commute is city driving), and an avg cost of $2.55 per gallon my monthly cost to commute came to $275.79.  Divide this by 20 working days per month and you get $13.79 per day to drive my car to work.

This seemed high to me and the calculator does state that it takes into consideration finances charges so I decided to manually run the numbers.  I first totaled up all of my actual car related expenses other than gas for 2014 and came up with $2,447.11.  This included two sets of tires (winter and summer), insurance, oil changes and other regular servicing, registration, inspection, a new car battery, car washes and new wipers.  Last years costs may be skewed a little high as I had to replace both sets of tires but on the other hand as my car does age I am fully aware that I will have more maintenance costs.  Anyways, I divided this annual total by 365 days in the year and came up with $6.70 per day.  This seems a little more reasonable to me but is eye opening realizing how much it costs just to have a car.  I then calculated my avg cost of gas per mile by taking the current local avg of $2.55 per gallon and dividing it by 31 mpg to get $0.082 per mile, times 10 miles get me to $0.82 cost of gas to get to work.  Add these two numbers together and you get $7.52 per day to drive my car to work.  I guess this shows that driving a smaller fuel efficient car with no loan can make a difference as my number is significantly lower than the one I got on Commute Smart.

As I side note, I also realized I got my car washed a lot last year. Smiley

So in conclusion, if I ride my bike one per week during the summer until Labor day, excluding a week of vacation and including today, I would have a total of 15 days on my bike and a theoretical savings of $112.80.  Seems doable.  And in addition to the cost savings, I am also getting some exercise.  Maybe I can even get ambitious and ride more than that.  Let’s see how I do!

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