Since I started bike commuting back in April 2013, we haven’t really done much of an update in terms of what the ongoing biking expenses have been like and what kind of savings we are realizing in terms of other modes of transportation (ie cars). Here’s that update.
In the last 17 months, my bike has gotten a bit of a makeover, though slowly. The makeover is mostly complete, but it has been a little on the pricey side to transform my trusty GoGo (a Jamis commuter hybrid originally purchased in 2005) from a 3-mile per day fair weather commuter bike I used in school 8 years ago into a 20-mile per day commuter bike that gets me reliably to and from my “corporate America” job.
Here’s what was added or upgraded as part of her transformation this year:
- new helmet ($45) since the old helmet’s plastic could have degraded over the previous 8 years
- flat tire kit and bag ($90) with pretty much everything I need to fix a flat on the go
- awesome fenders ($50) to keep my tush dry when riding through puddles
- 5 tubes ($50) for assorted flats
- kevlar tires ($100) to hopefully prevent any more tire punctures
- new handles, water bottle holder ($20)
- bright LED lights for safety ($100) front and back, though had to buy 2 back lights since I lost one by not attaching it properly
- chain cleaner ($20)
- assorted component upgrades like: new chain, new rear derailer, new gears, new gear shifter, new brake lines
- tools and cleaning supplies (oil, green cleaner) for working on bike
- other random purchases at the bike shop that we can’t remember what they are…
All told, the total we’ve spent on the bike in the last 17 months is $756, which comes out to ~$44.50/month. (Again, thanks to Mint for making it insanely easy to see these totals!) I gasped a little when I saw how much that was, since I wasn’t expecting it to be quite that high. But a lot of the upgrades and repairs that were made to the bike aren’t expected to happen every 17 months. Instead, think of this more like 5-7 years of deferred maintenance on the bike coming due all at once as well as a learning curve as Mr PoP figured out how to work on various aspects of the bike.
There are a couple more smaller upgrades that will probably happen in the new year (a new seat and paniers or a new basket with a different mount style) and then after that I can’t imagine replacing any of the major systems for another 4-5 years at least. We expect ongoing expenses to be significantly less once the last couple of upgrades are completed.
- First 17 months: $756
- Ongoing/Year: $300 (on the high end, I think)
Reimbursements are offsetting a portion of my bike expenses since I recently became eligible for a bike commuting program at work that will reimburse me $240/year in bike commuting expenses. I can claim $120 of the expenses listed above, and will have eligibility in 2015 and beyond for the full $240/year. (Hence wanting to wait until 2015 on the two last upgrades.)
- First 17 months: $120
- Ongoing/Year: $240
Selling The Jeep
While I’m certainly not complaining about the reimbursement opportunities, most of the savings (though I still don’t like the word save) that we are seeing are coming in the form of other transportation expenses that have decreased.
Selling the Jeep after I had been bike commuting for a year meant that we didn’t need to renew that insurance premium this year. So far this meant a bill that was $300 lower for our most recent 6-month insurance premium. On a full year’s basis, this will reduce our expenses by about $600/year in insurance, and another $60 in yearly car registration fees (though we have yet to realize this latter savings).
- First 17 months: $300
- Ongoing/Year: $660
Using Less Gas
Gas is the biggest difference, though. When I originally started bike commuting, I estimated that every day I cycled to work saved us $8 in gas. So if I cycled for 20 workdays per month, it’d average us $160/month in savings. As it turns out, our actual gas savings is actually significantly higher.
Comparing our gas spending from April 2013 – August 2014 with the same months 2 years prior, we spent $3,831 LESS in gas in the 17 months I was biking than we did in the months of April 2011 – August 2012. That’s $225/month less in gas. (If you want to gag over how much we spend – and used to spend! – on gas, now is your chance. Gag away!)
(Note – I chose this time period for comparison because it was the closest that retained seasonality (which affects not only gas prices, but our gas consumption) the same. We had no changes in job location that would have impacted these numbers, so it seems a pretty fair comparison.)
The gas savings seemed so much higher than my original estimates (40% higher, in fact!), so I wanted to check and make sure that gas prices aren’t significantly lower now than they were before. In came gasbuddy.com to the rescue with the average prices of regular fuel in Florida over the last 4 years. I boxed in the two periods of time I was comparing in green (no biking) and orange (bike commuting).
The period enclosed by green (no bike riding) looks like it might have an average price a tad higher than the period enclosed by the orange box (when I was bike commuting), but when you account for the fact that we’re only buying premium fuel these days (at $0.30 – $0.45/gallon more than the cost of regular fuel that the Jeep took), the average price per gallon we’ve paid in the time I’ve been biking is probably on par with what we were paying before I started biking.
- First 17 months: $3,831
- Ongoing/Year: $225/mo = $2,700/year
Net Impact Of Bike Commuting On Our Finances
In the first 17 months of bike commuting, it’s had a net impact of:
$3,831 (gas) + $300 (Jeep insurance) + $120 (reimbursements) – $756 (bike expenses)
or about $205/month in net reduction of expenses.
And we’re estimating an ongoing yearly impact to be in the ballpark of:
$2,700 (gas) + 660 (Jeep insurance & registration) + $240 (reimbursements) – $300 (bike expenses)
or about $275/month in net reduction of expenses over our old “normal”. (For a sense of scale in our budget, that amount is actually pretty close to what the loan payment was on the Jeep before it was paid off.)
Is Bike Commuting For Everyone?
Your mileage (haha!) may vary. We were “aided” by having pretty high transportation costs to begin with, and that we were able to eliminate one gas guzzler completely from our lives* by bike commuting about 20 miles per day, 5 days per week, on a year round basis because we live in an environment (South Florida) where that’s not a completely ridiculous thing to consider. We get that not everyone can do that, so the results calculations for others might not be as dramatic as they are for us.
Even better than the additional money that we get to spend on other things we enjoy is the fact that I’m still really enjoying bike commuting. It’s just such a pleasant way to start and end most days that I’m better able to manage work stress and haven’t (*knock on wood*) been nearly as susceptible when colds go around the office as I was before I started biking daily. Those intangibles are worth far more than the money in our book.
* A small caveat. Since getting rid of one gas guzzler, the Jeep, we did acquire another, Sunny. However, Sunny is in storage now and we don’t expect her to see any time on the road for a couple of years at least. And even when we do, she definitely will not become a daily commuting vehicle for Mr PoP’s epic commute the way the Jeep was as we don’t want to put that kind of mileage on a 40+ year old car.
Have you ever changed your commute? How much were you able to shave off your transportation expenses by changing the way you get around?