PoP Economics of Bike Commuting, 17 Months In

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My bike all decked out and up on the rack for a tune up!

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.

Bike Costs

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)

Expenses Reduced

Reimbursements

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).

GasPriceHistory_FL_PeriodsMarked

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)

= $3,495

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)

= $3,300

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?

58 comments to PoP Economics of Bike Commuting, 17 Months In

  • Great Galloping Gas Guzzlers! That’s a lot of savings!

    I’ve been bike commuting for several years now, and I totally agree with your mental and physical health benefits section. There’s something about a short but intense exercise to start and end the day that helps de-stress.

    I’m here to say that people can bike year round in any climate. I bike throughout the Boston winters. It’s a bit cold (lowest morning commute temp last year was 7 degrees) but proper gear makes it tolerable. Bikes do need more regular maintenance because of the salt on the roads, but it’s a manageable problem.

    Glad to hear you get bike benefits! I do as well, and it’s pretty great to file for a $240 reimbursement in December of every year. Some years the maintenance budget doesn’t add up to that and I can slip in a few “necessities” like a nicer light or new panniers.
    Mr. Frugalwoods recently posted..Weekly Woot & Grumble: Thieving Dolphins & Some Guy Named PlutusMy Profile

    • Great Galloping Gas Guzzlers, indeed! The Jeep was definitely a gas guzzler, but a fun one – and a good, reliable vehicle for many years, too.

      I’m impressed that you’re able to cycle even in Boston winters. You would definitely have made fun of me if you had seen me bundled up for the couple of mornings that my morning commute was in the mid-40’s this past winter.

      Glad that the bike benefits are more than enough for you. That was my intuition, but I tried to over-estimate on costs beyond the benefits since there are certain things that I can’t cover with bike benefits. For some reason, helmets can’t be reimbursed…. you’d think my employer would have an interest in protecting my brain, but what do I know?

  • I had my doubts, I admit, about how much money you would save. But, I’m on board now! I only wish I lived in an area where I didn’t require the interstate to get to work, LOL…..I would probably be in better shape if I biked to work, too!
    Gretchen recently posted..Exposing Third-Party Hotel Rates & ReservationsMy Profile

  • That’s fantastic savings. Plus, you’ve gotta feel the cardio benefit of that commute every day as well, don’t you?
    AverageJoe recently posted..A Quick Time Out To Say Thank You!My Profile

    • The biking is enough of a cardio workout that I actually had to cut back on the length of my morning runs from 10 to 5 miles during the week. It was just too much to try and run 10 then ride about the same distance again to work . I was getting too tired at the start of the work day. Running 5 before riding instead a few days per week is a good balance for me.

  • thegoblinchief

    I track expenses as cost-per-mile. Car costs have settled in over 5-6 years at $0.39/mile based on my best-guess from memory.

    Bike costs swing all over the map. I had it down below $0.20, but recently bought new-to-us bikes for 2 of my kids and for my wife. Currently it’s at $0.49/mile but will of course fall rapidly from there.

    If anyone is interested, I started a challenge over at the MMM forums to track these numbers:

    http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/track-your-transportation-cost-per-mile!/

  • Great job on your savings! I would consider bike commuting if a)I worked outside of the home and b) I didn’t have kids!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Cash Money: $5,965 in August Income and Blog UpdatesMy Profile

  • That is a LOT of money on gas!
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..529 plans and astonishment at compoundingMy Profile

    • *Sigh* It is. It really is. I gagged a little when I saw what the difference in gas spending was over those 17 months especially knowing that we’re hardly at $0 in gas spending these days. I’m just glad not to be giving Chevron and Sunoco quite as much money as we used to.

  • This is amazing! Great job on making the change to bike commuting. It definitely sounds worth it and the savings alone are amazing.

    We did recently make a small change in the transportation area in our life. We got rid of one of our cars and traded it in for a car that gets MUCH better gas mileage. We hardly ever fill up now and it’s been amazing.
    Michelle recently posted..DIY Wedding Ideas – Worth It Or A Waste Of Money?My Profile

  • kurt

    what a great bike rack! it looks like it’s working off of your workbench vise. is this DIY or something you purchased? would love to know the details!

  • 20 miles a day biking means your workout is sorted as well. So, you don’t have to pay for gym membership. Also, you can include car value depreciation and other maintenance charges in the costs saved. A quick repair to an automobile can easily cost a few hundred dollars + regular maintenance + cars lose value even they stay in the garage. According to AA reports, a car costs about $9,000 a year on average. Great article.
    Carol G recently posted..My Favorite Car Jokes & InsuranceMy Profile

    • Well, the gym membership is staying for a while, though I haven’t been going too spin classes since I started biking to work! =)

      As for car maintenance and repairs, you are right that these would have been additional costs, but I left them off since (1) they’re so irregular I wouldn’t have felt comfortable estimating and (2) the Jeep was pretty reliable and Mr PoP did a lot of his own maintenance on it. So I underestimated the savings by a little by leaving these off, but better to underestimate and over-deliver on savings than the other way around, right?

  • That is fantastic savings and a great way to combine with exercise. Alas, I didn’t bike to work once this summer but I did last year about 5 times. I need to get more committed. I’ve been working from home a lot so saving on gas but I like the idea of getting the exercise in there. You are providing me with serious motivation!
    debs @ debtdebs recently posted..Reasons I’m Happy I’m Not Going to FinConMy Profile

  • I used to bike to work on Friday’s in the summer, since I cut the gym out and thus my shower I take good old faithful to work every day aka the train. When I lived in S. Florida I tried the bike thing and to put it nicely, I really needed a shower. I’ll have to wait for early retirement for this to be my main transport.
    Even Steven recently posted..Are You Ready for Some Fantasy Football?My Profile

  • This is something I’ve been considering. Next time I go to my parents I’m picking up my bike!!!
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..Buying Contacts & Paint like A ProMy Profile

  • Woot, woot! I’m on month 19! Feels fantastic! But I appreciate that you added biking may not be for everyone. As much as I like Mr. Money Mustache, not everyone can bike everywhere.

    But I get groceries exclusively on my bike as well. It’s so weird that even just a few yrs ago, I didn’t even consider biking anywhere.
    Will @firstqfinance recently posted..Switching to Online Classes Boosted My GPA from 3.2 to 4.0My Profile

  • I only recently started bike commuting again and I have loved it! I can’t believe I took a break for so long. It was just really hard to get back into the swing of biking, but for the most part I love getting a decent workout, and it doesn’t take any extra time from my day except for maybe an extra 20 mins, since i only have to bike 3.7 miles each way

  • Kim

    Going to part time work has certainly lowered our commuting costs, plus I drive Yertle (99 Civic) just about every where now so Jim can take the Altima to work, so it’s not bike commuting by a long shot, but not driving the Tacoma every day is huge. If we ever move, it will be to somewhere I can walk or bike almost always. You are my hero!
    Kim recently posted..My Ambitious Plan To Get 3 People To Europe With Points And MilesMy Profile

  • jestjack

    What a great article! Car expenses are just crazy and congrats to you for doing something about it. Many of us complain but few actually take measures to change things. The $ savings is one thing … but just think of the difference in less traffic congestion and benefit to the enviroment. I for one appreciate you sharing your bike costs/expenses…never thought of bikes having costs and needing maintenance…

    • I didn’t think of regular maintenance for bikes when I started either. As a result it was way too long before my first tune up after I started riding. Much better for Mr PoP to get those in regularly. Less squeaking. =)

  • […] PoP Economics of Bike Commuting, 17 Months In by Mrs. PoP @ Planting Our Pennies […]

  • I wish I could get a better idea how much it costs to commute by car when you already own one–so insurance and taxes are already fixed costs. More than just gas, but less than 55 cents a mile, surely. I’m trying to encourage Mr. FP to ride his bike to work more often instead of driving (about five miles) or taking the bus (four dollars round trip).

    Now, he’s off in the car this morning, which leaves me schlepping to the Y with the tots in the bike trailer. This has been working really well for the summer months–it’ll be interesting how we do with the one-car lifestyle when winter sets in. But since my mindset is that we can’t afford a second car, I think we can make it work.
    Frugal Paragon recently posted..September GoalsMy Profile

  • Incredible numbers, Mrs. Pop. When I started reading the article, I’d estimated a much lower save.

    I’m working from home now so I think we’re seeing a lot of the same gas savings, but we get none of the health benefits along with the riding. Right now, it’s an awful time to ride in AZ…though I do see some brave souls doing it, so I know it’s possible.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Convenient NarrativesMy Profile

    • I thought it would be much lower when I started grabbing the data, too!

      The weather in the southwest definitely makes it tougher, though FWIW, I do know people who went carless in AZ and used a bike as their daily ride for years. =)

  • Those are great savings! My fiancee and I live about ten minutes from work and we work together, therefore we commute together. Our gas expenses are not that much, but it’s a lot more than if we commuted by bicycle. I would do it, but she’s a little afraid of getting run over by a car since we have to cross a major/busy/crazy intersection on our way to work. I keep telling her that it would be fine but I also understand her concerns because it is a little crazy.
    Aldo @MillionDollarNinja recently posted..How Much Money Do I Need To Retire?My Profile

    • Combining your commutes is a great way to keep the costs down. Maybe you guys can try some shorter bike rides on weekends and getting used to it before giving the commute a try.

  • Mrs. PoP,

    That’s good stuff right there. Saving money AND benefiting your health at the same time. Bam!

    I had a 49cc scooter for quite a while that I would use to get to work and back. That was awesome at saving money. I think I was spending under $10/month in gas for a long time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the bike thing in Sarasota because there was no easy path to work and I didn’t want to show up to work sweaty (no shower there).

    Keep up the great work!

    Best regards.
    Dividend Mantra recently posted..Income/Expenses For August 2014My Profile

    • I didn’t realize you were in FL! There’s a girl who rides a little scooter along the same route I do that works down the street. We pass each other all the time – much better to ride on the back roads when you’ve got a bike or a little scooter.

  • Man1 That is substantial!

    I expect a lot of us (ahem…like moi) don’t realize how much gas expenditures add up to, because it’s one of those things like taxes & death that we can’t get out of. It’s easier to keep track of maintenance & repair costs, but gas…meh! You’ve done a great job of showing how much those gasoline charges really rack up.

    Hm. Now this assumes a year-round bike commute, right? Savings would be less if you lived someplace where it blizzards in the winter or fricassees in the summer…but still, even two seasons, to say nothing of three, would represent a big savings.

    Back when I was commuting, I spent about $100 to $150/month on gas. Now it’s nothing like that — maybe $50 at the outside.

    The new lightrail is about to open right next to the ‘hood. I wonder how much savings one would have if one commuted from Point A on the lightrail line to Point B? Tickets are kind of pricey — seems to me when the opportunity first arose, I figured the savings on gasoline were relatively minimal and certainly not worth the loss of time (an hour+ to make a 20-minute commute). But for more casual transportation, as opposed to 5- or 6-day-a-week commutes, I wonder if there would be any savings in using public transit when public transit isn’t cheap.
    Funny about Money recently posted..How Much Does a Politician Cost?My Profile

  • […] Pop Economics of Bike Commuting, 17 Months In – Planting Our Pennies I love it when people share their experience with bicycle commuting. Increasing physical activity while decreasing exhaust fumes?! Yes, please. Read on for valuable perspective on the simple change you can make to save money and shrink your carbon footprint. […]

  • […] Economics of Bike Commuting via Planting our Pennies […]

  • My car commute is 25 miles each way, and I have to take the highway. I would love to bike to work, but I think I would need a major nap after 25 miles of biking every morning. If I find a place of employment closer to home, I can consider it then.
    EL @ Moneywatch101 recently posted..Blogging for 3 YearsMy Profile

  • LOVE IT!

    I have two pretty nice bikes, $2000 for both, one used. I love it when people point out how much the bikes cost. I gently point out at what their car commute costs. Bikes. Wins. Always.

    We’ll miss you at FinCon this year, but look forward to May.
    Mr. 1500 recently posted..Interview with the FrugalsaurMy Profile

  • dandarc

    Liking the bike commuting – agree the non-money benefits are the best part.

    Question – when / how did you decide you were ready to sell the Jeep? I’ve got a shorter commute and driving a Nissan Sentra, so the gas savings are good, but the insurance / registration and such I think will form a larger portion of the monetary savings for us. Did you at some point say, “OK – we’re ready to be a one-car household?” and what brought you to that conclusion?

    • dandarc

      Found the Q1 Car Challenge Posts – looks like MrsPoP had bike commuted for 6-8 months, and you weren’t 100% sure, but went for it anyway and it has worked out well. That sum it up?

      Think I will point my wife to those posts to try and get her on board, and look to sell the Sentra in November or December. Thanks for writing up the experiment!

  • $756 that’s quite impressive! But still it keeps you healthy. I used to study in Denmark and there everybody bikes to go to work, to school, to the beach…I love this lifestyle.
    Simon Cave recently posted..12 of the World’s Cheapest Destinations to Travel on a BudgetMy Profile

  • Wow those savings are amazing.
    We are still working to get are butt in gear about commuting.

    We have started to walk more and bike for random errands.

    How did you start out? It sounds like your commute is 10 miles one way. That is a long way how did you start? Did you take the bus and bike?
    We are I think 16 miles from work. Moving will probably need to happen but I wouldn’t mind trying it once in a while.
    The Roamer recently posted..Versatile blogger Award: Random facts about MEMy Profile

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