Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Driving vs Biking Costs

To help deal with the loss of Minnie, I spent a little time figuring out the cost of driving versus biking. This analysis helped me get through my mourning period pretty quickly.

According to AAA's Your Driving Cost pamphlet from 2007, the average cost of owning a (new) small car in 2007 was about $8,000/year (SUVs were around $11,000/year). I tweaked the numbers a bit to account for $4/gallon gas, short (5 miles per day) commute distances, parking costs, the fact that I'd buy a used car (used cars depreciate significantly more slowly), etc. and came up with about $3,500 per year if I were to purchase a small used vehicle for commuting in Chicago.

After some hunting around, I found that the cost per mile for commuting on a newer bike is about $0.08 to $0.12 per mile (by comparison, cars range from $0.374 to $0.596 per mile). I chose to use $0.12 per mile, though I know my ancient bike is probably well below this.

I assumed that I'd only use the bike for about 2/3rds of the year (this is Chicago, after all - I'm not going to ride a bike on ice), so for 4 months, I'll buy monthly CTA passes ($75/month), and probably use the bus sporadically during the spring-fall due to rain, etc ($1.75/ride).

I came up with about $370/year if I commute by bike and bus.

So, the total savings are about $3,230 per year.

Things ignored by my analysis:
  • Airfare for long-distance trips (I wouldn't drive for long distance trips anyhow, so this is a wash)
  • Car rentals, train tickets, and bus fare for medium-distance trips and the occasional visit to Ikea, but I also didn't take into account the cost of driving those trips in a car either.
  • Increased healthcare costs associated with a sedentary lifestyle vs riding a bike to work nearly every day.
  • The opportunity cost of not investing the extra $3,230 per year.
  • The fact that all money I pay for bus passes during the winter will be taken out of my paycheck as pre-tax dollars (that saves me about 40%).
Next steps:
I'm going to track my biking and commuting expenses for a year and see what my true costs are.

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