An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Biking vs. Driving: Which REALLY costs more?

Here at PINCH FLAT NEWS, we manage some pretty hefty P&Ls--you know, spreadsheets documenting the stratospheric revenues we've been enjoying since launching about six weeks ago.

But today's number-crunching got me thinking. Just for the helluvit, I've been meaning to compare actual costs of bike commuting versus driving, on a per mile basis. I commute 5 miles each way, every day.

What got me thinking about this was that I wanted to include "fuel"-- that is, any additional calories I might consume to ride rather than drive. (I figured about 700 additional calories--roughly a sandwich, which I coincidentally buy at the Local Bike Shop for $6 -- they make a sandwich like your mom would make.) I really tried to include all costs associated with the bike, pro-rated to a five year period--even though a helmet, lock, and bike will last a lot longer than that, right?

On the other side of the equation, I was pretty lax about the car. $100 per month for parking in any big American city would be a good deal. And the maintenance cost--100 per year-- for a modest 20K car would barely pay for oil changes and car-washes. I also quite unrealistically paid cash for my late-model minivan--no interest! (Hey it's my fantasy experiment.)

This is what I came up with:

So, aside from the fact that it is now painfully obvious to the world what a moron I am with spreadsheet software, it looks like it costs me about 75 cents per mile to ride my bike (versus $2 per mile for the car). By far most of that goes to the sandwich at 60 cents per mile. By comparison, the fuel for the car is $1.50 per day or 15 cents per mile. (Total cost per day for the car: $25.)

That means fuel for my body costs about four times as much as fuel for my car, to cover the same distance. Even if it was a horrible sandwich--say beef tongue with sweet pickles--it would be worth it just to avoid the hassles of parking, as far as I'm concerned.

So there you go. Ham on rye, if you please.

Photo (CC) by Barron


Anonymous said...

and that's just the cost to You!
when you add in the "social costs" of driving: increased pollution, wear/tear on the roads, etc., the difference becomes even greater. But those things are harder to put numbers on.

Michael R said...

A sandwich isn't 700 calories, not even close more like 300 or 400. Now three candy bars, like Snickers or Paydays, there's 700+ calories. For about $1.50 or $2.25 if you buy 'em from a machine. Or get the distance rider's power drink chocolate milk for 320 calories per 12 ounce carton.

Pinchie said...

I calculated the calories of a sandwich at MyFoodBuddy's calorie counter,

This is a "deli sandwich"--probably a bit more hefty than your average mom-made dealio, but still.

However you get the extra calories-- and 700 was a complete out-the-ass guess, I can ride pretty easy on NO extra calories--and however you calculate the actual cost, it's an interesting exercise.

Snakebite said...

My auto insurance is about $2.33 per day.

David said...

I did a similar comparison on my blog (in which I considered more factors). One thing you left off is that at the end of 5 years you can sell your car for more than you can sell your bike. you need to consider how much your car and bike depreciate over that time span.

Pinchie said...

yeah, i considered doing that too... but that gets me into more complicated math, and frankly I have NEVER sold a car (or a bike, for that matter) and received anything more for it than pocket change. In other words, my unique sitch is that I drive cars until they are worthless... so maybe I should have extended the time frame to 10 or 15 years.

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