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

7 comments:

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, http://www.myfoodbuddy.com/deli_sandwich_calories.htm

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.

http://washcycle.typepad.com/home/2006/11/car_or_no_car_p.html

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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