Cost$ of owning a car v. bike commuting costs









“Quite simply, a human on a bicycle is the most efficient traveler among all machines and animals.” Happy City by Charles Montgomery. Page 184.

Of course powering a vehicle that weighs 100 times more is going to take more energy. The average bicycle weighs about 30 lbs. and the average car on US roads weighs about 4,000 lbs. It takes about 35 calories to fuel a bicyclist one mile, but it takes more than 1,800 to fuel a car one mile. Even with four people in the car, the bicycle is a ten times more efficient means of transportation when it comes to energy consumption.

So let’s break it down. Here are two different links to AAA reporting the cost of owning and operating a car:

The average American spends just under $9000 a year on their car according to AAA. This is based on the average American driving 15,000 miles a year in a sedan, mid-size car.

As a full-time bike commuter I ride fewer miles a year than I ever drove as a car commuter. Even with the bike courier service I was only riding about 10,000 miles a year on average. I’ve learned to be much more efficient with my transportation. Mostly, I plan and combine trips, live close to work and just commute less, but live more. I’m very content not going as far as often but being outside more. 

Bike costs

I went to two bike shops in the campus / Old Town area in Ft Collins, Lee’s and Brave New Wheel.

Lee’s had a commuter bike set up with suggested accessories. The bike is a Trek 7.2 FX that retails for 499.99. It is set up for commuting with;

  • Fenders (front and back) at $50
  • rear rack at $45
  • light set (front and rear) $45
  • Kryptonite U-lock $45
  • shopper saddle bag for $50
  • trunk bag for $75

So that’s $310 in commuter accessories, and they give you 10% off with the purchase of a bike, which is a common bike shop practice. So about $800 for this nice, basic, brand new, commuter bike.

Lee's commuter bikes

Lee's commuter







Around the corner at Brave New Wheel they have some nice, affordable bikes easy to set up for commuting. They carry the Torker Graduate with fenders and disc brakes for $629. It is a 1 x 9 spd. with braze-ons, ready for a rear rack. They have:

  • a Delta rear rack for $28
  • a nice set of Ortlieb waterproof panniers for $180 or Sunlite panniers for $85
  • light sets that range from $15 to $100 for a rechargeable light
  • locks from $22 to $36.

Again, you could have a nice, brand new bike set up for commuting for about $800. With decent rain gear or snow gear, you’re set. You can get a good pair of rain pants that fit over jeans for $50 to $100. If you ski or snowboard you probably have clothes that will work, a shell and layers. If you can dress to ski in it, you can dress to bike in it!

It is also good to have at least a flat repair kit with you, and know how to use it. Many bike shops offer free flat repair classes in the spring and summer, especially around bike month. You should be able to get a portable pump, tire levers, a patch kit and spare tube for about $50.

Then an annual tune-up for a bike is about $50, to $100 at the most. Replacement tires are anywhere from $20 to $80 per tire, and tubes are only $5 to $10.

Just in dollars alone, it is obviously much cheaper to use a bicycle for personal transportation compared to a car.

The indirect costs of using a car instead of a bicycle are so much more, and will take way more than one blog post to illustrate.

Thanks for reading my blog!





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Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources - Colorado State. Promoted alternative transportation, especially bicycles, for four years at City of Fort Collins SmartTrips Program. Rob's Bike Courier Service for nine years. Completed solo, self-contained, cross-country bike tour, riding over 6,000 miles in almost four months. Created the Car-Free Recreation Guide to Northern Colorado, published in 2008. Owner and operator of Get Reel! Push Mowers, a push-reel mower sharpening service. Gardener. Composter. Car-free almost 10 years.

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