By the Numbers

Did you know it costs approximately $6000-$7000 per year to own and maintain a car? And did you know it costs approximately $200-300 per year to own and maintain a bike? Just think how much money you could save by riding your bike more, or even better yet, getting rid of one of your cars.

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S.? And did you know that by riding your bike 30 miles per week you reduce your risk of heart disease by 50%? Just think how much better you’ll feel if you get out there and ride your bike and leave your car at home in the garage.

Did you know that in the U.S. 75% of all car trips are under 10 miles, 60% are under 5 miles, and 40% are under 2 miles? Just think what you could do for yourself and the planet by committing to make all trips under 5 miles by bike, and all trips under 2 miles by either bike or foot.

22 Responses to “By the Numbers”

  • Ian says:

    This year I’ve started keeping track of my automotive costs. Fuel, insurance, maintenance, registration, etc. Not sure what its up to so far, but it does add up darn quick.

    I’m also moving towards getting back to bike commuting the majority of the time. Won’t reduce the fixed costs of the car (insurance and such), but will definitely cut the fuel and maintenance costs.

    Thing is, I’ve been a car guy for just as long as I’ve been a bike guy (hmm… 4th grade?). Makes it a bit tough sometimes. Especially with a second, older car that is currently dormant but I would like to eventually clean up and restore. I know roughly what the costs will be, and it scares me sometimes, especially related to the cycling side of my life (even with a velomobile in the stable). It may be 5-10 years down the line, but I probably will get that car going. Maybe I can figure on using money I’ve saved by cycling for transportation instead of driving. ;)

  • andy parmentier says:

    an editorial cartoon from years back: oil supertanker refueler (may have had the words OPEC on it’s side) and 4 little cars suckling at it’s side like little piglets. due to serendipity i can now bring you the following offensive (?) remark:
    “milk/oil/booze supertanker/supermodel/bartender/wetnurse/cartender-gimme a DOUBLE”

  • Karl OnSea says:

    These figures for the price of owning a car look pretty scary, don’t they? If you don’t believe ‘em, put your own numbers into this car cost of ownership spreadsheet.

    The thing is that we’ve been so indoctrinated into thinking that we NEED a car that it’s near impossible to get people to even think of doing without (myself included in this – I try, but it’s very trying!). The idea that journeys below 5 miles by bike and below 2 miles by foot / bike is probably the place to start – or even a little lower with a simple one mile rule.

  • bongobike says:

    Huh? $200-$300 annually to maintain a bicycle? Where? In Beverly Hills, by a whole team of mechanics wearing white Gucci overalls?

  • Alan says:


    Own and maintain. You have to figure in the cost of the bike, accessories, specialized clothing, etc. If you pay $1000 for a bike and plan to keep it for 5 years, you’re already at $200 per year before you even get to maintenance…

  • John says:

    Glad to see you put the cost of maintaing a bike at $200-300 per year. The NYT recently reported it at something under $100. I mean, if you’re going to USE your bike, it’s going to need tune ups and parts replacement from time to time. You’re going to need lights in the winter (I certainly do in Portland), some rain gear, etc. But it’s money happily spent as it keeps me riding year round. This year, I even bought studded tires to brave the snowpocalypse of 08/09. :)

  • Duncan Watson says:

    My family was car-free from 1999-2007 and one car from 2007-now. My bike costs varied but if you add in specialized clothing, rain gear, balaclava, repairs, tubes, tools, etc, it starts to get up there. OTOH I saved a ton of money during that 8.5 year period.

    During that period I lived in Munich, Portland and Seattle.

  • Norm says:

    I have always spent a lot more than $500 per year on cycling but I don’t begrudge a penny of it. I just retired from work and the first thing I did was get rid of one car. My wife still drivers her Prius and is still working. I am striving to use my bike when ever I can but because we live rurally with a almost non existant bus service and as we are trying to grow our own veggies, I can’t see us doing with out a car totally. I seem to need to haul building supplies, soil etc. that wouldn’t work out on bike that well. We use Nordic Walking sticks and unfortunately my wife prefers walking to town (6km.) rather than riding her bike due to traffic. We have a railway that is close to closing and if it does and the rail line can be converted to a bike path, we will have a direct shot into town on the bike path. It is hard to wish the demise of a railroad but I dream abuot the bike path it would provide. I love the site, keep up the good work. It is my first place to look whenever I go surfing.

  • Dann says:

    I have commuted 49 of 52 weeks during the past year. I have spent just over $2,000.00 on bike maintenance (1988 Bianchi Axis), and specialized commuter clothing. Since I ride year ’round in all weather in the Portland, OR metro, I must have weatherproof clothing – which is very expensive.

    Since I’m riding a 20+ year-old bike, and commute 5,880 miles a year, the maintenance has been higher than I first expected. Here’s some of that break-down:

    $200.00 Initial overhaul
    $80.00 Vitoria Randoneur tires (rode on 20+ year-old Conti’s for the first month)
    $120.00 New real wheel/spokes (20+ year-old Araya gave out from my 250 lb. frame)
    $70.00 New rear hub
    $40.00 New cassette – spun out original Suntour 7 speed
    $80.00 Two new chains
    $40.00 New Schwalbe Marathon rear tire after 4,500 miles – Vittoria front is still good
    $100.00 New brake and shifter cables
    $60.00 Four sets of brake pads – about 3 months out of a set (I ride a lot of hills!)
    $20.00 Inner tubes – gave away two to other riders in trouble

    So, out of the $2,000.00, $810.00 is for maintenance in my first year. According to the bike mechanics I’m talking to, I will have to replace the cassette on a yearly basis, and will most likely go through two chains a year due to the road grit I have to ride through. I’ll still go through brake pads, and will most likely need two new tires by the end of this year. The $200.00 overhaul is necessary to keep all the bearings and other bits lubed.

    Bottom line, I believe my yearly maintenance costs will hover around a realistic $500.00 or $600.00/year, as other parts begin to wear out. I am expecting the front wheel to go this year, and, while I’m lacing on a new wheel, I might as well do the front hub.

    As for the initial $1,1900.00 cost for clothing, helmet, lights, etc., that is a hard investment that will spread out over several years. So, IF everything lasts six years, then those costs are at $198.00/year. I have already returned some lower-quality clothing (jacket and some jerseys), so I would recommend buying clothing at a place that will honor a warranty in case of failure.

    So, bottom line, I’m looking at around $800.00 a year in maintenance to ride the bike. Plus, I ride Tri-Met trains at a cost of $1,008.00/year. The train takes me 16 miles a day, and I ride the remaining 24 miles a day. So . . . compare: $6,000.00 per year car commuting vs. $1,808.00 per year bicycle commuting, for a “real” yearly savings of $4,192.00.

    PLUS . . . I’ve lost 30 pounds, got my mojo workin’ real good, and love every minute I’m pushing the peddles!

  • charles says:

    You need some bike repair tools and a repair book! It might also be cheaper to use a bike made for commuting daily like a Pashley or some other sort of Dutch bike.

  • Dann says:


    I replace all the parts and bits that I can, but I do not have the tools necessary to lace and true a wheel, or do the major overhaul. There’s a $500.00 investment for a good bike repair stand ($90.00), tool set (Park Tool RK-41 Portable Race/Ride Kit $294.99), and wheel truing stand ($80.00). I don’t really need the book, because I’ve repaired all kinds of bikes for 45 years (Schwinns, Raleighs, Fujis, Mitsubishis, Motobecanes, Mikados, Cinelis, Treks, Specialized, Huffys, Hercules, Miyatas, Univegas, Bridgestones, Serrotas, and a bunch of others).

    As for the bike made for commuting, the 1988 Bianchi Axis is a great commuter bike. It is one of the original “cross” bikes – called a “hybrid” when I bought it new, because cyclo-cross racing was just getting started in Europe. With a Tange steel lugged frame (I’ve had offers of $800.00 just for the frame!), 700/32 cm tires, and good quality components, it is a great commuter. I wouldn’t be afraid to ride out my front door and do an around the world tour on this bike.

    I have tested the Pashley and other Dutch bikes. While they have their place, I’m riding up some steep hills, and I want what my old Bianchi does. A bike “made” for commuting – in my opinion – isn’t made for riding 24 miles a day. If I were to buy a new bike today, I would seriously look at the Surly LHT for the cost and seeming durability. If I had “unlimited” funds, then I’d go for a Co-motion or Rivendell. I plan on riding the Biachi for another 20 years – and with that plan, my yearly cost for the original bike will be $30.00 per year. If that does happen, and I can keep up my commute miles, the original frame could have up to 125,000 miles on it!

  • Iain says:

    By definition a commuting bike is for relatively short commuting distances it will struggle to allow you to cope with larger inclines as it won’t be geared very well and will be heavy. I commute 2 – 3 times a week with a round trip of 25 miles with some good inclines to climb (and beam from ear to ear on the way down!) and use wide geared ‘bent. When the price of petrol in the UK peaked at over £6 per gallon I was saving a fortune. The bikes (MTB for recreation and ‘bent for commuting) are regularly serviced at the LBS and tweaked and cleaned by me and I never grudge the few pounds for the work to be completed as there is nothing more satisfying than hearing a good snick as the bike swiftly changes onto the next sprocket.

  • Perry says:

    @Karl OnSea: I downloaded the car cost spreadsheet but I got hung up on the pence/litre cost of petrol. :)

  • | The RocBike Review » Links of the Week, March 22-28, 2008 says:

    […] EcoVelo » Blog Archive » By the Numbers […]

  • Cezar says:

    Could I get some citations? I’d like to use the statistics, but I’d have to be able to point to something.

  • charles says:


    That Bianchi is a good frame set and……………I own a Surly Trucker and like it very much.
    I have slowly collected my tools over the years. I just buy a new tool whenever I need to do something different and figure the cost is more than a repair shop but……I get the tool when I finish the job.
    Using the brake blocks in the frame for a faux truing stand isn’t fun but I do it until I can buy something better. I’m just cheap in one sense in that I like to be able to do everything myself (within reason) but sometimes experts are necessary for obvious reasons. Keep the rubber side down!

  • BrianGerard says:

    Just moved to Minneapolis having left the auto behind in suburban southeastern Wisconsin. In the 90’s I lived in Seattle without a car, but it was all walking, bus and flexcar. Here I am committed to trips of 2-10 miles getting done on my Elektra Amsterdam 3 speed. Its only been two days, but wow, is this a great place to bike! Living without a car is one of the most liberating and healthy things anyone can do.

  • No says:

    > specialized clothing

    what’s that then?
    Wooly hat – same as for walking
    Waterproofs – same as for walking
    trousers, trainers, t-shirt etc.

    Of course longer distance commuters can dedicate some budget to special clothing, but there is no need for the 2 mile trips you are talking about, nor really 5 miles is there?

  • bongobike says:

    Alan, Dann, et al:

    This is absolutely nuts:

    $200.00 Initial overhaul
    $80.00 Vitoria Randoneur tires (rode on 20+ year-old Conti’s for the first month)
    $120.00 New real wheel/spokes (20+ year-old Araya gave out from my 250 lb. frame)
    $70.00 New rear hub
    $40.00 New cassette – spun out original Suntour 7 speed
    $80.00 Two new chains
    $40.00 New Schwalbe Marathon rear tire after 4,500 miles – Vittoria front is still good
    $100.00 New brake and shifter cables
    $60.00 Four sets of brake pads – about 3 months out of a set (I ride a lot of hills!)
    $20.00 Inner tubes – gave away two to other riders in trouble

    Replacing the cassette EVERY YEAR? Two hundred bucks for an overhaul? This is absolutely insane. I guess you guys have money to burn, but most of us do not. I have never bought a $40 tire and I assure you I never will. Currently I have an $11 Performance tire on the rear of my commuter bike, a Koga-Miyata frame I bought on the net for $150 and built up with parts I transferred from an old touring bike I had before and other used parts I had lying around. I’ve had the same brake pads and cassette for years (this is a bike I ride to work three to four times a week, 25 mile round trip, small hills and I weigh 230 lbs.). The front tire has been there for several years as well.

    You can spend thousands or you can spend a few hundreds on a bike. It’s up to you. And BTW my bike is high-quality, light weight and beautiful. I get compliments on it all the time. So no, this is no cheapo beater bike, just a good bike smartly put together without spending ridiculous amounts of money. I will send Alan some pictures and let you judge if mine is an elegant quality bike or not.

  • Alan says:


    Some people will spend more on their bikes, some will spend less, but it’s really a moot point. What I was trying to say in the OP is that the amount people *averagely* spend to own and maintain a bicycle is far, far less than the amount people *averagely* spend to own and maintain an automobile. Even if someone buys an expensive commuting bike and replaces the entire bike every couple of years, financially they’re far ahead of where they’d be if they were pouring money into an automobile.


  • Doohickie says:

    Yes, I know a lot of this. I’ve owned my current car for a little over 3 years. The first year I drove 20,000 miles; the second year I drove 16,000. The third year was when I started to ride my bike to work. I only drove 8000 miles, and probably even fewer this year.

    In addition to riding the bike, I also find that since I’ve started riding I think more about the car trips I do take, attempting to pack in as many chores as I can with each trip. Before I would go to the grocery store and buy some milk; an hour later I’d pick up a part at the car parts store. Now I plan ahead more, and if at all possible, I bike the errands.

  • Dolan Halbrook says:


    I also commute year-round in PDX. From your repair costs, it sounds like you might actually save some money by spending some. I built up my current bike (quite expensive, but bulletproof) with low maintenance in mind. Thus, secondhand Rohloff hub, SON dynohub, and disc brakes, sealed headset and bottom bracket, etc. The bike was ~ $3500 to build (high inital cost) but so far this year I’ve spent about $20 on maintenance (new 8 speed chain) and rode in pretty much every day this winter, approx 9 miles a day. My fellow internal hub, disc brake riders are seeing similar results. I figure by next winter I may have to replace the brake pads, but that’s about it.


    My Schwalbe Marathon Extremes were more than $40 a tire but I wouldn’t give them up for the world. Guess it depends on your POV; they’re still cheaper than a car tire, they never flat, they have insane wet weather grip, and they’ll last quite a long time, so I feel they’re worth it.

© 2011 EcoVelo™