Each year, the American Automobile Association publishes the Your Driving Costs pamphlet to help members determine their automobile expenses for the year. This year, they estimated the average cost of operating and maintaining a sedan to be approximately 58.5 cents per mile. This includes fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, license, registration, taxes, depreciation, and finance charges. Their fuel costs were based upon the price of gas at the end of last year which was $2.88 per gallon. I did some quick math and adjusting to this week’s $3.86 average raised the total costs to around 62.75 cents per mile. Based upon their estimates and adjusted for higher gas prices, at 15,000 miles per year we’re looking at around $9,412 dollars per year to operate and maintain a typical passenger sedan in the U.S. Of course, these numbers are only averages and it’s possible to spend less by purchasing a used car, maintaining it yourself, and keeping it longer, but no matter how you look at it, cars are expensive!
Let’s look at bikes for comparison. Bike consumables include tires, tubes, drivetrain parts, and cables. There are no real figures on these costs, but I can safely say I’ve never spent more than $300 per year on bike maintenance. Let’s be generous and assume a $2,000 bike, spread over 5 years (to be consistent with AAA), with a resale of $1000. Including parts, maintenance, and depreciation we have $500 per year. Let’s also assume a bike commuter may sometimes take transit due to illness, injury, or weather and factor in $50 per month, or $600 per year, for a grand total of $1,100 per year.
Here’s where it gets good. If we take the total for purchasing and operating a passenger sedan of $9,412 per year and subtract the total for purchasing and operating a bicycle of $1,100 per year, we’re left with $8,312. If we divide that amount into the typical work year of 2,080 hours, we have $4.00 per hour. That’s a significant raise people can give themselves by eliminating a car!
Of course, these numbers are only estimates and they’ll vary dramatically depending upon a person’s specific choices, but even when adjusting the automobile expenses down to the bottom of the range, the potential savings are dramatic. Also, not everyone is going to be able to eliminate a car, but even reducing the amount of miles driven per year can result in a significant reduction in expenses.
[NOTE: This post has been edited to correct the initially faulty math. Many thanks to those who pointed out the errors. —ed.]