It Ain’t Purty

James D. Schwartz has an interesting post from earlier this spring about the cost of owning a car in terms of your time at work. The reality isn’t pretty:

  • Motorists works 2 hours each day to pay for a car.
  • Bicyclists work 3.8 minutes each day to pay for their bicycles.

(Obviously the costs are different depending upon one’s circumstances. The well-to-do work fewer hours for their cars. The poor work more.)

Yep, getting rid of my car gave me a huge pay raise. And it got me out from behind the wheel sitting in traffic — one of the top things Americans have cited as making them unhappy. It’s also a heath issue — all that sitting and all that stress. Win-win-win for me!

I have said this before: Using a bicycle for basic transportation in Springfield is easy. So easy. OMG it is easy. If it weren’t easy, I might not have stuck with it (because I just assumed it would be hard and that I’d end up driving a lot).

One thing, however: It helps to live close to your major destinations. That’s not a requirement. But if you live in a far-flung suburb surrounded by nothing but large traffic sewers, well, it’s going to be less easy. You can still practice the 1-mile Solution.

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Comments 6

  1. Steve A wrote:

    The important element to saving any money at all is one innocuous item in Andy’s post “getting rid of my car.” Most of those car costs are fixed whether you drive the thing or not.

    The analysis leaves out many factors, however that reduce savings due to bicycling to work. For example, if you ride your bike to work, you’ll have to build up more retirement savings in order to pay for the extra retirement years. Or so I learned in a recent retirement seminar…

    Posted 23 Jul 2011 at 2:30 pm
  2. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve… Better to die young 🙂 So the presenter was serious? What did they propose as an alternative?

    Posted 23 Jul 2011 at 3:44 pm
  3. Keri wrote:

    The cost of car ownership vs the imperceptible savings of replacing short trips seems to be a hang-up for a lot of people. When I talk to people who have to use a car to get to work — because they need the car for their job (or reasons that super-commuters may overcome, but are significant enough to deter a normal person) — I try to steer them toward the idea of utility cycling for short trips. It’s hard for them to wrap their head around how that would benefit them vs what they perceive as being inconvenient (because they don’t have any experience or routine for it).

    It has to be a lifestyle thing, I think. Without getting rid of a car, it takes a long time to save money, especially if you buy panniers, a trailer, etc. I do it because going by bike is fun, whereas driving around town in a car is a dreaded chore. Because I replace so many trips, I do see a perceptible savings via very infrequent gas purchases. But I use the bike primarily because I find it more fun, more convenient and sometimes faster than using the car.

    Posted 24 Jul 2011 at 5:50 am
  4. Robert wrote:

    Neither my wife or I own an automobile. Its been so long since ive had one thay I no longer think about any savings. Its left my mind completely. I guess like six years ago, I used to pay for car insurance, but i dont really remember it.

    Posted 24 Jul 2011 at 6:34 am
  5. Andy Cline wrote:

    Keri and Robert… Yes, real savings — whether you remember or not 😉 And I agree, re: lifestyle. I forced myself into my current routine when I moved here prompted by other values — mostly wanting to live “greener.” The rest came as I stuck with it and learned.

    One nice thing about no car payment and no insurance (for a second car, that is): I can spend money on bicycles and bicycle stuff utterly guilt free! 🙂

    Posted 24 Jul 2011 at 9:16 am
  6. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Living close to work sometimes means paying a premium on housing. So in some cases, the choice between a car commute vs. housing expenses could be a wash. Back when I worked at the University of Hawaii as an underpaid faculty member, housing costs rose dramatically as one approached the University. Living three or four miles from UH was outa the question.

    Keri nails it pretty well for a lot of us who have not made either-or decisions on car ownership. Its not about having a guilt trip if you still have a car and don’t mind the fixed ownership expenses. Its about doing what is fun and using the best tool for the job. I often get to work as fast on a bike as in a car due to congestion. Plus, I’ve already had my workout.

    The incremental savings and the better health profile inherit in cycling as transportation is all gravy to what really amounts to “a lifestyle thing”. As in the Zen story, I ride my bike to ride my bike.

    Posted 25 Jul 2011 at 11:00 am