Reduce the cost of your daily transportation
How Much Could You Save Biking?
by Angel York
Basic Bicycle Maintenance
The Cost of Commuting
Could You Give Up Your Car?
Owning a car can keep you behind on the bills. According to AAA, the average owner of a medium sedan will spend over $8500 per year on their car. This includes fuel, finance rates, depreciation, insurance, maintenance, license/registration/taxes, and tires. You can rent a room and eat food for a year, comfortably, on $8500/year.
What can you do about this? Ride a bicycle! Biking is cheaper than driving a car by a long shot. How much cheaper is biking? Ride a bike around for a couple years, and you will have literally saved up enough money to start an entire bike shop business!
Biking is accessible to everyone, including babies, children, teens, college students, singles, couples, the divorced, single parents, empty nesters and retirees. Expect to spend a few hundred dollars per year.
Depending on your location and whether you buy new or used, you can get a decent bicycle for anywhere from $20 to $1000. Compared to driving cars, bicycling is a fantastic deal. On the super-fancy end of things, you can even get a bike from Gucci for $15k. That's still less than half the average price of a new car!
On average, you should expect to pay between $500-$800 for a brand new, long-lasting, commuter bicycle. While you can absolutely ride and to some degree maintain a bicycle that you got from a department store for $100-$200, don't expect them to last the same way. If your budget is under $200, find a bicycle that has been sitting in someone's garage for 40 years and fix it up. Or find one like that off Craigslist. It's going to be a way better deal.
The cheapest way to maintain your bicycle is hands-down to get a membership with your nearest bicycle collective BikeCollectives.org. A bike collective is a place you go when you need to work on your bicycle. They are usually all or mostly volunteer run non-profit organizations that provide bike tools. If you don't know what you're doing, they're there to help you learn how. Access is usually $5-10/hour or around $100 per year; this varies depending on the shop. Used parts usually come out around $20 per visit, so maybe another $100 a year or so. Many of these collectives even offer an earn-a-bike program where you can earn a bike for free after volunteering for a certain number of hours.
There are other one-time costs associated with getting set up on a new-to-you bicycle. You'll want a bike rack to carry supplies ($10-$40), a bike bell (free to $15), a helmet (free to $60), lights (free to $100), fenders (free to $20), and a bike lock (get one valued at 10% of the cost of your bicycle). Build bike buckets for your bike rack. (Find a $10 version here and a $.70 version here) They're waterproof, high capacity, and super-cheap to make. As a bonus, bike buckets mean you don't need a backpack, which in turn means no sweaty back at the end of your ride. Bike bells and bike lights are often given away at street fairs and similar events and look for free or reduced-cost helmets at your local hospitals and law offices. According to the Bike Helmet Safety Institute, a cheap helmet works just as well as an expensive one. Standard bike helmets are prone to invisible cracking and should be turned into hanging flower planters after a single collision www.bhsi.org/recycle.htm. Mountain bike and skating helmets can be used in more than one crash. Expect your health to improve and health-associated costs to go down.
Riding a bicycle may seem like a major lifestyle change, but once you try it, it will be hard to believe you waited so long! See you in the bike lane.
In the interest of full disclosure, the author has volunteered with bike collectives since 2008 and thinks you might like it, too. Plus, they're the cheapest bike shops in town!
Reviewed June 2017
Take the Next Step
- Is biking not possible for your commute? Look into car sharing and other commuting alternatives.
- Try car sharing. Join Zipcar today and get $25 free driving in the tank.
- Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!
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