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Old 05-15-11, 09:02 AM   #1
MrCjolsen
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calculating the cost of not driving a car you already own.

Most "cost of driving" calculators consider fixed costs like total depreciation, taxes, insurance etc.

But I've been trying to calculate the amount of money I save by leaving my car in the driveway and riding my bike all these years.

For example, the car depreciates, but it depreciates less by not driving it. It also still needs periodic maintenance. But it needs less periodic maintenance when I drive it less.

I calculated the depreciation as about 4 cents a mile. I did this by comparing the value of my car with 70,000 miles vs the 100,000 it would have if I'd been driving it to work every day.

Maintenance is a bit more tricky. I bought new tires in 2006. They have about 7000 miles on them. I get the oil changed about once a year. Any idea how to convert that savings into a per-mile figure?
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Old 05-15-11, 11:00 AM   #2
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Interesting process you're going through. I've tried similar things in order to justify sometimes unnecessary bike expenditures to my wife, with only marginal success.

I guess any calculation is inherently theoretical. You could figure out what service should have been performed between 70 and 100k miles on your car, figure out cost for parts and labor, and then factor that in. But, in reality, you don't know what other costs might arise other than anticipated service. All you can do is guess. Certainly you can figure the cost of gas quite objectively.
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Old 05-15-11, 11:08 AM   #3
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I guess any calculation is inherently theoretical. You could figure out what service should have been performed between 70 and 100k miles on your car, figure out cost for parts and labor, and then factor that in. But, in reality, you don't know what other costs might arise other than anticipated service. All you can do is guess. Certainly you can figure the cost of gas quite objectively.
This. By not driving and instead, biking, less money is being saved only if the numbers are truly known and the money dropped in a pot. Since those numbers are unknown, I think it is best to consider it as money not spent rather than "saved."
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Old 05-15-11, 11:42 AM   #4
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Interesting process you're going through. I've tried similar things in order to justify sometimes unnecessary bike expenditures to my wife, with only marginal success.
Uh, that's sort of what I'm trying to do here.
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Old 05-15-11, 11:47 AM   #5
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Interesting process you're going through. I've tried similar things in order to justify sometimes unnecessary bike expenditures to my wife, with only marginal success.
Is this what it ultimately comes down to? Or curiosity? Or is the goal to have a figure for people who ask you why you ride your bike?

I own my car outright. Subaru has a maintenance schedule; I have to keep to it or I void my warranty. So it would be a pretty easy matter, for me, to figure out what costs come up at what mileage point, add in tires, brakes, and the like, then chart these out. The Y-axis would be money spent, and the X-axis is miles. Underneath the miles axis, though, there would be two timelines; one for driving everywhere, and the other for my current level of cycling.

I haven't done this. I don't really care in that much detail. I just know cycling improves my life, and I enjoy it, plus I save some money.

Also, I think you're supposed to change the oil about every six months, right? I've heard it starts to break down after enough time, even if you aren't driving.
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Old 05-15-11, 11:59 AM   #6
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+1 on the 6-month oil change interval for low-milage cars.
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Old 05-15-11, 12:08 PM   #7
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When considering the costs, don't forget that not driving your car to work is often a flag for insurance companies to lower prices. Otherwise, they may give you a discount on miles drived. Several years ago our family got a sizable discount because we drove < 7000 miles.

I switched recently to another insurance co and they asked me to use a device in the family car. This proved in fact that we drove < 3000 miles a year. More $$$ saved.

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Old 05-15-11, 12:10 PM   #8
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Is this what it ultimately comes down to? Or curiosity? Or is the goal to have a figure for people who ask you why you ride your bike?

I own my car outright. Subaru has a maintenance schedule; I have to keep to it or I void my warranty. So it would be a pretty easy matter, for me, to figure out what costs come up at what mileage point, add in tires, brakes, and the like, then chart these out. The Y-axis would be money spent, and the X-axis is miles. Underneath the miles axis, though, there would be two timelines; one for driving everywhere, and the other for my current level of cycling.

I haven't done this. I don't really care in that much detail. I just know cycling improves my life, and I enjoy it, plus I save some money.

Also, I think you're supposed to change the oil about every six months, right? I've heard it starts to break down after enough time, even if you aren't driving.
However, there are much more expensive maintenance items at 60,000 and 100,000 miles. For example my old Camry needed a belt replaced at 60,000 and struts were replaced at 110,000. If you never get to 110,000 miles, that is a considerable savings. You could probably buy a pretty nice bike on just that repair.
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Old 05-15-11, 12:52 PM   #9
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I have a paid-for car, and I'm saving $45 a month in gas by not driving it. It is a sports car, it uses expensive tires, 93 octane gas, expensive brakes, 7 quarts of full synthetic oil... it's a high-maintenance car. I'm saving quite a bit by not driving it. Just tires would cost me $600 (for cheap ones) and I replace those every 15K to 20K miles. My insurance isn't that much... very little, actually. For me and my wife, the cost of insurance is worth having a backup car for when it's needed. I may not be saving a lot, but it's not costing me a lot to keep it, either.
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Old 05-15-11, 02:26 PM   #10
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The web site for my local transit company says that maintenance costs for a car average about $0.05 per mile. I use that number plus the cost of gas per mile (GasCostPerGallon/MilesPerGallon) to estimate how much money I save by commuting by bicycle.
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Old 05-15-11, 03:22 PM   #11
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Uh, that's sort of what I'm trying to do here.
Ok, then this is where you calculate the savings of the health benefits of cycling. How much do you save in medical expenses and life insurance because of the regular exercise? What is the current worth of being a more valuable employee because of better mental and physical health?
Although you will have trouble calculating the hard figures, you are bringing the health benefits to the equation, which would in most cases have quite positive effect on your bike-allowance negotiations with your spouse.
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Old 05-15-11, 03:29 PM   #12
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If you're really not using the car much, there are insurance policies that cost $20/year plus $1.50/day of actual driving. If you drive twenty days per year, you would pay $50/year, which is quite a bit below the cost of having it fully insured for daily use.

Also, don't forget to include the lower medical costs associated with your lack of heart disease and diabetes as a result of getting a bit of exercise. I'm sure teachers in your locale are getting hit with higher co-pays just like they are where I live.
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Old 05-15-11, 06:34 PM   #13
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Maintenance is a bit more tricky. I bought new tires in 2006. They have about 7000 miles on them. I get the oil changed about once a year. Any idea how to convert that savings into a per-mile figure?
This one is a little tough, but I can only think of 2 ways. The IRS gives something like $0.50/mile as the standard deduction. If you factor out depreciation & insurance costs (I'd calculate both based on 10-12,000 miles per year, as that seems about standard) & then factor out gasoline costs, I'd think that the rest could be a good rough estimate of what they figure to be wear & tear. you could use that number as a baseline of what you're saving per mile ridden.

The other way is to compare your maintenance costs over the past year (or many years if you have that data) & then divide that by the miles driven (if you still have the bills for the work, they usually list the miles on there) to get a baseline you can use for wear & tear savings per mile.
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Old 05-15-11, 07:01 PM   #14
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Interesting way of thinking of it, I have more of a glass half empty approach. We have a second 7 year old car (paid off), that is not being used much at all anymore. Assuming the value is $10,000, maintenance cost is $300/yr. Capital cost (at the low interest rates currently) maybe $150/yr. Insurance $400, taxes $100. Let's (for arguments sake) say it will last me another 10 years:

$10,000 value of car as of today
+$ 3,000 maintenance
+$ 1,000 capital cost (I pulled this number out of my a... since we don't know future interest rates)
+$ 4,000 insurance
+$ 1,000 taxes
------------------
$19,000 lost by not selling it now.

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Old 05-15-11, 08:38 PM   #15
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Driving is pretty cheap for me. I drive an 81 VW diesel rabbit pick up that gets 45-50 MPG and I am able to do all my own service and maintenance.
I really love my little truck, consider it irreplaceable and want to keep wear and tare on it to a minimum which is one reason I bike whenever possible. Once a week I top up on diesel just to have a full tank. Last weeks top up cost me $6.25.

You should have seen the look on the face of the guy in the next stall filling up his Suburban.
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Old 05-16-11, 12:04 AM   #16
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Fuel cost is easy estimate, maintenance is a little tougher but doable if you keep good records. But don't forget the other usage-based costs: parking, parking and speeding tickets, the cost of crashes, and most importantly the cost of buying a new car.

Consider that when your car finally wears out, you will have to buy another. So the real mile-based cost of depreciation should be the cost of your next car, divided by the number of miles before you will probably need to buy it (crashes may make this happen early).

For example, my car is only worth about $1000 and may last me another 10,000 miles. But $0.10 a mile may be too low for depreciation, because I will almost certainly spend more than 10,000$US if I decide to buy another car. And then there are financing costs or the opportunity cost of capital if you buy yourself.
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Old 05-16-11, 11:34 AM   #17
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Cripes people. Just ride your bike to work because it's funner.
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Old 05-16-11, 02:10 PM   #18
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Maintenance on a car that isn't driven can't really be compared directly to maintenance on a car that is driven regularly. Some things wear out MORE quickly when the car is NOT operated (the battery principal among these). Also, one must be careful to keep up with oil changes, other lubrication etc... on a different schedule, and some moving parts have a tendency to freeze in place, seals suffer dry-rot etc...

While low mileage is a good thing, extreme low mileage without significant preventive maintenance tends to lead to its own set of problems. This is particularly true when the car is then only operated for short duration events (which probably doesn't describe most folks here). Add also the hazard of not keeping it in a garage or other protected environment, if you don't have that option.

If you figure out your costs on the car that isn't driven, it might not be as cheap as you initially think, particularly if you look at it on a cost-per-mile-driven basis. OTOH, it is should remain much cheaper on an annualized or monthly basis.
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Old 05-16-11, 02:33 PM   #19
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Its really hard to figure out. I didn't drive a car for a few months and then started driving it. Problems I didn't have before started popping up and I wasn't sure if it was because of age or because I didn't drive it (new water pump, belt, tires, etc.). The regular mechanic I brought it to felt it was because I didn't drive it that most of the problems started happening. It finally culminated with a blown head gasket.
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Old 05-17-11, 05:51 AM   #20
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Its really hard to figure out. I didn't drive a car for a few months and then started driving it.
That's why I sold my truck. I had to do more maintenance because it was sitting instead of being driven meager distances. Brake rotors rusted and chewed up the pads. Rotors needed replaced to pass inspection. So I was looking at $300 just to get a vehicle inspected that I didn't drive.
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Old 05-17-11, 09:12 AM   #21
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If you're really not using the car much, there are insurance policies that cost $20/year plus $1.50/day of actual driving. If you drive twenty days per year, you would pay $50/year, which is quite a bit below the cost of having it fully insured for daily use.
You can just take it off insurance too. We have allstate and reactivate the car as needed, twice so far over the last year (once to cover when the other car was in the shop; now to sell the vehicle). No complaints from them; they bill for the duration the car is active and it's easy to do online.

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Old 05-17-11, 09:45 AM   #22
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I need a car for taking my kids places evenings and weekends, so I can't get rid of it. It's paid for and (knock knock) doesn't need much maintenance. So my calculation is really only the gas I don't buy + parking.

My commute would be a 23-mile drive each way, 46 total. My paid-for car gets about 18mph, so that's 2 1/2 gallons of $4 gas. So that's $10 per day of gas I'm not using. And it's about $5 to park.

So I'm saving $15/day or $300 per month by riding.

And that, my friends, is what I buy whatever I want when it comes to bike accessories and clothing.
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Old 05-17-11, 10:23 AM   #23
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Personally, I would avoid all of the heavy math and just use the federal mileage rate, which was about 50 cents/mile last time I checked. They take into account all of those factors when setting the federal rate, so it should be reasonably accurate.

I've commuted 3-4 days/week for the past four years, and the savings add up even if you don't get rid of a vehicle. I was able to postpone buying new tires by about two years, and I only need to have my oil changed about once a year now. I assume that I have avoided other maintenance costs as well because I've cut my driving in half. My insurance company lowered my rate by $50/year because I could document the lower mileage. With gas nearing $4/gallon, I am saving at least $60/month just on fuel.

You can really save big bucks if you get rid of a vehicle, but that's not very practical for most people. We do not have public transportation within reasonable distance, and I usually need my truck for work or errands at least once a week. I don't ride during bad weather, so I drive on those days. Plus, I use my truck for hauling our kayaks, which is another hobby that I would like to continue.
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Old 05-17-11, 10:54 AM   #24
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http://www.commutesolutions.org/calc.htm

I googled on "cost per miles of driving" and found this link. It may be a bit on the high side but it is probably not very far off.
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Old 05-17-11, 11:51 AM   #25
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For example, the car depreciates, but it depreciates less by not driving it. It also still needs periodic maintenance. But it needs less periodic maintenance when I drive it less.
Depreciation only matters if you plan on selling your car for an appreciable amount when you're through with it. I'll probably drive mine into the ground and replace it with another 3-year old German sports sedan whenever that happens.

$.23/mile guessing 150K total of my own miles out of a $35K car (including finance costs)
$.21/mile gas at $4.20 (about what I paid last time) and 20 MPG
$.10/mile approximate $6K in maintenance over my 60K miles so far
$.08/mile cost of two beers I'll drink to relax after commuting by car
$.02/mile $600 tires which last 30K miles
$.64/mile total
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