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Bikeconomics: When do you break even?

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Bikeconomics: When do you break even?

Old 05-24-08, 10:15 PM
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Bikeconomics: When do you break even?

Just curious. Household finances are tight. I've got a bike in layaway at a LBS. The fuel for both cars for the next two weeks will probably equal what I owe on the bike. When will the break even point occur? I've tried to convince my wife that getting a bike and doing a car/bike/bus thing would save money. She's down w/ the car/bus, but is balking at the intial investment in a bike (and, no, she is not aware of the aforementioned layaway). When could I conceivably hit the break even point on a $300 bike + the essentials that I haven't gotten yet (lock, tube, pump, rack [already have helmet, an old pair of nashbar townie baskets, glueless patches, tire levers, water bottles], won't need a light until after the summer...)? BTW, bus fare would be $40/month unlimited rides (would take about 4 hrs r/t) and drive a car that is getting 26 mpg.
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Old 05-24-08, 10:39 PM
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The main issue is if you can keep from spending additional money on the bike. Upgrades, shoes, shorts, new bike, etc...

Many, maybe most, of us don't save money by riding a bike if you're still paying for a car sitting in the driveway. [I'm ignoring car depreciation since that's a complex issue]
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Old 05-24-08, 10:39 PM
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How many miles are you planning to ride a day? Are you thinking bike+bus or just biking? Are you keeping the car, and if so would you drive little enough to get reduced mileage insurance?

Keep in mind with a bike that there are recurring maintainence costs. If you get a set of alan wrenches and learn some basic tune-up techniques you can avoid the bulk of this, but every now and then you'll still need to buy oil, grease and the occasional tube.

Looking just at the initial cost and the car mileage. At 26 mpg and $4/gallon, you'd save about 15 cents for each mile that you don't drive. So for for a $400 initial investment you'd break even at about 2700 miles.

Of course this doesn't figure in the bus expense, because I'm not clear on how that fits in your plan. It also doesn't factor in maintainence or insurance on the car saved by driving it less. My ballpark guess, it would take you about a year to break even. (This is also assuming you don't feel the need to get a new bike within that year, which is a likely temptation but with limited finances you could probably fight it off.)
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Old 05-24-08, 10:41 PM
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I suggest you consider the Federal Joint Travel Regulations for reimbursement of a privately-owned vehicle per mile. https://perdiem.hqda.pentagon.mil/per...aqpovpast.html

Currently, it is $0.505 per mile and going up, of course. This rate considers gas and maintenance. Divide that rate into your bicycle price (and any outlay for accessories). This quotient will give you the number of miles you need to ride to break even. So, assuming $500 total outlay, you're looking at about 1,000 miles.

You can then divide your round-trip commute mileage into that to give you the number of commutes you need to make. Subtract whatever mileage errands you'll make. But, I wouldn't stop there.

Now subtract from your previous quotient the reduction in gym membership, less "junk" food...etc. Now consider how you feel from riding...priceless.
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Old 05-24-08, 10:43 PM
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You break even when you sell the second car.
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Old 05-24-08, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Ferret View Post
I suggest you consider the Federal Joint Travel Regulations for reimbursement of a privately-owned vehicle per mile. https://perdiem.hqda.pentagon.mil/per...aqpovpast.html

Currently, it is $0.505 per mile and going up, of course. This rate considers gas and maintenance. Divide that rate into your bicycle price (and any outlay for accessories). This quotient will give you the number of miles you need to ride to break even. So, assuming $500 total outlay, you're looking at about 1,000 miles.

You can then divide your round-trip commute mileage into that to give you the number of commutes you need to make. Subtract whatever mileage errands you'll make. But, I wouldn't stop there.

Now subtract from your previous quotient the reduction in gym membership, less "junk" food...etc. Now consider how you feel from riding...priceless.
+1. This is, indeed, the most accurate way to calculate what you will be saving with the exception of the depreciation value of your car because that will happen just by sitting in the driveway. In fact, maintanance occurrs even with the car sitting in the driveway.

If you go just by gasoline savings alone, you still win by bicycling and leaving the car in the driveway. This is a no brainer. Just leave the car in the driveway for whole weeks at a time. For most folks, you will save at least $75 per week. You will have the new bike paid off in exactly one month.

The added benefit for your honey is that you will be healthier and perhaps even a bit leaner and certainly stronger. When I started bicycle commuting years ago, my wife affectionately noticed my stronger and firmer legs and buttocks.
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Old 05-24-08, 11:06 PM
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It depends on many factors. A car is still costing you money when it's sitting in the drive so as pointed out, the best saving is when you get by on one less car for the household.

I buy old bikes for about $200 and use them for several years. They usually need $100-$200 in rehabilitation up front and I spend another $100 per year on tires, maintenance, repairs and other miscellany. So bikeing costs maybe $300 per year. That's for about 150 days of commuting. That's $2/day. The next cheapest option, the bus, cost about $5/day.
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Old 05-24-08, 11:07 PM
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BTW how far is your commute?
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Old 05-24-08, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
She's down w/ the car/bus, but is balking at the intial investment in a bike (and, no, she is not aware of the aforementioned layaway).


You're spending money without her knowledge**********
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Old 05-24-08, 11:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post


You're spending money without her knowledge**********
Yeah, I wondered about that too.
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Old 05-25-08, 12:05 AM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
BTW how far is your commute?
The quickest by car is around 58 miles roundtrip. The nearest bus stop is 12 miles away in the next town/county. If my wife drops me off, then that's like a savings of like 10 miles a day off of the total car mileage. If I drove myself to the nearest bus stop, then I would be putting 24-25 miles a day on the car. My original plan is to ride bus/bus to work, then bus/bike back to the car. That would be about 8 miles on a rail-trail. Eventually, I'd like to leave the car at home and just ride the 12 miles to the bus stop (along SH 97, a 4 lane, divided, wide shoulders, relatively low traffic, gently rolling hills). If I leave the car out of the equation, then my r/t time would be 6-7 hrs a day (unacceptable to the wife, but doable as I only work p/t now...), that's taking both buses each way. But I figure I could shave that a little by trying to not take at least one of those buses each way.
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Old 05-25-08, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by DCCommuter View Post
You break even when you sell the second car.
That's what we're going to do! Losing one car will be about 400$ less a month in Car payments and Insurance. That's not even calculating in gas and maintenance!
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Old 05-25-08, 12:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post


You're spending money without her knowledge**********
Let's just say she is 'aware' of my intention, just not the timeframe...
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Old 05-25-08, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by talleymonster View Post
That's what we're going to do! Losing one car will be about 400$ less a month in Car payments and Insurance. That's not even calculating in gas and maintenance!
Yeah, that's pretty much what I would save to, eventually. I still owe money on it, but I can sell it to a car lot. Then the balance owed would just be an unsecured loan. Kinda sucks to keep paying for something, but I've gotten to the point where I don't really care. Besides, my oldest step-child turns 16 in Sept. Between the state's new graduated driver license, and her mother's reluctance to let anybody drive her car, I figure I'll luck out, and she'll embrace cycling as a viable means of transportation.
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Old 05-25-08, 02:02 AM
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Are you going to factor in the physical and mental health benefits of riding as well? Then I'd say you'd break even in a month.

How much do you spend in gas each month? How much in insurance? Maintenance? Fees? The list goes on and on. Some study here or somewhere said that Americans spend $8000 a year on their cars. A $300 bike means you break even damn quick.
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Old 05-25-08, 02:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
How many miles are you planning to ride a day? Are you thinking bike+bus or just biking? Are you keeping the car, and if so would you drive little enough to get reduced mileage insurance?

Keep in mind with a bike that there are recurring maintainence costs. If you get a set of alan wrenches and learn some basic tune-up techniques you can avoid the bulk of this, but every now and then you'll still need to buy oil, grease and the occasional tube.
There are also repairs and maintenance costs with a car as well. Work out how often you have your car serviced, and what it costs. How often do you need to change the tyres on your car, and what does that cost? I had this discussion with a co worker about a month ago. In the end we worked out that the long term R & M costs between my bike and her car were about the same on a per mile basis. The difference was the ongoing expenses such as fuel, parking and so on. Of course, she drives fewer miles than I ride, but most people generally do.
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Old 05-25-08, 06:27 AM
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A method that works nicely if things come together well is to have one driver drop off a cyclist or two, then pick them up on the way home. Takes a lucky linkage of time. Even if it only works one way, saves time. If you're 30 miles each way, that's a chunk of time. About at the distance where careful increases in speed start to add up. Difficult in commuting mode, more the performance mode. Commuting mode, 3 hours each way. Performance mode, only 2 hours or less. I'd only consider 30 miles each way if flat and I could ride a semi-faired recumbent. I can make one of those fly on the flat! Just can't get one up hills.

But take 10 miles off in each direction by a pickup - dropoff system and it's only 20 miles each way - very doable.

I used to work the dropoff system - but a bit different. I'd do the final part of the commute alone on a tandem, pick up the stoker on the way home. Will get one rather strong rather fast!
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Old 05-25-08, 06:45 AM
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Unless you already ride a lot, your first bike will probably be The Wrong Bike. You can't do much about this, since humans learn from experience. Accept, move on and keep careful track of what turns out to be Wrong.
If you already have a bike, I'd just use it.

You won't see much if any financial gain until your family is down at least one car.
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Old 05-25-08, 06:57 AM
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Well, I purchased my bike ($75. used) with the intent that it would save money on my commute and I have kept the extras down to next to nothing, (I'm lucky enough to have a friend at the LBS who keeps an eye out for good used parts, you just have to have patience, recent purchase....Cannondale rear rack...$3.00). But I found the enjoyment of riding is so much more valuable than the gas savings. I save about $5 bucks a day just my commute to and from work, not counting trips to the store and just getting away (I don't know the savings on that).
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Old 05-25-08, 07:07 AM
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I've considered this and have my own opinion, YMMV.

I can't give up the car entirely, but I can eliminate about 6000 miles of car usage per year if I commute by bike. Consider that the car will be paid off in 3 years, and I will get an additional 24,000 from the existing car over the next 4 years due to the reduced usage. This is worth about $6000 from the eliminated car loan (in 3 years) and the far cheaper insurance cost compared to buying a new car at that time.

I'm also reducing the need for health club membership and other health related costs, such as diet plans & health care.

I don't consider the savings from gas to be a principle motivation. I'll spend $1500 a year on bike related costs, if I include the special clothing and accessories. At 20mpg over 6000 commuting miles per year, my fuel cost are $1200 now and will be $1500 soon. I consider the savings in gas to be an equal offset for the gear I enjoy buying.

But improving my health is priceless and getting more years from my existing car will be a financial benefit.

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Old 05-25-08, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by mike View Post
In fact, maintanance occurrs even with the car sitting in the driveway.
In 1980 my Father gave me his old truck. A 1974 FORD F-100 Super-cab Camper Special. I just put it in hibernation again. I ran it out of gasoline and then put in one gallon of fuel specially formulated for long term storage. That fuel got me home and I allowed the engine to idle until that fuel was used up. It's now sitting on stands with the tires, brake drums/disks and brake cylinders removed and coated with grease. I removed all the spark plugs and put about a tablespoon of oil down each hole and rotated the engine with the starter so the oil would coat all surfaces preventing the engine from locking up during long term storage. The battery was removed as well. Needless to say I dropped the insurance and have not purchased new stickers for the tag. Last time I stored this vehicle it sat for 3 years unused. If fuel prices return to reasonable costs I will return my old truck to highway use. Otherwise it will remain stored.
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Old 05-25-08, 07:43 AM
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Many families can get along with one car, especially if one of the spouses has the ability to use bicycle and public transportation.

The thought comes to mind, "what do we do when we BOTH need the car?!". Of course, this does happen. The answer is to rent a car on the occassions that you need one. Even if you end up renting a car several weeks per year, it is still a LOT cheaper than owning a car.
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Old 05-25-08, 08:48 AM
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it gets a little hard when you need to consider the extra food you'll be eating also. everytime i ride, i save the train fare that i would normally pay for...which is $4 per day. I have to eat at least a small extra meal per day when i ride, which is a few bucks.

you should focus (and get your wife to realize) that this is in investment in your health as well.
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Old 05-25-08, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by n4zou View Post
....If fuel prices return to reasonable costs I will return my old truck to highway use. Otherwise it will remain stored...
I have a feeling that truck may stay in the garage for a long time.
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Old 05-25-08, 09:20 AM
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If you are going to use the bus, definitely go for the reimbursement program. I was doing that for awhile, but got back on a bike. This actually cut my travel time down a bit. Right now, I drive 10 miles to a parking lot that is 14 miles from work; this puts me on my bike for over half of the commute. This month, I'll have saved $200.00 in gas alone. I figure I used $50 of that savings in having extra food ["natural fuel"] at my desk. I make all of my own food, which saves a ton of $ in the long run. The cafeteria at work wants $7 for salad ... no thanks. Some insurance companies give you a break if you drive your car a limited amount of miles. This is something I'm looking into this week. I can't sell my 2nd car at the moment, though I wish I could.

Like Barrettscv, the health benefits are the true savings in the long run.

Personally, I'd rather buy a used bike on the cheap, and add the parts I need to make it go. As for repairs and saving $, I've learned how to do nearly all of it over the years using 1 book, and of course the internet is an invaluable tool. I'd like to hear what plan you finally come up with and the savings you find as well.
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