11 Ways Cycling Can Save You Money


What would you do with $9,000? No matter how you like to spend your money, that is a huge chunk of change. The kind that might allow you to take a few months off work, travel across the globe, put a down payment on a new home, or start a retirement account. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that's how much the average American spends simply commuting to work. Vehicle purchases, fuel and oil, and other automobile expenses account for the majority of that figure. Then there's parking, toll roads, and the undeniable opportunity cost of being stuck in traffic.

If there's one simple way to slash your budget, it's ditching your car. And, at least in the warmer months, opting to ride a bike is often the simplest, healthiest, and least expensive solution. Here are 11 ways switching to two-wheel transportation can help you save.

1. You Won't Need Gas

Gas is a major cost for drivers. If gas is $3.50 per gallon and your vehicle gets 20 miles per gallon, you'll be paying 18 cents per mile for gasoline alone. Your bike? Nada. You also won't have to worry about filling up.

2. Less Wear-and-Tear on Your Car

Every mile that you drive in your car is wearing down your tires and your brakes. It's using up motor oil and windshield wiper fluid. It's breaking down your belts and other parts that'll eventually need replacing. In other words, it's costing you money. Bikes need maintenance too, but they are much smaller, simpler machines. Plus, you can probably learn to do most of the maintenance yourself. Car parts and repairs are costly. The less you drive, the more you save.

3. Your Auto Insurance Will Drop

Even if you opt to keep your car and become an occasional or fair-weather cyclist, reducing the number of miles you drive in a year can have an impact on your auto insurance rates. Insurance rates are calculated, in part, based on the number of miles you drive each year. Call up your insurance company and let them know you'll be using your bicycle for transportation this summer. They may offer you a discount.

4. Bikes Are (Relatively) Inexpensive to Buy and Maintain

You can get a good bike for a few hundred dollars. If you venture closer to $1,000, you can get a great one. You'll also need a helmet, a bell, and maybe a light for safety. But unless you're a real gear junkie, that's pretty much where the costs begin and end. Most people can ride on the same tires for years and, in most cases, all most bikes need are a yearly tune-up and a little oil on the chain.

5. You Won't Have to Go to the Gym

Most gym memberships cost more than $50 per month, but if you're riding your bike most days of the week, you won't need one. Cycling is a great cardio workout that can burn some major calories. A 150-pound person cycling at an average speed of 14 miles per hour will burn almost three hundred calories in 25 minutes. Plus, by combining transportation and exercise, you'll be saving time too.

6. You'll Take Fewer Sick Days

A Dutch study released in 2010 found that cyclists took one less sick day per year, on average, than non-cyclists. If you don't get paid sick leave, that's one more day of pay. Even if you do... who wants to be sick?

7. You'll Increase Your Productivity

Want to put yourself in position for a raise? Cycling — or any exercise, really — reduces stress and boosts productivity. If you cycle to work, you'll be firing your brain up for a productive day. Then you get to de-stress and switch off from the working day on the way home.

8. Parking is Free

Depending on where you live, simply parking your car can be a huge expense. In major cities like New York, Boston, and San Francisco, parking rates can run as high as $500 per month or more. Bikes can be parked on most city streets for free. If you're commuting to work, you can probably even park your bike right beside your desk.

9. You May Qualify for Bicycle Commuter Benefits

In 2009, a bicycle commuter benefit was added to the IRS Code as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. What that means is that employers may reimburse bicycle commuters up to $20 tax-free for every month they use a bike to get to work. This reimbursement can be used for bicycle purchase and maintenance, repair, and storage. Basically, bicycle commuters can get up to $240 annually in lieu of other transportation benefits such as a transit pass or qualified parking. This $240 can also be excluded from taxable income. Check with your employer to see if this benefit if available to you.

10. You'll Buy Less

If you've ever run errands on your bike, you know that you'll have to make some sacrifices. Because you'll have to carry everything you buy home either on your back or behind you, you'll probably want to stick to buying only what you need, and nothing more. But, hey, isn't that what we should all be doing anyway?

11. It's Low-Cost Leisure

Once you start biking to work and running errands on two wheels, you might find that you rather like the feeling of the wind in your hair. Cycling is a great leisure activity too. Pack a picnic lunch with some friends and explore your city on wheels, or head out onto the trails on a mountain bike for an afternoon adventure. You'll get exercise, fresh air, and fun — all free of charge.

Do you ride your bike instead of driving? How has it impacted your budget?

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Guest's picture

Started cycling again for fun as an adult in the early 90s.

One thing led to another, and now the only times I don't ride are in horrible weather (cold and light rain alone are not "horrible"), when I need to be dressed up for some reason, or when I'll be carrying stuff that can't go on a bike.

The biggest reason I don't bike more is the lack of secure parking.

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