Cycle To Work And Save $10K A Year

biketowork.jpgIf you’re like a lot of people, you probably consider your car a necessity. While a car is a convenient way to travel from Point A to Point B, you might reconsider how often you drive your car if you knew how expensive it is.

The average car owner spends over $10K a year on their vehicle, according to the Canadian Automobile Associate (CAA). There’s a good reason a car is often referred to as a “money pit on wheels.” Some of the expenses of owning a car include gasoline, auto insurance, license and registration, and maintenance and repair.

Although I have my driver’s license, I’m car-free. While there are times when I wished I had a car (like trips to Canadian Tire and Home Depot), I’ve managed to get along just fine without one. I’m fortunate to live in an urban area where it’s possible to cycle to work. Not only do I get exercise from cycling, I’m able to use the money I save to reach my goal of mortgage freedom even sooner.

While I understand not everyone can go car-free like me, if you just take the time to review how much you’re spending on your car, you might think twice about how often you drive. Perhaps only take your car when you have client meetings or when you need to pick the kids up from daycare. Here are some ways to save even more money when cycling.

Maintenance and Repair

Just like your car, it’s important to take good care of your bike. If you plan to ride your bike rain or shine, five days a week from April to October, proper maintenance is vital. Be sure to regularly inflate your tubes to the recommended level and oil your chain. Spending $60 for a tune up in the spring is money well spent. If you’re looking to save money, you can enroll in bicycle maintenance courses. You’ll learn about everything from repairing a flat tire to adjusting your brakes. Speaking of flat tires, if you’ll be commuting to work it’s important to find a bicycle repair shop that’s nearby. Ideally, you’ll be able to drop your bike off at lunch and pick it up after work to ride home.

Related: Repair Broken Electronics To Save Money And Reduce Waste

Cycling Gear

Don’t worry, you don’t have to dress from head to toe in spandex to cycle to work, but there is some basic gear everyone should own. Cycling gloves and pant guards are a must. The last thing you want is to get oil on your pants or tear them. Buying cycling gear at the local neighbourhood bike shops can be expensive; Mountain Equipment Co-op has a great selection at reasonable prices.

Related: When To Buy Stuff To Save The Most Money

If you’ll be riding in the rain, be sure to pick up waterproof coat and pants and shoe covers to keep your feet dry; look for Gortex. If you’re planning to ride during the winter, pick up a bike just for that. You can often find cheap bikes at your local bike shop, or you can try searching on Kijiji or Craigslist. Winter cycling can take its toll on your bike; it’s not worth ruining a $500 bike just to save $300 on transit.

Keeping Your Bike Safe and Sound

Toronto may be the home of the CN Tower and iconic Toronto Maple Leafs hockey franchise, but we also have the dubious honour of being the bike-theft capital of North America. I’ve been fortunate to never had my bike stolen in all my years of cycling. While lady luck has been on my side, I also do all I can to protect my bike.

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Where you park your bike is crucial. You don’t want to choose a location that’s isolated. You want to want to choose somewhere that’s well-travelled. Your bike is less likely to be stolen if there are dozens of potential witnesses around. If you’ll be commuting to work, consider buying a less expensive bike just for that and save your expensive bike for the weekends. Make sure you invest in a decent bike lock. It’s foolish to buy an expensive bike and be a cheapskate with your lock. That’s like putting a sign on your bike that says “please, steal me.”

Would you ever consider trading in your four wheels for two wheels and cycling to work?

Author Bio: Sean Cooper is a Personal Finance Expert and Financial Journalist. He is a first-time homebuyer and landlord who aspires to reach findependence by age 31. Follow him on Twitter @SeanCooperWrite and read his blogs and request his Writing and Web Design services on his website:

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Kyle Chase
Kyle Chase's picture

Not an option to many, not everyone in Canada lives in urban areas. And as for getting my without a car, that is true. So when you need one for the Home Depot as an example, you mooch off others for help.

Im all for saving money, but Im also for being an adult and not always relying on others

December 30, 2014 @ 4:09 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I agree Kyle, it isn't something a lot of people would consider doing to save money but for those that have this option it really can cut back your expenses significantly. Those cities where people would consider doing this are also likely the places that have cheap car rental or sharing options for those times when you absolutely need a car.

I'm still not quite sure how you pull this off in the winter though Sean? Do you still bike to work when it's -20 out there? I can't imagine biking in those kinds of temperatures with slippery ice, snow, and slush everywhere could be much fun. Sounds kind of dangerous actually.

December 30, 2014 @ 11:13 pm
Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet's picture

I'm always a bit jealous of anyone who can walk/bike to work. Some bikes have winter tires which are doable in some winter climates but here in Calgary I rarely see bikes in the winter. it works for some though which is great

December 31, 2014 @ 6:01 pm
Darla Gullons
Darla Gullons 's picture

Sean: wonderful idea especially where the weather is 365 reasonable. Unfortunately, here in the frozen north we only get 4 months of poor sledding (and riding weather) and then 8 months of cold, snow and nasty weather. Also redesigning Northern cities or retrofitting from gas vehicle road construction to cycle paths is some time counter productive. I agree with Dan that winter definitely sucks all the capability of cycling anywhere.

January 01, 2015 @ 1:43 pm
Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist's picture

@Kyle I appreciate the comments. I rarely ask for help. When I do, I offer to pay for gas. If I need to, I can always rent a truck from Home Depot.

@Stephen In January and February, I usually take transit to work. I sometimes bike during the winter, but only when it's above -10C and the roads are cleared.

January 01, 2015 @ 1:48 pm
Mr. Captain Cash's picture

Hey I seen on ourbigfatwallet you mentioned you were going to stop biking as it's minus 10'C in Toronto. I think you need to check out

Pay attention to rule #5 I am just kidding of course!

Great job saving $10,000 a year. Over a ten year period that will accumulate into significant savings! Transportation is provided for where I work but if I ever do have to commute to work I will be using some of your tips.

Thanks for sharing!

Mr. Captain Cash

January 02, 2015 @ 7:52 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I started reading through the rules and got through about 5 or so. Then, when I realized just HOW MANY rules there were, it sucked all the energy out of me kind of like it would if I cycled everywhere so I just gave up :)

January 05, 2015 @ 10:07 am
Jim Montroy
Jim Montroy's picture

I have to start with...$10,000 per year to drive a car? What are ya drivin'? I have an 09 GMC sierra, Paid for, costs about $100 per month in gas, $720 per yr. for insurance, do most of my own maintenance. Nothing major has gone wrong yet. Northern Ont. has no bike paths, public transit sucks, so some of us still drive.

January 03, 2015 @ 1:50 am
Elaine's picture

Jim: so about $2000 a year in fixed costs plus whatever you spend on parts, oil, etc for your own maintenance (you save a bundle there!!) . You should also add the cost of purchasing your vehicle (even if it is all paid off) divided by the number of years you use it. For my simple math, my caravan cost me a little over $20k (was cheaper to buy new at the time). Say I keep it 10 yrs (I'm not handy so by about that time it is beyond my skills to care for). That means it costs me $2k a year just to own a car. And then add in what you could have done with the money if you hadn't bought the car (opportunity cost). Don't know if it adds up to $10k a year (my math is too fuzzy for that), but certainly at least $3-5k. For now, I am happy to keep our 2 cars but do realize it is a luxury, not a need. I could drive DH to work or vice versa. But it would be annoying to drop even one vehicle as it would make it harder to ferry the kids around.

January 04, 2015 @ 4:49 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Ya, I'd like to see a more detailed breakdown of how Sean arrived at 10K per year as well. Cars are extremely expensive for sure, but 10K is also a lot of money. If you follow my other car tips, you should come in at well under $10K a year I would think. I will send him an email and see if he will follow up with a comment with a more detailed breakdown.

January 05, 2015 @ 10:09 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I took a close look at that article Sean and I find it a little confusing and definitely on the high side. For instance, they mention averages when talking about depreciation but then in the next breath they say that the Toyota Camry will depreciate by nearly $3700 in the first year and then it looks like they use that number in their annual depreciation cost calculations. That doesn't make sense.

I visited and priced out a 2015 Camry. I chose the model one up from the bottom that costs about $25,000 new and $30,000 on the road after taxes/fees. Depreciation should be calculated on the $25,000. $3700 is about a 15% depreciation in the first year, which makes sense. However, if you calculate it for the 4th year then it drops to $2300 and keeps going down year after year. Therefore the average will be much lower than $3700 depending on how long you keep the car. I ran the calculations over a 10 year period actually, and it works out to almost exactly $2000.

I think the financing charges are a bit off too. Who says you can't pay in cash in the first place? Even if you can't, if you finance for 3 years they are currently charging 1.99%. Rates often drop to 0% during model clearout events and on less popular models. I ran those numbers based on a $30,000 loan through a loan calculator and the total interest works out to $929.27. Amortize that over 10 years and you're looking at $93 annually. That's a far cry from the $1000 annually they are saying.

The final number I have a hard time believing it the $2,619 for insurance. If you're paying that much for car insurance, then you're doing something wrong. My entire insurance bill for 2 cars is $113 a month which is $1356 a year. Half that and you've got $678. Now if you are a new driver with no driver education and have had one or multiple accidents, then that number might be believable. However, I think we have to go with the general populous, not the exceptions.

The rest of the numbers are pretty believable. So, if you add it all up using my more realistic numbers, your total annual cost of a brand new car amortized over 10 years is $5879.00 per year.

I'm sure you can get a lot more frugal than that too because if you are going to be comparing a car to a bike you certainly aren't going to be driving any 18,000 KMs, which is what they use in their example!!

January 06, 2015 @ 2:18 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I think the main reason his numbers are closer is because he didn't include maintenance or fuel costs in his numbers. Add those in and you'd be getting close to $10,000 again. Not sure why everyone seems to be using such high numbers. He's using nearly an 8% interest rate for financing too. I don't think I've ever seen an interest rate that high on a new car. Insurance is again supposedly almost $3000 dollars a year for a 45 year old driver. Is insurance really that much cheaper in New Brunswick than Ontario?

Anyway, I'd like to think my numbers a little more realistic for someone who puts any effort at all into trying to save a little money on their car.

January 07, 2015 @ 1:28 pm

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