If you know how to ride a bicycle, you probably already know that it’s great exercise, good for the environment and a lot of fun. But here are some fascinating facts about the financial benefits of cycling that may surprise you. And if you’re not already a cyclist, maybe you’ll be inspired to take to two wheels when you see how much money you can save.
1. The true cost of getting on down the road. According to AAA, the average cost for an American driver to own and operate a car was about $8,558 in 2016. In comparison, some estimates put the average cost of owning and operating a bicycle at $350 a year.
2. The four-mile rule. OK, so you’re not ready to compete in the Tour de France, but here’s an attainable goal for even the most novice of cyclists. According to a National Household Travel Survey, approximately half of all trips we routinely make by car are to destinations within four miles or less. Vow to make many (or even all) of those shorter trips by bike — and watch your wallet expand and your waistline shrink when you leave your car parked in the driveway more often.
3. Pedal more for insurance savings. Putting fewer miles on your car may also save you money on auto insurance. Some auto insurers offer discounts if you keep your total car miles under 5,000 miles per year. And new “pay per mile” auto policies — your premium is based on how much you drive — could really motivate you to leave the car parked in the garage and take your bike instead.
4. My gym membership has two wheels. The average gym membership runs $40 to $50 a month. So it’s not a budget buster, and it may be worth the cost — if you actually use it. But 67 percent of gym memberships go unused, according to StatisticBrain.com. For less than the annual cost of a membership, you can buy a decent new bicycle that will last for many years and save you money every time you use it (instead of driving your car).
5. Tax breaks for biking employees. If you cycle to work regularly, you may qualify for up to $20 a month to reimburse you for the purchase of the bike, along with repairs and storage. You don’t pay any taxes on this reimbursement, which is paid by your employer. To get this, your employer must participate in a commuter benefit program. If you’re a commuting cyclist, see this website for details.
6. Commute by bike to compute big savings. More Americans may be realizing the financial and lifestyle benefits of commuting to their jobs by bicycle. There’s been a 40 percent increase in the number of U.S. bike commuters between the years 2000 and 2010. With the average American spending about $2,600 per year getting to and from work, according to Citi’s 2015 Commuter Index, commuting by bike at least some of the time can help reduce that budget-busting expense.
7. More miles to the gallon. Want to get 50-plus miles to the gallon? Again, biking is the answer. Here’s how: A gallon of milk currently costs about the same as a gallon of gas. While I’m not suggesting that you drink a whole gallon of milk and then go for a bike ride, a gallon of whole milk contains enough calories to fuel the average cyclist for a 50-plus-mile bike ride.
8. Calculate your own savings. Wonder how much you could save if you commuted by bike or incorporated some cycling into your daily lifestyle? Check out this calculator tool on the Kiplinger website that allows you to estimate your approximate savings. Although the tool is designed for working commuters, try plugging in your average daily driving miles and parking costs to see how much you could save by biking, even if you’re retired.