Ebike vs. Car, By the Numbers

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The door closes behind me, and immediately it becomes apparent that summer has come to an end. The morning air is colder, but with a jacket and gloves, the chill is manageable. Taking a moment to activate the lights and motor on my ebike, I glance at my phone for the time – 7:45 a.m. According to the estimated travel time for driving, my usual commute takes around 25 minutes. I’m a little behind schedule. To make up for lost time, I set the pedal assist level to 5 and swiftly start my journey.

Before long, I’m gaining speed as I descend down the hill. As I approach a stop sign, I tap the brakes to come to a halt. Checking the intersection, I see that the traffic is completely blocked with no openings or movement. This is not ideal… I hop back on my bike and smoothly transition into the bike lane, turning right onto the congested street. The traffic is a chaotic mess of brake lights and frustration, but fortunately, the bike lane remains clear all the way to my workplace. I arrive at the office, park my bike in the stand, remove my helmet, and check the time once more – 8:03 a.m. I’m early, with time to spare.

I’ve been an avid cyclist for as long as I can remember, but integrating my love for biking into my daily commute has always been a challenge.

The main obstacle I face as a bike commuter is deciding whether to hop on my bike in the morning or opt for the convenience of the car. When it comes down to it, taking the car seems easier. Various excuses have crossed my mind, and perhaps some of these sound familiar:

“It requires less effort to drive compared to biking.”

“The weather is too cold or rainy for biking, and a car would be more comfortable.”

“I’ll save time by taking the car; it’s a quicker mode of transportation.”

“I need to appear professional at work, not like I just finished a rigorous workout.”

These were some of the common excuses I found myself making. However, it wasn’t solely my willpower that prompted a change, to be honest. It was the realization of the costs and financial burdens involved. As a resident of Seattle, I have rent to pay, tuition fees to cover, monthly transportation expenses, not to mention the need to save for the future and the thousands of dollars it costs to own a car. It was a wake-up call. Examining the actual numbers allowed me to see my situation more clearly.

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Below are figures that closely resemble my real-life expenses, although some numbers differ slightly to provide a broader overview:

Estimated Commuter Costs for a Car*

Car Estimated Commuter Costs*
Yr-1 Cost Yr-2 Cost Yr-3 Cost Yr-4 Cost
Car Purchase $6,200
Insurance $750 $750 $750 $750
Gas** $2,191 $2,191 $2,191 $2,191
Maintenance & Repair*** $675 $850 $1,000 $1,500
Yearly Estimated Total $9,816 $3,836 $3,941 $4,441
Monthly Breakdown $818.00 $319.67 $328.42 $370.08

*Values based on used mid-2000’s 4-door sedan
**Estimated using 2016-2018 price per gallon average
***Budgeted amounts for regular/suggested maintenance and common issues & repairs

Maintenance & Repair***

Ebike Estimated Commuter Costs*
Yr-1 Cost Yr-2 Cost Yr-3 Cost Yr-4 Cost
Ebike Cost $1,499
Bike Locks $100
Helmet $80
Pannier Bags $178
Rain Gear $250
Bike Pump $50
Replacement Battery** $550
Maintenance & Repair $250 $250 $250 $250
Totals $2,407 $250 $800 $250
Monthly Breakdown $200.58 $20.84 $66.67 $20.84

*20 mile round trip – based on ~5200 commuter miles/year
**2018 Batteries are rated for 800 full charge cycles, replacement is based on 1 full cycle per day
***Actual replacement schedule may vary based on conditions, mileage, and use

*Values based on used mid-2000’s 4-door sedan

**Estimated using 2016-2018 price per gallon average

***Budgeted amounts for regular/suggested maintenance and common issues & repairs

Purchasing an already-used car to use solely for commuting purposes ended up costing me approximately $6,200. The insurance required for me to drive the vehicle cost $750 for the entire year. A single tank of gas, which lasts one full week of travel, came to about $42, totaling $2,191 for an entire year based on that average. Additionally, the yearly costs for maintenance, parts, and repairs amounted to approximately $675. It is important to note that these costs are expected to increase in the following years.

Looking only at the financial aspect, it became evident that owning, maintaining, and using a car solely for commuting purposes was not a viable option for me. This realization pushed me to make a significant change in my commuting habits. Having been an avid cyclist throughout my entire life and having previously commuted by bike, transitioning to bike and ebike commuting seemed like the most sensible choice. Not only are the financial burdens significantly lower, but there are also numerous additional benefits that extend beyond just monetary savings. If you have never experienced biking to work, there are several advantages that come along with full-time bike commuting. If you have already tried it, you may have already discovered some of these perks.

  • It provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a peaceful morning and evening.
  • Avoiding traffic allows you to save yourself from unnecessary stress.
  • Take a longer route home and explore your neighborhood and city.
  • Biking serves as a low-impact exercise that aids in burning calories for those looking to maintain or lose weight.
  • Other health benefits of cycling include improved cardiovascular health, muscle growth, and enhanced coordination.
  • Engaging in daily exercise has shown to have positive effects on an individual’s psychological well-being.
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The remarkable thing is that the benefits of commuting on an electric bike go even further than that! Riding an electric bike begins to counteract the very reasons that might make biking as a commuting option less appealing.

  • You can arrive at work feeling fresh and ready without appearing as though you just finished an hour-long cardio workout.
  • You can enjoy a healthier lifestyle without the time commitment of preparing yourself twice and cleaning up afterward.
  • Electric bikes allow you to travel faster than standard bikes, reducing the time required to reach your workplace.

Of course, there is also the potential for significant financial savings:

The Numbers – Car vs Ebike
Commute by Car Commute by Ebike Ebike Savings*
Year 1 $9,816 $2,407 $7,409
Year 2 $3,836 $250 $3,541
Year 3 $3,941 $800 $3,141
Year 4 $4,441 $250 $4,191
Total Estimated after 4 years $22,034 $3,707 $17,927

*Savings are calculated based on data listed above

In order to effectively commute to and from work every day, I had to consider the costs of various items. These include the bike itself, a helmet, bags, rain gear, cold weather gear, biking shoes, spare tubes and parts, locks, and supplemental tools for quick repairs on the road. While I am knowledgeable about bikes and can handle most repairs myself, I do occasionally visit a bike mechanic for major issues, which is factored into the maintenance and repair costs.

A couple of important points: As with any vehicle, regular maintenance, repair, and replacement parts are necessary to keep everything in good working order. For my ebike commuting, I adhere to a maintenance schedule that includes checking my brakes, tires, tubes, cables, and general wear and tear to ensure a safe journey. It’s worth noting that not all of the above-mentioned items need to be purchased for bike commuting, and everyone’s setup may vary based on their individual needs and budget.

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Year 3

After three years, the amount saved reaches an impressive $3,941. This astonishing figure highlights the significant financial benefits that come with switching to an ebike.

In addition to the monetary savings, there are numerous advantages that cannot be measured solely in monetary terms. These include the invaluable time saved by avoiding traffic congestion, the potential weight loss achieved through regular commuting, the overall improvement in health and well-being resulting from a more active lifestyle, the positive impact on the environment by reducing daily pollution, and the increased productivity reported by countless bike and ebike commuters.

Year 4

The savings continue to climb as we enter the fourth year, reaching a remarkable $4,441. With each passing year, the financial benefits become even more apparent. Moreover, there is an additional enrichment these benefits bring to one’s life, above and beyond the monetary aspect.

Total Estimated after 4 years

The cumulative total of savings after four years adds up to an impressive $22,034. This substantial amount demonstrates the notable financial advantages that arise from embracing the ebike lifestyle.

$3,707 of the total amount saved can be attributed to the initial investment in an ebike. This upfront cost proves to be a worthwhile investment when considering the long-term financial benefits. Ultimately, after deducting the initial investment, the net savings amount to an astonishing $17,927.

*Savings are calculated based on the aforementioned data, reflecting one individual’s experience. However, it should be noted that your personal circumstances and usage patterns may result in varying figures.

For the past three years, I have been commuting to work exclusively by bike, and most recently, I made the switch to an ebike. In previous chapters of my life, I had abandoned the idea of bike commuting due to its perceived inconveniences. However, the introduction of an ebike has completely transformed my perspective. Not only does it enhance my daily commutes, but it also proves invaluable for running errands, grocery shopping, and accompanying me on longer journeys. So much so, that I even made the decision to sell my car.

It is important to remember that the data provided is based on an individual’s experience and serves as a general reference for potential savings. Your own personal circumstances and usage will greatly influence your specific benefits and savings.