October 5, 2012

Save a Gallon, Save $4.50

When gas prices jump 20 cents in one day as they did yesterday, and the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in California hits $4.50, I'm really glad my car looks like this:

Photo courtesy

We've been a one-car family since I stopped working in the classroom 2 1/2 years ago, which means Mr. English gets the car (except on the days he bikes home from Vacaville), and my primary mode of transportation is a Specialized Globe Haul bike. I absolutely love this bike, and in general love relying on a bike to get around town. It's easy when you live in Davis, where it's flat as a pancake except for the freeway and train track overcrossings.

There are two major benefits to using a bike instead of a car every day: getting more exercise, and spending less money. Even if you leave gas out of the equation, it's expensive to buy and own a car. When you consider the cost of a car payment, gas, insurance, parking, and maintenance/repair, I figure we save at least $400 per month by not having a second car. Four hundred bucks times 28 months of not owning a car means I've saved over $11,000. That's huge, and is one reason I can afford to work here on the homestead rather than full-time outside the home. The cost of the bike (plus accessories such as paniers, a front basket and rain pants) wasn't much more than one month's worth of car expenses, and Mr. English does the maintenance himself.

The other big, obvious benefit to having a bike instead of a car is increased physical fitness. When there's a car in the driveway, it's easy to get lazy and choose to drive the 8 mile roundtrip to the dentist. No car in the driveway means I had no choice earlier this week when it was time for my appointment, and I took care of my teeth and my body at the same time.

Even though I already know how much better bike riding is for my health and pocketbook (not to mention the environment), I've found I'm even more motivated to ride when I track my miles and money saved, and there's a great way to do that at the Save-a-Gallon website. The site was created by a couple of Davis guys in 2008 as a way to find out exactly how much of a difference they were making by regularly riding their bikes instead of driving a car.

You can create a Save-a-Gallon account for free and then use it to log your cycling miles. If you enter the current price of gasoline, Save-a-Gallon will tell you how much money you save each time you ride. For example, I know that I saved $1.27 in gas costs by riding to the dentist office instead of taking the gas guzzler, and another $0.75 riding Charlie to his clay class. If you are really dedicated about logging your miles, as time goes by you'll get all kinds of great data about your cycling habits and savings. For example, the graphic below gives me a quick visual on how many miles I logged all total in 2010 and 2011, and how the fall months compared in those two years. The more consistent you are about logging (and I wasn't great, actually), the more helpful the graphs and statistics are.

The weather we're having right now is absolutely perfect for riding your bike. Why not commit to replacing some (or some more) of your regular car trips this month with cycling or walking instead? It'll feel great, I promise!


  1. San Diego is a big city with wonderful amenities, but - - - replacing our second car with a bike is simply not an option. I am, however, taking the trolley to SDSU next week. Senior rates are half and I won't need to worry about parking.:)
    Still - I would prefer a bike.

    1. Yes, but one advantage of a big city is that you have big grocery stores within walking distance, and I know you walk there all the time. That counts! You probably get more exercise walking to RiteAid and Von's than I do on my bike all week. :)