How much money can you save by cycling?

How much money can you save by cycling?

We often hear that cycling can save you money on transport but exactly how much can we really save? Cycling UK's communications officer, Christina Bengston investigates

This week (18 - 24 January) is Big Energy Saving Week. As part of the Big Energy Saving Winter campaign, which runs from November to January, organisers are sharing ways we can save money and energy around the home

As we think about how to save money on our fuel bills, Cycling UK wanted to share with you how cycling can also play a part in reducing your bills. 

Almost a third of people who have a driving licence also cycle, and over 83% of adults who cycle, also drive. So this isn't about getting rid of your car and cycling every journey. 

The majority of journeys (67%) made are under 5 miles, a distance that can be cycled by many. Below, we will look at the savings you can make by switching from your car to your bike for short journeys, but first, let's compare the big expenses. 

Upfront costs

Purchasing a new car in 2018 would have set you back approximately £33,559 according to the automotive data company Cap HPI. That figure has increased £9,176 over the past ten years. 

Used car prices are of course much lower, in 2020, averaging at £8,000 according to British Car Auctions

Your initial outlay when buying a cycle on the other hand is much, much lower.

  • £200 - £350 For this amount, you can pick up a new basic, entry-level road, mountain, or hybrid bike
  • Over £350 will see your bike components increase in quality
  • Spending over £600 to £1,000, you can purchase a top of the range commuter bike or a pretty decent mountain or road bike 
  • Over £1,000 you can buy a top-of-the-line road bike or a custom-built bike

Whatever your budget or how much you want to spend on your new bike, it will be significantly cheaper than what you pay for a car.

Average weekly spend

How much each household spends on transport varies widely, but it was around £80.80 a week on average in 2018. Only a tiny amount of this, currently goes on bicycles. 

UK: average weekly household expenditure on transport, 2018
  Cars/van Bicycles
Purchase (outright or loan/hire purchase; new or second hand  £27.00 £0.50
Spares/accessories/repairs/servicing £8.20 £0.50
Fuel £21.20 £0.00
Other motoring costs £3.10 £0.00
Total £59.50 £1.00
Total transport spend (private and public transport) £80.80
Spend on public transport £19.70

Source: Office for National Statistics: Family Spending (Table A1, section 7).

Below, we'll look at how we can reduce our weekly spend on motorised vehicles. 

Fuel costs

Petrol and diesel costs are a significant outlay for car drivers. Fuel prices in January 2021 according to data published on the Gov.uk website list unleaded petrol as 116.93 pence per litre and diesel at 121.52 pence per litre. 

That means filling up the average 65 litre petrol run car would set you back £76.00. Granted, this will get you far. According to reports from 2019 a Ford Focus can travel over a thousands miles on a 52 litre tank of fuel. Pretty impressive. Well maybe, but not when you think that a bicycle will take you that same distance (albeit a bit slower) virtually for free. 

In fact, the majority of journeys (67%) made are under five miles. But cycling only accounts for less than 2% of all journeys. 

Imagine the money we could save if we switched those short drives to pick up a few items at the shops, or dropping the kids off at school to a bike. 

According to the National Travel Survey, in England in 2019 people travelled an average of 6,500 miles a year. 

We did a little calculation for you to work out how much you could save per year on fuel by switching trips under five miles from the car to a bike. 


  • Let’s say Bob owns a Fiat 500
  • In line with the National Travel Survey he made an average of 953 trips
  • If 61% of Bob's journeys were made by car, that's 581 trips
  • And if 67% of his car journeys were between 1-5 miles, Bob made 389 short trips by car
  • If we assume that all these journeys were 2.5 miles he would save approximately £104.26 (if petrol price remains at 116.93 pence per litre) if Bob switched from the car to his bike 
  • (We used the Confused.com fuel cost calculator to work this out.)

Bob’s car is pretty fuel efficient, but for people with a bigger car you’re looking at significantly bigger savings. 

Maintenance costs

The average cost of a car service is around £125. This doesn’t include the cost of any replacement parts, repair or labour cost (unless you’re capable of fixing your own car).

Bikes replacement parts on the other hand, depending on your bike, are going to be far cheaper than those you need for your car and a service will be between £55 - £100. The big difference is that many cyclists will do most repairs themselves. 

If you fancy increasing your bike mechanic skills look into some of our courses

Vehicle insurance

According to the Association of British Insurers the average cost of care insurance in the UK is £485 a year.

£10m third party insurance cover for your bike however, is free with your Cycling UK membership. With individual membership starting at £24 a year, this is a huge saving.

Road Tax

Fortunately, Road Tax was stopped in 1937 thanks to the work of Winston Churchill, so no one pays this anymore. Roads and their maintenance are paid for via general taxation and council tax - which everyone pays, no matter their choice of transport. 
 
What some people confuse with Road Tax is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). This is determined by how polluting your vehicle is. It's why if you drive an electric car with no emissions, you don't have to pay VED, but if you drive a gas gazzling SUV then you'll pay a lot more. It's also why people cycling don't have to pay VED - their only emissions are Carbon Dioxide.

Hidden costs

There are also lots of hidden costs to driving. 

Parking costs

Parking for cyclists is free. Whether you’re parking in a bike stall or designated space, or you’ve locked your bike against a pole, railing or tree, parking for bikes is free. 

The average cost of parking a car in the UK is between £1.10 and £1.65 per hour. It doesn’t sound like much, but with frequent shopping trips, this will add up. 

Health and wellbeing

The benefits of cycling to our health and wellbeing are enormous and widely documented. 

Cycling is excellent exercise. It helps people meet their recommended physical activity guidelines and improves their physical health while reducing the risk of premature death and ill-health.

Cycling to work is linked with a 45% lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46% lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), compared to commuting by car or public transport.

The importance of exercise on our mental health and wellbeing is often underestimated by individuals and even some health care professionals. 

Aerobic exercises – including cycling – have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression.

The planet

Climate change threatens the future of our way of life and economy, as well as our health and the natural environment that we all treasure.

Cycling provides a highly efficient transport option and it is part of the solution for a low-carbon future. 

A dramatic, worldwide increase in cycling – from a current c.6% of all urban passenger miles to 11% in 2030 and 14% in 2050 – could cut CO2 emissions from urban passenger transport by about 7% by 2030, and nearly 11% in 2050.

If people in England became as likely to cycle as people in the Netherlands, there would be around two million fewer car driving commuters. Consequently, English authorities could reduce CO2 outputs by over 1,500 tonnes a year on average.  

Put simply, switching our short journeys (five miles and under) from a car to a bike is one of the simplest lifestyle choices that individuals can make to reduce their carbon footprint.

 

If you're thinking of making a switch from the car to the bike for some of your shorter journeys, make sure to read our advice pages. Whether you're a beginner, need help planning a route, or tips on commuting, Cycling UK can support you. 

Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Cycling UK continues to support the UK to cycle
This remains true during this difficult period with the ongoing threat of coronavirus Covid-19
Join Cycling UK to help us change lives and communities through cycling
Join Cycling UK to help us change lives and communities through cycling
Membership gives you peace of mind insurance, discounts in cycle shops, rides & routes