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

The UK is in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

According to the Institute for Government it is being caused by "A combination of high inflation outstripping wage increases and upcoming tax increases that have squeezed incomes for many households. The crisis is expected to worsen when planned tax increases are brought in from April."

The result? Rising energy bills, increases in food costs and soaring fuel prices.

As many of us think about how to save money in the coming months, 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. 

According to Department for Transport statistics, 71% of all journeys made in England in 2020, are under five 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

A study by Carflation showed that the cost of owning a new car is overtaking wages at a staggering rate. Purchasing a new car in 2011 would have set you back on average £27,675. Ten years later in 2021 people were spending an average of £38,585. An increase of over ten thousand pounds. 

Used car prices are lower, but the average cost is still rising dramatically with prices on average four thousand pounds higher than last year (2021). Auto Trader's February 2022 report showed that the average cost of a second-hand car is now £17,929 compared to £14,000 in February 2021.

Your initial outlay when buying a cycle on the other hand is much, much lower. The Bicycle Association, the national trade association for the UK cycle industry reported that the average purchase price of a mechanical cycle in 2020 was £332 and £1,854 for an e-bike. 

  • £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 £82 a week on average in 2020. Only a tiny amount of this, currently goes on bicycles. 

UK: average weekly household expenditure on transport, financial year ending 2020
  Cars/van Bicycles
Purchase outright or loan/hire purchase; new or second hand  £25.10 £0.90*
Spares/accessories/repairs/servicing £8.30 £0.20
Fuel £22.30 £0.00
Other motoring costs £2.80 £0.00
Total £58.50 £1.10
Total transport spend (private and public transport) £81.60
Spend on public transport £21.70

Source: Office for National Statistics: Family Spending (Table A1, section 7).
*Includes 'other vehicles'.

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

Fuel costs

Fuel prices are at an all-time high representing a significant outlay for car drivers. The RAC Fuel Watch has unleaded petrol at 167.03 pence per litre and diesel at 178.97 pence per litre at the time of writing. 

That means filling up the average 65 litre petrol run car would set you back £108.57.

According to reports from 2019 a Ford Focus can travel over a thousand 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 (71% in England) 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 2020 people travelled an average of 4,334 miles (a 33% decrease from the 6,500 miles travelled in 2019). 

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. 

Graphic showing cost of fuel for short journeys
  • Let’s say Bob owns a Ford Focus
  • In line with the National Travel Survey he made an average of 739 trips in 2020
  • If 58% of Bob's journeys were made by car, that's 428 trips
  • And if 71% of his car journeys were between 1-5 miles, Bob made 304 short trips by car
  • If we assume that all these journeys were 2.5 miles his short trips would add up to 760 miles per year
  • With unleaded petrol costing 167.03 pence per litre Bob would save approximately £93.95 if Bob switched from the car to his bike 
  • (We used the fuel cost calculator to work this out.)

Bob drives one of the most fuel-efficient cars, so for many people you’re looking at significantly bigger savings. 

Maintenance costs

The average cost of a full car service depends on your car. For a small car it's about £155, for a medium sized car it's £205 and for a large car £395. 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. 

Cycling UK has lots of helpful videos and advice to help you increase your bike mechanic skills. 

Vehicle insurance

According to the Association of British Insurers the average cost of car insurance in the UK is £434 a year.

£10m third party insurance cover for your bike, however, is free with your Cycling UK membership. With individual membership starting at £33 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 guzzling 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.

Costs of driving vs benefits of cycling

In addition to the average £2,500 a year spent on running your car, there are also lots of hidden costs to driving and benefits to cycling you might not immediately think of.

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 might not sound like much but with frequent shopping trips, this will add up. It's not just shopping trips, if you work in central London and drive your car to the office you can expect to fork out around £3,168 a month! 

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. 

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Have you been affected by the fuel crisis?

The price of petrol is rocketing at the pumps and does not look set to decrease any time soon. Cycling UK would like to hear your story.

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