Cars have kept me poor. Maybe you too?
Earlier this year, my wife and I moved to Denver, CO. We got new jobs, a new place, and new Colorado belongings (it’s a great state!!). After settling in, we had a quick realization, we might need a second car. We asked ourselves, will our Camry with 195,000 miles continue to be a great fit for our family? Will we need AWD or a 4x4 automobile? Would a 2nd car make our lives easier and happier? After all, the usual American household has at least two cars.We talked it over for three weeks and came to the conclusion that having one method of transportation would be very inconvenient with our new jobs and not knowing the area. Moreover, it would be easier to have two cars to take care of errands and our dog. And then, the electric bike idea came.
500 Miles Electric
I started to ponder if an Electric bike would be a better mode of transportation. I’ve seen the sleek Van Moof bikes and their promise of speed and convenience. Yet, I’ve never tested one or considered riding on the streets. Furthermore, Van Moof seemed very unsafe on anything other than paved roads. After 2 weeks of research, I became convinced that I could do an electric bike experiment for 7 months and still break even with the equivalent $300 “car payment.” If I could keep the bike (ended up getting a Bagi Bike due to the fat tires for all-terrain, an alternative to Bagi can even be found on amazon) until July, I could gather data, muster through the snow months, and decide whether I really needed a second car or not. It’s been 10 months and I could not be happier with my decision to not get a second car!
The electric experiment has accumulated a little over 500 miles of wear and tear and there has been no need for oil changes, tire rotations, or gasoline to be put in my tank. I’ve serviced my bike twice (total cost of $250) and bought around $50 worth of chain oils and other gear to maintain the bike in top form. In the same amount of time, I’d have to not only have a car payment, but also insurance, gas, car washes, oil changes, and other expensive parts to keep the mode of transportation going. Yes, there were days that I could not ride due to the snow accumulation being too high, but my Camry couldn’t either! Other days where I decided to not ride were rainy days or colder days, but I could have survived if I wanted to. A nice jacket and some impermeable clothing always come in handy.
Now, I’ll be honest. It does take a bit longer to get to places (40 min vs 25 min on a car is my average), but the savings are worth it.I analyzed my lifestyle and the places I needed to go to and the bike has been more than enough on most occasions. It appears that traveling at around 20-25 mph is not a bad thing after all. My work is 10 miles away (a 45-minute ride via bike pathways), the grocery store is 10 minutes from my home, and the small city downtown where I have my P.O. Box is about 15 minutes. I realized that I didn’t need a car on most occasions and started to orient my life toward the local sphere. The range of the electric bike (40 miles) is more than sufficient for my current lifestyle.
Also, I noticed that when I have the car (1 day out of the week when I have to travel 40 miles throughout the day), I make less intentional decisions about my day than when I only have the bike. I waste more time traveling and end up choosing to go to more stores since “I have the car today.” I’ve come to gather that having a car was not only more convenient for travel purposes, but spending purposes as well.
The financial benefits of my electric bike were just the beginning of my experiment. By using a slower mode of transportation, I’ve seen mental and physical health improvements in my quality of life. By riding my bike on a regular basis, I get to listen to podcasts and exercise my muscles in a way that driving would not allow it. Moreover, there is reduced stress in my life since I don’t have to be looking over my shoulder for reckless drivers, loud people behind the wheel, or traffic noise in the streets. There is something quite beautiful about commuting via bike paths while smelling trees and flowers instead of car pollution.
While commuting via bicycle is not feasible for everyone in every situation, I suggest you take a walk around a nearby park every so often. It will be a needed break that reminds you that nature is a great companion to our lives. Whether it’s close to work or home, parks allow us to think and be bored instead of overwhelmed by screens.
So what’s next for me? A regular commuter bike (after my e-bike dies, of course). After 500 miles on my electric bike, I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t need the extra power. The weight difference (50lbs vs 25lbs) ends up slowing my average speed, especially during ascents. Moreover, when the range is very low on the electric bike, I have to lower my settings and end up riding slower than a regular bike. While it is nice to not be sweaty and travel with relative ease through the electric power, I foresee more benefits with a commuter bicycle.
I hope that this story makes you reconsider some of your modes of transportation and how you can save some money and simplify another aspect of your life. A multimodal transportation method (bicycles, buses, trains, etc.) may help you save money, reduce stress, and improve your health. I know I am looking forward to a slower life that prioritizes my health and not the rush of street.
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Check out the statistics here: https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/car-ownership-statistics/
The average cost of car ownership: Investopedia Article
A week ago or so, I had to bike this distance since my wife had to use the car and it was quite a challenge. I made it through, but there were a lot of sweat spots which is not the usual.
The electric bike seems like such a great consideration! Do you worry about the safety of riding it on the roads where you live? I live in a bigger city and although there are a lot of e-bikes and scooters, the drivers around here don't seem to take them very seriously. Just wondering if that is something you worry about or if it has seemed pretty safe so far?
I also have 3 kids so not sure an e-bike would be my best option...ha!
This is really interesting! I think a great takeaway from this is an intentionality with your lifestyle and understanding needs and wants. When I was younger and lived in town (and didn't have kids lol) I rode my bike to save money on car insurance and gas. I lived 5 miles from my job and they let me park my bike in the warehouse, so it worked out great. It was before e-bikes were a thing. Riding a bike is so peaceful. Now that I have kids and live in a more rural area, my family has 2 cars. But they're older, and we don't have payments. (otherwise we'd only have 1 car) I am a firm believer in using older cars, saving the cash and not having a car payment. I recommend renting different styles of bikes from a shop if you can to pick one you like! I have a hybrid bike - it's sort of a commuter, but sort of okay for basic off road. (gravel, flat trails, etc.) and I love the darn thing. It's not as "cool" looking as a commuter bike or a mountain bike but it fits, it was pretty cheap and I've ridden a couple thousand miles on it at least. Anyway, the intentionality of the decisions you make on your bike vs. car is a really important insight. Thanks for the article!