Is it an expensive bike... or inexpensive transportation?

“Wow, cool bike! Is that expensive? how much did it cost?”

A question I often get about my own cargo bike (most often when I’m at the dog park) is, “Wow, cool bike! Is that expensive? how much did it cost?” When I give my response and say what it costs:

Larry vs Harry e-Bullitt: $8500 <— what I’m riding right now
Xtracycle Electric: $7700
Babboe Curve Mountain Electric: $7800
Benno Boost-E: $5500

the typical response is “WOW how could you spend that much on a bike?” or, “WOW that’s expensive, aren’t you afraid it’s going to be stolen?” I think I’ve tuned my response to those questions to make them worthy of the blog, so if you’re interested, read on!

To the question about cost, I typically reply, “It might seem expensive as a bike, but it’s very inexpensive as my main mode of transportation. Switching from my pickup truck to a cargo bike saves us about $7000 per year as a one-car family.” Then the conversation continues for a while and the person will express their shock at the price tag again “But really, you paid that much for a bike!?" I’ll reply, “It more than paid for itself in the first year of ownership once you consider that $7000 extra I used to spend on my truck is after-tax income.” Putting the cost savings in that context usually makes people’s heads spin.

Let’s do some easy math. The Canadian Automobile Association does us all a great favour by being upfront with their members about the cost of vehicle ownership. If you’re curious, you can calculate your cost of driving here. For a compact car like a Honda Civic, CAA estimates the annual cost of ownership at roughly $6200 for 10,000 km/year (I’ve already put more than 1000 km on my cargo bike this year, and it’s mid-February, so I fully expect to ride more than 10,000 km this year). CAA’s estimate for an old pickup truck driven 10,000 km/year is $8200, which was consistent with my actual expenses over the past few years. Whereas a car costs you thousands of dollars every year, my cargo bike once it’s purchased costs me virtually nothing: $3.50 in electricity per year (yes that’s the correct number), plus insurance, an annual tuneup and some replacement parts that would perhaps top out at a maximum of $300/year, total. Over five years, your Civic has cost you $31,000, and your cargo bike only $10,000. It gets better the longer you have your bike, too. Over ten years Civic costs you $62,000, and your cargo bike costs you less than $12,000. The cost savings could fully fund a child’s education, allow for a really sweet vacation every year, or help you fill up your tax free savings account for early retirement!

The answer to the question “how could you spend that much on a bike?” the answer is almost certainly, “to save a lot of money on transportation costs.”

CivicCost.PNG
Civic_Bullitt_Ranger comparison.PNG

Onto the (very valid) question about theft. I am certainly afraid of my bike being stolen, but more as a nuisance than something life-changing. “I have insurance for my bike through my home insurance, just like you’d have theft insurance for your car. It costs me $6/month, so if it’s stolen, it’s annoying, but I get a new bike in a week or two.” Just as you’d have theft insurance for your car, you can get very affordable theft insurance for your bike. Compare the $110/month I used to pay for my Ranger, vs. the $6/month for the bike, it’s almost laughable in comparison. By all means, lock up your bike (I always lock up!) but get the peace of mind that only insurance can get you so you’re not stressed when you have to leave your bike parked to go inside for groceries.

So are cargo bikes expensive? Yes, compared to a regular city bike, they cost a lot more, and can do a lot more, too. Try taking your dog to the dog park and then to work every day on your Fixie... But frame the question differently: are electric cargo bikes affordable transportation that can replace a petrol-powered car? The answer is certainly: yes. They can meet your everyday needs for transportation, and save your family a bundle in the process.