Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Cost, The Whole Cost, And Nothing But The Cost

It’s often been suggested to me that the cost of getting on a bike must be much more expensive than driving a car.

After all, after passing the driving test all you need to pay for is the car itself, while after passing a bike test you need a helmet, jacket, gloves, trousers and boots before it’s really safe to ride.

So I thought I’d look at the difference in start-up cost between riding a bike and driving a car, to see if this really is true.

The Vehicle

Buying a car or a bike has the same principles; the more you pay, the more you get. Keeping costs down and buying an older, smaller car is the same as buying an older (though not necessarily smaller) bike.

I paid £1650 for my second hand, 2004 Suzuki GS500F. It was restricted already to meet the Standard Access regulations (saving me around £100), and the seat height had also been lowered. The mileage was 11,000 miles.

For around that money, Autotrader says I could buy a second hand 2000 1.3 litre Ford KA, having done 70,000 miles.

The Clothing

My first helmet cost me £100, and by law that’s all you need to legally ride a bike. However it didn’t feel that safe (And was also pretty cold!), so I bought other gear to wear as well.

My leather jacket cost £250 – but that was one of the more expensive. I could have bought a textile one for under £100. My waterproof trousers cost £140 – and again I could have paid under £100 if I had just wanted to buy cheap.

The gloves cost £50, and I haven’t got round to buying boots yet. Instead I wear my trainers still, but if I were to buy some they would cost in the region of £120.

So far it looks like it really is cheaper to drive than ride. The Ford KA cost £1650 as did my own bike, and I’ve spent £440 more on clothing without counting boots.

Making it Legal

But what about insurance, tax and MOT, which both cars and bikes need to be legal on the road? The cost of petrol is also important.

My tax for the full year is £48, and for my old 125cc motorbike it was only £15 for the year. The most expensive bike tax is £66 for the year. For a car the tax can again differ, but even the cheapest petrol car costs £120 for the year.

I am lucky enough to be not only a woman, but keep my bike in a relatively safe area and also keep it garaged. My insurance at the moment is £50 for the full year, but in the first year of riding it was £75.

That’s with no claims made, and no points or accidents had. I put the same details into Direct Line’s insurance for the Ford KA, and I was told that insurance for a full year would be £895.

The cost of an MOT is usually around the same for both: mine costs £20 and a car could be done for the same. Sometimes you can even find places who will offer free MOT’s on cars if you’re a regular customer.

So the average cost of getting a bike on the road (excluding the cost of the bike itself), is £583, while the average cost of the car is £1015.

It's not always going to work out cheaper on a bike than a car, but at least it may disspell the idea that a car is always the best option financially.

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