How to Save Money » Frugal Living

Cost of Commuting – Driving versus Transit versus Cycling

Commuting can be a surprisingly expensive part of your monthly expenses, especially if there are multiple people going to multiple places. Cars, by far, are the most expensive way of commuting. Some people have no other choice than to take a car, most likely because they live too far from their work, or their transit options are too limited. If you can take the bus, however, you can drastically reduce your community costs. Are there even cheaper options, however? Let’s take a look at the next most popular way of getting to work – bicycling.

Car Commuting

Cars can be expensive. Monthly insurance costs can start at about $100 a month, per car, and go up from there. Then you have to refill it with gas, the cost of which does seem to just keep getting higher and higher. Our average gas bill, for example, is between $70 and $100. So right there you have costs that are around $200 a month per vehicle. The major benefit of car commuting, however, is that it takes the least amount of time.


Your transit costs depend largely on where you live. In Vancouver, for example, an average bus pass costs $110. In Toronto, it’s a little more, and in Calgary, it’s a little less. That, however, is the extent of your costs. You don’t have to pay for gas, and you don’t have to pay for insurance. The other nice thing about the transit pass is that it is a consistent price, and a monthly pass is eligible for a tax credit. The downside, however, is that you’re dependent on the bus schedule and it takes much longer than car commuting.


If you live within a reasonable distance of your workplace (<10km), definitely consider riding a bike to work. If you already own a bike, there’s no upfront cost. There’s also no monthly fee involved with cycling. If you don’t own a bike, then there can be a fairly large initial purchase. Commuting by bike can also take a long time, but in certain scenarios (my commute to my work, for example), it will actually take less time to hop on a bike and ride there than walk to the bus stop (early, so I don’t miss the bus), wait for the bus, ride the bus, and then walk another ~ 8 minutes to my workplace. You are also the most exposed to the elements, so cycling to work in the winter is far less of an option than going during the summer, but you also get exercise and will most likely be happier as a result of cycling to work.
So which is the cheapest? If you have a bike already, it’s probably cycling. If you don’t have a bike, then it depends on how often you will be able to use your bike. Even in the most ideal situations, you’re not going to be able to bike to and from work each and every day, especially if you haven’t already been doing it for years. If you want to start cycling to work, then consider the initial cost investment of the bike (starting at at least $400, going up exponentially from there) and determine how many months of transit you can get for that. In my case, as I don’t use the bus to and from work every day, I only spend about 40 dollars a month on transit passes. At $40 a month, I can transit to work for about a year before it would start to pay off buying a bike – and that’s assuming I bike to work 5 days a week for all those 10 months.


Right now my wife and I use a variety of commuting options. We have one vehicle, so sometimes we drive to work. We also have decent access to transit, so we often make use of the bus as well. Instead of a monthly pass which locks us into using it throughout the month, we buy a selection of tickets so that we can use them as and when needed. I also bought a bike recently, and because I live pretty close to my work, I may start commuting to work on my bicycle as well. I will, however, most likely get a ride home from either the bus or our vehicle so that I don’t have to bike home in the dark. It’s a mix of the cheapest options and the most convenient options. What’s your commuting combination?


  1. Glenn Cooke

    The problem with cycling to work is that you’re in the mix with me, who’s driving my Dodge Ram 1500 wth 5.7L Hemi engine to work that day. I’m not sure whether a 30lb bike and a 180lb man would provide enough of a bump in the road for me to notice as I drive over top :).

    I cycle a lot – but no way am I cycling on busy roads with traffic, particularly in an urban/metropolitan setting. There’s too many personalities on both sides – bikes doing stupid crap and motorists doing stupid crap. Unfortunately it’s never the cyclist that wins. I’ll stick to cycling the back country roads and watch the cows go by.

  2. Daisy @ Add Vodka

    I don’t cycle, because I live about an hour from work walking (15 minutes driving) and it’s on a hill. I also don’t own a bike but if I could cycle I’d buy one as a huge investment. I drive to work exclusively – my transportation costs are upward of $700/month!

  3. av

    AHEM… perhaps consider editing your piece whilst the sun is out and the mind is alert. Cases in point: “communiting” and “[living] too far from…home”. That aside, love the blog; keep up the great work folks!

    • Tom Drake

      Sorry about that av and thanks for the catch. Normally I give my attempt at editing writers, since a second set of eyes always helps, but I’ve been a bit frantic with our newborn keeping me busy. I think it’s fixed up now!

      • av

        In that case (and in any case), all is forgiven; congratulations! I’ll know the feeling myself in a few months.

  4. krantcents

    Although it would not work for me, doing any of your choices one day a week is a great way to reduce expenses.

  5. SavingfromScratch

    Transit all the way! It’s a pain waiting for the bus, but the cost of owning and operating a car is simply too much for me right now. I recently did a blog post on this very topic as well:

  6. mycanuckbuck

    Commuting can be crazy expensive. I take the train in and it’s about 300 a month. Driving and parking would be about the same (and a very high stress level!). All your ideas are good – the best is no commute at all (work at home!).

  7. Mike in TO

    I recently did the calculations to figure this out too.
    I live 10k from work and in the summer months I try to ride as often as my muscles will allow. And it is great, it’s like fun time as soon as I step out of the office. Most of the other time I drive. I get roughly 10litres/100k mileage = 20k/day @ $1.38/litre x 5 days = $13.80/week(I have a free parking spot at my work which is something you didn’t mention) Also to note, I use my car to do weekend/evening/trips etc. so I can’t just cancel my insurance. I asked my Ins Co how much less it would be if I didn’t drive to work at all. Pitence! hardly worth it at all. scumbags! So I’m using both my car and bicycling depending on the weather and how late I stayed out the night before.

  8. Theresa

    Cycle sales have over taken the sale of Cars in Italy as per a recent survey on CNN. It would have been a thing to smile about if people are doing it due to the fear of health or obesity concerns but actually people are perplexed with the rising gas prices that they have resorted to Cycling for transit and its soon going to be fact of the future too in many countries. Canada is also not averse to the rising gasoline prices and I have resorted to cycling for the last six months. A 40 min cycling one way has saved me enough on gas and may be has added some more years to my life and value to my health, and may be some savings for the future too 🙂

  9. Money Street Smart

    Great read- I live in Toronto and bike quite frequently. It definitely saves me $ on my commute, as I can justify the monthly TTC pass as I don’t use it enough to make it worthwhile. At $3 and increasing per ride, I am saving anywhere between $18-$30/week by cycling. Sure, if its rainy I’ll still hop on the subway or street car but most days I can get both ways via bike. Take the $25 or so from saving on transit, and stop buying coffees out and your pushing $60 a week in savings. Thats a nice amount of money that can be invested or used to pay off any lingering debts. Just a thought. Bike safely.

  10. James

    I would like to see a scooter/motorcycle thrown in the mix. I live 18km from work so thus option seems to be a good intermediate between owning a second car (too much $$) and busing (cheap but double the time). Also the true cost of a cost is a little unfair as I own a car regardless so the true cost of commuting is really only gas and the increased maintenance/depreciation.

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