Car vs. Bike Calculator

Created by Bogna Szyk
Reviewed by Jack Bowater and Adena Benn
Last updated: Oct 19, 2023


In hundreds of cities all around the globe, people are beginning to swap their cars for bikes to pedal their way through the urban jungle. And for a good reason! Once you leave your car in the garage and hop on two wheels, your life is guaranteed to improve. Biking keeps you in shape, doesn't emit air pollutants, and saves time and money. Also, you will no longer get frustrated when you are stuck in a traffic jam!

You've heard that all before, no doubt. But did you ever wonder what would be the effect of you swapping the car for a bike for, let's say, five years? How much longer would you live? How much CO₂ would you not emit? How much money would stay in your bank account?

This Car vs. Bike Calculator will answer all of these burning questions. You won't have to guess anymore; in just a few seconds, you can determine the effect cycling would have on your life - and convert the hours spent on a bike into trees or additional hours of life.

Have fun using the calculator, and remember: Don't drive. Bike! 🚴

💡 Make sure to check out our bike size calculator to determine the correct bicycle size for you if you don't have one yet.

How can I get the most out of this calculator?

We created this calculator for one specific reason: to show you the benefits of switching from a car to a bike for your daily commute. This is why you need to input information about your daily route and the car you usually drive. The information we need is:

  • The distance from your home to your work. Remember to measure the distance that is driven, including all detours. Input the distance in one direction - our calculator automatically adds the trip back home.

  • The number of trips per week. For most people, this number will be equal to five. If, however, you work six days a week, or if you can work from home once a week, feel free to adjust this value!

  • Congestion level. By default, the speed of a car during rush hour traffic our calculator uses is the average of the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard 2016, a report that analyzed the effects of traffic congestion in 1064 cities across the globe. If the traffic in your city is much better (or worse), be sure to select the proper level!

But my car is environmentally friendly!

The benefits of swapping your car for a bike are also dependent on your car. You need to specify the following features:

  • Engine type. Do you have a petrol or a diesel car? Diesel cars are usually more expensive and emit more NOₓ. On the other hand, they are more fuel efficient and produce fewer CO₂. Additionally, they make that purring sound that puts kids to sleep. That may not have anything to do with ecology, but it has saved millions of parents' lives so far!

  • Production year. The year your car was produced will affect the specific requirements regarding pollutant emissions that your car is subject to. Knowing these parameters, we can suggest an approximate level of your car's CO₂ and NOₓ emissions. But if you know the exact specifications, feel free to change the emission levels in the advanced mode.

  • Fuel economy (MPG). How many miles, on average, can you drive on one gallon of fuel? Remember that urban driving is less fuel-efficient than driving on a motorway. You can learn more about fuel economy by checking out our MPG calculator or our fuel mileage calculator.

How cycling helps you, and the planet

Now, we're getting to the most valuable part of this calculator - the benefits of biking! Naturally, we didn't mention intangible benefits, such as the pure joy of cycling. Still, we're proud to present a wide selection of bike-related improvements for your life and your environment.

  1. An increased life expectancy. According to a study "Dutch Cycling: Quantifying the Health and Related Economic Benefits", every minute you spend on bike results in an effective increase in your life expectancy of one minute. Let's not get ridiculous here - never getting off your bike won't mean you'll live forever, but gaining an additional year or two is worth the ride, isn't it? Use our biking life gain calculator to find out how much longer you could live if you regularly bike.

  2. A reduction in CO₂ emissions. That's right - if you don't use your car for a few years, you won't release several tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. Why is that beneficial for the planet? CO₂ is one of the most significant contributors to the greenhouse effect, which causes global warming. The amount of CO₂ emitted by your car depends on its engine type and production year (source: European Environment Agency Report 2015).

  3. A reduction in NOₓ emissions. Besides carbon dioxide, your car emits nitrogen oxides that react with water to form acid rain. These chemical compounds also contribute significantly to the formation of smog and forming ozone at the ground level. Ozone is very reactive and can damage your eyes and lungs. In general, cars with diesel engines produce more nitrogen oxides than the ones running on petrol (see the emission standards).

  4. Planted trees equivalent. This benefit is directly related to the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Every tree can absorb 48 pounds of CO₂ annually. Using our calculator, you can calculate your CO₂ emission reduction and determine the number of trees we would have to plant to have the same effect.

  5. Time saved. If you regularly get stuck in traffic jams, it might happen that riding a bike will actually be faster than driving! Also, consider all the frustration you'll avoid when leisurely cycling on a bike lane.

  6. Money saved. It's true that while cars run on money and make you fat, bikes run on fat and save you money! Our calculator takes into account all the money you don't spend on fuel, but you can also include additional car expenses, such as insurance or repairs.

It doesn't get easier, you just get faster

If you love our calculator, be sure to open the advanced mode for some extra options! This way, you can adjust the calculations to suit your situation and get even better results. The additional options include the following:

  • Average car speed. Instead of choosing a congestion level, you can enter your average speed while driving through the city.

  • Biking speed. The default value is set to 15 km/h - according to an analysis conducted in Lyon, this is the average speed of cyclists in the city. This value considers the effect of bike trips being shorter than car trips. If, however, you know your average speed on a bike, make sure to adjust this parameter. Read more about how to calculate bike speed by visiting our bike speed calculator.

  • CO₂ emissions and NOₓ emissions from your car. Change their values only if you know the exact emission level specified by the car manufacturer - if in doubt, stick to the suggested parameters.

  • Gas price. You can either use the default value or set the fuel price per gallon (or per liter) for your car.

  • Other car-related expenses. Set to zero by default, this value considers other annual car-related costs, such as insurance or car lease. This money can also stay in your pocket - for example, if you decide to give up driving altogether and sell your car. You can use our car lease calculator as a guide if you plan to lease a car or lease your car to others.

FAQ

How long of a bike ride is a 20 minute drive?

Assuming the average car speed is 30 km/h and biking speed is 15 km/h, a 20-minute car drive would take 40 minutes by bike. To calculate this, follow these steps:

  1. Calculate the distance a car covers in 20 mins using the formula:

    distance = speed × time

    distance = 30 km/h × 20 mins = 10 km

  2. Determine the time you need to travel 10 km on a bike:

    time = distance/speed

    time = 10 km/15 km/h = 40 mins

How long is a 10 minute drive on a bike?

Assuming the average car speed is 30 km/h and biking speed is 15 km/h, a 10-minute car drive would take 15 minutes by bike. To calculate this, follow these steps:

  1. Calculate the distance a car covers in 20 mins using the formula:

    distance = speed × time

    30 km/h × 10 mins = 5 km.

  2. Determine the time you need to travel 5 km on a bike:

    time = distance/speed

    time = 5 km/15 km/h = 15 mins.

Factoring in traffic congestion, it may even take less than 15 minutes.

How much money does biking save compared to driving?

Biking instead of driving in a car will help you save fuel costs, which depends on its fuel economy, distance to be traveled, and fuel price. A simple formula to calculate the money saved in fuel costs is:

fuel cost = fuel price ⋅ distance/fuel economy

You would also save on other car costs, such as insurance and maintenance.

Which is faster: a car or a bike?

A car is undoubtedly faster than a bicycle on open roads like highways. In urban areas with proper bike lanes, biking can be faster than driving, especially on high-traffic roads.

How do I determine my biking speed?

Here's a simple method to calculate your average biking speed:

  1. Set your odometer or your favorite map app to measure the distance you will ride.

  2. Bike from your starting point to your destination, maintaining a cadence you're normally comfortable with. Make sure you time your entire journey!

  3. Divide the distance by the time to get your average biking speed!

Bogna Szyk
Distance to workplace (one-way)
mi
I commute...
times / week
Congestion level
Rush hour (14.4 km/h)
My car
Engine type and prod. year
petrol 2006
Gas price
$/
US gal
Fuel economy
US mpg
I'm swapping my car for a bike!
Calculate the benefits over the next...
yrs
Benefits
Extra life expectancy
days
CO₂ emissions reduction
lb
NOₓ emissions reduction
lb
Planted trees equivalent
trees
Time saved
hrs
min
Money saved
$
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