Analysis: Bus or Drive to Work

Well the car is back in my hands, but the repair costs have basically bankrupted my budget for the rest of the month. So I’m back on the bus, at least for the rest of the month. I’ve been wanting to do a cost analysis of getting to work via bus compared to going by car, so this is as good a time as any to do it.

I used to carpool with another person or two, but everyone in my area who worked with me has left the company, so I was forced to drive on my own. This is fine for a while, because sometime when I would leave on time the other guys I’d be driving with would be leaving much later, or if they were traveling I’d have to drive in on my own anyway, etc., plus if I had stuff to do in the evenings it was easier to get around.

However, fuel prices are notching their way up again (£1.08 per liter at the station down the road from my work, it was £1.03 at the same station not long before Christmas) and it cost me £60 to fill up my car yesterday at a station that had regular fuel at £1.05 per liter.

So here’s where the cost breakdown comes:

I drive about 160 miles per week on average to and from work, plus every other week I’m driving to my D&D gaming group. Driving to my girlfriend’s place is 180 miles round trip, and if I drive at normal motorway/highway speeds it takes half a tank. At reduced speeds of 55-60 mph I can get there and back in 1/3rd of a tank – and don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m not doing this, every single time!

So basically I can get about 400 miles per tank with combined motorway/street driving, so to drive every day costs about £60 per week.

I can catch the express bus by waking up half an hour earlier, walking less than 10 minutes and paying £18 a week. Then it’s another short walk from the centre of the next town to a friend’s house, where I catch a lift as he’s just setting off. After work, I can relax for half an hour while he’s finishing up, and then he drops me off at the bus stop, where I’m back home about 20 minutes later than I would be if I’d driven.

On Wednesdays my friend leaves work early, so I can either drive both ways on my own, or get a lift to work with him and take a total of 2 buses home, costing an additional £2.30 and about a 40 minute wait.

On the weeks I visit my girlfriend, I could take the train but it’s just as fast to drive and costs the same in petrol as it does for a train ticket, so that’s a wash unless you try to go totally car-free (which would reduce wear-and-tear, registration, inspection and insurance…but that’s a different topic, see below). So basically that’s about £20 in fuel, but average it out to £10-13 a week since we usually take turns visiting each other, and I tend to go up to hers more often.

So the total cost of bus travel to/from work is about £33 a week (£18 for the weekly ticket, £2.30 for the extra bus on Wednesdays and average of £10-13 for fuel to get to/from my girlfriend’s). Plus I get a bit of a walk every day.

If I couldn’t rely on my friend to give me a lift from the next town over, I’d have to get a local bus weekly ticket, which would be £14 per week, making the total cost about £45 per week, still a decent savings but I’d get home about an hour later than I do by driving, instead of just 20 minutes later with the friendly lift. At this point maybe the £15 a week extra cost is worth driving every day.

So there ya go – in money terms, I save nearly half by taking the bus, not too shabby.

Time-wise, I ‘lose’ about an hour a day, but I use that to listen to podcasts or read, so it’s not wasted time at all.

There’s less stress as well – I’m not driving (and I’m a shouty driver) so the only real stress is catching the bus, which is easy if you leave by a certain time. I leave the house by 7:15 to catch the morning bus at 7:33 (approximately) after a 7-minute walk – I could easily leave a few minutes later and be less cold, but I do NOT want to miss the bus, and they can arrive a few minutes early.

If you’re an ecowarrior, there’s a lot less carbon costs, etc., but I won’t get into that, everyone knows public transport is best in those terms.

Now as far as money goes, if I went totally car-free I’d save…at least £60 per month without insurance, registration and inspection costs, so maybe that’s something to consider more in the future. I guess if you add all that up it’s worth thinking if £2 per day (plus fuel) is worth having a car, especially in an area where public transport is that easy to get around. Sometimes it certainly is! but I suppose if the car is sitting on the street 5 days out of 7 it ought to be considered. In any other major city like Manchester, London, Leeds, etc., owning a car makes even less sense.

I think that about covers it!