Walking is 3 times more expensive than driving, from a fuel perspective

Inspired by a Wikipedia article I came across on energy efficiency in transportation, I decided to compare the cost of the various transportation methods. In order to do this, I split the cost calculations into the following two groups:

Fueling walking costs 3 times more than fueling your car:

Surprisingly, from a pure energy perspective (using the methodology mentioned above), biking, walking, and running are the three most expensive types of transportation listed:


Now, the above chart uses the average American daily food expense of $7.00, paired with an average caloric intake of 2500 calories per day, for a $0.0028/calorie cost. Some of you may look at this $7.00 per day and say, “I can do better than that”; to this I say, how about a McDonald’s-only “complete/nutritious” diet running you $4.40 per day or $0.00176 per calorie (a ~37% reduction from the American mean).

Sadly, biking, walking, and running still check in as more expensive than driving.

Even on a McDonald’s-only diet it’s more expensive to fuel walking compared to driving:


I know, I know, McDonald’s isn’t that cheap. We can do better. How about only eating (drinking) an extremely calorically dense food to fuel our activities? Pure vegetable oil (aka pure fat) sound good? Cool. A gallon of vegetable oil will run you $5.76 and provide 30,720 calories, for a cost per calorie of $0.000194 (a 93% reduction in food expenses from the American average, and an 89% reduction from our McDonald’s scenario).

A vegetable oil only diet will make biking, walking, and running cheaper to fuel than driving:


Considering total cost of car ownership in calculations:

The above scenarios were simply comparing fuel costs between the transportation types, but there are, of course, a number of additional costs tacked on to owning a car. Using AAA’s average cost per mile of ownership of $0.34, and pairing it with our already-calculated fuel cost we arrive at a $0.40 per mile total car transportation cost.

Plugging in the total cost to own for the car, and comparing with biking, walking, and running, we can see it’s anywhere from 33-400% more expensive to drive, depending on activity type.


*note: I’m not layering any additional costs onto biking/walking/running so if you have a bike that costs more than some cars, or buy new shoes every week then these numbers will increase