# How much is your cost of commuting?

While I’m not a rabid anti-car crusader, there’s no doubt I think the U.S. is too car-centric. I understand the historical reasons behind our vehicle dependence — we’re a young nation with sprawling cities spread far apart — but I also believe that if you, as an individual, make an effort to live in a walkable (or bike-able) neighborhood, you can save tons of cash while enhancing your lifestyle.

How much can you save? Well, that’s tough to quantify. There are a lot of variables that go into the calculation.

## Using a commute calculator

The folks at Transportation Evolved, however, have made an effort to crunch the numbers. They’ve created a cost of commuting calculator that takes into account a wide variety of factors — then allows you to further explore how this cost affects your true hourly wage and the opportunity cost of lost investment income.

Since my commute involves a 30-second walk down to my writing shed, this calculator doesn’t work for me. But Kim commutes 9.1 miles three times a week (or more) in her 1997 Honda Accord. I ran the numbers for her situation and they’re not terrible.

## Calculating commuting costs

According to this calculator, Kim spends about \$1074.93 per year commuting. And it’s not just the cost to drive, believe it or not, she spends more in lost time. This calculator estimates her commute removes \$1620 per year from her true hourly wage. (She would agree with this. She was just complaining last Thursday about how she hates the drive home, which takes 45 minutes. It’s only 18 minutes in the morning.)

And the opportunity cost? Assuming she invested in index funds for 20 years, the Transportation Evolved calculator estimates she’s missing out on \$154,352 at retirement.

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### There are 17 comments to "How much is your cost of commuting?".

1. Dave @ Married with Money says 19 December 2017 at 07:10

The cost of commuting is crazy. I just talked to my boss this week and got to work remotely on Fridays. Not only does that save 34 miles of driving every week (ugh) but it also gives me back a lot of extra time. I am writing about it in more detail for tomorrow’s post, but I’m super excited.

In addition to being a drain on money and time, I’ve found that my commute is a mental burden as well. I’m really looking forward to eliminating that burden at least one day a week to supercharge my weekends!

2. Tired Scientist says 19 December 2017 at 07:33

I live 2.5 miles from work, both my home and work are on the bike path. I can totally walk to work (I don’t like biking, so that probably wouldn’t happen). I’ve done so in the past, and it takes about 1 hour each way. I love walking to work. However, I have a kid in daycare (3 miles in the opposite direction from my house), which makes a car commute necessary for now. I’ve looked up what it would take to do the commute with public transit, including daycare dropoff, and I’d have to leave 2 hours earlier than I do with a car. Someday I hope to get away from the car, but it’s necessary for now.

3. Jason@WinningPersonalFinance says 19 December 2017 at 08:12

I spend \$254 a month on the train. That’s the cheap part. The expensive part is my time that I spend commuting to work. At least being on the train, I’m able to be somewhat productive these days.

4. Steveark says 19 December 2017 at 08:50

My commute is like yours on the days I work from home, climb the stairs to the loft where my office is. But about once every two weeks it is a 220 mile round trip to the state capital. However my clients cover that travel, hotel and food costs and I enjoy the diversion of visiting the city without having to live there. I don’t like city living, I like my 800 acres of wetland wilderness backyard better. The commute would be expensive if I had to pay it, but I don’t want to move especially for side gigs I’m just doing for entertainment. It is still cheaper for my clients than setting up an office in the city.

5. Mr. Fired & Free says 19 December 2017 at 09:10

Cool to see a calculator that works out the cost, thanks for posting.

My commute is walk downstairs, which can be quite costly to my health depending on how many of my kids toys I happen to trip on. Speaking of health, how about the health impacts of commuting? Having lived in Europe for a couple of years, it’s safe to say Europeans are generally in better shape than Americans. I’ve often thought this was due to their more frequent use of public transportation and/or walking/biking for their commutes. With that said, what type of healthcare cost benefits would we see if our 30-60 min drives were replaced by walking or biking?

6. BusyMom says 19 December 2017 at 09:31

A lot!
It is not just the financial cost – It costs me my sanity as well.
I work from home thrice a week now, but the two days that I go to office is really bad! 18 miles one way!

7. Karen Klinedinst says 19 December 2017 at 09:33

I feel extremely fortunate to live in a dense, walkable East Coast city. I have a 5-10 minute walk to work, and my husband has a 20-minute bike ride to work. I just applied for a new job on the other side of the city. If I get the job, I will be able to take a free shuttle to get there, rather than pay for public transportation.

8. Jeremy says 19 December 2017 at 18:35

The calculator is double counting – the \$0.56 per mile is an all in #, it should not be adding everything else to it.

• J.D. says 20 December 2017 at 06:25

• James Flynn says 20 December 2017 at 11:19

Hi – Creator of the calculator here.

That is a really good question and definitely cause enough to warrant a re-design.

The Logic behind this initially was that the current calculator doesn’t factor in gas prices, which makes up about 30% of the IRS’s cost per mile. I didn’t want to include several layers of additional dynamic user specific information (your cars mpg, gas price, etc). So I calculated several different scenarios and compared the 2 different models. The numbers were surprisingly close, so I stuck with the simplified version. (it is after all a rough estimate for education purposes). That said, you are absolutely right, I’ll update it appropriately. I think this was a bad decision i hindsight. My bad folks!

For anyone else that is curious, here is a rough breakdown of how the IRS calculates your mileage reimbursement.

45% – Depreciation
6% – Tires & Maintenance
7% – License, Registration & Taxes
12% – Insurance
30% – Fuel

• James says 20 December 2017 at 13:25

The calculator is now fixed. Sorry for any confusion.

I’ve removed the fields for registration and insurance as these are already accounted for in the IRS cost per mile calculation.

Car payments, Parking and Misc. costs are NOT accounted for in the IRS calculation, so they will remain.

Cheers,
James

9. Brandon Bollinger says 20 December 2017 at 14:16

I think the time lost is your hardest hit. Assuming you drive yourself, you are not at all productive during your commute unless you listen to audio books or something of that nature.
Had a 30-40 minute commute each way while working a summer job (college student) a couple years ago, the gas money and maintenance costs were one thing, the opportunity cost of wasting away 5-6 hours of your week was what really got under my skin.

10. Lisa says 22 December 2017 at 09:49

Holy shitballs (insert long suffering sigh). I have been wrestling with this for a while now. Until I ran this calculator I had no idea what the actual numbers were. My commute is 45 miles one way. I work 5 days a week. My cost per month is \$1100. I love my house and it is affordable and close to a lot of things that allow me to live a simpler life (bike to shows/summer events/restaurants). I like my job and love that I work for a company that makes life saving devices. I hate my commute. I practice a lot of deep breathing. Moving closer to work would be very expensive as it’s on the shoreline. I don’t want to be a slave to my mortgage. Public transportation to work would be 3 hours one-way and require a lot of transfers. I am conflicted about this on many levels.

• J.D. says 22 December 2017 at 10:30

Lisa, it sounds as if you’re wrestling with one of the fundamental dilemmas that many of us face: Location vs. transportation vs. job vs. life satisfaction. In some cases, as in yours, there’s no easy answer. It’s a matter of finding some sort of balance that works for you.

11. SaharaRose says 22 December 2017 at 15:31

A few years ago I was a regular on a money site and one of the regulars always harped on cars as the biggest expense behind housing. I had always figured since my car was paid off it was pretty cheap. Well, sure enough when you factor in gas, insurance, repairs – even a paid off car was about 12% of my total annual spending.

Right now I commute 27 miles one way, and I’d like to find a job closer to home or a work from home type of arrangement. I’m not 100% sure how likely that is. I’m also closing in on 125,000 miles so for me it’s time to starting thinking about what I want for my next car – this was my “I’m going through a divorce mid-life crisis” car with heated seats, blue tooth, etc – and although it does ok (30 MPG) next time I’m definitely picking something with better mileage.

12. Jonathan Green says 28 December 2017 at 12:08

Years ago, I lived in Los Angeles County. My commute for about 6 months was 95 miles each way due to living in the northern portion of the county, my work being in the western tip of the county. Gas at the time (2002) topped \$1.88. The drive time on average depending on when my work schedule was 75 minutes to 2.5 hours, save any accidents. When we figured my compensation at the time, I was spending a good chunk of my paycheck for a job I did not particularly enjoy. My wife and I made a few adjustment, cutting the commute in half. I found a carpool partner to share the cost. All of this helped though still cost a significant amount. I left the job in late 2003, moved to TX and cut my commute to 20 miles each way. Gas dropped from around \$2/gallon in CA to 1.19/gallon in the DFW area, saving significant money. From 2003 to 2008, my wife and I began working a plan to move my work to home and reduce or eliminate my commute. By late 2008, I was contracting my work in a slightly different field and began working from home. For the past 9 years, I have worked from home about 85% of the time with some travel and the occasional 1 day per week commute. Drive time is way down from 2002 as is the wear and tear on cars. In the 1990s my wife and I were both driving over 50K miles per year per car due to nature of our jobs and our contract businesses.

A tip from the road, use the time productively when commuting. Listen to an audiobook if driving or a podcast. Have a seemingly intelligent conversation that advances your knowledge and thinking skills. This is not to say to have the light-hearted fun conversations as well. If ridesharing or using public transport, read, write, listen to materials that will assist you in your current profession, your personal development, or your knowledge base. You may not see this in dollars immediately, though it can open incredible opportunities.

13. JS says 29 December 2017 at 06:29

I agree the cost of commuting is high. I wish mine were lower…that is truly an eye-popping amount if you run all the numbers (although using both the 56-cent IRS figure and the car payment amount I think does overlap somewhat depending on the situation).

However, there are a few mitigating factors for me.

First of all, I am a “car guy.” I have a late-model Mustang GT with a manual transmission, and even though I drive mostly on the Interstate, I live in a beautiful area, and generally enjoy the time I spend behind the wheel unless it’s pouring down rain or snowing. Once or twice a week, I even take a longer way home so I can row up and down through the gears over some two-lane mountain/wooded roads. It’s an experience that some people don’t understand, which is fine. For me, I don’t see my car as just an appliance or a means to get from point to point. If I am going to spend any kind of time behind the wheel, it should be an experience. Life is too short to drive a boring car, IMO ðŸ™‚

Secondly, I value having a 25-minute “buffer” between home and work. It helps me keep the two worlds separate, particularly in the evening, when I have nearly half an hour to let any stress of the work day soften a bit so I can be more present for my wife and kids. In the morning I listen to a Christian radio program to get into the right frame of mind; that helps too.

Thirdly, I live out farther from the city so our housing and other costs are lower.

All in all it’s a great idea to run the costs but us “car guys” (and girls) may not mind so much!