How much does your commute cost?

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.

The folks at Transportation Evolved, however, have mae 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 inverstment 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.

Cost of Commuting Calculator

According to this calculator, Kim spends about $1074.93 per year commuting. 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.

More about...Transportation

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Dave @ Married with Money
Dave @ Married with Money
2 years ago

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!

Tired Scientist
Tired Scientist
2 years ago

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… Read more »

Jason@WinningPersonalFinance
2 years ago

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.

Steveark
Steveark
2 years ago

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… Read more »

Mr. Fired & Free
Mr. Fired & Free
2 years ago

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… Read more »

BusyMom
BusyMom
2 years ago

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!

Karen Klinedinst
Karen Klinedinst
2 years ago

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.

Jeremy
Jeremy
2 years ago

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

James Flynn
James Flynn
2 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

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).… Read more »

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  James Flynn

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

Brandon Bollinger
Brandon Bollinger
2 years ago

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.

Lisa
Lisa
2 years ago

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… Read more »

SaharaRose
SaharaRose
2 years ago

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… Read more »

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
2 years ago

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… Read more »

JS
JS
2 years ago

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… Read more »

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