The True Cost Of Car Commuting To Work (Hint: It’s A Lot More Than You Think)

Do you drive to work? You might hate the commute, but did you know it can cost you over a million dollars over a thirty year career? Read on as we break down the hidden costs of your daily commute.

the true cost of car commuting to work

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Each extra mile you add to your drive to and from work can cost you thousands of dollars over a thirty year career. What are the true costs of your drive to work when you add up all those hidden expenses? Based on number crunching by Mr. Money Mustache, each mile in your commute costs $795 per year. But that cost goes up drastically when you factor in lost opportunity.

Taking alternative modes of transport doesn’t have to take more time either. Public transport might take longer than driving, but you can read, rest, or check email. Biking is also a chance to exercise. Rethinking your commute can open you up to a whole new world of possibilities.

3 Comments

  1. Buzzy

    March 6, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    I don’t think it is fair to account for ‘lost wages’ when commuting by car. If I have an 8 hour work day and it takes me 30 minutes to commute each way, I don’t work for 7 hours and then moan about my lost hour of wages on my way to and from work. I work for 8 hours and moan about having one fewer hour of time at home each day to clean my toilets or the cat’s litter box.

    Perhaps assigning a monetary value for your free time could be more relevant, but again, no one is compensating you for the time you spend at home are they? Even without considering the ‘lost wages’ from commuting, $170 per year per mile still adds up to $2,040 in potential savings each year. This constitutes approximately 3.3% of the average US employee’s take-home salary, which in my opinion is a worthwhile endeavor. From the charts listed in this article, that money invested yearly for 30 years would add up to more than $250,000, which few would consider to be chump change.

    • Nate

      March 9, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      You’re right that most of us can’t literally tack on an extra hour to our jobs if we found a way to skip our commute.

      But I would argue that its fair to factor in opportunity cost (maybe that would have been a better way to label “Lost Wages”) and leaving opportunity cost out of the equation significantly undervalues the value of our own time.

      Whether we’re working or not – our time is worth money. Unless you’re a rare kind of person who just happens to get intrinsic bliss out of sitting in traffic, a commute is essentially trading time for dollars. Maybe its the dollar value of having a bigger house in the suburbs, or the dollar value of a hiring paying job, or something else.

      I think of it this way: when you clean your toilets instead of hiring someone to do it for $20 an hour – you’re essentially saying that particular block of your time is worth $20 an hour or less – if it were worth more, then it would make economic sense to hire someone else to do it. There’s an opportunity cost to everything we do. What would you pay to have an extra hour of time at home each day? Whatever number you pick, that is essentially your opportunity cost of commuting.

      Also, for those who are so inclined, an extra hour of time each day could also be used to increase income through side hustling, freelancing, investing in education/skills that could increase the value of your time in the future etc.

  2. D G Spencer Ludgate

    March 10, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Thank you for confirming to me that using my car to commute to work is the less expensive alternative. Yes, you read that right, less expensive alternative.

    My round-trip commute from the Hollywood Hills to Beverly Hills is 10 miles. It takes one hour a day to complete. At $0.34 per mile, 22 days a month comes to $74.80.

    If I use mass transit, I would have to take two buses to complete my commute. That would cost me $7.00 per day or $150.00 per month for a bus pass. Oh, my commute time extends to 90 minutes a day.

    So by using your data, in a month I save $75.20 in commuting expenses and $275.00 ($12.50 * 22 days) in opportunity cost wages. That means by driving my car I save $349.80 over using transit!

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