Long commutes seem to be deeply ingrained into the American culture. Commuting is a uniquely American phenomenon that emerged as a result of the suburban sprawl following World War II. Road warriors have been willing to put up with the brutal traffic in order to live where they want to live. Unfortunately not many have taken the time to deeply analyze the true cost of that commute. If you are currently stuck with a long commute, my goal in this blog post is to provide you with some resources and tools to help you understand the true cost of your commute.
A simple calculation to start with is purely the cost of gas. Here is a link to a simple calculator that will help you determine your daily, monthly, and yearly fuel costs from your commute. As an example, if you have a 20 mile one-way commute, in a car that gets 20 mpg, with an average gas price at $3.00, it would cost over $2,200 per year in gas alone.
Of course, the true cost of commuting is far greater than the cost of fuel. As of January, 2015, the IRS allows you to deduct your business driving at 57.5 cents per mile, and don’t think the IRS is being generous. 57.5 cents is based on very realistic costs of owning and maintaining a vehicle. You can lower the average cost by driving a smaller and more reliable car, but the true cost is always much higher than just the price of fuel. In the example above, if you have a 40 mile round-trip commute, you would commute approximately 10,560 miles per year, costing you $6,072 based on the IRS rate of 57.5 center per mile. Think about how that adds up over a ten year period and over an entire career.
I would encourage you to take a look at the infographic that was posted on LifeHacker in 2011. Even though the numbers are a little outdated, it still includes some very valuable insight into the true cost of commuting. In the article it cites Mr. Money Mustache who says that each mile you live from work costs $795 in commuting expenses per year (assuming a conservative driving cost of 34 cents per mile and factoring time lost with a salary of $25 per hour). He states that you could literally buy a house worth $15,900 more for every mile closer to the office. Just think of the house you could buy if you didn’t commute at all!
Here are some additional resources for your reference.
1. Here is a link to a calculator that includes the cost of maintenance, insurance, financing and depreciation.
2. Here is the link to Mr. Money Mustache’s 2011 article about the cost of commuting.