How Much Does Your Commute Cost?
Lisa Steuer McArdle
Dec 16, 2021 · 4 min read
During the coronavirus pandemic, Americans who had the ability to work from home saved a lot of money by avoiding the commute. Drivers were even able to reduce their car insurance rates if they converted to a pay-per-mile insurance plan.
With offices reopening, and with an increase in car sales during the pandemic in some markets, the traditional rush hour commute will also return. As such, most households should start calculating their commuting expenses back into their budget. Here's what you need to know about commuting costs.
How much commuting costs Americans
The typical American will lose more than $10,000 annually by commuting, according to Lending Tree. This figure was calculated by including the opportunity cost and the actual cost. The actual cost includes things we'd expect, like gas, tolls, vehicle maintenance, etc.
But the opportunity cost is the money lost by commuting instead of working. If a worker could spend an extra hour on the clock instead of in traffic, that lost hour of work is included in Lending Tree's analysis.
Like most things in America, commuting costs are very region-specific. People in Fremont, CA are expected to lose the most at $15,065 per year. The city that will fare the best is Tulsa, OK, only losing $3,255 per year. It seems coastal cities will lose the most money, while interior cities won't suffer as much.
To calculate your cost to commute, the University of California has developed a helpful commuter cost calculator.
Six ways to reduce your commuting costs
Utilize public transportation. If this option is available to you, Public Transportation can save you on more than just gas. Taking the bus or tram a few times a week will also reduce maintenance and depreciation expenses. If you take public transportation enough, you can even get a low mileage discount on car insurance.
Ride a bike or scooter to work. In the past, riding a bike to work was often avoided because no one wants to show up to the office sweaty. With the advent of electric bicycles, you can get to the office sweat-free. Electric scooters are also an option worth considering.
Work some days remote. Granted, this will depend on your boss and your industry. But if you can negotiate a hybrid schedule where you have the right to work some days remotely, it can save on commuting costs.
Trade-in for an electric vehicle. It's almost a certainty that EVs will be the future of cars. Why not go ahead and trade for one now before gas cars lose most of their value? There are many budget EVs to choose from.
Reduce gas costs. This tip may require doing a little bit of homework, but it can be done. Look for credit cards that offer generous points for gas expenses. Fueling up at warehouse clubs like Costco are often cheaper. There are even apps that will find you the cheapest gas stations along your commute.
Find a remote job. If your boss won't let you work remote, find a new boss. This is a new demand by many workers across the US. 40% of employees said they would consider quitting if forced to return to the office, according to Lending Tree.
Challenges of commuting
Of course, not every American can avoid the commute. There will always be a need for trade professionals, teachers, and service workers. These industries do not have the benefit of remote work. For their sake, those who can stay off the road should try to find a way to do so.
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