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The High Cost of Commuting to Work

By Edited Jun 10, 2016 1 2

Understand all of the Related Costs

Commuting Time and Money

Each business day, many millions of commuters travel to and from a job work site located some distance from their homes. Many different forms of transportation are used to cover this distance. Some people walk, some take public transportation but many drive their cars. Many drivers are alone for all or part of their trip. This is a very costly travel method for a single person. But how much cost? We shall explore as many costs as we can to determine the total cost of commuting.

First their is the cost of commute time. If a person spends an hour per trip to and from work, they are devoting fully 20 days per year, or about 480 hours, sitting in their cars. This represents a significant lose of productivity for a person and for society when the huge number of commuters is examined. Each dozen commuters lose the equivalent of 1 man year of labor to the commuting process.

Next there is the cost of travel. WIth gasoline at about $3+ per gallon, the average motorist commuting 2 hours per day might be spending $10 per day on gas. In a year, perhaps $250 worth of gasoline is used. Vehicle maintenance requires even more funds. Parking is a regular expense for many commuters. Perhaps car insurance is higher. Vehicles used for daily commuting often wear out faster than vehicles that are used less frequently.

While there may seem to be no alternative to commuting, progressive employers and employees have explored many options. Many people work from home for part of their work week. Some people have alternate offices that are located closer to residences in order to reduce travel time. Some workers take positions that are contract based in order to reduce the need to travel to a particular office. Others find work closer to home while still others become self employed.

Every commuter should take some time to examine their options to determine whether long, costly, and potentially dangerous, commutes are absolutely necessary for them to maintain their current standard of living.

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Car Insurance Costs

Many auto insurance policies have different yearly premium rates for pleasure versus work use. Since pleasure use is usually less than work use, the premium for that category is lower. This reflects the risk. Typically, pleasure use of a car occurs during the less busy, non-commute times. There are fewer cars on the roads so there is less chance of having an accident.

As well, those who do not drive everyday to work, tend to use their cars less. They are not stuck in traffic for hours on end. It is a fact that pleasure use is less dangerous. Insurance companies recognize the risk and price their products accordingly.

It is interesting to note that people who work part-time jobs usually must still have work related auto insurance coverage. Pleasure use may allow a very limited number of work trips. If you work even 2 or 3 days a week, you likely must pay more. Check with the policy issuer to be sure. You can even shop around, of course, to find the best rates. Just be sure to be completely honest with your work commute information so you can get proper coverage.

What is Your Time Worth?

Some people commute long distances to work, taking a great deal of time to do so. Others drive a much shorter distance but they are stuck in traffic. If you have to go six miles in stop and go conditions, it will take a substantial amount of time. You then need to reverse the flow, of course.

Many people spend an hour a day driving to work then another hour going home. That is two hours a day, ten a week. Over a month, it adds up to perhaps forty, or more, hours. Notice that this is for normal days. Add in some unusual conditions and the time taken goes up.

Sadly, rain, accidents, construction, and other factors, all have the effect of slowing traffic. Slower traffic is less efficient. The time needed to get to work lengthens. In the course of a year, there could be a further 10% added to the overall travel time. This may be offset by reductions due to holidays, vacation days, sick time, etc.

Some people will make trade offs when they are considering new homes. They may trade their 60 minute work travel time for a little longer one. Perhaps they can move farther away and save some money on accommodation, at the cost of a longer drive. Typically, the extra distance will only add a marginal amount of time, say 30-40 minutes to the trip.

Consider the effect of the longer amount of time. 30 minutes a day, extra, becomes 60 a day, 2.5 hours a week, 10 a month. Also factor in the delay amount due to weather, etc. Now the longer trips cost an extra 11 hours of free time per month, 132 per year.

Where is the 132 hours per year going to come from? Your clock budget is fixed at 8 hours per day for work. Another 8 hours for sleep. 3 for driving to the job. You only have five left. Those have to be spent relaxing, enjoying yourself, or raising your children. It isn't a lot.

The time cost for long commuting is expensive indeed. You might want to seriously consider how important your non-work periods are for your sanity, health, and lifestyle.

Addressing the Costs

Where possible, you should limit the amount of time that you require for a drive to a job. You should try to live as close as possible to the work site. If it means spending more for your home, you may need to examine the possibility.

You should also check out the public transit choices in your area. This may add some travel minutes, but you can be more productive on a bus or a train. It gives you the opportunity to read, write, sleep, or do other activities rather than driving. It tends to be safer, too.

The car your have will also affect your costs. Larger vehicles that require a lot of fuel are bad choices for long drives to a job. Efficiency is important with the price of gas being what it is. Realize, too, that fuel costs rarely go down. If they do, it tends to be for temporary periods.

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Comments

Jul 17, 2014 8:41pm
dogman007
Some people I know commute two hours each way per day to work. Think about it. 4 hours per day x 5 days x 50 weeks (assuming they take two weeks vacation). That's 1,000 hours per year or almost 42 days per year in a car, sitting in traffic, burning up gas, and listening to stupid talk show radio. Companies should realize the toll this takes on employees and should encourage telecommuting.
Aug 21, 2014 3:18pm
javrsmith
Dogman007 - that's eye opening!
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