The Killer Commute

How Much Does Your Commute Cost You?

Your commute can be the black hole into which your money – and time – gets sucked into. Very few people realize just how much they lose when they have a long commute. – Me

In 2017, the average American had a one-way commute time of 26.9 minutes according to the latest data released by the Census Bureau, up from 26.6 in 2016.

The new guy at work chose to add to the average.

He recently moved to the state for the job and purchased a house in an area that gives him a 40-minute commute. If you like to go by distance, it is 32 miles. EACH WAY!

He doesn’t realize it, but he just signed himself up for one HUGE yearly bill. A bill that is paid in small increments across different accounts and at mostly random times. This piecemeal and spread out cost is why he, and many other Americans, do not understand how much a commute costs.

Let’s break his commute down for a work year.

  • 64 miles per day, 5 days per week, for 48 weeks (we get 4 weeks off per year): 15,360 miles
  • 80 minutes per day, X5, X48: 320 hours
  • Using the government standard mileage rate of 54.5 cents/mile, his cost is: $8,371.20



While those 15,360 miles will depreciate his vehicle, that cost is included in the government’s standard mileage rate. What isn’t included is the environmental impact of his decision. While I realize that one more car on the road for longer won’t change things, it’s just adding to the problem. The more people that don’t think about their impact to the planet, the worse things get.

Small numbers add up quickly over time. If more people drove less, the combined reduction in emissions would be large. And this is just his commute, his personal driving and errands will further increase his yearly mileage.

This many miles is much more than all my yearly driving combined.




If you look at 320 hours in the confines of a normal 8-hour workday, it comes out to 8 WEEKS worth of jobbing. The sad thing is your commute time doesn’t count as work so all this time is put on top of what you have to spend on the job.

This means he will have less time to spend with his family, his hobbies, and his passions. Basically, he signed up for an additional 2 months of unpaid work per year.





$8,371.20 is not chump change. This amount of money invested for 20 years at a conservative 7% would grow to over $360,000.

Now it’s not practical to assume zero commuting costs as we all have to pay something to get to work. Even if you are able to telecommute, there are costs associated with doing that.

I will use my own commuting costs and the same formula but with my inputs, I come out with my personal numbers: 2,400 miles, 88 hours, and $1,308.

The monetary difference between our commutes is $7,063.2, or over $309K if invested at that same 7% rate for 20 years.




My new coworker is actually one position above me and so earns more — except he chose this long commute. When I calculate the difference in cost between his commute and mine, he only ends up earning about $1,000 more than me per year.

But you also have to consider taxes on his higher income. You see, saving money is 100% yours but if you earn more the tax man wants his cut. If he falls into the lowest 12% bracket, his last $1,000 income advantage evaporates. If he is in the 22% bracket, he ends up with less money than me even though he earns much more.

All because of this one poor decision.

While I focused on a car commute and listed some of the most direct negatives involved with this type of commute, there are some small benefits. Two of the most commonly mentioned are a chance to have a mental break before and after work as well as the option to listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

But let’s face it, those are two crappy benefits compared to having a few thousand dollars in your pocket and that same amount of time freely available to your use in any way you see fit.

When I hear someone say that “I just don’t know where my money goes,” I have to think that they are not calculating the incremental daily transactions.

Speaking of which, I found this little commute calculator if you want to quickly see what your commute costs you. They use a slightly different calculation than I do, but you get the idea.

Additional Info:

  • His spouse is currently looking for a job so her work commute wasn’t part of the decision.
  • The area he moved to is a cookie-cutter planned community and is nice because everything is new(ish), but there are closer places just like it with similar price points.


Skip to comment form

  1. Hustle Hawk

    Crying inside for your colleague. I think commuting time is just dead time unless one can use the time for personal development or relaxation. 15 minutes from where one needs to be is about right.


    1. MrDD

      I’ve had a 30-45 minute (sometimes longer) commute in the afternoon when I lived on Oahu. The morning was fine (I went to work really early), but the traffic later on was bumper to bumper on 5 lanes. Luckily, I only had that shift half the year AND I only had 15 days of work per month, and 4 of those were weekend days so “it wasn’t that bad.” Still, it was murder on my soul sitting there in my car inching forward.

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Oof, commutes are such a killer. In our area it’s common to see higher earners with 1 hour+ commutes. Which is insane. Actually, my dad has a two-hour commute each way, if you can believe that!

    We’re fortunate because I work remotely now. Hubs has a decent 15 minute commute, so we don’t have to spend much time in the car. We’re very lucky!

    I do wonder how people’s lives would be if we prioritized commute time more.

    1. MrDD

      TWO hours each way?! Is that 5 days per week or only occasionally?

  3. Dividend Diplomats

    Commutes are not the best. I share a similar sentiment. However, I chose to accept a job between 40-45 minutes each direction because of a raise and a better work/life balance. Sure, it really sucks giving up nearly 2 hours of my day and I haven’t particularly enjoyed the increase cost of fuel. However, I try to find ways to make this productive. I”ll get a lot of my phone calls to family and freidns done during this time. That way, I can focus on spending time with my wife, blogging, or even relaxing when I get home. When I don’t have any calls to make, I’ll listen to a podcast or a book on tape. Is it ideal. No. But it was better than the situation I was in before and I’m not married to the job or the commute. For the meantime, I’ll at least try to make it productive or relaxing for myself.

    Thanks for the great read. I enjoyed your analysis and take on the topic!

    Dividend Diplomats recently posted…Dividend Stock Analysis: The Coca-Cola CompanyMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      Hey Bert,

      Thanks for stopping by and shake loose of that commute as soon as something better comes along! 😀

  4. Reverse The Crush

    Happy new year, Justin! Hope you’re doing well man. I agree that the commute is a killer. You’re right about the cost too. That’s not chump change. That will add up over time. I actually enjoy a lot of the work that I do and having responsibility is healthy. But the commute is honestly one of the worst parts of jobbing. It’s expensive as you’ve shown here, and it’s time consuming. I’m lucky that I’m in one of the closest locations to work that I’ve been. It takes about 35 to 40 minutes each way so it’s not too bad. But I would still rather work from home. Thanks for the read!
    Reverse The Crush recently posted…Dividend Income Update for December 2018 | DIU # 19My Profile

    1. MrDD

      I am doing very well! But, don’t joke around too much, 35-40 minutes each way is actually pretty long. The average American has about a 27-minute commute and that number is only going up.

  5. the Budget Epicurean

    Accurate all around. I already wrote a post on my commuting mistake, I see it for what it is. I have looked into every alternative though, and there is nothing to be done. It is further than I am willing or able to bike, and along completely unsafe roads were I willing. A bus would require nearly 2 hours and 2 bus changes, I am NOT waking up that early. And moving would easily triple our mortgage and taxes, so getting closer to where I work would end up a big net negative overall.

    Fortunately/unfortunately I could not be happier with the work, coworkers, and work life balance. So here we are, with no change in sight, for at *least* 5 years, potentially my whole career. Supply and demand my friend, the more people want to work in a certain place, the more financial sense it will make to live slightly outside of that place, and the longer the commute average will be.
    the Budget Epicurean recently posted…Tracking My Trash Round TwoMy Profile

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