The True Cost of Commuting

 It was a beautiful evening in my neighborhood, and I was enjoying one of my giant homebrews on a deck chair I had placed in the middle of the street, as part of a nearby block’s Annual Street Party.

I was talking to a couple I had just met, and the topic turned to the beauty of the neighborhood. “Wow, I didn’t even realize this area was here”, the guy said, “It’s beautiful and old and the trees are giant and all of the families hang out together outside as if it were still 1950!”. “Yeah”, said his wife, “We should really move here!”.

Then the discussion turned to the comparatively affordable housing, and the other benefits of living in my particular town.  By the end of it, these people were verbally working out the details of a potential move within just a few months.

Except their plan was absurd.

Because these two full-time professional workers currently happen to live and work in “Broomfield”, a city that is about 19 miles and 40 minutes of  high-traffic driving away from here. They brushed off the potential commute, saying “Oh, 40 minutes, that’s not too bad.”

Yes, actually it IS too bad!

But this misconception about what is a reasonable commute is probably the biggest thing that is keeping most people in the US and Canada poor.

Let’s take a typical day’s drive for this self-destructive couple. Adding 38 miles of round-trip driving at the IRS’s estimate of total driving cost of $0.51 per mile, there’s $19 per day of direct driving and car ownership costs. It is possible to drive for less, but these people happen to have fairly new cars, bought on credit, so they are wasting the full amount.

Next is the actual human time wasted. At 80 minutes per day, the self-imposed driving would be adding the equivalent of almost an entire work day to each work week – so they would now effectively be working 6 days per week.

After 10 years, multiplied across two cars since they have different work schedules, this decision would cost them about $125,000 in wealth (if they had for example chosen to put the $19/day into extra payments on their mortgage), and 1.3 working years worth of time, EACH, spent risking their lives daily behind the wheel*.

That’s EVERY ten years. And that’s with a commute that most Americans claim is “not too bad”.

You’ll note that most 30-year-old couples today, about 10 years into adulthood, don’t even have $125,000 in net worth. And they probably drive around quite a bit in expensive financed cars, mostly as part of a self-imposed commute. These facts are directly related!

The alternative I would have recommended to this couple, if they had asked my opinion, would be to make sure their house is within biking distance of both jobs, immediately sell both borrowed cars and replace them with a single ten-year-old manual transmission hatchback, and finally, let the good times roll. Setting aside $10k to keep the new car on the road, they will certainly enjoy their $115,000 of extra cash after ten short years, and if they combine this trick with a few of the other MMM classics, they’ll be able to move to historic old-town Longmont as EARLY RETIREES within ten years, instead of being broke wage slaves still commuting out of here every morning when the year 2021 rolls around.

Now, I will admit that it is possible to bring your cost per mile down somewhat. That’s one of my own specialties, which is why I still keep a car of my own around for affordable family roadtrips. If you buy the right car for $5,000, you might be able to squeeze 100,000 miles out of it with no major repairs. In this case the car depreciation is 5 cents per mile.

Gas, at $3.50 per 35 miles (assuming 35MPG), is 10 cents/mile
Tires, at $300 per 50,000 miles are 0.6 cents
Oil, at $25 per 5,000 miles is 0.5 cents
Miscellaneous things like wipers and occasional maintenance visits: $200 per 20,000 miles = 1 cent

So the ultimate cheap driving in a paid-off economy car still costs at least 17 cents per mile. Most people cannot drive this cheaply. And this is ignoring the cost of insurance since I’ll assume you’d have a car even if you didn’t commute to work. Most people aren’t willing to go completely car-free (although if you are, good for you!).

Besides the option of picking a home close to wherever your work happens to be, there may also be the option of picking a job that is close to your home in the town of your dreams. Get a new job! (There are apparently plenty of them here in my own city, many being worked by people who commute in from other places, even while an equal number of people commute OUT of my town to work somewhere else).

But despite the availability of both of these options, the idea of living close to work still seems to be completely alien to most people I’ve met. While I would personally consider it far more important than even the salary or the work performed, most people put commute distance below house price, perceived school quality, and neighborhood preference. With such a low threshold placed on commuting, most people don’t even put a reasonable effort into creating a nice local lifestyle for themselves. As you saw with the couple in my example above. They were willing to go from their existing negligible commute, to an Insane Asylum 80 minute round trip, just because they liked the scenic and neighborly vibe of my neighborhood.

“Schools” are often used as an excuse as well, but until you’ve reviewed every close-to-work school personally and interviewed the principal, you might be making quite a bad trade-off for your kids. What’s better – higher standardized test scores and more rich kids, or real-world diversity and an extra two hours to spend with Mom and Dad every day reading books? And how about an extra $300 grand or so towards the college fund, that you didn’t burn up in cars and gas during her school career?

To put things back on par, let’s whip up a couple of quick commuting equations. Let’s assume the average person’s marginal driving cost is halfway between the Ultra-Mustachian driver figure of 17 cents per mile, and Uncle Sam’s generous 51 cent allowance. So, 34 cents. Let’s also assume the value of a person’s time is $25 per hour, since this is close to a median wage for a suburban commuter. (If you don’t think you’d use your newfound leisure time that productively, you need to think more like an Early Retiree. I used mine for plenty of learning and domestic insourcing).

For each mile you drive across two times on your round trip to work daily, it multiplies to 500 miles per year, or a $170 annual fee
For each of these miles, you waste about 6 minutes in the round trip, adding to 25 hours per year ($625 of your time).

So each mile you live from work steals $795 per year from you in commuting costs.

$795 per year will pay the interest on $15,900 of house borrowed at a 5% interest rate.

In other words, a logical person should be willing to pay about $15,900 more for a house that is one mile closer to work, and $477,000 more for a house that is 30 miles closer to work. For a double-commuting couple, these numbers are $31,800 and $954,000.

Adapting the numbers for a $7.50 minimum wage earner, each mile of car commuting cuts $1.43 from your workday. If you drive 10 miles to go work a 5-hour shift at the Outback Steakhouse, your effective hourly wage is more like $5 per hour after subtracting car costs and adding drive time.

And these are all numbers for the United States, where cars and gasoline are much, much cheaper than they are in almost any other country. In Canada, you can add 30% to the gas prices and 50% to the car prices. In the UK, still more.

If these numbers sound ridiculous, it’s because they are. It is ridiculous to commute by car to work if you realize how expensive it is to drive, and if you value your time at anything close to what you get paid. I did these calculations long before getting my first job, and because of them I have never been willing to live anywhere that required me to drive myself to work**. It’s just too expensive, and there is always another option when choosing a job and a house if you make it a priority.

And making that easy choice is probably the biggest single boost that will get the average person from poverty to financial independence over a reasonable period of time. I would say that biking more and driving less was the trigger in my own life that started a chain reaction of savings and happy lifestyle changes that led my wife and I to retirement in our early 30s.

Now, all this doesn’t mean you have to set up a tent on your employer’s front lawn to avoid going broke. Public transit, although an afterthought in most of the US, is great if it’s available to you, because you get your brain and your hands back for the purpose of getting some of your day’s work done while enroute.

But if you can walk or bike to work, it will cost you virtually nothing. And it also doesn’t count as using up your personal time because it is adding something that nobody except Olympic athletes is doing enough of anyway – exercise. You can take your time spent riding your bike ride directly out of time you would have otherwise spent in the gym, or waiting in the doctor’s office for prescription medication.

So there’s my answer for this potential new set of neighbors. I’ll see you in ten years!

And now that the truth has at last been revealed about the foolishness of commuting, I’m looking forward to reading about the empty interstates and bicycle-filled streets tomorrow morning.


* Note that I wrote this whole rant without bringing up that whole pesky “destroying the entire Earth” issue, since that part is controversial in the United States.. so I figured it’s best just to focus on making you rich :-)

** For the Record, I grew up in the Great Lakes area, on the Canadian side about 1 hour Northwest of Buffalo, NY. Then I spent a few years in an area much colder – Ottawa, Canada, with a climate slightly worse than Minneapolis, MN. Biking year-round in these conditions was completely feasible (and even fun), and I’ll do a post on how to enjoy winter bike commuting later this fall!

*** Also for the record, my wife and I still bike year-round here in Colorado, including for grocery shopping and dropping our Kindergartener off at school – thanks to the magic of bike trailers. Do a search on your local Craigslist and change your biking life.

  • D'Arcy April 12, 2017, 10:01 pm

    What if you are taking the bus? Then it seems the price savings on your home is worth being further from work. As long as you use your time on the bus effectively, this can be a good option.

    Also I own an electric car. I paid 39.5k over 6 years with interest, which is 1.5%. And got 11k back in cash because of a government program. So i invested the 11k as it will likely return more than 1.5%. My electricity cost is around 2.5$ for ~90 miles. These numbers are Canadian. How would you calculate my per mile cost?

    You can now get 14k back with a 2017 Ford Focus. 37.5k in all over 6 years with 0% interest. Invest the 14k and pay less than 3 cents a mile in “gas”. At that point commuting starts being real cheap no?

  • Jaime April 14, 2017, 11:33 am

    I spent 9 long years commuting an hour plus each way to a “good” government job that I hated. I was gone 10 hours a day, so yes, I put in a free extra day a week for work. I lost my daughter at age 17 four years ago. I would give anything to have those 450+ full days of time on the road back with her. The BIGGEST cost of the commute is the lost time with your spouse and kids. Blessings <3

  • Jake May 13, 2017, 11:24 am

    Hi I have never commented on here before. I have just been a silent reader so far. But I was curious in your opinion on my current scenario. Right now I am 24 years old. I have been married for almost 2 years. And my wife and I are expecting our first baby at the end of August. I am currently in my local electrician unions 5 year apprenticeship program. Making a very decent wage that is a blessing. But the contractor I am currently working for is having me drive 50 miles to work. 100 mile round trip. I make this commute in a car that I own. So no payments on it. As an apprentice I don’t have much say in where I work. I have to do as I am told for the time being. That is until I complete school and get my license and become a journeyman and have more control of where I work. Shortening my commute is a little hard to change right now.

  • Rebekah June 1, 2017, 11:24 am

    Hi MMM,

    I want to thank you for this blog post because it literally changed our lives. I discovered your blog just after we bought a house in the suburbs, giving my husband a 45 min – 90 minute commute EACH WAY depending on traffic. After reading this post we started thinking seriously about moving. 2 years after purchasing that home, we sold and bought another house in the city, 3/4 mile from his office! This has been huge for us. My husband now walks the 15 minutes to work every day, trading his 2 hours in the car for 30 minutes of exercise each day. We see him a lot more and he is calmer and less stressed. Bonus: living in the city means we can also easily walk to the public library, multiple grocery stores, our city swimming pool, and a couple of parks. Thank you so much for empowering us to make this change that is so great for our health and our wallets!

  • Brittany June 29, 2017, 2:13 pm

    So here is my big question!
    We want to live closer to my husband’s job. It would put us closer to everything (grocery store, hiking, stuff for the kids, family, etc) but we aren’t in a position to buy. It is very expensive to live in the city vs our current suburb. I have a hard time with the idea of selling our house to be closer but having to rent!

    Thoughts on this are appreciated.

  • Afua October 26, 2017, 9:43 am

    great article. I totally agree that life is simpler and less stressful when you live closer to work. I take public transport and it takes about an hour and thirty minutes to get to work (when there’s light traffic) and two hours to get home in the evening. I leave home before six and get home around 8pm.

    its really stressful but for now considering all things, its better to commute to work than rent a place close to my house. I’m in my early twenties haven’t quite decided on where to settle and live rent free with a relative. I do not contribute anything to food or utilities and this goes a long way o helping me since ill be here for less than a year before my contract ends. all things considered, the cost of renting a place close to work, paying utilities and buying thing like bedsheets and cooking utensils and food outweigh the cost of just commuting and living rent free with free food at my relatives. sure I pay in more than just money, the lack of see and stress is getting to me but its something I can live with for eight months more.

    but I’ve vowed in my heart of hearts that for my next job, I will do my best to live as close to work as possible. no amount of money I pay for that can outweigh the peace of mind and relaxation id lose if with long commutes.

  • Jared February 20, 2018, 6:58 pm


    I have a slightly different case that I’ve been thinking about recently. I understand commuting is bad with a car, but what about with public transit? I’m currently living in China, and my rented apartment is about a 40 minute commute (by bus then transfer to subway and walk a bit) from my work. I usually use the time productively by either having some white space (time to stop and think and be with my girlfriend as we commute together) or reading a book or something else productive. Cost of public transit here is dirt cheap too, so each 40 minute trip costs me about 20 cents American.

    I would like to move closer to work so I can walk there (biking isn’t a safe option in my city) but my girlfriend and I looked and there was nothing even close to as nice as my apartment now without a huge increase in cost per month, and the area is much louder and more stressful.

    What do you all think? Is it worth the commute?

  • Catprog March 4, 2018, 11:51 pm

    And then you have people down here in Australia.

    They say young people are being greedy for wanting to live near their job.

  • amzooma March 19, 2018, 3:19 pm

    Good read, and true for most of America, however it’s far more complex in specific urban areas. For example, I love the idea of living close to work, however doing so would trigger a 7.5% NYC tax in addition to 1 months’ of rent for broker fee, and a monthly housing cost that’s double what we currently have for half the space…

  • Shane April 18, 2018, 4:32 pm

    This is interesting and topical, particularly in our hometown Auckland, New Zealand. In the last 15 years, Auckland has grown from a small city to a Metropolis. This in theory is great (although I dont like it), growth brings more people and more traffic. Also being a small country that grew very quickly, we have poor transport infrastructure. This means most households have 1 car for each adult.

    So not surprisingly, traffic is chaotic at the best of times. 15 years ago, a 1 hour journey was considered shocking. Today, the office kitchen talk considers 1 hour travel ‘not bad at all’. We are talking 1 hour for under 20 kms of travel, which is very very slow.

    So I shudder to think of what it might be like in another 10 years. Of course, the promise is that we will all be heli-ported by these futuristic personal drones. The only issue with that is, eventually we may be stuck in the sky waiting for the lights to turn green!

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2018, 10:49 am

      Haha.. interesting story, Shane!

      The solution to that type of city growth is the same as it has always been, which is the purpose of this article: don’t use cars for transportation. It’s a losing game, so just don’t play it. Pretend cars are simply NOT an option, then design your life accordingly. It might mean choosing a different job, apartment, city, or even country.

  • Stephanie April 22, 2018, 1:58 pm

    This is extremely old, but I just stumbled upon it and I’ll comment for anybody else in a similar position. I don’t have kids now so schools absolutely don’t factor into my housing decisions. But the value of good public schools extend beyond the higher paid teachers and nicer facilities. Wealthier schools offer more AP and IB classes, which are very significant to your teenagers’ college applications (or shaving years off their public school undergrad years). Some high schools in your city offer AP European History and some don’t. Some have orchestras and biology classes that can actually afford fetal pigs to dissect. Some don’t.

  • Dakota Reuland May 1, 2018, 11:13 pm

    I liked the whole idea at first – but I think I need to side with the new neighbors and their commute this time. I get what you are saying about the old car and less payments – but what about the cost of fixing the car? Do they become mechanics for a hobby to fix everything wrong instead of going to a shop with warranty? I feel there is more at stake than just the commute in the newer cars (which, by the way, are more fuel efficient, warrantied, and have several other advantages). I also do not like the idea that they need to move within biking distance of work. Though it may be good for their well-being, they are more than likely NOT going to find what they like, and are basing their decisions off of something they would otherwise never think about. Just my two cents though. Otherwise, I like what you say in the rest of the article.

  • Laurie May 14, 2018, 4:20 pm

    My husband and I both walk to work, and even better, we get to walk home for lunch together everyday. People say we’re lucky, but I find that a bit insulting. We planned for this. We worked hard for this. It wasn’t luck, it was thinking!
    Thank you, MMM, for being a voice of reason through the discord of consumerism.

  • Chris July 11, 2018, 11:13 am

    Yes! I just had an article rejected from another site for noting that taking the train into NYC from Long Island equals about 1,000 hours of lost family time EVERY YEAR. They said it was anti-New-York, and the site wants to tap into that market, specifically.

    My commute is over 10 miles for the first time in my life, but I telework 2 days a week and there’s a flexible office schedule, so I can get in at 6:00AM and avoid most traffic. But I still hate it. I would sooner move 5 states for a promotion than drive 1 hour for one. A NYC recruiter once offered me a position, and I let her know that if it paid less than $300,000 (what I’d need to keep a place for my family in NYC during the week while still keeping our regular home), not to even bother.

    Commuting is dangerous and expensive.

  • Seth July 26, 2018, 11:43 am

    Of all the things I talk to people about, Commuting and Heat Adaptation are the two people are most skeptical about. Yet, they’re two of the biggest factors in determining your financial and mental strength.

  • Politico August 10, 2018, 12:54 pm

    Solid advice in general, but for those of us that don’t work in IT / Engineering / etc., it can be little harder to change jobs and find decent low commute options. You ultimately just need to find the most efficient option possible and do the math. Sometimes you will find that commuting is not the worst option. I lived in DC for 6 years and, unfortunately, living downtown where the work is is flat out unsafe. A coworker of mine decided to rent a place close to our office one year. He got mugged twice… in one year. This is not something I’m putting my family through. And, yes, the schools are beyond sub-par too.

    For me, the best option was to move to a lower cost area that was about 15-20 miles away from downtown. The area I moved to was safe, had good schools, and was moderately priced overall. I could use the nature around me as my personal gym for free. I commuted by train and received a reimbursement from work for part of the train ticket cost. Most importantly, I was able to read and work during my commute, so i didn’t feel like the commute was a total waste of time. Schools, safety, and nature are a important factors and can easily add tens of thousands in non-direct dollar value to your living situation.

  • Grizzlybearmom October 5, 2018, 8:46 am

    I car-train-subway commute 33 miles each way into DC. It’s pretty sweet to sleep, Facebook or read on the train and arrive at work. I get a subsidy so it only costs me about $43 a month and I walk 3 miles of exercise daily. I work 9 9 hours days and get every other Friday off. Paired with my 4 hours daily commute, that’s 13 hours away from home a day. I just figured out that if I purchased a computer I could telecommute the other Fridays saving me 8 hours a month. How much would it cost me to purchase a computer lap or desk top, keyboard, modem, Microsoft word, excel, etc.? I fantasize about lounging on the couch and using my TV as my desk top.

  • Anthony Segreto April 15, 2019, 10:36 am

    I know this is a terribly old thread, but I think this article is great. Though, in thinking through the costs, it seems like the comparative repair and maintenance costs on a bicycle would offset most if not all of the real cost savings from a vehicle. Good tires on a commuter bicycle would cost around $40 each, and need to be replaced every 2000-3000 miles, assuming no flats. Replacement chain, every 2000 miles, $50. Inner tubes, replace every 2000 miles, $15. Not to mention any additional gear you might need. Those costs alone will net out to more than 17 cents per mile, no? Am I missing something here?

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 15, 2019, 11:34 am

      Great point Anthony – it is always good to consider the whole costs on both sides.

      First of all, even if the costs you mentioned were accurate, they only add up to 7 cents per mile, considerably less than a typical car’s 40+ cents. Then from my own experience bike tires are less than $20 each and last 8,000+ miles (so at least eight times cheaper than your example), chains last 4000+ miles and are $10 on Amazon, and so on.

      Then, there’s the physical and mental health benefits of riding which are arguably over $1.00 per mile, and the hidden pollution costs of car driving on everyone else. And the cost of roads on society. And deaths.

      In summary, there is just no comparison between the two activities. And it boils down to the basic physics: a car weighs as much as 20 humans, while a bike is only a fraction of a single person’s weight. The complexity and energy to move the two things sets the cost framework in which each operates.

      • Anthony Segreto April 17, 2019, 2:09 pm

        Thanks for the response Mr. Mustache! Great points, and I think that my expectations for bike gear are probably a bit higher than most, I am an avid road cyclist. I do actually run down my tires at around the 2500-3000 mile point. The tires I am thinking about are Gatorskin Hardshells. If you are getting 8000 miles per tire, jeez, that’s awesome! Don’t know how much of that is luck or different type of usage. Also my area is pretty rotten with poor roads.

        You have definitely caused me to think about things differently, and was pretty excited when I heard about this analysis through Set For Life. And I am 100% on board with the mental and physical health benefits.

        Really awesome content on here.

        • Will May 9, 2019, 10:12 pm

          For people who like training on more high end bikes, perhaps a second bike is justified, one that is still fun, but more multipurpose such as a gravel bike, or my personal favorite, a touring bike with heavier tires that allow higher pressures for road riding, but are also more resilient. I just retired a pair of tires after 5000 miles on rather rough roads, and still haven’t had to replace my chain on my latest bike. There is an added benefit to riding a heavier, less aerodynamic bike part of the time. The road bike will feel lighter by comparison.

  • Papa Foxtrot April 17, 2019, 3:49 pm

    I walk to school each day. I never want to worry about personal vehicles when it comes to work because it can (and frequently does) cost $300 a year to park in a city, even if it is supplied by your employer. I live in Philadelphia home of “Parking Wars.”

  • Cassandre May 9, 2019, 2:46 pm

    While this article is quite old, I do have some input. I live in the Toronto suburbs. While it’s all and well for drivers what you described, the same scenario most definitely does not apply to those who transit. My total commute is about 2-3 hours total in a day. I could never afford to live downtown (plus I wouldn’t even want to – so much pollution and it’s straight up just ugly imo). I commute for school though and this is indeed the closest school that offers my program (Chem Eng at Ryerson). During the summer, I also work downtown. While there may be physically closer locations, the train to Toronto is just as quick as driving to Mississauga during rush hour. And the train is significantly cheaper (still $200-300 a month, which I can no longer claim on my tax returns thanks to the lovely Trudeau). Toronto is also notorious for over the top housing costs, where you can easily pay $1000 a month for a small apartment with a cockroach infestation. Plus, my commute lets me take time to study or read that I otherwise wouldn’t do at home. My dad has been commuting for the past seven years and it’s been just fine for our quality family time. I also cut costs by walking to school from Union, which gives me an additional 40 min of exercise a day. I think people who drive to downtown are fools, but not all types of commuting are an insane asylum, as you described it. (Also fun fact Toronto has one of the worst commutes in the world according to a report that came out last fall… I think by CBC? Not certain tbh, its been a while, but still, would not want to live dt).

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 9, 2019, 3:10 pm

      Glad you aren’t driving Cassandre, but 40+ hours in public transit plus $200 per month would definitely justify a much higher rent payment to avoid it, unless you are really strapped for cash (and if so I fully understand).

      I find rents in Toronto are super cheap relative to the high purchase prices. Grab 2 roommates and rent a 3-bedroom apartment for under $900 each, and you are walking fit for life! Downtown Toronto near the lakeshore is gorgeous.

  • Catprog June 22, 2019, 9:33 pm

    I went and had a look at a property 5 minutes walking distance to work and found out the cost was $400k(for a block of land)

    2 hours of communicating a day and $75/week rent is the current place I am in.

    I am thinking I am staying here and commuting for a bit longer.

  • DocLLLong July 18, 2019, 9:34 pm

    I know that this is an old post, and most salient points have been reiterated and examined in the many comments…but still want to leave my two cents – everyone has their own priorities – and that is OK.

    For myself, living somewhere a significant distance from where I work has some significant bonuses! Although not necessarily financial ones. Our last (and final) move 8 years ago to ForeverHome doubled my commute time (from 20 to 40 minutes each way) and I regret not a minute of it.

    Living (and shopping) far from work means that I don’t run into endless clients/customers outside of working hours (social interactions that are often leveraged into “free consultations” which are a drain on my limited free time). I get to live in the “middle of nowhere” (literally) on 23 acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, where coming home every day is like stepping into a vacation! (Property and real estate taxes are also much cheaper where I live than where I work – but that was not a primary consideration).

    That 40 minutes commute each way – far from being a frustrating, futile waste of time – are my “thinking time”, where I mentally review what I have read and learned, meditate on the meaning of life, review my investment strategies and plan for my (early) retirement. Some of my colleagues use their commutes to listen to podcasts and keep up on professional education – I never even turn on the radio – this is my ME time. The commute home is my time to decompress from my day, reflect on what I have accomplished, and shed my professional self so that I am able to be present and relaxed when I get home.

    Now, it helps that my commute is “easy” 2.4 miles of county road at one end, 4 miles of suburban backroads (one stoplight) at the other, and the rest is interstate where I am commuting the opposite direction of everyone else (often at “off hours”). Sure beats living close to work crammed in with all the other suburbanites who expect you to mow your lawn, pick up after your dog, maintain your house to some neighborhood aesthetic , etc. – ridiculous, time/energy/money wasting endeavors!

    I admit that I don’t pay too much attention to the cost/mile – I drive a 17 year old Subaru that goes great in the snow and still gets 25 mpg – and my roommate does all the car repairs for free with U-Pull-It parts and deep internet discounts. Shopping online for the best deals means the mail carrier delivers most of our “shopping” and there are several Farmer’s Markets on my commute for local organic vegetables A few trips to the local meat packers each year to stock the deep-freeze…

    It helps that I could FIRE today and we would be fine – but I actually LIKE my job and a little more “safety margin” (in case I, you know, want to buy the neighbor’s 40 acres too, to keep the developers at bay!) Moving further out to my “Dream Property” actually feels like semi-retirement to me – I am no longer working for “someday” – “someday” is already here! (Also, the other 2 adults in my household don’t commute and we have no kids, so no one else has to suffer for my whims.)

    To each her own…

  • Menard Solve July 25, 2019, 10:04 pm

    My workplace is approximately 40 miles away from where I live. So each and every working day, my car’s mileage goes up by about 80 miles. I’ve been doing this commute since we purchased our home in 2004.

    To put this in perspective, the miles that I’ve accumulated over the past dozen of years would have been more than enough for me to reach the moon— I’m almost halfway back to earth!

    The average distance from Earth to the moon is 238,855 miles
    260 working days x 80 miles/workday * 15 years is 312,000 miles

    I compensate by driving a really fuel-efficient car; I drive a Prius C that can go 50+ miles per gallon.
    I make the most use of my long commuting time by listening to self-help podcasts.

    Things like this happen when you love where you live and equally love where you work.

    Things like this happen when you love where you live and equally love where you work.

  • Mak September 25, 2019, 4:07 pm

    I actually did this. Read the article and moved to within walking distance to work last weekend. Still have my car because living in Auckland (NZ), it’s almost necessary to have one but my weekly gas bill is going to be WAY less which is exciting. Plus I’ve got more time, which I’m going to use to slowly accumulate and build a home gym so I can stop paying Les Mills for a membership.

    Loving this blog! Thank you MrMoneyMustache!

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2019, 8:33 pm

      Awesome and congratulations Mak! And Auckland is a beautiful city for walking and biking too. Maybe you’ll find your car doesn’t get used much after all, and you will end up selling it next year.

  • dizzy December 31, 2019, 9:29 am

    I’ve always loathed having a car as an adult. Really felt a sense of dread about maybe moving to my boyfriend’s house in the burbs where I could bike/walk basically to nothing (there is possibility for a 1.5 hr commute to my job by bus…IF everything is running on time). I’ve only owned a car twice as an adult- once when I lived in LA, and ended up turning my van into a camper I lived in, and once when I had a temp job in the burbs, for which I bought a $450 car that broke down 8 months later (in the meantime between job, and another gig I picked up, paid for the car ~15 times over)
    Broke down my feelings recently to the bf about hesitancy to move to burbs and how important style of commuting was for me. I found this article after which only reinforces it. Will have to share it. I just posted on the forum to get feedback- most people are having a hard time to sympathize with me, but this shows not just emotional toll of commuting (driving in stressful traffic hour or two a day) but FINANCIAL costs. New to the site, really enjoying it.

  • AK47 January 21, 2020, 10:03 am

    Depreciation is the single most expensive factor in calculating the cost-per-mile figure – according to a 2014 survey by AAA, on average, it accounts for nearly half of all driving-related expenses.

    This is one of the reasons why I personally think buying new cars is kind of stupid from a financial standpoint, especially luxury cars. This is an extreme example, but I believe a brand-new lowest trim Mercedes S-Class costs over 90K, and you’d be lucky to get 60K when you sell it after driving it for a couple years. That 30K could get me 5 to 10 perfectly good, reliable used cars.

    My daily driver is a 2005 Toyota Avalon Limited. I got it for $2,400 cash because the car had a few minor cosmetic issues, so I am not worried at all about depreciation. I would estimate that my cost-per-mile is around $0.20. I don’t really speed, so I get just about 30 miles per gallon of regular unleaded, which is slightly worse than the figure you used in your “Mustachian” estimate. Everything else is pretty much consistent.

    I currently commute three days a week from home (will drop down to 2 days a week and then finally to 1 day a week as I knock out requirements for my major) to my state university where students are generally fairly-well off, and I am stunned by how many kids are lucky enough to be rolling around in brand new Corollas/Versas/Civics. If you can give your kid a 15-20K car that probably isn’t paid off, feel free, but honestly, I don’t get it. Also, a lot of those kids drive like jerks and are constantly on their phones, which could lead to some very expensive mishaps down the line…

  • Johnnypelo February 9, 2020, 12:50 pm

    MMM, years after reading this article I finally changed companies and cut my commute from 1hr each way to 10 minutes.
    The money saved on gas and chicago parking is over 500.00 per month. Seeing that 500 grow per month in a sub account is satisfying but it’s also alarming to know how much was squandered over the years. At least I can teach my kids not to make the same mistakes.
    Thanks for all that you do.

  • StevieDee February 21, 2020, 2:46 pm

    I’m really late to this party but I enjoyed reading the article and comments so much that I felt I had to contribute.

    I started bike commuting when I was a student at university in Belfast. My journey was just over 2 miles from a shared house in the university area to the agriculture department in the suburbs. At under 13 mins that was much faster/cheaper than the alternatives – walking or a bus. I’d even often cycle home for dinner and then return to work.

    After a year I got a job in the Medical Biology Centre nearer the campus and the city centre. The security guard didn’t mind me taking my bike inside and up to the 5th floor, though since the commute dropped to just under a mile I often walked.

    Next, in London, I at first commuted from rented accommodation to my research job by tube, but after switching to a nicer (& more expensive) shared apartment, I bought a better bike and used that for the 3-mile journey. It was lovely to explore the city by bicycle at weekends.

    Two years later and another job change meant moving to a town 60 miles outside London. A friend let me live rent free in a house she’d inherited in another town 13 miles away, but I found the commute a struggle and quite tiring. It got worse as winter approached and I had to make my homeward journey in the cold and dark. It isn’t fun to be blinded for a mile by oncoming car beams. I once got a double puncture when I rode into a pot hole I’d failed to spot in the pitch dark. I had to walk a mile to the next house along and ask if I could fix the tube in their kitchen (they were very kind and offered me a lift home in their car).

    That final straw made my mind up to live somewhere closer to work. I found a rented house share on the edge of town just 2 miles from the office and enjoyed a much shorter, street-lit commute. Soon after, aged 30, I at last learned to drive (a condition of the job), got my licence and bought a car. Around that time I moved to a London suburb where my new partner had a rent free apartment that came with the job. For a year I had no rent or utility bills but drove every day to work, a 90-mile round trip which quickly became really boring. I’m never doing that again.

    After a couple of years in the sticks I returned to London for a new job bang in the centre, and commuted by underground. But another couple of years after that I eventually bought a flat near Chelsea about 6 miles from the office and resurrected the bike. What a relief it was to have a reliable 30-35 minute commute that didn’t involve driving or public transport!

    Though I’ve since left London I still visit the office once a month. My folding bike (a Brompton, which cost a lot but paid for itself within a few months) is allowed on the train and I cycle the last 4 miles to the office, sometimes visiting and staying overnight with friends. It’s the best part of the working day.

    There are various online calculators that estimate how much you can save by cycling instead of driving. According to one I’ve saved at least £37,000 (USD 48,000) over the years.

  • Aaron July 13, 2020, 8:42 pm

    I’m struggling with this precise dilemma right now.

    I live in Austin, TX where real estate prices look similar to Tesla’s stock chart, COVID-19 be damned!

    I work downtown and have a 7yo, so school quality is important to us (we’re defining a 7-8 “GreatSchools” rating as good for us – YMMV). Luckily, there are certainly good school options nearby! You just need to be prepared to pay for them – here are some rough estimates of home price per square foot based on distance from work/downtown:

    – 2-4 miles from work: ~$500-600/sq ft
    – 4-8 miles: ~$350-500/sq ft
    – 11-13 miles: ~$150-225/sq ft

    These are just approximate and certainly not exhaustive, but it’s a decent ballpark.

    Of course, we seem to be trending toward — you guessed it! — option #3! (FWIW, we currently rent an apartment ~4 miles away from downtown. We’d love to buy in this area but aside from small condos the size of our apartment without a yard, it’s quite difficult to afford.)

    On one hand, we’d love to live closer to downtown – it’s a shorter commute and you get the added benefit of being near lots of fun stuff (nearby river access, etc.) and “Austin vibes.” But prepare to pay at least $600K+ for a low-end SFR.

    Living in that third band gives you access to either larger homes or similar homes (although with larger lots!) at a much lower price point (think less than $400K for a 2,000 sq ft 3/2 SFR, in some cases). We prefer the latter. This also comes with good schools and a more family-centric community feeling. The downside is it comes with a longer commute — in normal times, 12 miles in Austin is starting to look a lot closer to 12 miles in Los Angeles than it used to — and less of those cool vibes that makes Austin unique.

    I keep convincing myself that I will ride my bike to work at all costs! Heck, I might get myself an ebike (may explore used options first) just to make it easier on myself. But 12 miles in the humid summers might be enough to quell my current theoretical enthusiasm. Not to mention the route — which I haven’t fully tested myself, admittedly — looks to be on quite busy, heavily-trafficked roads with small bike lanes. Then again, ~11-13 miles isn’t quite as far as 20 miles…

    Throw in losing that “feeling” of being near downtown and it makes it quite a tough decision! Proximity, vibes, etc (downtown) or family community, affordable housing (~1/3 price per square foot), etc.

    Certainly not an easy decision but would love to hear others’ thoughts and experiences making similar decisions!

  • bilbo78 August 22, 2020, 2:35 am

    OH man…I am so happy to live and work at Kurfürstendamm (Berlin, Germany). My way to work is 800 m. And now, during the corona crisis, the way decreased to 90 cm (home office). But well, it took me 13 years to get my career to this point. Before, it was not so easy to live close to work (because my former employer was located in an ugly and boring ares).

  • Larry M August 25, 2020, 11:15 am

    I couldn’t agree more. In my younger days, I rode a bike about 2 miles to work. It was good exercise for me. My trips have ranged from walking across the street when I got an apartment in downtown Nashville for a temporary assignment to a two-hour commute for another project in NYC. I can say the short commute is definitely better, but the economics is only a part of the story. Wasting so much time on the road or public transportation is a soul damaging experience. These days, though, I’m not big on weaving through city traffic on a bicycle or hanging around bus stops. I value my time, freedom, and life too much for either one.

    Fortunately, one of the side effects of the current situation is that many are working from home, eliminating the commute entirely or at least restricting it to a few days. As someone involved in real estate I’ve seen this change the type of home poeple look for as well as the location. An open concept house is not the ideal place to try to get work done with screaming children just a few feet away. We will see how this all shakes out but I do believe the highways will be less crowded for the foreseeable future.


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