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Car and Commuting Costs

March 15, 2014

Krystal got me thinking about cars and commuting.  The decision on whether we should have a car is not up for debate, so it is something I simply don’t think much about.  I was curious to see the numbers of how much it was costing us to get where we need to go.

Commuting Costs

I have a few options when it comes to commuting.

  • 1a)  Park at public transit ($2),  ride public transit there and back ($7.50 round trip).
  • 1b)  Take the bus instead of parking for $4 round trip (usually don’t)
  • 1c)  Walk 20-25 minutes to transit.   Sometimes I do this one way, but rarely.
  • 2)  T drops me off, or I park in a lot  2 blocks from public transit.  The round trip price is $8 from that stop, and parking is free.

I generally can work from home on Fridays, but office face time is important too.  Let’s estimate I go into work at least 2 Friday’s a month, and that each month is exactly 4 weeks.  That is 18 days of commuting and $144 dollars.  Not too bad, actually!  I have commuter benefits, and once I figure out how to access them, this money will be tax free.  That would probably drop me to $100 or so, since my tax rate is pretty high if you include state & federal.

T’s commute is has no non-car costs.  He usually bikes, but car usage for commuting is small enough that we can just lump it in with general car use.

Car Costs

We also share a car.   Including rough assumptions for initial cost, 10 year ownership, selling price, insurance, fuel, and parking, I estimate the costs at $460 a month.  Excluding initial cost and looking just at cash flow, it is just under $300 a month.  If we owned a home or lived somewhere with parking included, it drops nearly $100/month.  Then again, we might buy this pass anyway, since it is useful for T’s job.

This is a good reminder that we should stay a one car family for as long as possible or forever!  It is pretty common here, but in the Midwest where I grew up, nearly everyone has 1/car per an adult, sometimes more!

Adding It Up

All in all, T and I cash flow $400 a month on transit expenses, and $560 a month actual cost.  Per a person, this is $200/mo and $280/mo.

I don’t see any easy ways to reduce this.  Our jobs are far enough apart that one of us will have to pay for transit (or drive), and life without a car is not an option.  Moving closer to transit would save us limited money, but about 20 minutes a day of my time.  If we keep the car longer, the actual cost goes down.

How does that compare to you?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2014 11:31 am

    This is an area I really get screwed because as a consultant my project site changes each time I change a project, so even if I pick an apartment close to work, it’s never going to be close to work for long. Also, a lot of projects are in the middle of nowhere which means a very long commute time, or worse, NO public transit at all.

    Therefore, a car is a necessity. With insurance at $300/year, gas at $50/month, and parking usually free because I don’t drive it aside from going to work, I can expect to spend about $1000 in costs (not including washer fluid or anything I’d have to buy for the car to fix it, if ever)..

    • March 15, 2014 12:01 pm

      Totally true. My current project is long term (well, until December), but there are no promises where my next one will be. Luckily T’s job is stable in location, so we can have just 1 car.

  2. March 15, 2014 3:40 pm

    Husband and I have two cars, one a lot older than the other. I estimate our monthly out of pocket car costs to be about $150-200 including insurance. We’re lucky that husband does his IT consulting work mostly from home and that his company pays for when he does have to drive or fly to project sites. My office is abt 26 miles from our house but my company has a $75/month commuter benefit so I pay almost nothing for work commute. I drive less than 2 miles to the pick-up site using the old car and ride the company vanpool to work. I do travel once a month but company pays for all that too. Our situation is definitely ideal for now.

  3. March 15, 2014 8:27 pm

    Every so often I think that I should try taking transit to work. My office is about 9 miles away, in a different town, and my commute ranges from 10-12 minutes, to 45-55 minutes depending on the time of year and the time of day that i’m driving.

    There is a main bus loop within a couple of blocks of my house, and another main bus loop within a few blocks of the office – so in theory, I thought taking the bus would be straightforward.

    I looked it up a few months ago – and the shorted one way trip would be 2 hours – there is no direct bus service from here to there – I would need to go to a third bus loop downtown and wait for a connecting bus.

    So – regardless of the the cost – I will continue to drive to work and back. I have no intention of spending 4 hours a day commuting!

    • March 15, 2014 9:56 pm

      Yes! I lived in L.A. for a while and it was similar. I could take the bus, but it was waaaay inconvenient compared to driving.

  4. March 15, 2014 9:58 pm

    Oh gosh cars are so expensive! I couldn’t imagine having to drive to/from work – that would be so stressful because I hate driving.

    I commute by walking, which takes about half an hour, but I could probably bike in 10-15 minutes. I do sometimes take the bus, which takes about 20 minutes. I have a free bus pass through work though. My car costs about $170/month on average when you add up insurance, renewing the tabs, gas, parking meters and tolls, etc. About 70% of that is insurance though and I would love to get that cost down a bit more. If you add in the cost of my car over 10 years, my total car costs are around $350/month.

  5. March 16, 2014 1:35 pm

    I used to walk to work but we now live in a new place and walking would take twice as long (and ongoing roadworks make it unsafe/annoying for now).

    We are a one car family too and even those costs are a struggle.

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