People don't like to commute. It's time consuming and can be frustrating.
But people don't seem to change the way they get to work despite the negative aspects of commuting. According to an analysis of Census data by Eno Transportation, the distribution of people using different modes of transportation (e.g., driving alone, carpooling, or walking) to work has remained steady since 2010. Each year, nearly 80% of Americans commute by driving to work alone. With an increasing population, there are more vehicles on the road, which increases traffic and, therefore, the time people spend commuting to work.
So, with the vast majority of American's driving to work, what's the real cost of commuting?
We were particularly interested in the personal costs related to the time and distance people commute, so we focused on the 80% of people who drive alone to work to best estimate the cost of commuting. We calculated the cost of commuting as the sum of the costs associated with fuel, vehicle maintenance, and time (i.e. the opportunity cost).
Here's how we defined fuel, maintenance, and time; for more details, see our
Fuel: The gas needed to commute
was calculatedas the average distance to work divided by the average miles per gallon (21.13 MPG). The cost was estimatedby then multiplying that by the average price per gallon ($2.60).
The cost of maintenance was calculatedas the average cost of maintenance per mile (8.94 cents) multiplied by the average number of miles to work.
Opportunity cost was quantifiedas the average hourly wage divided by the amount oftime spent commuting.
In this study, we'll analyze the monetary, health, and psychological costs of commuting that everyone should consider.
The opportunity cost of commuting is roughly $6,449 for the average American when you factor in fuel, maintenance, and time
The average American spends $1,249 (2% of their income) on fuel and maintenance to commute to and from work each year
Over the course of a year, the average commuter spends over 200 hours getting to and from work, and the opportunity cost of that lost time is roughly $5,200
Commuting costs Americans over $16 billion annually in time, fuel, and maintenance
Americans spend 489 million hours driving 14.5 billion miles to and from work each year
- The cost of commuting disproportionately affects low-income workers. People with lower incomes drive farther to work and spend more out of pocket.
Our analyses of U.S. Department of Transportation and County Health Rankings revealed that longer and farther commutes
were linkedto worse health outcomes Unscheduled absences from work can be relatedto the effects of commuting, and cost employers nearly $2,700 per worker each year
The True Cost of Commuting
Americans spend $16 billion annually commuting to and from work when we consider the costs of fuel, maintenance, and people's time. We break down those costs
Time Alone Costs Americans $12.9 Billion Per Year
Americans spend an average of 46 minutes commuting to and from work each day and nearly a third spend over an hour.
That translates to over 200 hours spent commuting annually (assuming an average of 260 working days per year). Those hours cause commuters to lose out on other opportunities,
In a year, someone could get an additional 30 minutes of sleep every day, become best friends with an acquaintance, learn 10 new skills, watch all 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe films plus 100 more 90-minute movies, or fly to the moon and back 23 times if they had those additional 200 hours.
Maintenance and Gas Cost Americans $3.1 Billion Per Year
The cost of commuting
As of last week, the national average for gas was about $2.60 per gallon. And, according to AAA, the typical cost of vehicle maintenance is 8.94
cents per mile. Considering driving to and from work accounts for a quarter of a vehicle's miles, commuting contributes a great deal to vehicle costs
On average, commuters travel nearly 23 miles each day getting to and from work, which costs about $2.00 in maintenance and $1.39 on gas. That calculates to 5,907 miles and $1,249 in maintenance and gasoline costs just to cover commuting.
According to our analyses, longer distances to work
On top of maintenance and fuel costs, the distance you drive to work can affect your vehicle insurance rates. State Farm reported that “people who use their car for business and long-distance commuting normally pay more than those who drive less.”
Long Commute Costs Aren't Just Monetary
Commutes don't just cost people money, they also negatively impact mental and physical health. People with longer commutes are less healthy, experience more stress and depression, take more days off work, and are less productive than those who have shorter commutes.
Long commutes contribute to increased stress because of the unpredictability of traffic and driving conditions, which bleeds into people's overall satisfaction with their jobs and leisure activities. A 20-minute increase in commute time, for instance, has the same impact on people's job satisfaction as a 19% pay cut!
Data from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps suggests that over 16% of Americans
Here's what we found:
And considering commute
Distance traveled to work are estimates from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The survey is “the only source of national data that allows one to analyze trends in personal and household travel. It includes non-commercial travel by all modes, including characteristics of the people traveling, their household, and their vehicles.”
Health information (i.e., the percentage of the population considered