Owning a car is deceptively expensive!
If you are like most people, you probably only really keep track of your insurance, fuel and car payment costs.
But what if I told you there is more to the equation?
What if I told you that reducing the amount you drive or getting rid of your car entirely could quite literally be the most important financial decision of your life. Now what if I told you that the real cost of commuting and owning that car could be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime!
Run your numbers in the calculator below to find out your own personal true cost of commuting! (make sure to double your results for households with 2 drivers!)
Real Cost Of Commuting Calculator
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Cost of Commuting 101
What is the current IRS cost per mile?
The IRS places the cost per mile for 2017 at 53.5 cents per mile.
This number is a calculated average that factors in the cost of gas, depreciation, repairs, maintenance, tires, etc. Here is a rough breakdown of how each factor contributes to the IRS’s cost per mile formula.
- Depreciation = 45%
- Gas = 30%
- Insurance = 12%
- License, Registration & Taxes = 7%
- Tires & Maintenance = 6%
For a more advanced breakdown, this AAA Exchange Article has done a great job of detailing each contributing factor.
What about public transportation?
I get it…
Waiting in the rain, snow or freezing temperatures for the next bus/train can get really old…really fast. But what if I told you that you could save a small fortune by ditching your car?
According to the American Public Transportation Association, taking advantage of public transportation could save you nearly $10,000 annually! Not only will you save money, but if you ditch your car you won’t have to stress about scheduled maintenance, repairs, insurance or any of the burdens that come along with owning your freedom mobile.
If you are like most Americans, giving up your car is a scary proposition. You lose the freedom to go anywhere, anytime and you have to pile onto a crowded city bus to get around town. I mean… how are you going to ever go grocery shopping without a car?!
You are absolutely right. It’s very much a trade-off.
I’m a big fan of making informed decisions, so I’ve opted to create this pro & con list to help you navigate the decision and decide if ditching your car is the right move for you.
- Save nearly $10,000 annually (per driver)
- No insurance
- No car payments or leases
- No repairs or maintenance
- No more traffic jams or parking headaches
- No more shoveling your car out in the winter
- Can get stuff done during your commute
- At the mercy of the bus schedule
- Have to wait out in the elements
- Grocery shopping will be more challenging
- No more rocking out in your car during your commute
But what about those of us who live outside the city limits?
While it is certainly more difficult to slash your commuting costs without public transportation available to you, Now may be a great time to consider moving closer to your work, changing careers or looking at ride share (carpool) programs in your area. According to this infographic by Lifehacker.com, every mile you move closer to work would allow you to buy a home worth $15,900 more than the one you currently own.
Do I have any other options?
Thanks to the recent surge in improved battery technology, electric transportation devices like the electric scooter, skateboards, hoverboards, Mini Bikes and even electric unicycles are all cost effective, fun ways to commute to work without working up a sweat.
If you only live a few miles from your job, you may also want to consider simply riding your bike to work. It’s a great way to get your daily dose of exercise and get your adrenaline and heart rate up which has been shown to improve awareness, job performance and mental acuity.
How can i improve my MPG?
Outside of purchasing a fancy new vehicle, here are some of the best ways to improve your miles per gallon.
1.) Properly inflate your tires
Probably the easiest thing to do on this list. Reguarly checking your tire pressure and making sure they are properly inflated can have one of the single biggest impacts on your mpg. Driving on under-inflated tires means more wear and tear on your tires, more friction and resistance for your car’s engine to muscle through and of course more gas used per mile. (Ever try riding with a deflated bike tire? Yea… it’s kind of like that )
2.) Get new spark plugs
Spark plugs get gunked up with fuel & carbon deposits over time and can cause your engine to run less efficiently. Fortunately spark plugs are relatively cheap and easy to replace. AllAboutAutomotive.com recommends checking them every 30,000 miles. Realistically, if you are going to go through all the trouble of removing, re-gapping and cleaning them…you might as well just replace them honestly. As a (very) general guideline, I personally would suggest replacing them every 80,000 miles.
3.) Clean / Replace your fuel injectors
Just like your spark plugs, fuel injector performance will degrade over time. TomDwyer.com recommends changing them every 3 years or 45,000 miles ( whichever comes first).
4.) Regularly change your oil and filters.
Hopefully you are already in the routine of changing your oil and oil filters every 5,000 – 8,000 miles. (For Synthetic Oil) But if you have been neglecting your car, now is the perfect time to take your freedom machine to the shop and catch up on all your scheduled maintenance. The oil is the lifeblood of your car. If you don’t regularly check / change it, you could unknowingly be running your car with little to no oil. This could end up costing you a small fortune to fix.
TLDR : Be smart. Do your scheduled maintenance.
5.) Reduce drag.
Things like bike racks, snow plows, trailers, ladder racks and all manners of roof racks can seriously kill your mpg.
6.) Change the way you drive
Having that lead foot could be costing you your hard earned cash. Bad driving habits like accelerating & braking in quick succession will burn through more fuel compared to a driver who keeps a steady pace.
7.) Compare petrol prices
Alright, so this one isn’t exactly going to help you improve your mpg, but it will help save you money none the less. Gas prices are constantly in flux, make sure to do a quick search for the cheapest places in your area to fuel up. Also, (believe it or not) gas prices are usually the lowest during the middle of the week and tend to spike on weekends.
CarBibles.com estimates that the above changes could save you 10-15% on your annual fuel costs. It may not sound like much, but remember that every little bit really does add up!
Are there any other ways to reduce my driving costs?
If you aren’t quite ready to ditch your freedom mobile, here are some other great ways to cut your driving costs.
Buy A Reliable Used Car
Buying a reliable used car can significantly reduce your cost of ownership and car related expenses. The biggest benefit of buying used is the ability to research the average reliability and maintenance costs associated with the model car you are interested in. I personally know several people who drive old Toyota Camry’s with 300,000+ miles on them!
While buying used is a great opportunity to save money on your daily commute, it can also be a huge pitfall for drivers who don’t do enough research before buying! If you are going to buy used, take the time to research the car or be prepared to be wrenching on it over the weekens or worse yet, taking it to the mechanic on a regular basis.
It has never been easier to join a carpool. Whether you are looking for a ride or interested in making some extra cash by being the driver and giving your neighbors a ride downtown with you, Carpooling is a great way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
Here are a few great resources to get you started:
Work From Home
If you can swing it, working from home is an amazing way to absolutely destroy your commuting costs. Not all employers will be receptive to the idea, but it never hurts to ask! Now that you know the real cost of commuting, you can start discussing the idea of telecommuting with your boss with a bit more leverage. Perhaps you would forego your raise this year to work from home 1 day a week, or maybe you commute a long way to work already. Many employers will be sympathetic with employees who commute 45+ minutes to work everyday and if you are able to effectively do your job from anywhere, will usually at least give it a try.
I know many programmers who enjoy the luxury of working from home 1-2 days PER WEEK. That is huge! Just 1 day per week translates to 20% less wear an tear on your care, 20% less $$$ on gas, parking and most importantly 20% less time sitting in traffic jams.
Change Your Shift Times
So maybe your boss isn’t too keen on you working from home. BUT he/she may be more open to you working x4 10 hour shifts per week (VS the usual x5 8 hour shifts). While it may be more difficult to couple this strategy with the carpooling strategy, you do get the added bonus of having a nice long 3 day weekend.
Change Your Schedule
So your boss shot down your idea of 10 hour work days and you can’t seem to find a carpool in your area…
If all else fails, you may be able to negotiate starting your shift a bit earlier / later to avoid rush hour traffic. By cutting down your time spent commuting by just 20 minutes per day, over the course of 1 year you will have saved approximately 87 hours of commuting time. It all adds up!
What’s the best type of car to buy for commuting?
According to Triple AAA, These are the average costs breakdowns associated with each major vehicle class.
|Small Sedan||Med. Sedan||Large Sedan||Small SUV||Medium SUV||Minivan||1/2 Ton Pickup||Electric Car|
|Cost Per Mile||14.01 cents||16.97 cents||19.58 cents||16.77 cents||20.03 cents||18.76 cents||22.21 cents||10.23 cents|
|License, Registration, Taxes||$454||$639||$757||$607||$831||$726||$984||-$656|
|Yearly Ownership Costs:
(At 15,000 Miles Annually)
The above chart does a pretty good job of illustrating the differences between the major vehicle categories. However it’s not a 1:1 copy of the original over at AAA Exchange, which delves into even more details. Make sure to check it out if you are in the market for a quality commuter car.
How viable is an electric car where I live?
There is no doubt that electric cars are the future of the consumer car market. But just how realistic is it to own an electric car in your city?
The following map from torquenews.com indicates how many electric car owners reside in each state.
While this map doesn’t correlate directly with infrastructure for EV’s, It is a very strong indicator on which states currently the best places to own an electric car. As demand and adoption rates improve, infrastructure will inevitably fall into place. But for the time being, many consumers in more rural areas will be limited to their own home charging station and their electric cars range to get around.
What is my impact on the environment per mile driven?
Fueleconomy.gov estimates that for every gallon of gas your car burns, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is introduced into the atmosphere. Considering that the average driver burns 392 gallons of gas per year, that means that each vehicle on the road contributes an estimated (392*20) 7,840 pounds of C02 into the air every year.
While switching to an electric car will cut your cars emissions to practically nothing, due to a much more complex manufacturing process, electric cars still leave a Carbon footprint.
The best thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to walk, bike, switch to an electric ride (IE – scooters, skateboards,etc) , carpool or consider public transportation.
Using This Calculator Correctly
While I’ve done my best to account for all variables, I thought I would try to clear the air here preemptively on how exactly our calculator works.
The basic formula we use to calculate annual returns over a set period of years is as follows:
- A1= Interest Rate
- A2 = Compounding Periods ( 1 year in this example )
- A3 = Deposit amount in each compounding period
- A4 = Initial Investment
It’s important to keep in mind that aggressive investors will likely make contributions more often than once per year and compounding periods will also likely be more than once per year. We have simplified the equation here, but if you are serious about saving money you may be happy to know that as a result of the way our formula is structured, our results are fairly conservative. If you are truly diligent in your investment strategy and manage to invest this money every month, you should see higher returns.
It should also be noted that most car owners (unless you are leasing) will not have a car payment forever. To get the most accurate results possible, make sure to consider your vehicles pay-off date & how many years you expect to be driving without a lease / vehicle payment. Then adjust your average monthly car payment accordingly.
If you have any questions, concerns or input on how I could make this calculator more useful, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
How Much is my commute really costing me?
Not all forms of transportation are created equally.
Checkout the infographic below to see how much your commute is costing you every month / year!
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