How Much Does Your Car Commute Actually Cost?

Anastasia Ivanov is a freelance writer and designer for InvestmentZen. Today she's sharing an article and graphic on the topic of commuting.

Choosing the right car is a tough decision many adults face. Great looking cars cost a fortune. Budget cars do not perform as well as expected. Energy-efficient cars, as we learned from the recent Volkswagen scandal, can still hurt the environment.

Unless you live in a major metropolis though, when the argument to ditch the car completely comes up, it gets quickly dismissed by most as extreme or too inconvenient. How do people expect you to get to work on time, or take your kids to school or move around with your beloved dog? Quite frankly, the most important deciding factors have to do with the cost – financial and otherwise.

The infographic below shows that the true cost of car commuting not only goes beyond what we spend to maintain a car each year, but what we could have done with that money to ensure a better future.

When considering costs, we often forget the medium to long-term repercussions and the power of compounding. It will probably come as a surprise to you when you see that if they invested the money spent on long commutes, many car owners would retire as millionaires. But don’t just take our word for it, review the statistics for yourself.

The True Cost Of Car Commuting To Work

The average commute costs $0.34 per mile, which includes depreciation, gas, oil, maintenance and tires. If you commute for 250 days a year, that amounts to $170 spent annually for every mile of your commute.

But as it turns out, the amount spent on running your car doesn’t come close to other car-related expenditures or lost opportunities. For example, the average car commute costs $25/hr in lost wages. For a mile-long trip covered in 6 minutes, that amounts to $625 in lost wages annually.

The total so far comes to $795 per year per mile. So, if you live 11 miles from work, the cost goes up to $8745 per year. Over a 30-year career, the one-mile traveller and the eleven-mile commuter will spend $23,850 and $262,350 respectively.

This alone could go a long way if spent on something else, like retirement investments. If you invested in an index fund paying 8% compounded return for 30 years, you then end up with $98,736 (per mile) and $1,086,099 (11 miles).

This shows that the true cost of your commute comes to roughly $100,000 per mile.

For the sake of municipal and personal budgets alike, it's time to build our cities on a more people-oriented scale and end long commutes.

Related stories

About the author

Anastasia Ivanov is a freelance writer and graphic designer for InvestmentZen with a penchant for flipping houses. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and playing with her two cats Leena and Masha.