How much does my commute cost me?

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cbr shadow
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How much does my commute cost me?

Post by cbr shadow » Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:15 pm

I work for a large tech company that has a shuttle service that I don't use. I'm wondering how much realistically I'm losing by not taking advantage of that free benefit.

Relevant Information
Currently: I purchased my 2012 Prius for $9,000 with 77k miles on it. I use this daily to/from work. My commute is 24 miles each direction, or 48 miles total. This takes 50 minutes on average in each direction with average traffic. I average 52 mpg, so I burn roughly (1) gallon of gas daily.

Shuttle Option: A shuttle could pick me up 1.5 miles from my home. This would require a short bike ride (bike can be loaded onto the shuttle).


I decided to drive to work rather than take the free shuttle because I like the flexibility of driving (leaving the house when I want to, within a 60 minute range). I've also just gotten used to it and haven't thought about it much.

I realize there are definitely OTHER COSTS to driving to work besides gasoline. Depreciation, consumables like tires and oil changes, maintenance etc. What's a good way to calculate these costs over a long period of time? I've been driving to work for just over a year, only taking the shuttle 2-3 times.

Should I switch? Almost certainly the answer is yes.. but what am I currently spending by not taking this benefit?

Thanks,
CBR

mega317
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by mega317 » Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:40 pm

You can look up "true cost to own" which can give you some ideas, but some costs are not saved by taking the shuttle. Things like depreciation, insurance, and taxes will be the same or similar. To me it isn't obviously better to use the shuttle. The flexibility and time saved getting to and from the shuttle might be worth it to you, at least some of the time. I would probably use it at least some days because an hour meditating instead of driving followed by a 1.5 mile bike ride sounds like a great way to end the day. But I prefer to get home to my family as quickly as possible most days.

livesoft
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by livesoft » Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:42 pm

Have you thought about the 100 minutes of your daily life that could be used for web browsing, paying bills, reading, texting, bogleheading, ..., that you lose by driving?

Also the 1.5 miles is so close that you could probably walk most of the time. While I'm a cyclist, walking has its benefits, too. One can collect their thoughts, but I suppose you would do that on the bus ride. OK, walking would cost you 30 minutes unless you walked fast.
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Masterblaster
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by Masterblaster » Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:43 pm

Besides gasoline, you have wear and tear on the car. So if you pay $20k for your car and sell it X years later with 100k miles for $5k your depreciation cost is 15 cents a miles. If you have to do repairs and upkeep (tires, water pumps etc.) maybe add another few cents per mile. Add in whatever extra insurance you'll pay too.

48 miles @ ~25 cents/mile ==> ~ $12 a day

So ask yourself... Is it worth it to me to spend ~$12 a day to have your little car bubble around you. getting to and from the shuttle is somewhat of a pain too. You'll spend more time getting to and from work. And sometimes you have to sit next to some weird-o on the shuttle.

Is that worth $12 a day to you.

When I lived in the bay area I took a bus or the BART train into San Francisco every day. I didn't enjoy the commute at all. Driving however was expensive as parking was outrageous there.

SeaToTheBay
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by SeaToTheBay » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:13 pm

We have this same debate in the Bay Area with my wife's work offering a shuttle. Shorter commute (30mi round trip) but a more expensive, less-efficient car (2013 Mercedes C350). People have the right idea here with the misc. costs - estimate the cost of consumables like oil, tires, brakes, etc. and amortize over the life of those parts. And of course depreciation, although on a used Prius that difference will be pretty small.

Here are some less tangible things to consider:
-Do you get carsick, esp. when reading? This is one reason my wife only takes the shuttle about once a week - she gets carsick, and it's worse if she tries to get anything done on her computer or phone.

-Does driving in traffic stress you out? This is the main reason my wife DOES take the shuttle periodically. Stop-and-go for close to an hour (or more) each way can be grating.

-If your commute does exceed a few MPH, consider the safety benefit of the shuttle. You're less likely to get hurt in an accident in a huge shuttle bus than in your car, and buses are easier for other drivers to see in the first place.

I would suggest trying it for a week and seeing how you like it vs. the cost savings. Since you like the flexibility of driving, you can always do a mix - drive on days when you have a meeting early or errands after work, or on Fridays when traffic is lighter, and take the shuttle when traffic is worse and you have a "normal" schedule that day.

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nedsaid
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by nedsaid » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:25 pm

For 2017, the official mileage rate is 53.5 cents a mile and this takes into account maintenance, depreciation, gas, insurance, etc. Seeing that you have a five year old car, much of the depreciation has already happened. My guess is that your true cost of driving is about 40 to 45 cents a mile. I drive cars older than that and I figure that my costs are about 30 to 35 cents a mile. As your car ages, you do want to budget probably about $1,000 a year for maintenance, maybe a bit more than that.
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Jack FFR1846
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:08 pm

If the shuttle is free, why not drive to the shuttle pick up?

The big 3 for car cost are gas, depreciation and insurance.

You'll use less gas per year, obviously.
Depreciation will be reduced but not by the reduction in miles because time continues.
Insurance might be cheaper if you are able to fit into a lower mileage category and your insurance company offers discounts.

There are non monetary things to consider. Does taking the shuttle extend your work day? Does the shuttle have seat belts? If not and you slam into something, the big shuttle will kill you where your car would have saved your life. I get car sick so there would be no reading/computering/phoning on the shuttle. You? Is there a place to park near your house where you can leave the car at the shuttle pick up?
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WageSlave
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by WageSlave » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:51 pm

If you take the shuttle, can you eliminate the car entirely?

I used to drive to work every day. That was a small town, so it was a short/easy drive, even "bad" traffic wasn't too bad. But when I relocated to the Chicago area, I started taking a train. It look me a long time to get used to being on a fixed-schedule, versus having the flexibility of coming and going whenever I felt like it. However, parking in downtown Chicago is $200-500/month, not to mention all the other expenses of owning a car, so I really had no choice (i.e. couldn't afford to drive to work).

However, as the years have gone by, I've grown used to the train, and it's now second-nature to me. (I've also moved to the suburbs, so my commute would be 20+ miles of miserable stop-and-go traffic, 45 minutes on a good day, and upwards of 90 minutes on worse days; bad snow or a collision might mean an unplanned half vacation day.) Why would I subject myself to that when, on the train, I can read, nap, listen to music, zone out, play games on my phone... my commuter rail even allows you to drink alcohol!

I deliberately chose a house that is about a 10-minute walk to the train station. There's also another train station that's 1.5 miles away, and I ride my bike to that just for the fun of riding my bike. Bike ride also takes 10 minutes (and that train station is one stop closer to my destination, so it's a wash in total commute time).

At any rate... even if you drive 0 miles/year, in Illinois you're looking at $100/year to keep your plates current. Cheapest bare-minimum legal insurance is around $300/year. Some areas around here also require a "city sticker"---when I lived in the actual city that was about $100/year. So $500/year for the car to be driven zero miles. Add in gas cost, maintenance costs, and the math quickly shows cars are expensive.

Think of it like those "latte savings plans" where you omit the $4/day fancy coffee. Add that up over the course of several years, and apply reasonable returns you get from investing that money, and before you know it, you're a billionaire! Well not quite, but you get the idea.

If I've learned one thing from Mr Money Mustache, it's that cars are really expensive. If you can find a way to be happy without one, it will make an enormous difference in your finances over the long run (assuming you save and invest the money that would have been spent on the car). I'm not convinced that biking is as safe as driving everywhere in the USA (he calls it "the safest mode of transportation"). But compared to a car, the costs of owning and maintaining a bike are basically negligible. Clearly there are health benefits to being active versus more sedentary time.

I say, at least try the shuttle in earnest for a few months.

Also: if you accurately and consistently track your finances (including all expenses), it should be very easy to see how much the car is costing you. There are lots of ways to do this; I personally use GnuCash. I have an "automotive" expense category. The software can give me a report on that account for any time period I define. So I can start on the day we bought our car, until today, and divide by the number of miles on the car. That will give me the per-mile cost. In general, expense tracking is a great way to see where all your money is going, and for identifying the "low hanging fruit" for expense reduction.

ResearchMed
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by ResearchMed » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:58 pm

How often does the shuttle run, and is this available throughout the day on the same schedule?
What about if you need to stay extra late?

If the shuttle runs frequently, then you aren't giving up as much in that important flexibility, especially if it keeps running all day, rather than just during rush hour times.

RM
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bigred77
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by bigred77 » Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:06 pm

livesoft wrote:
Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:42 pm
Have you thought about the 100 minutes of your daily life that could be used for web browsing, paying bills, reading, texting, bogleheading, ..., that you lose by driving?

Also the 1.5 miles is so close that you could probably walk most of the time. While I'm a cyclist, walking has its benefits, too. One can collect their thoughts, but I suppose you would do that on the bus ride. OK, walking would cost you 30 minutes unless you walked fast.
I'm with Livesoft... The time suck would be my concern, not the cost of driving. You could be SO much more productive by taking the shuttle IMO.

N10sive
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by N10sive » Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:30 pm

I equated my shuttle vs driving to cost me roughly 3k a year not including car depreciation, maintenance, or insurance. I still occasionally drive so it is a little bit less. And the majority of that cost is toll fees, roughly 2.2k, the rest is gas.

The biggest thing is time. Although the shuttle is only a 30 min ride, I can read a book, browse the web, anything that doesn't require my attention to driving. While some days I am more productive on the bus than others it is definitely one unmeasurable plus to taking the bus/shuttle.

Quickfoot
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by Quickfoot » Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:12 pm

Don't bother trying to figure out your vehicle costs of commuting, it is the smallest part of commuting cost. The actual cost of commuting is opportunity cost, what else could you be doing for 100 minutes a day? If you took a shuttle you could read, listen to audio books, use a mobile hot spot and laptop to work during your commute or even sleep, all of which are likely a better use of time than driving.

Figure annual compensation of 75K / year (yours is probably higher but used 75K as a reasonable example) or roughly $36 per hour = roughly $100 per day in lost time from commuting. Either work from home or take advantage of the shuttle and do something productive with your saved time.

core4portfolio
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by core4portfolio » Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:24 pm

I will keep the car and will not eliminate all time but will use commute whenever possible
1.5 miles is not really a exercise walking distance every day unless you have no off hours work and
you cannot walk relaxing which will consume more time or kind of brisk walk which will sweat a lot.
Safety - another point to be considered.....
I will drive prius to the ground and so Iam on another side of this group.
In a big city when I lived,
While I have camry to drive 17miles on one way which gives only 21 mpg and it takes 45 mins one way.
Also driving tension on heavy traffic....
I still prefer to drive since my other commutes are time consuming and the
shuttle timetable is really not matched me.

In a small town when I lived, my office is 5 miles on one way but bus ride takes 45 mins
I preferred the car and paid 70 bucks for parking and my few friends joined with me for car pooling
for sharing cost.
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wfrobinette
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by wfrobinette » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:10 am

livesoft wrote:
Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:42 pm
Have you thought about the 100 minutes of your daily life that could be used for web browsing, paying bills, reading, texting, bogleheading, ..., that you lose by driving?

Also the 1.5 miles is so close that you could probably walk most of the time. While I'm a cyclist, walking has its benefits, too. One can collect their thoughts, but I suppose you would do that on the bus ride. OK, walking would cost you 30 minutes unless you walked fast.
Subscribe to Audible to keep the flexibility of driving but get some "reading" in.

Quickfoot
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by Quickfoot » Thu Sep 14, 2017 8:10 pm

I've listened to audible for 2 years while commuting and it can be a very good use of time but be careful, it is distracting as it requires cognitive effort to focus on the lecture or book and that is dangerous.

Hands free calling doesn't save lives because it isn't the act of holding a phone that's distracting, it's the cognitive effort of talking to someone not in the car, talking to passengers is also distracting but not as much as talking to people not in the car.

I just accepted a position where I work from home partially because it saves me 5 hours a week of commuting.

rocket354
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Re: How much does my commute cost me?

Post by rocket354 » Thu Sep 14, 2017 8:30 pm

It depends on whether you'd keep your car if you started taking the shuttle, or if you'd end up selling it. If you'll keep your car, then the cost is only the marginal cost of the extra miles since the opportunity cost of the car (having that money invested, instead), depreciation due to age, taxes, insurance, and time-based repairs and maintenance (annual oil changes and batteries, for example) aren't considered--they're going to happen whether you drive your car or not.

Not too long ago, I calculated the marginal cost of a mile driven for my vehicle, an Acura ILX. I took into consideration additional/more frequent repairs and maintenance (with a small allowance for "unexpected" stuff), the cost of gas, and additional depreciation due to mileage. It came out to be very close to $0.15/mi. I would bet your Prius is on the same level in terms of reliability (lower than average maintenance and expected repair costs) and would actually do better in terms of gas and depreciation (it's done most of the steep part of the depreciation curve).

I would guess $0.12/mi is your marginal cost of every mile you drive. So your commute is costing you <$6 per commute, plus the opportunity cost of what else you would do with your alternative method, which only you are in position to truly know.

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