The Added Annual Cost of Driving for Every Mile You Live Away from Work

Americans spend a lot of time driving in their cars during the course of the year. From spur-of-the-moment road trips to regular car rides to family get-togethers, there’s a reason that many people consider their vehicles to be their second home.

Still, for many people all over the United States, the daily commute is where they spent the majority of their time in the car each week. Whether or not your commute is three minutes or an hour, it is a source of stress and expense that many people have simply grown accustomed to.

How much time do Americans spend driving on their commute?

Traffic moves along 42nd Street at sunset on June 2, 2019 in New York City
Commuters driving in traffic in New York | Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Morning and evening commutes to and from work are a necessary evil for many people. This is not counting any stops in between work and homes, such as breaks for gas, food, or childcare pickups and dropoffs. In a recent study, it was determined that the average American spends about 26 minutes driving each way to work. The commute time has been steadily increasing over the years, and it can easily add up to hundreds of hours each year spent in traffic. It could be even longer when traffic delays are present, such as construction work or car accidents, which can cause several hours of standstill traffic.

Certainly, some cities are worse than others when it comes to daily commute times. A few of the worst cities in terms of commuting include Detroit, Michigan; Oakland, California; San Francisco, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Newark, New Jersey.

People who live in Tampa, Florida; Lincoln, Nebraska; or Raleigh, North Carolina can consider themselves lucky – those locations are ranked as some of the best commutes in the United States.

What are the commuting costs for American workers?

When considering the cost of a daily driving commute, there are a lot of factors to consider. A recent study showed that adults in the United States spend an average of $2,600 annually on their commute. The most obvious cost when trying to calculate your commute is the gas expense.

The price of fuel fluctuates from day to day, so while it can be hard to estimate what the cost of fuel is for the year ahead, it is safe to say that most Americans spend a hefty chunk of change every year on gas for the daily commute – especially if they live an hour or more away from work.

For instance, if fuel is $2.47 per gallon, a motorist could spend close to $50 per week on gas. Over the course of a year, that motorist would spend $2,600 on gas alone, meeting the national average. 

Other factors play a role in calculating the cost of a daily commute. Vehicles need regular maintenance, including oil changes, tire rotations, and new air filters. The sad truth is, the longer the drive, the more wear and tear is put on the vehicle, meaning that drivers will naturally have to spend more on upkeep when they have a long commute.

Plus, drivers need to have car insurance in order to drive legally, and depending on the policy, age of the driver, and a good many other factors, insurance can cost several hundred dollars every month. Drivers who live in the city likely have to deal with toll roads, which are an additional expense that can add up over the course of a year. 

Long driving commutes can be stressful

When considering a job with a long commute, it is important to consider all of the factors detailed above. As a 2017 report detailed, American workers can actually lose money over the course of many years due to driving on long commutes. In addition, long commutes have been linked to health problems, such as obesity and high blood pressure.

All in all, if you are in a position to negotiate with your company, take these factors into account and make sure that your daily commute will be worth your time and money.