Want To Drive Greener? Move Closer To Your Job, Save Cash Too

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The controversial D909 in the suburbs of Paris

The controversial D909 in the suburbs of Paris

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We get a lot of questions about greener or more fuel-efficient cars. But we rarely get questions about how to drive less.

A cheerful little post and infographic by the delightfully named Mr. Money Mustache highlights the true cost of commuting to jobs that are no longer within walking or biking distance, as they were for many Americans until 1940 or so.

Neatly summarized on LifeHacker, each extra mile you have to drive to work costs you $795 a year.

That's using a driving cost of 34 cents per mile (the IRS actually allows you 51 cents) and a value of $25 an hour for the time you spend behind the wheel that could you be doing other things, like reading to your kids.

Apply that $795 to your mortgage, and you could afford a house that's $15,900 pricier (assuming a 5-percent interest rate).

Got a 20-mile round-trip commute? That's far from unusual these days. Buy a house within walking or biking distance of your job, or that you can reach via mass transit, and you could afford as much as $300,000 more by moving closer.

We say "up to" because, of course, walking and biking save you gasoline, but still cost you time--although those activities, and even just driving less, may reduce your waistline--as does mass transit.

Erwin Wurm's Fat Car

Erwin Wurm's Fat Car

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Gasoline prices do end up impacting where people choose to live, with some analysts making dire predictions that far-flung suburbs will become slums if gas prices soar and stay high. We think that's unlikely, since the impact is muted as cars become steadily more fuel-efficient under new fuel economy rules.

The higher your car's gas mileage, the less money you'll save on fueling up. Doing your commute in a 50-mpg Toyota Prius hybrid will cost you roughly half as much per extra mile as a 25-mpg mid-size sedan.

To us, though, it's the time spent in often grim stop-and-go traffic that's the real soul destroyer.

You can always buy more gasoline. But you can't buy more time.

The True Cost of Commuting (crop)

The True Cost of Commuting (crop)

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Comments (3)
  1. Just wanted to share the original source of the infographic, not from Lifehacker. You can see it here - http://www.streamlinerefinance.net/cost-of-commuting.html

  2. There is good coverage of this issue in "Reinventing Fire" by Amory Lovins. Apparently some home lending programs are now allowing higher levels of mortgages if the borrow has a job that is close to their home and reachable without a cars.

    Cars are so expensive that they cut into our ability to get better homes.

  3. This is interesting. In my small town a lot of people (mostly retired) will use my services as a taxi rather than run a car. They find it is much cheaper once you take into account the hidden costs of running a car - depreciation, insurance, tyres, fuel, services, car tax, parking costs etc. Even if you spend £100/£200 a month on a cab you'll still save.
    The cab companies side of the bargain is to offer a good reliable service, turn up quickly and be professional. Easy.

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