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Commuting Costs Americans Over $16 Billion a Year, Data Shows

By Maurie Backman - Dec 3, 2019 at 8:06AM

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But it's not just a matter of money -- commuting can also affect workers' health for the worse.

Most people don't mind a short commute to work, but in cities where traffic is abundant, the process can be torturous. Not only can commuting increase your stress load, but it can also be a strain on your financial resources. In fact, real estate service Clever reports that Americans spend more than $16 billion annually on commuting when we account for the cost of not just fuel and vehicle maintenance, but also, time spent on the road. And that's reason enough to take steps to shrink your commute -- or perhaps eliminate it altogether.

The price of commuting

The typical American spends $1,249 a year on fuel and automobile maintenance to drive to and from work. That equates to 2% of the average U.S. salary, as per Clever's research.

Woman at the wheel of a car, holding her head and sporting frustrated expression


But when we think about the amount of time wasted in the course of commuting, the annual price of getting to an office climbs an extra $5,200 to a total of $6,449. That $5,200 assumes an average of over 200 hours spent commuting annually, and while one might argue that the time workers spend in their vehicles doesn't detract from their earnings per se, consider this: In today's gig-heavy economy, a large percentage of Americans hold down a side hustle. By spending all that time commuting, they thereby lose the opportunity to sink extra hours into an income-generating gig.

There's the health-related cost of commuting to consider, too. Folks with longer commutes are more likely to be in poor health, Clever finds. Specifically, they're more apt to be depressed, sleep-deprived, and obese than those with shorter commutes.

Changing your commute for the better

If commuting to work is wreaking havoc on your sanity, costing you money, and harming your physical health, it's time to explore your options for cutting back on driving time. For one thing, ask your manager for the option to work an off-peak schedule that lets you avoid heavy traffic patterns. Getting to the office at 7:30 in the morning and leaving at 3:30 in the afternoon, for example, could cut your commute time if you typically show up at 9:00 and leave at 5:00.

Another option? Ask to work from home on at least a partial basis. Doing so will give you a much-needed break from the daily grind of hitting the road. It'll also save you some money and perhaps offer an opportunity to catch up on sleep. And if your manager is hesitant to say yes, offer to give some of your time-related savings back to the company. For example, if you typically spend 90 minutes a day on the road, pledge to work an extra 45 on days when you're allowed to log in from the comfort of home. That way, everybody wins.

Commuting is often an unavoidable expense and hassle. If yours is getting you down and costing you too much money for comfort, ask to change things up. Employers are recognizing the need for flexibility these days, and if working a different schedule or telecommuting helps ease that burden so you're better able to focus on your job, yours may very well give you some leeway.

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