Whether it’s time or money, you’re wasting both sitting in traffic. It’s time to get a handle on the high cost of commuting.

Americans have long had a love affair with the automobile and are often reluctant to give up driving. Even those among us who look forward to getting behind the wheel can find the high cost of commuting daunting.

We’re spending valuable time sitting in traffic and a lot of money on gas, insurance, and upkeep of our cars. That cost is expected to increase in the coming years. So far in 2017, prices at the pumps have been 11% higher than in 2016. And it may be just beginning. OPEC’s decision to cut oil production and states adding taxes to the price of gas will only continue the increases.1

Man commuting to work by bicycle

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of “motor fuel” is a major expense for many American households. It represents 5.46% of total household expenditures. When you add in the cost of gas, you’re looking at 10.83% of our total monthly budget allotted to commuting.2

If the old adage, time is money, is true, then we’re wasting a lot of both commuting. The U.S. Census Bureau says the average commute time in the United States is 25.4 minutes.3 But depending where you live and how far you commute that number can be even higher.

  • In Atlanta, GA, where our headquarters is located, that average commute is anywhere from 27 to 30 min. traveling into the city from the suburban counties.4
  • On the West Coast in Los Angeles, CA, the average time spent commuting is said to be 30 min. Respondents to a Quora board asking, “What is commuting to work like in Los Angeles, is it that bad?” disagree. Many posted that commutes longer than 10 miles from beginning to destination could take anywhere from one to three hours.5
  • The average commute in the Washington, DC area can take 30 min.6 But, in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area it’s less than the national average at 22.3 min.7

10 Ways to Save Time and Money

So, what do we do to get our time and money back and regain our lives? Here are a 10 suggestions:

  1. The first thing you can do is keep up with your car’s maintenance schedule. Get oil changes made when they’re due. By keeping your car in tip-top shape, you can drive it at optimal fuel economy.8
  2. Take your foot off of the gas. By reducing how fast you’re traveling, you can also improve your gas mileage. If you’re going slower, you won’t have to brake suddenly either – another gas thief.8
  3. Remove any extra and unnecessary weight from your trunk and remember to tighten the gas cap after filling up. The Car Care Council says that 147 million gallons of gas or $316 million are lost every year to evaporation.8
  4. If your employer offers it, take advantage of telecommuting and work from home a couple days a week.
  5. Consider mass transit. Many cities have good, convenient and well-connected light rail, subway and/or bus transportation available. You may end up with a longer commute, but you’ll save money on gas, insurance and vehicle wear-and-tear. You’ll also be less stressed with someone else doing the driving.
  6. When the weather is nice and you live close enough, bike to work. Many cities are becoming more bike-friendly, offering biking lanes. Biking and walking are two healthier alternatives to getting to work.
  7. Join a carpool or ride share. Depending on where you live, there are probably neighbors who are going your way. Take turns driving, so that no one person has the burden of driving every day. Or, share the cost of gas and parking.
  8. If it won’t be too disruptive to your home life, consider moving closer to your place of employment.
  9. It may be time to trade in your current car for a more fuel-efficient one, including hybrids and electric vehicles. Charging stations are popping up more and more. Discounts may be available for purchasing one of these types of vehicles.
  10. Group your errands together, so you can conserve gas and time.

Commuters waiting for train

By making changes to your driving and commuting habits, you can save money and have more time to spend with your family instead of in traffic.

1 Kerry Close. “Gas Prices Are Expected to Spike to Their Highest Level in Three Years.” Jan. 4, 2017. http://time.com/money/4621643/gas-prices-higher-2017/

2 “Calculating the Average Cost of Gas Per Month.” September 2017. https://inflationdata.com/articles/cost-of-living/cost-of-gas/average-cost-of-gas-per-month/

3 https://project.wnyc.org/commute-times-us/embed.html#5.00/42.000/-89.500

4 Misty Williams. “How long is your drive to work? Explore Georgia commute times.” May 6, 2016. http://commuting.blog.ajc.com/2016/04/25/how-long-is-your-drive-to-work-explore-georgia-commute-times/

5 https://www.quora.com/What-is-commuting-to-work-like-in-Los-Angeles-is-it-that-bad

6 Jennifer Ortiz. “DC area has 2nd-longest average commute in America. Apr. 13, 2017. https://wtop.com/traffic/2017/04/dc-area-has-2nd-longest-average-commute-in-america/

7 Jeffrey Chu. “Twin Cities’ Worst Commutes: More Gas, Higher Insurance and Wasted Time.” Jun 29, 2015. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/twin-cities-worst-commutes-gas-insurance-time/

8 Matthew DiLallo. “Here’s how Much Gasoline the Average American Consumes Annually.” Jan. 14, 2017. https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/01/14/heres-how-much-gasoline-the-average-american-consu.aspx