Commuting For A Job: When Is It Worth It? How Far, How Long?

commuting job factorsBy Meghan M. Biro


I always hear people asking about commuting and their job. What is too far? What is too short? Is there a 'too short?' How much will it cost? Gas? Bridge tolls? Parking?

The hard costs of commuting can be calculated with some accuracy. Gasoline prices are hovering around $4 a gallon. Car insurance figures vary widely, so it's more challenging to find a reasonable average, but figure $1,000 per year – or perhaps twice as much if you're under 25 or have had an accident or two. Then there's the cost of buying a car, paying for parking, managing a car loan and maintenance.

Or, say you're lucky enough to live near public transportation. In Boston, that works out to at least $135 a month. Maybe you ride a bike to work (good luck with that in the winter, and with our legendary Boston drivers.)

The soft costs of commuting can only be calculated using personal algebra. How much do you like your job? What is your threshold for commuting? Can you tolerate an hour each way with the aid of an iPod or books from Audible? Does Talk Radio drive you crazy or does NPR keep you sane? For one person, an hour commute may be easy, for another, it will be a terrible burden.

In this fragile job market, having a job must be the first consideration. From there, it's a simple matter to take your salary and factor in hard commuting costs, like gasoline (see a good guide here) – according to Salary.com, "... the average employee incurs an annual "commuting gas" cost of $1,483 per year. This represents 3.6 percent of the national average annual salary, which is $40,690."

Of course, your mileage may vary. While you probably can't change the hard costs of commuting unless you move or find a ride share, it's the soft costs that may most affect your well-being the most.


Here are a few variables to consider when thinking about the 'soft' costs of commuting.

  • What's your tolerance for commuting when no other job offers are coming and the job is just "ok"? Think in half-hour increments. Can you tolerate 30 minutes, or an hour, each way?
  • What if you hate your job, and there's a long commute?
  • Or maybe you have a long commute and an "ok" job – but it's a great company and there seems to be room for advancement?
  • Are you willing to go "outside" your comfort area to find a job?
  • How important is it to live in a certain region or zip code? What matters most – cultural activities, access to shopping, weather, access to hobbies, population density?

And a few things that might make a commute easier to take:

  • Think of the commute as private time. Use the time to contemplate and recharge. Plan your day in your head.
  • Rehearse for difficult conversations or meetings.
  • Make the commute a game. Look for new routes (side benefit – a shorter commute) or see how far you can go on a tank by watching your gauge – what my family calls the 'gas game' (my husband does not approve, don't play this game at night or in bad weather.)
  • Listen to new music. Choose a genre you don't know well.
  • Listen to books – commutes are a great way to 'read' business books without feeling like it's eating into your personal time.
  • One thing I can't recommend: talking on the phone. Too distracting and dangerous.

What do you like or dislike about commutes? How far do you commute, and what makes it easier to manage? Let us know.


Meghan M. Biro, founder of TalentCulture, is a serial entrepreneur and globally recognized career expert in talent acquisition and creative personal and corporate branding. Meghan has conducted more than 300 successful career searches for clients ranging from Fortune 500s to the most innovative software start-up companies. Meghan is also a new media strategist who enjoys accelerating collaborative business and community goals.



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37 Comments

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pdrut

i think i have all you beat - my daily commute is 90 miles each way and it takes me 75-90 minutes each way. I have been doing this for over a year now. But I have gotten used to it. You know how I keep same during the 90 minutes? My iPhone. I read news, check emails, research stocks, play bills, check on latest sport scores, look at job postings, browse zillow for bank/foreclosed property sales, etc. Yes, i know the experts advise against this. But my eyes never leave the road as I mount the phone on top of the steering wheel. Peripheral vision is highly under rated. As for gas expenses, I pay less in gas then my fellow co-workers as i have an 2-seater hybrid commuter vehicle that gets over 50+ MPG.

October 27 2012 at 11:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mls07093

My drive of 17 miles one way wouldn't be so bad, but I have to deal with alot of "stupid" people on the road. I guess they love their job so much they have to speed so they can get to work early, or is it that they hate their job so much they sleep longer, leave late and then have to speed to get in on time.
Either way, people, please slow down. 65-70 and yes ive 75 mpr in a 55 zone it too much when there are so many cars on the road. I'm doing 60 to the "person" behind me gets off my tail. Yes, you 18 wheeler, back off.
NJ insurance rates are too high and gas is still too much. Let's wake up and think a little bit about what we are doing

December 05 2011 at 4:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
anrean

I learned to take the long commute as part of the job, and turned it into personal time. On the way in, I was careful to stay calm, plan my day, and not get frustrated by the driving. On the way home, it was time to decompress - review the day, and move to looking forward to being home and planning time there.

It took self-control to avoid "road rage" and realize that the same people would, over and over again do the same stupid things (you get to recognize them after awhile) and just accept that I could let them ruin the time or keep my own sanity.

Long commutes are better for me - I really do like taking the time to relax before getting home, but that is a personal choice.

December 05 2011 at 12:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pangai

With jobs scarce, one has to take the best job available. I live in riverside and have to commute to Torrance. It takes anywhere from75 minutes to 3 and a half hours one-way. It has effected my health and my well being, but I have little choice as I have bills to pay, a family to raise, and I have not been able to find anything comparable closer to home. That is just the way it is.

December 04 2011 at 9:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pangai's comment
Starlink Medical

It doesn't have to be this way.

December 04 2011 at 9:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pangai

With jobs scarce, one has to take the best job available. I live in riverside and have to commute to Torrance. It takes anywhere from75 minutes to 3 and a half hours one-way. It has effected my health and my well being, but I have little choice as I have bills to pay, a family to raise, and I have not been able to find anything comparable closer to home. That is just the way it is.

December 04 2011 at 9:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
flymach83

Hey Ivan, the day Obama was inaugaurated gas was $1.79 a gallon. I guess we are better off at $3.50 a gallon. I know it is three yera later but I am sure it is still Bush's fault. By the way, keep the change.

December 04 2011 at 8:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to flymach83's comment
Starlink Medical

Obama is a puppet, let us start by counting the ways. Change the ?? Yes we can?"?? the feeling of his former backers into to a more positive Yes We Can!
Remember; Pinnocchio was able at long last to become HUMAN only after he lost all strings that were so firmly affixed to Greed. Comprende amigo?

December 04 2011 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
anrean

Please try again - gas was $4.00 a gallon at the tail end of Bush! I clearly remember because it was almost $150 a week out of my budget!

December 05 2011 at 12:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gkarlington

What is a career expert in talent acquisition etc., etc. and how much did Meghan get for writing this article which some high school freshman could have written?

December 04 2011 at 7:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gkarlington's comment
Starlink Medical

Be nice she is trying to reach her readers.

December 04 2011 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
IVAN

So you play "The Gas Game" ? Wouldn't last long for me, I always figure out how many miles I get to the gallon, then calculate how big my fuel tank is, then I know to the last 20 miles or so I can go before I have to fuel up. I just don't like stopping every few days to get gas if I can go further.

December 04 2011 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to IVAN's comment
Starlink Medical

Don't forget repacement of vehicle cost , tires, oil, transmission fluid changes, etc etc.
There is a better way!

December 04 2011 at 10:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DictionMary

I live outside of Boston. I commuted to school in Boston all four years, 1 year of public transportation and 3 driving. And now I have a job in Boston, little further than my former school. To get to work, depending on traffic, can take me 45-75 minutes. I do like my job.. I like being there and when I am, work doesn't seem like work. It's fun. So for me I suppose it's worth it. I'm used to driving.. so all I need is my radio and some CD's and I'm good to go. But my car takes a beating.. brakes, oil, gas, tires. Only thing I hate about the commute.

December 04 2011 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard Dove

I like the line in this article that asks "Does talk radio drives you crazy or does NPR make you sane"? What the hell does that have to do with commuting? It is just another attempt to portray the NPR taxpayer supported radio as some kind of useful programming. Every radio has a dial full of choices and music would be the most soothing sounds, not the type of news or commentary you select.

December 04 2011 at 2:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Richard Dove's comment
duke

I am So glad someone else saw this little snide remark. thanks Richard.

December 04 2011 at 6:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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