Study: Average Worker Spends $8,467 on Commuting Costs Each Year

How much time per year do you spend driving to or from work? On top of that, how much does commuting cost you on an annual basis? If you’re like the majority of workers, the answer could be as much as hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars, as a new study highlights.

According to data compiled by Clever — using figures from the  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Census, AAA, the Brookings Institute, and elsewhere — the average American worker spends $8,467 a year on expenses associated with commuting. This amounts to 19% of their annual income on average. Furthermore, workers spend an average of 239 hours each year commuting, losing 32 hours a year to traffic. These figures are also up from pre-pandemic 2019 when the average annual commuting expenses totaled $6,449 and hours spent commuting came in at 200 hours per year.

Using this data, Clever also used various criteria to rank major metros by how good or bad they were for the average commuter. This list considered the percentage of income the average worker in the metro spends on commuting every year, how much they spend specifically on fuel, how much potential income is lost to time spent in traffic, and more. In all, the site ranked 50 metros from across the country.

Topping the list of best commuter cities was Buffalo, New York, which saw an average annual commuting expense of $6,427 and “only” six hours a year lost to traffic congestion. They were followed by Salt Lake City, Utah and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with average expenses of $6,518 and $6,777 respectively. Rounding out the top five were Virginia Beach, Virginia and Cleveland, Ohio.

On the other end of the spectrum, Detroit, Michigan ranked 50th of 50 cities. In the Motor City, the average commuter spends $12,801 a year in expenses, but loses a relatively low 13 hours per year to traffic. On the other hand, 49th ranked Atlanta, Georgia sees commuters spending 53 hours in traffic and drivers in 48th-placed New York, New York experience a total of 102 hours a year in traffic. A trio of California cities — Riverside, Los Angeles, and San Fransisco — also occupied the bottom of the list.

Despite a slew of jobs moving to a “work-from-home” model during the pandemic, Clever’s study shows that commuting continues to be a popular pastime for workers. Unfortunately, as their figures show, this practice can cost workers a significant amount of time and money. Because of this, while work-from-home may not be an option or a preference for everyone, it may behoove workers to inquire about the possibilities of telecommuting on a more regular basis. In turn, those who do need to head to the office may be able to save time and money themselves. Sure, this may be a utopian thought but, with today’s technologies, perhaps this dream isn’t as far off as you might think.


Also published on Medium.

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Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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