g: -1 Posted By: pj737
Views: 197 Replies: 13 The point of this ridiculously long-winded analysis is to determine the true cost to OPERATE (not own) an average-priced vehicle with average depreciation (per mile driven) and average fuel efficiency. Long story short, I did this analysis to convince my best friend to not buy a home in the suburbs... he is looking to buy a home that's about 30 miles from his place of employment. His wife also commutes into town for work. He owns a 2011 Toyota Tacoma and she drives a 2010 Lexus ES - they own them F&C. Between both cars, they average about 20 mpg. I'm trying to convince him to buy in town or close to town to cut his commute to <5 miles. However, the home that's 30 miles away is about $200K less for essentially the exact same size home in town (safety/crime is similar in both areas); the home in town is older but is in move in condition. He can afford the $200K price difference based on his earnings. Their daughter also attends private school in town so there is no benefit from a school district perspective. The commute time if they lived in town is <10 minutes each way. The suburbs is 75 minutes in each direction and that's with no stalled vehicles or accidents.
Most of the blogs I've read online (and I've forwarded to him) that argue the insane cost of commuting take into consideration the operating cost AND ownership costs into one figure. In addition to depreciation due to mileage put on the car, fuel, maintenance, etc, they would also factor in things like financing, depreciation due to vehicle age, parking, registration, motor vehicle taxes, etc and then come to a general cost per mile of ownership based on X miles driven (typically it's 15,000 miles). Those numbers vary but generally come in at about 61 cents/mile. Obviously, that number is seriously flawed if you only want to know what it costs to operate that vehicle and drive it X miles. I believe it's impractical for most people to not own a car; knowing what it costs to own it is one thing... but understanding what it costs to pull it out of the driveway and drive it X miles is critical when making decisions about investing in a home many miles away from ones' place of employment.
For sake of argument this applies to those that MUST own a car simply because they don't want to rely on bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles or any form of public transportation to commute. This applies to those that are looking at the true financial costs of commuting longer distances to work/entertainment/etc as a trade off to having lower cost housing in the suburbs/"commuter" neighborhoods.
The first consideration is depreciation... and not the kind of depreciation due to your car getting old but rather depreciation due to miles being put on the car itself. First, we need to determine the cost of an "average" car... and that comes to $31,800 as of last year. I specifically searched on KBB the resale value of cars including Toyota, Ford, Honda, Lexus, Kia and GM that were close to the $31,800 in value as new in 2013. The zipcode entered into the KBB site is in Los Angeles. For sake of ascertaining an accurate depreciation per mile we will use the "baseline" mileage at 3,000/miles per year (i.e. this is the minimum mileage I'm assuming anyone that owns a car will drive and all costs incurred per mile in this analysis are over the 3,000 mile baseline). I used 2011 model year cars for examples on each one; this would mean the car was on the road for roughly 4 years on average. I used 12 different models from 6 different makes all priced (today) at around $32K new. I inputted 3K, 8K, 10K, 12K, 14K, 16K, 18K, 20K, 22K and 24K miles and recorded the difference in value for each. Drivers that put only 3 - 8K miles year only depreciated by 8.1 cents per mile over 3,000 miles. I found that the mileage depreciation between 8,000-12,000 miles averaged about 10.6 cents/mile but when we jumped from 12,000 miles to 16,000 miles the extra 4,000 miles a year cost the owner 11.8 cents/mile hit on value ($472 depreciation). Between 15,000 and 18,000 it jumped up to 12.7 cents/mile average. Over 18,000 miles/year the cost per mile plateaued and was fairly linear in the mid 12-cent/mile range through 24,000 miles. A very conservative average between all the cars and all mileage ranges came in at about 11.4 cents so we will use this figure as the true depreciation per mile driven for all cars that have at least 3,000 miles a year being put on them. Note that older economy cars will realize depreciation rates as low as 7 cents/mile... However the same can be said on the upside where newer luxury cars will see an average 15-22 cent/mile depreciation (I tried to input some luxury cars as well that were priced at $50-$60K). I think 11.4 cents mile is on the low side but let's stick with that for the purpose of this analysis. COST OF DEPRECIATION PER MILE DRIVEN FOR CARS THAT TRAVEL MORE THAN 3,000 MILES ANNUALLY - 11.4 cents
Fuel - yes, I know you can buy a Prius that gets significantly better mpg than an average vehicle but there are many vehicles that get more than 20-30% lower mpg than the average car. I owned a Prius and only averaged 37 mpg which is no where near the EPA estimate of 50. So one needs to consider the TRUE mpg to ascertain the cost per mile in fuel consumption The average car gets 24.9 mpg and this is based on EPA estimates; in reality people will be putting well over a gallon of gas in to travel 24.9 miles. In fact, sitting in slow-moving bumper-to-bumper traffic kills EPA estimates by a good margin. But to stay conservative, we'll use that figure 24.9 figure. 24.9 mpg translates to 15.1 cents per mile at $3.77/gallon (national average). I pay over $4.35 for fuel where I live but again, averages trump real world for the sake of argument. COST OF FUEL PER MILE - 15.1 cents
Average maintenance cost for a vehicle is roughly 5.3 cents/mile. There are countless studies that break this data down and this is simply an average. It varies from as low as 4.1 cents to as high as 6.8 cents with the most common coming in at about 5.2-5.5 cents. This includes tire replacement, wiper replacement, oil changes, filter changes, wear and tear/maintenance of vehicle components, etc. COST OF MAINTENANCE PER MILE - 5.3 cents
Insurance costs are slightly lower for those that commute less. There are insurance companies that base their rates on miles driven and others that give discounts for those that put a relatively low number of miles on their cars. I had to check with my Allstate provider to see if there would be a difference and it was small... an increase of about $85/year if I doubled my mileage from my current 6,500 to 13,000 (I felt a little ripped off when I was told this). Based on that information, I would assume it's safe to say that one could save at least $85/year on premiums if they cut their commute by 6,500 miles. This translates to 1.3 cents/mile in hard costs. COST OF INSURANCE FOR MILES DRIVEN - 1.3 cents
Driving infractions/tickets/etc... Now this one is a tough one. Obviously the more you drive the more likely you are to be pulled over and be ticketed. While some people have never received a ticket in their lives others get tickets every year. According to national law enforcement statistics, of the 195 million licensed drivers on the road in the US, 41 million of them are getting ticketed every year on average. That's roughly a 1 in 5 chance of getting a ticket every year. The average cost of a ticket is $155. Insurance rates increase an average of $320/year based on one speeding ticket going 15 miles over the speed limit. So if there is a 1 in 5 chance you'll get a speeding ticket in a year and that cost will run you $475 that translates to an "average" of $95/year on speeding infraction costs. If the average driver traverses 13,476/miles of roadway in a year that translates to 0.7 cents mile for infractions and this means getting a ticket only once every 5 years... which I could imagine is pretty low and conservative. COST PER MILE FOR TICKETS FOR DRIVING INFRACTIONS - 0.7 cents
Accidents - here is another tough one. Personal costs of injury and property damage are extremely hard to average as they can vary by a huge margin. Especially because some people can go decades without a single incident. The car industry purports that the average driver only gets into a "significant" car accident every 17.9 years or roughly 3.5 times in a lifetime. The average cost of these accidents is $23,450 of which only a small portion (assuming you're insured) comes from the driver's pocket. Assuming deductible costs, time lost, personal injury, repairs/rental not covered by insurance, etc, we'll very conservatively peg this cost at $1,000/per "significant" accident as a direct cost to the driver.That's $3,500 over a lifetime. Over 843,600 miles (what the average person drives over a lifetime), that comes to 0.4 cents/mile. Again this is a very low figure and does not take into account countless minor fender benders which can easily cost several hundreds up to a couple thousand to repair especially if you didn't want to report this to insurance in fear your rates will go up. COST PER MILE FOR ACCIDENTS - 0.4 cents
Toll roads - Depending on where you live and work, toll roads can easily add 5-10 cents/mile on to your commute... possibly much more. However, this isn't applicable everywhere (we have no toll roads in my state) so I am leaving this one out of the equation. If you live in an area that requires you to traverse toll roads you'll have to include this in your calculations.
Total cost to OPERATE a vehicle PER MILE (over 3,000 miles/year) not including toll roads - 34.2 cents per mile.
The point of getting this average is so people can better calculate their finances should they decide to live in a commuter city/neighborhood or suburb vs living in or near the urban core. One could point out that you could save much more if you don't buy a car at all. That's very true. The 34.2 cents/mile operating cost is only about half the cost of total ownership and operations but this is the cost of the mileage applied to a car you already own and need. Note that if you own a newer luxury model that gets not-so-stellar fuel efficiency, the 34.2 cents/mile can easily exceed 50 cents/mile on operating costs only. To be fair, I did an analysis on an older (12 years old) more fuel efficient economy car (35 mpg) with an original purchase price of $20,000 and the cost to operate dropped to a low of 21 cents/mile. But this is an extreme example on the low end and not realistic for most. I think most people that can afford to buy a home will own cars that are at least "average" priced and aged.
Now that I know what it costs to take the average car one mile on the road, I wanted to see just how this impacts housing prices and rents. To be fair, the overwhelming amount of people that live in town also commute shorter distances to entertainment venues, restaurants, places of interest, etc etc. So if there are 241 work days in a year it's fair to add another 52 days of commuting into town per year (that's one extra drive into town PER WEEK, which is very conservative, in my opinion). That means 293 days of commuting into town for the average person (driving into town an average of 5.6 times/week). If that average person lives 30 miles from town, that's 293 days x 30 miles x 2 trips = 17,580 miles. If one lived in town, and had a 5 mile commute, this comes to 293 days x 5 miles x 2 trips = 2,930 miles. So while the person living 30 miles from work is commuting 12,050 MORE miles every year (work commute only) than the person that lives 5 miles from work, they are also driving an additional 2,600 miles year because of their proximity to places they need to drive to that are outside of their place of employment. So for every individual mile one lives further from work (2 mile round trip commute) it translates into $200.41/year in direct costs for ONE car (293 days x 1 mile x 2 trips x 34.2 cents = $200.41/year). If it's two cars commuting (which is more common in households these days), you are looking at double that or $400.82/year.
$1,000 in mortgage costs @ 4.5% amortized over 30 years is $4.21/mo or $50.52/year. So for every one mile you live further from work/play, this translates into $3,966 in additional home purchase price you can afford or $16.70 in additional rent you could afford. If you have two cars making the same commute, double that to $7,934 in home value or $33.40 in rent for every single mile you live further from work. Many people in my place of employment chose to live ~30 miles or more away where housing is cheaper. If the difference from my 5-mile commute is 25 miles traveled (50 miles/day), it comes to $99,150 in mortgage and $835/mo in rent. and you'll have to double that to $198,300 in additional mortgage they could afford and $1,670/mo in additional rent they could afford if they had a two-car household. This does not even consider that of your mortgage payment roughly 1/3 of the payment goes back to your pocket in principal payments (i.e. forced savings) and the other 2/3 of the mortgage payment is (at least for now) 100% tax deductible. Arguably, if you look at the bottom line (forced savings + tax deduction benefit assuming a conservative 30% state and fed combined tax rate), each mile you live further from work translates to roughly $7,100 in additional mortgage payments one could afford for each and every car attached to that home that makes that work commute. All while your mortgage is fixed and your car's operating costs continue to increase over the years. Assuming the above assumptions are accurate, living 10 miles closer to your job can allow you to afford $71K more in a house purchase and that's just with one car. Double that for a two-car commuting family and quadruple it to $284K for the same family living 20 miles from work.
These numbers are absolutely staggering to me and I can't help but think my math and/or assumptions are off somewhere. But it definitely enforces my argument that my friend should buy in town. For those that managed to make it through all this, please chime in and offer any corrections to my reasoning. Yes, I understand there are many assumptions made here but again, the purpose of this post is to get an average figure most people can relate to. I think very few people actually consider the real cost of driving and they end up making mistakes by either buying or renting far distances from their place of employment and other desired activities because they assume they are saving money by doing so. This analysis only takes into account the direct financial costs of driving longer distances... it doesn't take into account the plethora of other considerations (which I find vastly more important) like compromised health and well-being, increased stress, quality time away from family/friends/gym/activities/alone time/relaxing/sleep, etc etc. Sitting in traffic for hours on end every day is a huge quality of life issue for me personally, money aside. If the 30 mile commute was FREE, I would still pay the $200K difference.