m-Pact Career Blog

from Marketing Talent Network

Gas Prices, Commuting Distance and Job Search

Recently we have noticed a somewhat unsettling trend — the tendency for people involved in a job search to be extremely concerned about commuting distance given the increasing gas prices.   It’s not surprising.  Our minds are bombarded daily (sometimes hourly) with newscasts and talking heads announcing every increase in prices.  And naturally, everyone they interview moans about how they are being hurt by these increases.  I don’t like spending $4.00 a gallon anymore than anyone else.

However, as is so often the case, the reality is not nearly as bad as all of the hype.  Just out of curiosity, we did a few calculations to check the impact of both rising gas prices and increases in commuting distances.

We started with a base of a 32 mile round trip commute (the national average) and past gas prices of $3.00 a gallon.  We didn’t cheat by using a hybrid or sub-compact gas mileage as our base.  We used a gas mileage of 25 miles to the gallon.  We also included the most recent Federal Highway Administration’s estimates for per mile costs of repairs, maintenance, registration and taxes.  And again, we didn’t cheat by using a smaller lower cost vehicle.  We used the costs for an intermediate SUV — the third highest per mile average on their tables.  Then  we even added in the estimated per mile cost for depreciation.

The results?  For that base of 16 miles each way and $3.00 per gallon for gas, your estimated monthly cost of commuting is about $247.68.  And that includes additional per mile costs for an intermediate sized utility vehicle. 

Now, here is where it becomes interesting.  What happens to these costs when the price of gas at the pump goes up to $4.00 per gallon of gas?  (Oops, that’s already happened!)  That increases your monthly cost of commuting to $273.28.  Wait.  How can a 33% increase in gas prices result in only an 11% increase in commuting costs?  Because gas prices are only a portion of your total commuting costs.  And although it adds up, it adds up a lot less than you might think.

So, let’s carry this one step further.  What happens when you increase the distance of your commute?  For obvious reasons, the impact is greater.  The reason is that the mileage increase results in an increase in all of these per-mile-expenses.  But even then, you might be surprised.  Again, let’s not take it easy on ourselves.  Let’s increase that 32-mile average commute by a factor of — not 10% or 20% — a full 50% to 48 miles.  Even with that big of an increase, your total commuting costs raise to $409.92 per month.  This represents an increase of slightly over $135 per month.

Is that a lot?  It can be, especially if you are a family that is living right up to their means.  Is it more than I wish it was?  Absolutely!

Now, the bottom line question.  Is that $135 per month — $4.50 per day — worth turning down a job offer?  Probably not.  Especially not if this new position is a strong step forward in your career track.  And certainly not if you are currently unemployed and have no other solid prospects.

So, don’t let the talking heads get into your head.  Keep them out of your decision process.  It is your career.  It is your future.  If you are making a lifestyle decision that you simply don’t want to spend that much time commuting, then that is your decision to make.  But don’t let the constant blaring of the news on gas prices cause you to make the wrong economic decision regarding your employment future.



June 10, 2008 - Posted by | Careers in Marketing, Marketing Job Market, Uncategorized

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