December 9, 2023

Car Auto Finance

Car Auto Finance FOR Everyone

Is your commute costing you? How commute time affects your auto loan balance

Traffic at nightfall in modern city

ispyfriend/Getty Images

With many COVID-19 restrictions in the rearview mirror, many are once more commuting to work — on a hybrid or daily schedule. In 2021, 30 percent of American workers were stuck behind the wheel for between 15 and 29 minutes each way, according to a Statista survey.

With more minutes clocked in the car to and from work, your vehicle is likely working overtime — especially following the pandemic, when many cars sat idle gathering dust. If you’re one of the 64 percent of workers commuting at least part-time, the added expense of maintenance atop current high interest rates might be making your vehicle all the more expensive

Commute cost statistics

Loan Auto

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana has the highest annual cost of commuting at $3,989. (Overheard on Conference Calls)

  • The national average gas price in February 2023 sat at $3.39. (AAA)

  • Drivers in 2022 spent $2,740 annually to commute to work, up from $2,064 in 2021. (Overheard on Conference Calls)

  • On average, a round trip to and from work for American drivers is over 41 miles per day. (Jerry)

  • One of Bankrate’s picks for best commuter car, the 2022 Honda Civic, has an MSRP of $22,550 when purchased new. (Bankrate, Kelley Blue Book)

  • 17% of U.S. drivers had a commute of 30 to 59 minutes in 2021. (Statista)

  • New York residents have the highest average commute time, at 33.4 minutes, and carry an average auto loan balance of $4,080. (Titlemax, Bankrate)

  • Commuting to and from work in Los Angeles can cost over $10,000, including income lost annually due to time stuck in traffic. (Bankrate, Clever)

  • Only 5% of commuters, or 7.8 million people, used public transportation to get to their workplaces in 2019. (U.S. Census)

  • Drivers logging 15,000 miles on the road per year spent an average of $9,666 on vehicle ownership and operation. (AAA)

Remote work affordability

For some drivers, the additional cost of commuting can drive them toward one job over another. Outside of cost, many workers consider the drive to and from work a major pain point that comes with a job. A Bankrate study found that 77 percent of workers would give up at least one guilty pleasure to avoid their commute. Some 32 percent of surveyed commuters would give up junk food in exchange for a job without a commute.

Many companies offer a hybrid or work-from-home option, 42 and 39 percent, respectively, according to Gallup. While this option boasts the obvious benefits of flexibility and comfort of home, it also can mean money saved. As drivers rack up miles driving to work, costs can build.

On top of this, job seekers might have to explore taking out an auto loan to finance their ride to work, a choice fully remote workers would not have to make.


How much do workers prioritize flexibility?

Fifty-five percent of those in the workforce consider flexibility — such as the ability to work remotely and flexible working hours — a higher priority now than before the pandemic, according to Bankrate.

No matter how often you’re heading into the office, securing the right loan and understanding how additional costs build with more time on the road is as important as polishing your resume. For example, it might make sense to choose a job that’s close to home and offers a hybrid model if you are focused on keeping your auto-related bills low.

With this in mind, it is unsurprising that flexibility in work location and schedule has become a top priority for job seekers.

Financing a commute to work

Unlike a car you might use primarily for short drives or leisure time, purchasing a car for your long drives to work requires some extra thought. Consider the following tips when buying a commuter car.

1. Shop for reliability, not style.

When buying a new vehicle, it can be easy to get distracted by vehicles with all the bells and whistles. But for most, your drive to work doesn’t require a sports car. Instead, vehicle usability should be top of mind. Remember that your vehicle will likely depreciate much faster due to the miles you clock to and from work.

Here are some of Bankrate’s winners for best commuter cars.



Expected monthly payment

Stand-out features

2022 Honda Civic



2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid



2022 Nissan Rogue



  • Intuitive tech features

  • Competitive fuel economy

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV



2. Budget for vehicle maintenance.

The cost to pay off your auto loan each month is just one aspect of vehicle ownership you must consider. Drivers commuting to work can spend up to $410 on vehicle maintenance each year, according to Clever Real Estate. And while maintenance costs are an unavoidable part of keeping your vehicle safe, choosing the right vehicle can help you save on trips to the auto body shop.

The best way to choose the most reliable vehicle requires some extra research. Check out Kelley Blue Book for vehicle reviews and expected maintenance costs. Remember that luxury vehicles will likely carry more expensive parts and costs whereas more basic vehicles could cost less. It is best to avoid vehicles that have a history of issues or recalls, which can be found by checking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For drivers commuting an average of 41 miles a day Monday through Friday, that’s an extra 205 miles per week on top of normal driving patterns. And as your speedometer increases you get closer to having to pay for routine vehicle maintenance. Requirements for check-ups vary by vehicle brand but most recommend around 30,000 miles.

With these extra miles in mind, you can use the price of expected maintenance to inform your vehicle choice. Here’s a breakdown of the expected price for some of Bankrate’s most reliable vehicle picks in 2023.


Vehicle repair

Expected cost

Kia Forte

30,000-mile service


Toyota C-HR

30,000-mile service


Chevrolet Blazer

30,000-mile service


Kia K5

30,000-mile service


3. Pay attention to fuel efficiency.

The cost to fill your commuter car’s tank can add up. The current gas price average is sitting at $3.39 per gallon in February 2023. Considering two popular vehicles, the Honda Civic and Ford F-150, there is a clear winner when it comes to saving money on gas.

The Civic boasts an average mpg of 33, going through 6.2 gallons per week to commute 205 miles. That weekly commute will cost about $21 in gas. The F-150, on the other hand, has an mpg of 21, so drivers will burn through 9.8 gallons per week. This will cost a bit more than the Civic, reaching $33 per week at the gas pump.

This simple exercise can be helpful when choosing one car over another. Pay attention to miles per gallon, the measure of fuel economy.

Beyond mpg, many drivers are moving towards driving a fully electric vehicle to avoid any trips to the gas station. Consider taking out a green auto loan to finance your vehicle and exploring available tax credits to save some extra cash.

4. Compare loan options.

As with securing any sort of financing, the key is shopping around and comparing a number of options. Outside of normal considerations like interest rate and loan terms, there are some other specifics to focus on.

While you might change the radio station often when driving to work, the same flexibility cannot be said for loans. So when choosing the right loan for your commuter car pay close attention to the length of your loan as this will determine how long until the vehicle will truly be yours.

Look out for special features that lenders may offer, such as 24/7 support or apps. Tech like this can streamline your loan process.

The bottom line

Much of weekday life can be stuck in traffic commuting to work so it is important to make choices to make that daily ride enjoyable. When setting out to find the right vehicle, pay attention to all-in costs and how the car can improve your commute. Compare several lender options to ensure you sign off on the best loan terms and rates for your needs.