What’s the real cost of your drive to work?

Amy Hamilton Chadwick
What’s the real cost of your drive to work?

Whether you rent or buy, what is the value of living closer to work? Housing is all about the location, so often it’s a compromise between being further from work and living in a bigger, smarter house.

How can you work out whether it’s worth paying extra to have a shorter drive time in the morning? It’s more than just the cost of running your car – it’s also the time you spend sitting behind the wheel when you could be having fun.

To try to answer some of these questions, we’ve come up with some numbers* on the cost of driving from various distances.

Using Auckland as an example (because it has the worst traffic), we’ve worked out the cost per kilometre of the car use, plus the cost of your time sitting in traffic.

We’ve only valued your time at $20 an hour, the incoming minimum wage – it’s probably worth a lot more to you. Our numbers also don’t take parking into account, so you could reasonably tack on another $15 per day for central Auckland.

Here’s what it will cost you to commute a range of distances, each one compared to living 5km from the city:


Based on those numbers, how much more would you have available to spend on rent or your mortgage if you lived closer to work? 


Based on these numbers, if you’re going to drive it’s worth paying up to $79 extra rent each week to be 5km from work instead of 10km, and up to $153 extra rent each week to be 5km from work instead of 20km.

When it comes to homebuyers, a house 30km from work is worth paying an extra $120,000 for, compared to a house that’s 50km from work. And remember that you can double these numbers if you share costs with a partner who’s doing a commute of a similar distance.

It may not be enough to bridge house price differences in Auckland, but it’s useful to factor in when you’re weighing up your options.

You should also weigh up the time and cost of using public transport, which may change your calculations.

You’ll need to work out your own sums when you’re considering where to live, because your numbers will depend on where you work, how long it takes you to get there, and how much you hate commuting.

It’s also worth considering the intangible benefits of a shorter commute: more time spent commuting has been associated with potential health problems like increased stress and higher blood pressure, so renting or buying closer to work might be worth even more than we’ve estimated.


*Calculations based on the following:

  1. Commuting 21 days a month, 12 months a year.
  2. Fuel economy 8L/100km.
  3. Cost of fuel $2.50
  4. Interest rate 4.29%
  5. Loan term 30 years paying principal and interest, 80% deposit.
  6. Commute cost calculated here.
  7. Travel times calculated using Google directions leaving at 8am on a Thursday morning and travelling to the Auckland CBD. 



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