How Far is Too Far to Drive to Work?

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how far is too far to drive to work

It seems as if nobody enjoys the commute into the office. It’s dead time in the day that you’re not able to use productively on your work, or enjoyably with your family or friends.

So if you find yourself frustrated with you how long you’re spending driving to work,  or if you’re evaluating a new job offer and deciding how long you want to drive, this article is for you.

Within this post, we evaluate how far is too far to drive to work and provide data like what is the average distance to drive to work to help you unpack that decision.

What is The Average Distance to Drive to Work

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average duration of a one-way commute in the United States is 27.6 minutes, or about 55 minutes round trip.

And while the Census Bureau data did not include the average mileage, data from ABC News suggests that the average American drives 16 miles each way, which would roughly matches up with the Census Bureau’s 55 hours estimate.

What is a Reasonable Commute to Work?

traffic

In general, if you’re trying to assess whether or not your current or potential commute to work is reasonable, you can use the average commute to work data provided in the previous section to help make that assessment. 

If your commute would be within the average time and distance of the commute of other Americans, than you can consider that a reasonable commute.

If your commute is longer than that, then it’s a bit more of a judgment call. I’d say if you’re within 25% of the average length and distance of a commute, then I would still consider that to be a reasonable commute, even if it may be one that you don’t necessarily want to do yourself.

How Far is Too Far to Drive to Work?

Ultimately, the decision of how far is too far to drive to work is going to come down to your own personal preferences and lifestyle.

To help you think through that, here are a few key factors to consider when deciding how far you want to commute:

Does Your Commute Interfere with Your Preferred Lifestyle?

family

A key point that we try to get across in many of our articles is that you should be thinking about work in terms of how it fits into the larger context of the life that you’re trying to build for yourself.

Ideally, you should be intentionally choosing your work based upon your preferred lifestyle. Too often, we approach things the other way around and build our life around our work.

You should view a decision on a commute through the same lens.

A simple question to ask yourself is: would this commute interfere with my normal or preferred life? If it’s a short commute and the answer is no or minimally, then that commute shouldn’t be a problem.

However, if it’s a long commute that will make it difficult to spend time with your family or friends in the way that you want to, then that commute may be too far for you to drive to work.

You can also evaluate your overall work schedule through a similar lens, and assess if a traditional 8-hour schedule is right for you.

Does It Make Financial Sense?

finances

Depending upon your wages, there are some cases where it simply may not make financial sense for you to drive a certain distance. 

As of the time that I’m writing this article, the average price for a gallon of gas in America is $3.85. The average miles per gallon for a car is about 24 miles per gallon. And the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

So, as an example, if you’re driving 50% longer than the average roundtrip commute distance, that would mean that your drive is 24 miles in total, which would cost you $3.85.

If you’re making minimum wage, that would mean that you’re basically providing a half hour of free labor because you’re losing that in the cost of your commute. And that doesn’t even account for your own personal time that you’re giving up by being in the car which, in this example, would be over an hour.

Ultimately, you need to do a similar type of analysis to decide if the financial cost/benefit analysis makes sense for you.

Is It Worth It?

thinking person

At the end of the day, the way to decide how far is too far to drive to work comes down to a simple personal assessment of if that length of drive is worth it to you for that job.

If the commute interferes with your normal life and takes away a portion of your earnings, you better really like that job in order for it to be worth what you’re putting into it.

If you find that you’re not in love with the job, and you have to deal with a long commute that interferes with your preferred life, it may be time to take a bit of a risk and go find something else.

If you’re ready to make that decision to look for a new opportunity that ideally would have a better commute, this article on how to decide on a new job could be helpful.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article was valuable in enabling you to assess how far is too far to drive to work.

At the end of the day, I encourage you to think about your work decisions in the context of the overall life that you’re trying to build for yourself.

And your commute is a big factor in that decision. So if you find that your commute is interfering with your preferred lifestyle, try to find a work situation that will better fit into the life that you want for yourself.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan serves as a career counselor on the side. He writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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