Long Commutes Justify More Expensive Cars (And That's a Bad Thing)

Yeah, that's definitely what driving is like.

This is somewhat related to

my last post

, so I just want to mention it briefly before it slips my mind.

When you take into account gasoline, insurance, repairs, licensing fees, parking, and the cost of the vehicle itself, cars are expensive. AAA estimates that a single car costs families $9,000 a year (


I think that's sometimes overstated

). That cost is heavily dependent on what you drive, of course, since a $50,000 car is going to average out to a much higher annual cost than a $10,000 one. It's also dependent on how much you drive.

Looking at things from another angle, the more you drive the more justified you are in buying an expensive vehicle. After all, if you spend 2-3 hours a day in your car (which amounts to more than a month out of every year), your comfort and feelings of safety while driving are probably more important to you than if you only use your car for a few trips a week. A Lexus you use every day seems like a much better investment than a Lexus that sits in the garage 5 days out of the week.

In this sense, it's completely rational to spend more money on your car the longer your commute—it also exacerbates the problem of overspending on transportation. When you choose to buy a "cheaper" home in the suburbs you spend less on housing and more on transportation, and part of that is because the increased travel time requires spending much of those housing "savings" on daily driving costs (gas, etc.). That additional travel time also means you're in your car a greater percentage of the day, so why not get a nice car to make it a little more enjoyable? It sounds reasonable enough, until you re-examine why you chose to live in the suburbs in the first place and realize that it was to save money.*

I'll be the first to admit this is entirely speculative, and that intuitive results aren't always the same as empirical results. It'd be really interesting to see a study on this, to put together real data on whether—all other things being equal—longer commutes encourage people to throw away more of their money on more expensive cars and trucks.

*Not everyone moves to the suburbs just because they believe they're cheaper. Some people want what the suburbs have to offer, and that's okay. Many, on the other hand, are only there because they think they're being financially responsible.