Americans will lose the equivalent of $5,679 a year when they resume daily commutes

August 5, 2021, 4:00 PM UTC

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans saw their commute go from across town to a walk across the house, giving them back several hours each week. But as Americans start to return to the office en masse, workers can again look forward to a commute with the opportunity cost of nearly $500 each month, just in time lost during commutes. 

During the pandemic, about 30% of Americans who drove to work said they no longer had a commute as a result of COVID-19, according to a survey from ValuePenguin. But that’s set to change as many offices are set to reopen, even amid the surge of COVID cases brought on by the Delta variant.

Full-time workers in the 10 largest U.S. cities lose an average of $5,679 annually with their commute to work, according to new analysis from LendingTree. The researchers looked at how income-earning potential is sacrificed during commutes by calculating the average hourly wage in different cities multiplied by the time spent commuting. 

Fremont, Calif., for instance, has the costliest commute by far, according to their calculations, because the average worker is well paid at about $50 per hour on average and spends about 73 minutes on the road each day traveling back and forth to the office. The average annual opportunity cost for Fremont residents? $15,065. 

Across the U.S., the average roundtrip commute for those living and working in major metros is about 52 minutes each day, according to data from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Beyond Fremont, the top costliest cities for workers to commute are San Francisco; Jersey City, N.J.; Washington, D.C.; and Arlington, Va. Five of the 10 of the cities with the highest potential opportunity costs are located in California, while the least expensive cities are in the South and Midwest. 

It’s worth noting that LendingTree’s calculations don’t take into account the direct costs associated with commuting, including gas, tolls, parking fees, as well as car repairs and maintenance. While these costs can vary widely depending on the type of vehicle and the daily commute, the average U.S. household spent just over $2,000 on gas and motor oil alone in 2019, and overall transportation costs totaled $10,742 per family, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With those kinds of expenses, is it any wonder a substantial number of Americans are willing to take a pay cut to work from home?

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