Let’s be clear about something: carpooling or using alternative transportation is absolutely great for the environment. That’s not what this post is about. This post is directed to everyone who says “I love carpooling, it saves me so much money.” See, most people I know carpool for just that reason: to save money. But do you really save money?
Consider the example of my three partners and I. Let’s say that all four of us carpool to our warehouse for four days each week.
It’s a ~9 mile drive to work for each of us, or an ~18 mile round trip. According to CommuteSolutions.org, the true cost of driving – including drivers expenses (like vehicle depreciation, maintenance, insurance, etc) and societal costs (like accidents, congestion cost, air pollution damage, CO2 reduction, etc) is $1.19/mile.
If I’m not driving: I wait roughly 10 minutes to be picked up, spend roughly 10 minutes in the car while other people are getting picked up, and wait another 10 minutes while everyone is being rounded up to leave. It could be less time than this, but it could also be more (we all know that person that keeps saying ‘just give me 5 more minutes to finish something’ and it ends up taking 30 minutes). Anyway, average time wasted = 30 minutes when not driving.
If I drive: I spend roughly 20 minutes picking people up, including calling them when I get there and waiting for them. I spend 15 minutes dropping them off. I still spend the 10 minutes waiting for everyone to be ready to leave. That’s also roughly 10 miles combined of additional driving. Average time wasted = 45 minutes, additional cost of mileage = 10 x $1.19/mile, or $14.28.
Also, there’s also at least 30 minutes of additional wasted time every four days when someone says “can we stop at XYZ for a few seconds because it’s on the way and I really need to blah blah blah”.
Since there’s four of us, let’s just do the math on a four day schedule.
In any four day period without carpooling, I would commute 72 miles (18 x 4), it would cost me $85.68 and have a time loss of 0 minutes.
In any four day period with carpooling, I would drive 28 miles (18 + 10), it would cost me $33.32 and have a time loss of 165 minutes ((30 x 3 )+ 45 + 30).
So here’s the million dollar question: is 165 minutes in lost time worth saving $52.36? I don’t know about you, but my time is worth a lot more than $19.04/hour. I also value the freedom to know that I can come and go whenever I want.
I’m not saying I won’t carpool on occasion if it’s convenient socially or if I’m in a particularly green mood and want to help the environment, just that on a day-to-day basis it is absolutely not a good financial move for me.