This is how much your long commute is costing you

How 15 minutes can cost you more than you realize

Kai Wong
5 min readFeb 11, 2020


Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash

Have you ever stopped to think about how much your morning commute costs?

You pay for gas, insurance or a public transit card. But that’s not the only way that you pay for them.

Commutes rank dead last in terms of what people perceive as good for their emotional well-being.

Long commutes have negative health effects, such as high blood pressure, lower back pain, obesity, and even shorter life spans.

But given the choice between a higher salary or a shorter commute, people overwhelmingly choose the job with a higher salary.

It’s not that people can’t do the math: it’s that they can’t see the total impact. 15 minutes extra on your commute doesn’t seem like much.

But here’s the math behind why that’s a bad choice.

The hidden psychology of a longer commute

People tend to overestimate the impact of salary, while they underestimate the impact of commuting.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a study to examine this effect.

When given the choice between 2 jobs, one making $67,000 with a commute of 50 minutes and one making $64,000 with a commute of 20 minutes, people overwhelmingly chose the job with the longer commute.

A full 84% of our participants chose Job 1, thus expressing a willingness to forfeit one hour each workday to their commute — 250 hours per year — in exchange for just $3,000… We checked to see whether participants could do this math, and they could. Their responses simply reflected an inability to fully appreciate the psychological, emotional, and physical costs of longer travel times.

So if that hypothetical situation wasn’t enough to sway most people into recognizing the cost of longer travel times, let’s look at the actual math of a scenario like this.



Kai Wong

7xTop writer in UX Design. UX, Data Viz, and Data. Author of Data-Informed UX Design: Substack: