I spent part of my weekend re-reading a MMM’s 2012 post Toyota Prius – Ass Kicker, or Trouble Maker . The article covers your basics on car safety, reliability and a little dish on the maintenance costs. On whether hybrid cars save money or not, he posits:
“It depends mostly on the amount of driving you do annually. Since this is the Mr. Money Mustache blog, I’m assuming that you’ve learned by now that buying a new car is never a wise financial move. Thus, we can ignore the fact that a 2012 Prius costs $24,000 while a 2012 Honda Fit is only $16,000. You’d need to drive 27,000 miles per year to get that price difference back over five years, which would be effing insane.”
I fall squarely into that effing insane group, and actually exceed it by several thousand miles. This is one area in which I would disappoint Mr. MMM greatly. I bought my Prius brand new for just over $24,000. I plan on driving it more than 30,000 miles per year for eight years. Even though buying used would have greatly improved this picture, reliability weighed heavily in my decision. Let’s talk about my commute.
My work commute is 145 miles round trip, coming in at 3 hours of driving per day. I spend an average of $200 a month on fuel and maintenance for my car. It’s not too exciting but without this fuel I couldn’t do my job. “Just change jobs” some people would say. The problem is that there are no other employers in my field nearby. I’d have to either move to a different town or change my career completely and would end up earning considerably less.
Positives for a 3-hour commute
Can you believe there are any? Well for me there are and the choice to have a work commute is highly personal and certainly is not for everyone.
- I live in my ideal retirement home/town. This is my dream town. I worked for eight years just to get back here, there is no way we are leaving now. We bought our house in 2012 when prices were lower. I emphasize lower, because housing prices here have always seemed a little elevated to me. My house has increased in value by $112,000 over the last four years. By the time I FIRE, my home will be the affordable choice.
- My entire family lives here. Since my parents are reaching an age where they need additional assistance, it is nice to live so close. Plus, Little Miss TJL will get to grow up knowing her grandparents and her cousins. I did not grow up near my grandparents and, as a result, we had a very limited relationship.
- The school system is excellent. Over the last ten years, our town has replaced every single public school with new and modern buildings. Little Miss TJL will grow up with technology classes and other state of the art advantages for free (minus property taxes, of course).
- Our community is close knit and we have long and established friendships here. Instead of occasionally visiting our friends once a year, we now get to nurture these relationships multiple times a week. A support system is priceless; money isn’t everything.
- The weather is ideal. We live in a temperate mountain environment. Our daily temperatures are generally 10 degrees warmer than even the closest town only 25 miles to the north. It is truly crazy to be at work in -14 degree weather and come home to 40 degree weather, but it happens regularly through the winter. Even in the summer, work will be closer to 55-60 degrees and home will be 75-80 degrees. Delightful. It makes me feel like I am on vacation every single night.
- I commute with two other colleagues, so I am only driving the entire distance every four weeks. This reduces the cost but not the time investment.
Negatives of a 3-hour commute
I probably don’t even need to list these, but with the positives, comes a lot of negatives. This is part of the driver for FIRE, since I don’t think I can maintain such a grueling schedule for another 20 years.
- My day is 12 hours long. Since I need to be at my desk at 6:00 am, I leave my house at 4:30 am. I do not get home until 4:30 pm. This gives me exactly 2.5 hours to eat dinner and hang out with my family before bedtime.
- I have to go to bed at 7:00 pm. Due to my early morning hours, I go to bed quite early in the evening. This makes going out or spending time with friends more difficult. Even on the weekends, I am still maintaining this schedule, otherwise I get out of whack for the following work week. I miss out on a lot of fun stuff.
- Throughout the day, I get up from my desk and walk the stairs, however, more or less I sit for 12 hours a day. Sitting this long for years cannot be good for my health and actually leads to a pretty depressing existence. It is not sustainable.
- In the winter, I never see the sun. I get up in the dark, and by the time I arrive home in the evening it is dark. So much dark makes me sad, lethargic and fat.
- In the winter, I drive in inclement weather. I drive through winding mountain roads and passes, in the pitch dark, in blinding snow, on black ice, in storms. Sometimes, I drive 25 miles per hour through this weather and my commute extends to about 4-5 hours. I do this in a Prius (Seriously, who needs an SUV?). It sucks and is extremely stressful. Summer is awesome though, and it lasts exactly 2 months.
- The elevation climb from home to work is ~ 5,000 feet. Yes, you read that correctly. My work is 5,000 feet higher than my home. This daily climb can decrease the life of my electric car battery. I am hoping to eke out 200 to 300 thousand miles before replacing the battery, but I might have to replace it sooner. A lightly used battery pack from a salvage yard and 2 to 4 hours labor to swap it should run $1,000 to $1,500.
- Even though I own the Prius straight out, I still maintain full insurance coverage. I dodge wildlife in the dark for 3 hours a day. In the inevitable event that I will smoke a deer or elk on the highway, I could easily afford to replace the car with another highly reliable vehicle. Once I FIRE, full coverage is going bye-bye.
- I have frequent maintenance costs for oil changes and inspections. I get my oil changed every 10,000 miles. This equates to three times per year. The car gets inspected every year (~30,000 miles).
- Additionally, I replace my tires every 2-3 years. Due to the adverse driving conditions, I require high quality snow tires. These are softer than regular tires and do not last as long. However, I am happy to report that since I get a free tire rotation every 10,000 miles, my current set has lasted 60,000 miles and look good enough to get me through another winter. Rotate your tires!
I guess that is more negatives than positives, however if I can hang in there for another 4.5 years, I’ll be home free. No more commute. I might even sell my car.
Do you have a brutal commute? How do you justify it?