Is your daily commute really worth a lower mortgage payment?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Zion Realty

There is a phrase in the real estate industry that has been widely used for years. It's connotation is meant to be humorous but it does have a serious, underlying tone. "Drive until you qualify" means that the farther away from a major city in which you purchase a home, the better your chances of being able to qualify for a monthly mortgage payment low enough to afford.

Generally speaking, when new home communities spring up on the very outskirts of town, they cannot charge the same pricing for a home located in the heart of a major city. Homeowners won't have the shopping centers, jobs, and infrastructure directly around them if they decide to move out to extreme boundaries meaning they will need to commute in to major areas for most of life's necessities. Higher commute costs will dramatically cut in to an individuals monthly budget. This being the case, home builders must lure buyers to these properties with lower pricing and affordability. But just how much are you saving as a homeowner being able to afford a lower monthly payment yet expending hundreds of extra dollars per month on commuting costs? 

Using the following data and statistics from AAA as well as an on-line commuter cost calculator I reached some startling results:


1. Average daily round trip commute distance: 40 miles

2. Average monthly days worked: 20 days

3. Average MPG on a vehicle: 20 mpg

4. Current National Gas Price average: $2.77

5. Average vehicle size: Mid-Size to Intermediate

6. Average monthly car payment: $250.00


Total Estimated monthly cost of commuting: $827.20

Total Estimated yearly cost of commuting: $9,926.40


These estimated total costs factor in not only the above statistics, but also normal wear and tear on vehicles, higher insurance premiums for high mileage drivers, routine maintenance, oil changes, and total lost wage earning potential from time spent traveling. If you're like me, these numbers should be startling and make you second guess purchasing that home far out from the boundaries of where you work and play. You may save a few hundred dollars per month on your mortgage by living farther out of the city but these numbers help make it more clear just how much more you're actually spending overall. 

There are also other factors when deciding to purchase a home which will require an extensive commute. You will most assuredly get more home and more land for your dollar in these outlying areas. If you have a large family and are in need of space to stretch out then you may have no choice but to shop in these farther out reaches depending upon your budget. Maybe you and your family enjoy being outdoors and living outside of the city boundaries allows you a quicker escape to your favorite weekend trails, lakes, and mountain get-aways. 

At the end of the day, what you really need to factor in to your decision on purchasing a property that will require a long distance daily commute is time. Time is our most precious commodity. You need to ask yourself if having a slightly larger home or a bigger lot size is really worth the extra time you will spend on the road each and every week away from your friends, family, and activities that you could be enjoying. 

Finding the right home for you requires thought, research, and help from the experts at Zion Realty. Contact us today at for professional guidance on how and where you should buy your next home. 


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Dan Rosenberger
Harvest Realty - Westfield, IN

The longer commute could be to a more rural setting, or a better school system or other advantages.  But from a pure dollars and cents standpoint the value of somebody's time (Annual salary / 2000) would be one way to figure the cost impact of each extra hour of commuting.

Jul 16, 2015 11:35 AM #12
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


Great post . . . . and information.

Finding more buyer prefer to pay a higher price for the home to be closer to work.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Jul 16, 2015 11:44 AM #13
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
Good Company Real Estate - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Nicole - You bring up an excellent point that not too many home buyers ever really consider. Many are looking for the larger homes at the lower prices on the outskirts of the city just for those benefits, but they typically do not consider the time lost, or commuting expenses.

Jul 16, 2015 04:07 PM #14
James Dray
Fathom Realty AR LLC - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Good morning Nicole.  In our neck of the woods I live only 3 miles from the office.  I wait until 8 before I drive there thus avoiding the traffic issues.  

Jul 16, 2015 08:06 PM #15
Conrad Allen
Re/Max Professional Associates - Webster, MA
Webster, Ma, Realtor

Hi Nicole.  I can only wish my vehicle costs were less than $10,000/year.

Jul 16, 2015 08:13 PM #16
Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400
The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803 - Plainview, NY
Long Island Home and Condo Specialists

This is a major factor but sometimes the budget doesn't allow this type of benefit...

Jul 16, 2015 08:49 PM #17
Roger D. Mucci
Shaken...with a Twist 216.633.2092 - Euclid, OH
Lets shake things up at your home today!

Great post.....I love how you broke it all down too Nicole.  If people only  did the math and figured out how much moving 10 minutes farther away would safe them.  If you're in the car is a 30 minute communte  taking that much more time out of your day than a 20 minute commute?

Jul 16, 2015 09:02 PM #18
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Nicole, individual needs versus what you are willing to sacrifice to get there is the big question! Urban versus suburban is a growing issue! Enjoy your day!

Jul 16, 2015 09:08 PM #19
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

Great post Nicole, being around a few larger cities in California over the years, we see this expressed in daily traffic patterns. Though I've never heard the expression, it makes sense.


Jul 16, 2015 10:23 PM #20
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

I commuted 2-3 hours a day for two years before making the commitment to close that gap...Economics had a lot to do with too...Good posting here

Jul 16, 2015 11:36 PM #21
Amanda S. Davidson
Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group - Alexandria, VA
Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale

Nicole, this post hits home with me. The DC area is a nightmare for traffic and I know a ton of people that commute 2-3 hours a day just to have a lower mortgage payment. When you factor in the time, wear and tear on the vehicle, gas and tolls it's not something I'd ever be willing to do. My smaller townhouse is just fine!

Jul 17, 2015 12:17 AM #22
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Bob - The Metro-Phoenix area is known for high mileage commuters and we love our cars out here!

Mike - I think the time factor is bigger than the money factor. At five hours a week that's 260 hours are year which is almost an extra 11 whole work days you spend on the road

Steffy - The millennial buyers are at the forefront of buying smaller homes in the city areas now. 

Dan T - Somtimes buying on the outskirts does work for people. As long as they know all their options. 

Dan R - There certainly are other factors besides money involved in commuting and school systems is one of them.

Lou - I am seeing that trend the past year but before that people were choosing the bigger cheaper home and a long commute.

Jul 17, 2015 01:16 AM #23
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

My philosophy has always been to live where you want to live and not somewhere because it's close to work. Of course you should take into account how far you will be driving but don't let that dictate your choice!

Jul 17, 2015 01:35 AM #24
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Troy - Now that new construction is popping up in a lot of the outer areas are here in Arizona I thought this would be a good education for buyers considering that option.

James - There's traffic issues only driving 3 miles? 

Conrad - That's a great point. Some people actually spend more than those estimates!

Larry - Some people don't have a choice. If they want to purchase a home they have to live in an area that requires a commute. 

Roger - As an agent I drive all the time. That's just the nature of the business. But for regular 9-5ers the time lost is huge. 


Jul 17, 2015 01:43 AM #25
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Wayne - Urban sprawl has dominated my area for the better part of three decades so long commutes are just a way of life out here. But is it really better? You have to weigh all the pros and cons.

Tom - Maybe it's just a phrase used around here. I was sure most people had heard of it but we are heavy commuters here in the Phoenix area. 

Richie - You lasted about a year longer than I would have.

Amanda - I would absolutely take a much smaller home to be closer to where I work and play no doubt about it.

Fred - There are a lot of people who prefer to live far outside of the city boundaries and commute. It's not something that I would do myself but I understand why those people like it. 

Jul 17, 2015 01:49 AM #26
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


Some home buyers . . . . will commute for a special reason . . . . but the there are fewer people willing to commit to a long commute.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Jul 17, 2015 04:16 AM #27
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

Some buyers don't get it. They think it is all abut the monthly payment and even if you remind them abut the extra commuting expense they rationalize that away. Good post Nicole.

Jul 17, 2015 07:41 AM #28
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


This is a very smart post, and I see people commuting to Los Angeles from the far ends of the county.  Their commute time can be 1-2 hours each way, even if they live 35 minutes from their jobs.  All that time in the car...and no quality of life with 20-40 hours of commuting a week, and on Fridays, it is more like 3 hours.  A.

Jul 17, 2015 08:03 AM #29
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Lou - It's been a way of life in the Phoenix area for decades and I'm just now starting to see more people shift towards buying less house to be within the city.

Debbie - Yes, I've worked with those buyers too. All you can do is educate them and let them make their decisions.

Alexandra - All that extra time and stress of dealing with traffic takes years off of your life!

Jul 17, 2015 10:55 AM #30
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Nicole -  Location is a big part of value.  In every metro area you can tell where the lower home prices are.  Look at the traffic back ups.  You are right.  There is a price one way or the other.

Jul 18, 2015 07:30 AM #31
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