Buying A Second Car For Commuting (Is It A Smart Financial Decision?)

Americans commute an average of 16 miles per day or 27 minutes. A second commuting car with great miles per gallon ratio is a good choice when you can’t afford to spend hours commuting with public transport. However, it’s a significant financial burden – a second commuting car can cost you an average of $3,800 per year.

We all know that commutes are frustrating. You work for 8 hours a day but spend an additional 2 or more traveling to your work premises.

You’re not paid for these hours, so they’re part of your free time. But, instead of spending this time relaxing with friends or family, you’re stuck in traffic.

And you think a second car you’ll use for commuting is the perfect solution. You found an older model with great mileage and low fuel consumption. You’ll save so much time now!

But is this a smart financial decision? First, let’s dive into the not-so-bright side of this idea.

Why should you get a second commuting car?

There are several good reasons why you need a second car.

  • Your new car is not suitable for the road conditions, it might get damaged easily.
  • The mileage on your current car is eating up your budget. A car with 50-60mpg is the ideal choice for commuting.
  • Your leased car had a miles-per-day limit, which you’ll go over with your commute.
  • The day-to-day car has expensive maintenance. The daily commute puts a strain on the engine that can cost you a lot of money down the road.
  • A second, ‘beat up’ car keeps your first car new longer.

When buying a new fun weekend car, you’re not factoring in commuting to work. So it might have more considerable fuel consumption or maintenance costs. If you’re making your commute with the new car, you’ll be putting so many miles on it that it will lead to repairs, new tires, and more frequent shop visits.

Repairing a newer model will burn a hole in your pockets!

Is your commute really that long?

The average time an employee spends traveling to work in the US is 27.6 minutes each way. This totals to 52 minutes per day, or almost one hour.

The average tells us people travel a lot to work, and others make a quick trip.

Pennsylvania holds the US record for the longest commuting time, with 3 hours and 12 minutes per week.

New York follows with 3 hours and 8 minutes, and Miami is lower at 2 hours and 32 minutes.

What to consider before buying a second car

Any large purchase needs to be carefully considered and discussed with your closest family. But cars come with more than a one-time expense.

Go through the following section to see if you can justify this expense.

1. How long is your commute?

A commute that takes you 1 hour with a bus and 40 minutes with a car doesn’t justify the purchase.

A bus ticket in New York can cost you between $2.75 and $6.75.

The same trip with a car with good fuel efficiency can cost you $1.5-$3. But this is without factoring in the maintenance, car fluids, insurance, and registration.

A longer commute that requires switching busses justifies a second car.

2. What’s the road condition?

When considering a second car, you’re considering an older model with quite some mileage under its belt.

Rarely anyone is willing to splurge on the second commute car.

But take into consideration the road condition. Are you traveling street or highway? Maybe even gravel road.

How safe is an old car on this road? In most cases, busses are safer than old cars.

Remember that you’ll be adding so many more miles to this car that repair shop visits will be inevitable.

3. Can you afford it?

Is your first car paid in full? How about other debt?

Do a quick budget recap and list out your current expenses. What’s your debt to asset ratio?

Do you have a fully-funded emergency fund that you can use if the second car breaks down? Will a new set of tires set you back for months?

Answer these questions before making your trip to the dealership.

4. Do you have a parking spot at work?

This is a crucial question that often gets neglected.

Does your company provide enough parking spaces that you can get one assigned? Or is there public parking nearby? How much does it cost?

Struggling to find a parking spot and being late to work is not a good start to the day.

Is it financially smart to own two cars

A young woman just bought her second car to use for commuting to work

We accept jobs that require long commutes due to good pay. When the income justifies the commute, it’s time to make it easier. Why doesn’t one car work?

Let’s say you bought a 4×4 truck or a new Tesla. The miles per gallon ratio is not budget-friendly.

Or in the case of Tesla, you don’t want to expose it to the terrible road conditions you go through to get to work.

Maybe you don’t have a charger at work. Additionally, your company’s parking might not be the safest spot.

But you won’t care about a scratch on a 10-year-old car that has been through a lot already.

A cheaper brand with cheaper parts, inexpensive tire size, and good mpg is a perfect choice.

Instead of making the commute with your new car, spending more with each mile, a commuter car can save you gas and repair money.

Second car vs. carpooling vs. bus

If you’re a social person, you probably already know if you have colleagues in the area around you. Have you considered carpooling?

Sharing the cost to work can be more expensive than a bus ride, but it comes with more comfort, shorter travel time, and no waiting. From an environmentally conscious perspective, carpooling along with bus rides lowers your carbon footprint.

It all comes to comfort vs. money. When you’re dealing with a small or no debt, can easily set aside investment and retirement money, pay bills and enjoy life all with a second car – then you’re good to go!

How much is your time worth?

A second job or a hobby you’re passionate about requires a good portion of your time.

If you get a second car and cut your commute, you get extra time to do additional work or relax.

If you’re enrolled in online courses or want to persuade a new career, a shorter commute will provide that extra time.

When comparing a second commuting car vs. a bus ride, it’s essential to weigh how much is an hour of your time worth.

How much will a commuting car cost you?

Here’s simple math that can vary by a lot, depending on what you’re looking for in a second car. First, we’ll do a 5-year estimate.

Let’s start with the purchase. An older model shouldn’t cost you more than $10,000.
Insurance starts at $32 per month, so 5 years will cost you $1,920.

If you’re traveling an average of 50 miles per day and choose a car with 50 mpg, you’ll be spending around $3.5 to $4 a day. That comes to $4,800 per year.
Regular maintenance and parts replacement shouldn’t go over $2,500.

In the end, you’re left with $3,844 per year or $16 per day of commuting expenses.

Putting two cars on one insurance policy

Multi-car insurance is a good option to save money on the second car.

Most companies offer a discount when you decide to add a second, third or more vehicle to the same policy.

It’s available for an individual owner of several cars or families with more than one vehicle.

It’s best to get a quote from several companies before committing. Keep in mind that if you’re purchasing an older vehicle, the discount might not be as great.

However, the policy will still be lower than insuring the second car individually.


Can you take two auto loans?

There’s no limit on how many car loans a person can have. But it can be harder to get a second loan if your finances are stretched with the single one.

The lender will consider your debt to asset ratio. You have to be mindful if you’ll be able to keep on paying off both loans in time.

Should I get paid for drive time?

The law doesn’t entitle you to compensation for the hours you spent traveling to and from work. They’re only obligated to pay your travel time to and from work-related activities.

Bottom line

Work from home people get a lot of envy from commuters. And for a reason. I, for one, hated commuting.

While living in the big city, my afternoon bus commute was at least an hour long. My morning commute was only a few minutes shorter.

Reading a book in a jam-packed bus was not an option, so I stared outside for two hours of my day.

Get the second car if you appreciate the time spent with friends and family and can afford it. But remember that a vehicle is not a one-time expense.

This significant purchase comes with reoccurring costs that will eat up a portion of your family budget. If you’re saving for some major assets like a home or investments, postpone the second car.

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