Author Topic: Buy used car (and see daughter more) vs. longer train commute - help!  (Read 4754 times)

drobots

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I'm about to start a new job that has a long commute.  I know, I know... there's not much I can do about that now, so ignore that while I ask a question about how to be Mustachian about this commute.  Right now I live in a city and don't own a car, and the new job is in a small town.  So, I'm trying to see if I can get away with remaining car-less without sacrificing quality of life. Here's the details:

Driving:
It's 41 miles each way.  I can make it in about 50 mins door to door.  It's only $35 for a parking permit in my city to park on the streets for the year.  It could take anywhere from 0 to ~20 mins or so to find a spot at night.  I would have to buy a car, and would of course buy a used Scion xD or Honda Fit hatchback.  Then gas money, maintenance, etc.

Train:
I'm 1.3 miles from the train station where I live, and my office is 0.8 miles from the train station on the other end.  The train runs very infrequently: there are only two trains in the morning that get in a reasonable times (7:46am and 8:41am), and a few trains in the evening that leave at reasonable times (4:46pm, 5:43p, 6:46pm).  The train is 56-65 mins.  I can get a monthly pass for $191, and it looks like this would be pretax money because of a commuter benefit from the new job.  Walking that 1.3 and 0.8 miles is of course doable, but that 4.2 miles/day even walking really fast is at least an hour.  I could bike those distances, and take my bike on the train with me (a bit of a pain but doable). The overhead time of getting my bike out of the back yard/locking it up at the other end is non-zero.  Or I could use a Razor A5 scooter I just got on sale to help with my current commute.

I want to maximize my time with my 6 month old daughter and wife, and minimize my commute time, all while being a good Mustachian.  There's a good chance I would have to rent a car once a month or more when I have meetings that last later than the last train.  There are Zipcars at the lot right at the end of my street, but I hate spending money on that.  We spent a little over $1k on rental cars last year to visit friends and family on holidays, birthdays, etc. that live within a couple hours drive but not close to public transit.  So, the money boils down to:

Driving: ~$6k for a used hatchback + gas for 82 miles/day*4 days a week (I will be working from home 1 day/week)*50 weeks/year * 0.60/mile (not sure what a good per mile gas/car maintenance number is?) = $9840

Train: (annually) $191*12 = $2,292 + renting a car for work 1x/month at $100 + renting a car for family/friends/trips to Home Depot 1x/month at $100 = $4692

I can probably get the rental car numbers down a bit, and of course the car would last me more than a year, but either way the train is cheaper but equals less time with family.  Any suggestions here?  Math I haven't thought of?  Fact checking on actual cost of driving help?

Thanks!

« Last Edit: July 30, 2014, 09:00:38 PM by casadlo »

bogart

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If there is a way you could keep a bike at each end (or even just at the home end, but safely locked at the station), this would simplify taking the train, no? 

How would the costs break down if you rode the train twice/week and drove twice/week?  Yes, I realize this would still necessitate buying a car, but you could target your non-car commute days for nicer weather (and better schedules, if late meetings), keep mileage down, and have access to an owned car when needed for home depot, etc.

drobots

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Yes I could lock my bike at the station at the home end.  I don't think it would be safe to leave one at the work end since it would be there all night and on weekends, and isn't in a covered area of any kind.  That would help a bit.

The part train/part car commute might work well.  Nice days = bike/train, crappy weather or late meeting = car.  I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the discounts a monthly train pass offers since it really only adds up once you use is 4 day/week, but the increase would be only about a dollar per trip, and since there would be less of them, that is kind of in the noise.

Thanks!

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Consider your personality. My father had a 30-40 mile car commute for most of my childhood. I remember him being an asshole who was  once so exhausted, he fell asleep at the table, landed his head in a candle, and set his hair on fire. (He extinguished the fire by simply running his hands through his hair, and was uninjured.)

Then they built a commuter train. He didn't get home until twenty to eight, but he was suddenly pleasant. Cheerful, even. He told jokes after work, not just on the weekends. He had had a nap on the train--really a nap, like sometimes slept past his stop and had to be fetched. (It was worth it.)

That might not be at all relevant to your situation. My father, whom I love, had--ahem--perhaps other issues than a commute. I'm just saying, when you decide your commuting method, remember that there is more to consider than just time and money. Make sure to see the whole picture.

DarinC

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I agree with frugal. With that said, technically a used 2nd gen Prius/1st gen Honda Insight might be cheaper than taking the train around the 2 year mark, but you're gonna need that rest on the ride home.

Gray Matter

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Can you work on the train and therefore shorten your time in the office at all?  Then you wouldn't be away from your wife/child more, even though your commute would be longer.  Also, do you take time once you're home to exercise?  These brisk walks daily to and from the train could suffice, leaving you with more quality time with the family.

MBot

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Will the "passive commute" on the train be useful for you?

I've had a long train commute before, and I loved it. It was time to read, eat breakfast, put on my makeup; pray, even. YMMV.  One of my keys to being happy/productive when arriving home was to eat something on the way back and arrive home with better blood sugar levels. 

Especially if you're a personality that craves solitary "reading time" or other things that are hard to carve out time for, being able to sit on the train and listen to podcasts, knit, read the paper, etc can be a useful part of your day instead of "wasted" time. And the walking/biking at each end as exercise is great too. 

« Last Edit: July 30, 2014, 10:00:42 PM by MBot »

Rural

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Try the train-- can you pay by the day or week to test it out? See what it's like. Ditto with the drive, maybe using one of those zipcars. Then you'll know how it all compares in real life.


That said, you have an infant child. I'd say it's worth $5k to get to see months 6-18, assuming you don't need that money in order to feed her. Some things just fall into the category of "that's what money is for." We're all here talking about using our money to buy time, when you really get down to it. I can't imagine that your retirement time is more valuable than time during your daughter's infancy.

Goldielocks

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I'm about to start a new job that has a long commute.  I know, I know... there's not much I can do about that now, so ignore that while I ask a question about how to be Mustachian about this commute.  Right now I live in a city and don't own a car, and the new job is in a small town.  So, I'm trying to see if I can get away with remaining car-less without sacrificing quality of life. Here's the details:

Driving:
It's 41 miles each way.  I can make it in about 50 mins door to door.  It's only $35 for a parking permit in my city to park on the streets for the year.  It could take anywhere from 0 to ~20 mins or so to find a spot at night.  I would have to buy a car, and would of course buy a used Scion xD or Honda Fit hatchback.  Then gas money, maintenance, etc.

Train:
I'm 1.3 miles from the train station where I live, and my office is 0.8 miles from the train station on the other end.  The train runs very infrequently: there are only two trains in the morning that get in a reasonable times (7:46am and 8:41am), and a few trains in the evening that leave at reasonable times (4:46pm, 5:43p, 6:46pm).  The train is 56-65 mins.  I can get a monthly pass for $191, and it looks like this would be pretax money because of a commuter benefit from the new job.  Walking that 1.3 and 0.8 miles is of course doable, but that 4.2 miles/day even walking really fast is at least an hour.  I could bike those distances, and take my bike on the train with me (a bit of a pain but doable). The overhead time of getting my bike out of the back yard/locking it up at the other end is non-zero.  Or I could use a Razor A5 scooter I just got on sale to help with my current commute.

I want to maximize my time with my 6 month old daughter and wife, and minimize my commute time, all while being a good Mustachian.  There's a good chance I would have to rent a car once a month or more when I have meetings that last later than the last train.  There are Zipcars at the lot right at the end of my street, but I hate spending money on that.  We spent a little over $1k on rental cars last year to visit friends and family on holidays, birthdays, etc. that live within a couple hours drive but not close to public transit.  So, the money boils down to:

Driving: ~$6k for a used hatchback + gas for 82 miles/day*4 days a week (I will be working from home 1 day/week)*50 weeks/year * 0.60/mile (not sure what a good per mile gas/car maintenance number is?) = $9840

Train: (annually) $191*12 = $2,292 + renting a car for work 1x/month at $100 + renting a car for family/friends/trips to Home Depot 1x/month at $100 = $4692

I can probably get the rental car numbers down a bit, and of course the car would last me more than a year, but either way the train is cheaper but equals less time with family.  Any suggestions here?  Math I haven't thought of?  Fact checking on actual cost of driving help?

Thanks!

Hi, I need to fix your equation for driving.  The car will take at least 5 more years to fully depreciate. 
Either show $1k per year as depreciation, instead of all 6k, and use a lower number like $0.40 / mile,
     OR
 eliminate the car purchase price completely and use $0.56 per mile, which is the all in govt rate for a little bit nicer car that drives 15k to 20k miles per year.   

These rates per mile  include gas, insurance depreciation, maintenance, and maybe carrying costs( interest).

Now your car is slightly to moderately cheaper annually than the trainm.

The two trains a day are doable if tyhge yrs work for you, and most friends here like the train commute for the reasons already noted by others.

Lastly, are you sure you can't move to the new town? Find a job closer?  Work from home 1 day per week?

plustax

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Brompton folding bicycle. Take it on the train. No hassle.

drobots

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Re: Buy used car (and see daughter more) vs. longer train commute - help!
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2014, 06:17:12 AM »
Thanks so much all! To address a few points:
--I've considered a Brompton folding bike but that adds ~$1k to the equation.
--I can't move closer now, but I will be working from home once a week.  My wife walks ~15 mins to work and is right across the street from our day care, so she could handle pickup/drop-offs and visit the baby at lunch even.  If we moved, she would have the reverse commute.  I will be looking for a job closer to home, but it will likely be a year or more before I can switch.
--I would be able to use the time on the train. I'd probably take my laptop with me and can tether to my phone's hotspot to get some emails done, etc. However, the nature of my job (professor) is that in-office/on-campus time is a lot more valuable and the passive commute time doesn't really displace any actual time on campus.

I like the way the car numbers work out once you consider more than a couple years.  Also, even though it's a depreciating asset, there's a good chance there would be resale value if I got a job in a year or two closer to home and was able to sell it off. 

Hmmmm still undecided!  I think I'll rent a car and test the waters then try the train commute before making the call.

Joggernot

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Re: Buy used car (and see daughter more) vs. longer train commute - help!
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2014, 07:08:27 AM »
Brompton folding bicycle. Take it on the train. No hassle.
+1
Try to find a used one.  Many are bought, but the novelty wears off soon for some.

historienne

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Re: Buy used car (and see daughter more) vs. longer train commute - help!
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2014, 09:28:07 AM »
--I would be able to use the time on the train. I'd probably take my laptop with me and can tether to my phone's hotspot to get some emails done, etc. However, the nature of my job (professor) is that in-office/on-campus time is a lot more valuable and the passive commute time doesn't really displace any actual time on campus.

This may be different in other fields, but I had a similar commute in grad school, and found that train time was the ideal time to keep up to date on research reading.  I'd read new books and journal articles on my laptop - not having wifi was actually a bonus because it enabled me to focus more.  I now have a 50 minute car commute (though only 3 days/week and 30 weeks/year) and find it much, much less productive.  That said, I do think that the time with your daughter is a major factor.  My 10 month old is only awake from 7am-7pm, and on commuting days I already only see her for an hour in the evening, I'd really not want to cut back any further.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Buy used car (and see daughter more) vs. longer train commute - help!
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2014, 11:39:36 AM »
Is there any transit getting to/from the train station?  For example, I went on an interview for a job in the suburbs and it turned out there was a bus that picked up at the train station and made various stops at employment sites.

I have considered similar scenarios for myself (single guy, live in city without car).  I do not think it is realistic to NOT own a car in such scenarios.  The train, walk, folding bike, whatever scenario will get old if you are forced to do it everyday.  The train will be very handy during serious snow.  There's no harm in trying it (before the winter) while researching and shopping for a vehicle.

Captain and Mrs Slow

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Re: Buy used car (and see daughter more) vs. longer train commute - help!
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2014, 01:54:49 AM »
Brompton folding bicycle. Take it on the train. No hassle.

Just a quick note on folding bikes, unlike regular bikes it doesn't pay to go cheap, they don't last. You don't have to go as high end as Brompton but don't go cheap either.

Second point try to get one with hub gears, they work great as long as you don't have too many hills

Paradise

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Re: Buy used car (and see daughter more) vs. longer train commute - help!
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2014, 11:15:12 AM »
Mr. P has a Dahon folding bike and he loves it. (It looks kinda less "circus clown bike" than some folding types with the teeny wheels and folds up right next to his desk during the day!) For years, he's been doing a bike&train commute similar, but slightly longer, to the one you've outlined. When he started this forever ago, I'm sure he was seen as a very odd duck, but he's been pleased to see some curious train buddies getting similar models. Good luck!