Economy Wars III:  Commute or Drive?

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Friday, 27 May 2016 - Last Updated on December 4, 2016
commuting commute or not to commute? To drive or not to drive? Those are the questions many people who live in Metro Manila face, especially in light of increasing standards of living and stresses that come along with travelling within the Metro. In particular, the stress on the pockets or bank accounts. In this episode of the Economy Wars series, we’ll take a look at the match up between commuting and bringing your car in going around the Metro. Please keep in mind that the assumption here is that you have a vehicle that’s already paid for and as such, this discussion excludes the cost of actually buying a car. COST Bringing your own car, in some cases, can be cheaper than commuting, particularly taking ride on Uber an Grab Car or God forbid, a taxi! For example, engaging my friend’s Grab Car service from our house to a mall that’s just at most 10 kilometers away already costs me Php 300 – and that’s just one way. So my 10-kilometer round trip fare will set me back a cool Php 600! But going to that same mall using my trusty old jalopy will only cost me Php 72 for gasoline (at an average city driving fuel efficiency of 10-11 kilometers per liter of gas, assuming gas costs Php 36 per liter) plus a Php 35 parking fee for a grand whopping total of Php 107 only! That’s roughly Php 500 in savings! I can use that to treat my wife to a nice meal already! But then again, many hardcore commuters really don’t consider taking a cab or riding Uber or Grab Car as “commuting” and in the interest of fair play, let’s take a look at the cost of going to the same mall by truly commuting. Riding a tricycle out of my village and an air-conditioned bus straight to said mall will only set me back Php 24 (Php 8 for the trike and Php 16 for the bus). Going back will cost me a bit higher at Php 36 (Php 20 for a special trike trip and still Php 16 for the bus), which makes a round trip cost Php 60 only. But if I go with my wife, which is often the case, commuting will cost us at least Php 120 to and from the mall. In which case, driving a car is more economical. The key to finding out which of the two options is more economical is having an idea of your vehicle’s fuel economy. It’s pretty easy to get an idea. The next time you gas up, tell the attendant “automatic full tank only”. When done, take note of your vehicle’s odometer reading. On your next gas up, go for automatic full tank again and take note how many liters were pumped into your vehicle. Take the difference between your current odometer reading and that of your previous gas up and divide the number by the number of liters pumped in your vehicle. That should give you a good estimate of your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of parking and toll fees for using major highways like Cavitex, SLEX or NLEX. If I change my example’s destination to say, Glorietta in Makati, I’ll need to take the SLEX from Alabang. That will cost me Php 122 if I take the ground level and Php 168 if I take the Skyway one way and Php 244 and Php 336 for a round trip, respectively. With an estimated distance of 28 kilometers from home via SLEX and average fuel efficiency of 11 kms/liter, my estimated fuel cost would be Php 92 one way and Php 184 for a round trip. Parking is at a flat rate of only Php 40 on weekends and at least Php 45 minimum on weekdays. Add it all up and my cost of going to Glorietta – on a weekend – and back is at least 468 Php whether I go alone or with my wife. If I commute by driving to Alabang Town Center, parking the car there and taking the point-to-point bus that goes straight to Greenbelt and simply walk to Glorietta, my gasoline cost would be Php 72, parking fee will set me back only Php 20 and the round trip bus tickets will cost me only Php 160 for

a total of Php 272. So if I’m going there alone, commuting is obviously the more economical choice. But if I’m going there with my wife, it’s a different story. Our bus tickets will cost us Php 320 for a total cost of Php 452, which is practically the same as driving there. That being said, consider all the costs associated with getting from point A to point B as well as the number of passengers involved in order to know whether driving or commuting is the more economical choice. CONVENIENCE While cost is certainly the single biggest consideration in making the decision on how to go about the Metro, it’s not the only important one. Convenience is also important. Obviously, bringing your own vehicle to your destination is the more convenient way to get there because you can choose the route to take, you enjoy privacy and security, and you don’t have to ride multiple vehicles and in the process, compete with the rest of the commuting mob or herd. There are times when convenience is more important than cost, and paying more can be more economical than paying less. If my wife and I are attending a wedding in Manila, we can always save money by taking the cheapest modes of public transport like the jeepneys and tricycles. Doing so, however, will make us look and smell as fresh as wilted flowers and ihaw-ihaw in a social gathering where looking and smelling fresh is of primary importance. As such, commuting won’t be economical for us. AND THE WINNER IS… Whichever option allows you to meet your objectives – simply arrive at your destination, arrive in freshness and peace, travel with the most convenience or arrive on time, among others – at the least cost is the winner of this particular episode of the Economy Wars. The important thing is to first identify your specific goals before counting the cost. That way, you get to compare apples to apples and dalanghitas to dalanghitas.

Photo c/o Pixabay. Public domain.

___________________ Joseph Romana, a.k.a. Seph to his friends, graduated from De La Salle University with a bachelor’s degree in Management of Financial Institutions and finished his MBA at the Pamantasan Ng Lungsod Ng Maynila early this year. Prior to becoming a full-time writer last month, he was a former bank examiner for a government regulatory body, a market and liquidity risk officer for one of the country’s largest universal banks, a treasury fixed income trader for another universal bank and a licensed stock broker at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). For Seph’s other writings, you can check out his website You can also reach him at

Joseph Romana (78 Posts)

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