The Hidden Cost of Transportation in the Suburbs

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"The Hidden Cost of Transportation in the Suburbs"
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Before moving to the suburbs most people have a good idea of how their cost of living will change.  Mortgage payments, tax, even home energy and maintenance are taken into account.  However there are substantial hidden costs that come with a suburban lifestyle, and the biggest is usually transport.

Most suburbs are mainly or entirely residential and not close to anything else.  Forget nipping round the corner to buy a loaf of bread, you’ll probably have to make a lengthy trip to the nearest supermarket.  Workplaces, schools, leisure facilities, restaurants, shops and practically everything else will not be close enough to walk.

In some cases cycling is an option, and at least this is free.  However normally you will be dependent on either public transport, or, more likely, your car.  With this the costs can mount up frighteningly quickly. 

A small family (two adults, two children) with a restrained lifestyle at the very least will need to spend several hundred dollars a year on transport, and very possibly several thousand.  One or both parents needs to get to work, both children need to go to school, with at least one trip to stock up on groceries per week, and one family outing at the weekend.

Assuming each journey is a 10 mile round trip (chance are they will be much longer), one parent doesn’t work, and the children go to the same school this is a total of 120 miles every week.  

Since this is the absolute minimum for a small family, a figure of two or three hundred miles might be more realistic, with many people having to drive a lot more even than this. The cost of fuel is going to eat into the household budget considerably.

This is not however the only transport cost.  Also to be included are road tax, car insurance payments, and regular maintenance.  These costs multiply when further members of the family need a car.  Chances are both parents will need a vehicle, because otherwise one of them is going to be effectively stranded. 

As teenagers approach adulthood they need a certain amount of independence, and in many suburbs they can only get this by driving.  Whether they use a parent’s car or yet another vehicle is added to the household, the costs will still mount.  Insurance premiums for younger drivers are much higher.

All of this relates to the monetary costs of transport in the suburbs.  There are others.  Perhaps the second biggest on a personal level is time.  Much of your life is going to be spent commuting to and from work, most of us would rather use this time for something else.  There are also serious environmental and health costs to consider. 

Before you commit to a move to the suburbs all expenses should be thought through carefully.  You need to decide whether the benefits outweigh the costs in money, time, health and environmental terms.  Whether they will or not depends very much on individual circumstances.

More about this author: Judith Willson

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