Sometimes paying a little extra can reduce vehicle costs
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was lucky enough to move close to a toll road that has saved me a load of money. You might be wondering how a toll road can save you money, but it’s really very easy. That’s because there’s a decrease in both fuel costs and overall wear and tear to my vehicle (not to mention a lower stress level from no bumper-to-bumper traffic). For almost a year I took the ol’ major highway to get to work until I figured out the toll road less than 2 miles from my house got me there faster and more efficiently.
I am generally a cheapskate when it comes to money so I hadn’t considered using the toll road before because of the extra cost involved. It wasn’t until I sat down and ran some numbers that I decided that it could be cheaper to take the toll road to work and the regular highway back home since the traffic is lighter in mornings compared to evening time (I work nights). I understand that there might be some skeptics out there who might say “Come on silly, you are spending money to ride on the toll road. How can spending money save you money?” Well, I will answer these questions with a little background on my vehicle and commute to work.
What kind of vehicle do I have?
I own a 2006 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx 4dr hatchback with a V-6 engine. We purchased the vehicle used back in March 2007, but it only had 2k miles, so it was practically brand new. The vehicle currently has 89k miles and functions normally.
What kind of gas milage does it get?
According to my vehicle’s computer, it gets roughly between 22 and 23 MPH with a combination of city and highway driving. This fuel economy has been consistent since the vehicle was purchased back in 2007.
What is the driving distance comparison between the major highway and the toll road?
The distance from my house to my work using the major highway is roughly 19 miles.
The distance from my house to my work using the toll road is roughly 21 miles.
What is the speed limit on the major highway compared to the toll road?
The speed limit on the major highway is 70 MPH.
The speed limit on this particular toll road is a blistering 85 MPH. (This is one of the highest posted speeds in the entire free world.)
What is the cost involved in using the toll road compared to the cost of using the major highway?
From where I live for my vehicle the toll road costs approximately $1.69 to enter and $0.56 to exit near my work.
Daily cost for toll road use = $2.25**
Monthly cost (15 Days of toll road use per month) = $33.75
Yearly cost (15 days x $2.25 per day x 12 months) = $405.00
**toll costs are subject to change
Daily cost for major highway use = $0.00
Is it easy to pay the tolls while driving on the toll road?
Starting in 2013, the State of Texas made their toll roads 100% cash free. You can purchase a TexasTag (TxTag) transponder for your vehicle and get a discount by paying online or have a paper bill sent by mail at a higher cost (they send it to where the license plate is registered). Also, there are no punitive penalties for using the toll road without a transponder, you simply pay the full toll amount. I have received a bill from the state for $1.80 before with very little or no administrative fees attached to it.
What is the frequency of slow downs, bottlenecks, accidents and/or crazy drivers on the major highway compared to the toll road?
There were many instances on the major highway when I would come up to an accident on my way to work, which always caused traffic to jam and my stress to skyrocket. There is also one major point where traffic merges that causes frequent backups, although once you get through the accidents and the merger point, traffic usually flows pretty well.
I have never had to slow down below 70 MPH on the toll road. I have seen accidents on the opposite side of traffic, but nothing that slowed it down to a crawl. The toll road is almost a straight line from entrance to exit, and there are no major merging points to test my patience.
The meat of the potatoes
Sometimes you have to examine the “big picture” cost of something before you decide it isn’t going to save you money. I have been using the toll road at a cost of $400 per year and am convinced that it has saved me money in the long run. I’ve determined my overall savings below:
- I spend a little bit less on gas due to the lack of stop and go driving.
- My vehicle has been spared the wear and tear of daily commuting that causes so many vehicles above 85k miles to fail. In addition, I have never been forced to idle in traffic while taking the toll road.
- I used to easily get stressed while driving to work in heavy traffic. I now drive to work stress-free.
- I usually get to work about 5 - 10 minutes faster using the toll road instead of the major highway. This is something that comes in very useful to me because of my tendency to run late for work at times.
I think the $405 per year is money well spent and I will gladly pay that amount each year for continued use of the toll road to get me to work.
Exit question :
Would you pay extra money to take a toll road, or stick to the free option available if both were roughly the same distance?