We Weighed the Pros and Cons of 5 Commuting Options. Which is Best for You?

Lisa Rowan riding a coast bikeshark bike in the street
Penny Hoarder writer Lisa Rowan uses Coast bikeshare to commute to and from work. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Commuting sucks.

With all the messages about how our commutes are taking up over a week of our lives each year, stressing us out, making us fat and polluting our air, it’s no wonder our posts about work-from-home jobs are incredibly popular.

But for those of us who don’t get the opportunity to work remotely every day, commuting is just a regular way of life. And it doesn’t all have to be terrible, especially if you’ve got options.

While not every mode of commuting will be possible or practical for everyone, we’ve weighed the pros and cons of five popular methods. That way, if you have a choice, you can make a more informed one.

Walking to Work

Commuting Options: Walking to Work

Kristy Gaunt – The Penny Hoarder

Pros:

  • Good for the environment
  • Extremely low cost (but you will want to invest in comfortable shoes, a decent work bag and clothing/gear that handle all applicable weather conditions)

Cons:

  • Not great for long distances
  • Takes longer time
  • You have to deal with the weather
  • You may arrive a little sweaty
  • You’re limited to distances you can walk to when it comes to going out for lunch, an out-of-office meeting or running a midday errand

Good for:

  • People who live a short distance from work and have safe paths to get there (for example, city blocks)
  • People who don’t need to leave the building during work hours
  • People who don’t live in areas with extreme weather conditions

Biking to Work

Commuting Options: Biking to Work

Kristy Gaunt – The Penny Hoarder

Pros:

  • Good for environment
  • This study shows bikers are happier with their commutes than drivers or public transportation riders
  • Parking is generally free (but take precautions so your bike doesn’t get stolen!)

Cons:

  • Not great for significant distances
  • You have to deal with the weather
  • You may arrive a little sweaty (an electric bike could reduce the physical exertion)
  • You’ll want to budget for bike maintenance or repairs
  • You’re limited to distances you can bike to when it comes to going out for lunch, an out-of-office meeting or running a midday errand

Good for:

  • People who live close to work but perhaps a bit farther than walking distance
  • People who could walk to work but want a faster or less strenuous option
  • People who don’t need to travel much during the work day
  • People who don’t live in areas with extreme weather conditions

Taking Public Transit to Work

Commuting Options: Taking Public Transit to Work

Kristy Gaunt – The Penny Hoarder

Pros:

  • Can sit back and let someone else drive (and even get stuff done while you’re commuting)
  • Could potentially save you from sitting in traffic
  • Generally less expensive than owning a car
  • Many systems offer discounts for frequent users

Cons:

  • System may not be available to pick up or go to exactly where you need it to go
  • Have to share (sometimes crowded) space with strangers
  • Need to rely on the public transit schedules
  • Could be delayed by issues with the system or by multiple stops
  • You may be limited to where you can travel during the workday

Good for:

  • People who have public transit stops near home and work
  • People without a car who live too far to walk or bike
  • People who enjoy taking time to zone out (read/work/etc.) during their commute
  • People who are fine with sharing space with strangers

Carpooling/Ride Sharing

Commuting Options: Carpool or Ride-Sharing to Work

Kristy Gaunt – The Penny Hoarder

Pros:

  • Could be faster than driving solo if high-occupancy vehicle lanes are available
  • Can avoid being exposed to various weather conditions

Cons:

  • Have to share space with others
  • Have to have schedules in sync with your fellow carpool riders
  • Have to figure out how to arrange a carpool team in the first place
  • You may be limited to where you can travel during the workday

Good for:

  • People who like the thought of driving but want to save some dough
  • Those who don’t mind giving up control of driving
  • Those who don’t have to do any midday traveling

Driving Solo

Commuting Options: Driving Solo to Work

Kristy Gaunt – The Penny Hoarder

Pros:

  • Can travel on your own schedule
  • Can travel long distances
  • Can avoid being exposed to various weather conditions
  • Can travel during the workday

Cons:

  • This is usually the most expensive commuting option (factoring in gas, insurance, car payments, maintenance, parking, etc.)
  • Least environmentally friendly option (unless you have a hybrid or electric car)
  • You may be delayed to your destination due to traffic

Good for:

  • Someone who lives far away from work
  • Someone who treasures their independence
  • Someone who needs to travel during the workday
  • Someone who has properly budgeted for and can afford the related costs

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She currently gets to work via public transit.