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Where it's cheaper to commute with Uber

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Latest MoneyWatch headlines 01:08

Could you save money by taking Uber to work? A study by personal finance site NerdWallet finds that in eight major cities (out of 20 studied), the answer is yes: It’s cheaper to take Uber to work every day than to own and drive your own car.

Using typical commuting distances for each city, NerdWallet found that Uber can cost less in the metro areas of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. In five of these cities, parking accounted for over half the total cost of individual commuting (up to $150 a week in New York), with insurance the next-costliest item. Gas, on the other hand, was less than 5 percent of commuting costs.

Of course, many commuters wouldn’t consider the Uber alternative. They like their independence, privacy and the ability to run errands or go elsewhere after work. 

Furthermore, to get the favorable cost comparison for Uber, you need to take the service’s Uber Pool version -- an experience much like carpooling. You can’t play your favorite radio station or downloaded music. And talkative fellow passengers might make it hard to read or answer your e-mail.

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In sprawling Southwestern cities, like Dallas and Phoenix, where parking costs are lower, the cost advantage easily goes to individual car ownership. In Phoenix, individual commuting would save $135 a week versus Uber. In these cities, Uber costs were higher also because the typical commuting distances are longer than in other regions. For instance, weekly Uber costs in Phoenix are calculated at $210 compared with $30 in Philadelphia. 

And still, the cheapest commuting alternative of all is mass transit. “If you really want to save money, take the bus or subway,” said Amy Danise, insurance specialist for NerdWallet. The problem is that in many cities, public transit options simply don’t exist.

Danise pointed out that in addition to avoiding parking and insurance costs by commuting in your own car, with Uber you avoid the possibility that a vehicle you own could be in a crash. That, she noted, could boost your auto insurance rates in addition to any body shop repair costs.

NerdWallet undertook the Uber comparison, Danise said, “because we are always looking for ways to save money on everyday expenses.”

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