How much lower a salary would you be willing to take for a decent commute time?

Personal finance

I was recently offered a position with a smaller public company located about 30 miles away that I decided to decline. I had various reasons for doing so, but one biggie was the commute time. 30 miles might not seem like a lot, but here in the Bay Area, it’s still more than an hour’s commute each way (thanks to having to cross bridges) and that’s assuming you’re going against the mainstream flow of traffic and leaving more than an hour before most people hit the road.

Still, people here do some insane commutes. Among our co-workers, there are some whose families reside in Sacramento while the husband lives in a condo in Sunnyvale during the week and commutes northward to work. Some live way out in Santa Rosa (north of San Francisco) and commute into the Peninsula. Many of these people live further away to get a little more bang for their buck in housing, whereas others are just put in a difficult commute position whenever they change companies, and, therefore, locations.

So here’s my question of the week: assuming you had a choice (I realize there are many out there who don’t have the luxury of choosing between jobs), how much less salary would you be willing to take for a decent commute time? Alternatively, how much more would you have to be paid to take on an hour of commute time? I’ve left definitions loose, intentionally, so that each person can define the question however he or she wants.

For some, money might be a priority; for others with children, time spent at home might be more important. There are also different types of commutes: I’m not sure I’d mind an hour’s commute if it were due to distance rather than stop-and-go traffic, for example. I know of friends in the Bay Area who are willing to give up $30K a year in gross salary (probably 35-45% less after taxes) to be able to work from home and not fight traffic.

And if you’re curious, while toodling around the Internet, I found one person’s impressive, in-depth analysis of his commute times and what he could do to improve them. Not sure I’d have done the same with a 30-minute commute, but more power to him. (It’s heavy on statistics; just scroll to the bottom if you’re bored.)


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4 Feedbacks on "How much lower a salary would you be willing to take for a decent commute time?"


I agree that the type of traffic is very important in making this decision! I’d probably take a SERIOUS (30-40%) pay cut in order to avoid an hour of stop and go. I’d take 20% in order to avoid an hour of highway. My time outside of work is very precious to me, and I wouldn’t want to dedicate 12 of my waking hours to working and getting back and forth!


Hmm. Given the lack of comments, I’d have to guess that most people either don’t have a choice in positions or find taking $30K less for a reasonable commute, well, unreasonable :)

@Kira: Your percentages work out about right. My friend happened to be looking at a job paying around $115K gross, so $30K less would represent a 26% decrease. There are always other factors to consider (is the job right for you, can you enjoy working with the person you’d be reporting to), and salaries in the Bay area are inflated compared to many other parts of the country, so numbers elsewhere might not be as dramatic.


wow, i guess i must be pretty lucky to live 1.5 miles from work. I’m not willing to take a pay cut to change my commute :). On the other hand, it would have to be at least a 25K pay raise before I’d make my commute 30-45 min. Then again, I’m taking a self-imposed pay cut just to have more time to myself…

Good luck with the search!


Whilst I haven’t negotiated salaries up or down based on travel time, I have turned down positions because the travel would’ve required two different train rides and a bus (1hr30min commute each way)