Carpooling Benefits & Finding The Perfect Co-Pilot

SUMMARY POINTS

> Driving solo costs you time, money and health
> Carpooling can give you back more of all three
> Find and buddy up with a friend or coworker

It’s a daily grind to get to and from work. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the millions of commuters that get to the office by driving solo and probably dread it daily.

The next time you’re behind the wheel, take a look around. What you’ll see is hoards of other solo drivers just slogging away behind the wheel just like you.

We all complain about having to fight our way through the daily grind of traffic infested commutes, but few of us do anything about it beyond bitching and moaning.

We all want the flexibility and convenience of coming and going whenever we please and having our own car gives us that kind of freedom. Not just with commuting, but with everything else.

Driving solo for the commute does have its benefits like being able to leave when you’re ready, not having to wait on anybody else or get rushed, having your own personal “me-time” in the car, etc.

But there’s a flipside to this too - it’s your time, money and health.

Driving Solo Is Costly In Three Ways 

Time and money are two valuable life commodities that always seems to be in short supply.

We never really have enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to do and we always could use some extra cash to get by, that’s for sure.

These two things really start to become obvious when you’re sitting in your car, stuck in traffic, while the carpool lane vehicles go zipping by you.

You think to yourself, “This sucks. Those carpool vehicles are just flying by. My car hasn’t moved an inch.”

While driving solo does provide certain benefits, it also eats up your valuable time and money.

Finally, there’s the mental anguish and frustration of fighting through traffic. It’s a major stressor that a lot of us have to deal with on a daily basis.

And let’s not forget that in addition to the mental stress, there are physical issues too like lower back strains, neck tightness, ass soreness, etc.

It negatively impacts our health across a variety of areas.

Let’s dig a bit deeper in each of these three areas.

1. Eats Up Precious Free Time

For every minute you spend sitting in your car, it’s one less minute doing something else more productive like taking care of chores, finishing that work task or just simply relaxing and enjoying life in general.

While you can put a price on your time at work by calculating what you’re getting paid by the hour, you can’t easily do the same for your personal time.

We think personal time is priceless. It’s a finite and precious resource.

Harvey Mackay, a best-selling business and career author, says it best with this quote:

“Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.”

So, we need to use what little free time we have outside of work on the things that matter in our lives - our family, friends and self.

Currently, according to the latest US Census Bureau, the average commuter is the US spends about 26 minutes each way or about an hour every weekday driving to and from work.

And that’s the national average driving commute. For those of us that live in and around major large cities, that drive time can be considerably higher - like 1.5 to 2 hours each way.

That’s really valuable personal time that’s impossible to put a price on.

2. Costs You Real Money

The longer you spend in your car driving, the more money you're using.

Every time your car gets stuck in a traffic jam and it’s not moving, you’re getting zero miles per gallon. Quite literally, you’re burning your money out the exhaust pipe.

Every week you’re filling up the tank, you’re having to part with your hard earned cash to get the gas you need to get around. It’s practically unavoidable.

Beyond the obvious of having to spend money on gas, there’s also the wear-n-tear on your vehicle.

All the accelerating, stopping and turning is being done by a complex combination of parts, electronics, etc. And all of these components get worn down over time and require either maintenance, replacement or repairs.

Here is a simple example - vehicle maintenance.

The more miles you drive, the more often you have to maintain your car - pure and simple. If you drive a lot of miles, those scheduled maintenance milestones come up a lot faster. And boom, there goes another couple of hundred bucks.

3. Impacts Your Health

The amount of time we spend behind the wheel commuting has both physical and mental consequences.

Countless medical journals and studies like this one from the University of Sydney, have noted that the drive to work can result in numerous health-related problems.

Some of the more common health issues from long driving commutes include:
- High blood pressure
- Increased cholesterol
- Musculoskeletal issues
- Lower back pain
- Neck stiffness
- Weight gain

Furthermore, the unpredictable nature of commuting can be a real mental bear for a lot of us. The sense of not being in control and being at the mercy of rush hour traffic can trigger high levels of stress and anxiety.

Several mental and psychological issues that can arise from commuting include:
- Short-fuse anger
- Boosted levels of hostility
- Increased anxiety
- Lowered cognitive performance
- Extended mental fatigue

All of these things can instantly change our happy-go-lucky moods into fire-breathing evil monsters. It’s not an ideal way to arrive at work or home. 

Carpooling Can Be Your Savior 

Think back to your younger self back in college or maybe, your first real job out of college. You weren’t exactly rolling in the dough.

In fact, you were probably like most other young adults, barely making it with what meager earnings you got.

You did anything and everything to stretch every single dollar as far as it could go.

This often meant sharing expenses, like housing, food, utilities, etc. It was the only way to make it all work.

Then, we all started “adulting” and getting better paying jobs and had less incentive or need to share expenses as much. We were growing our independence.

We got our own places, our own cars and of course, started driving by ourselves. We got used to this lifestyle.

But, if we’re willing to make an adjustment to one area of our daily work lives, our daily commute, it can create some tremendous improvements in our personal finances, sanity and well-being.

Carpooling can be your savior.

Reduces Commuting Time

In many cities across the US and internationally, there are growing amounts of vehicle lanes being designated as carpool lanes.

By carpooling with another person in these dedicated lanes, you can significantly reduce the time it takes to get to and from work.

In some scenarios, it can be as much as a 50% decrease in drive time.

Now, if your commute is only 10 minutes (you lucky bastard), saving 5 minutes isn’t going to mean shit for you. It makes no difference really.

However, if your driving commute is substantial, like 45 minutes to an hour or more, this can really make a huge positive difference in your day.

Imagine knocking down your one hour, one way commute to just 30 minutes - that’s an extra hour you get back in your day for your own fun and relaxation.

Of course, your time savings will vary on a lot of different factors.

If where you live or the route you take to/from work doesn’t have carpool lanes, then your time savings won’t amount too much, but there are other gains to be had.

Read on.

Cuts Vehicle Expenses

By alternating carpool driving responsibilities, you’re using your vehicle less.

Instead of driving every week for a month, carpooling can half that to just two weeks by alternating weeks as a driver with your own car and as a passenger in someone else’s car.

If you can manage to find three other people for a total of four members in your carpool, then you’d really be maxing out the savings.

Imagine only having to fill up your tank once a month - that’s glorious.

Less money spent on gas means more dollars for yummy dinners out, that extra bottle of wine, movie tickets or any other fun things.

When your vehicle is being driven less, it instantly minimizes three major expenses:
1) Gas expense - instead of filling up every week, it’d be much less
2) Vehicle maintenance - less driving means longer intervals between service
3) Repairs - less wear and tear reduces chances for repairs

These are all direct dollar benefits right back into your wallet. Gotta love it.

Improves State Of Mind

For most of us doing the daily commute to and from work, driving is hands-down more of a chore than a privilege.

It’s definitely a task that many of us would love to eliminate from our work lives.

Can we eliminate it completely? Probably not, but we can certainly cut it down and minimize the frustration.

The combination of rush hour volume and the idiot performers in this roadway circus act, can turn the most peaceful Buddhist monk into a raging middle-finger shouting maniac.

However, if you’re not the one driving, the commute isn’t as bad because you’re not the one having to navigate around and react to other drivers and road obstacles.

When you're chillin’ as a passenger, you can relax a bit more, let your mind wander or simply succumb to the drug-like draw of all your smartphone’s distractions.

Having a week or more off from driving duties can really cut down on the angst and build-up of commuting stress.

How To Find A Carpool Buddy

(Credit: Kyle Taylor via Flickr)

In order to make carpooling work, you need at least one carpooling buddy. And, you have to be strategic about who you carpool with.

Here are two very important things to keep in mind.

First is the logistical aspect.

Having a carpool buddy that lives far from you or works in an office that’s out of the way from yours, isn’t going to make your carpool very effective.

The best scenario is one where your carpool buddy lives and works with you.

There are many married couples that met at work and continue to work at the same company after getting married. This is the prime set-up.

But, for most of us, it doesn’t apply.

So, here’s the most ideal scenario that you should aim for.

Ideally, your carpool buddy should be someone you know that lives in your local neighborhood and works in the same office as you or at another office that is within close proximity to yours.

This will allow for equal distribution and alternation of driving responsibilities.

If you plan to have more than one carpool buddy, then things may get a bit more complicated in terms of pick-ups and drop-offs. However, it can be done if planned and coordinate well.

The second aspect is personality compatibility.

A lot of people overlook this and regret it once the carpool starts.

You’ll be spending a lot of time together in the car. It’s important that you know who you’ll be with during the commute.

If you pair up with a buddy that drives like Mad Max, then it’s not going to be a very pleasant or relaxing commute. While he may get you to work faster because he’s aggressively weaving through traffic instead of staying in the lane, he’s not doing you any favors in terms of your stress.

So, be sure that you’re familiar with your potential carpool buddy’s personality. Chances are that if he or she is a complete asshole or bitch, then it’ll be the same when they drive. Avoid that shit.

Go for somebody you know that has a calm, sane and attentive personality and you won’t have to worry about it. It’ll make your commute far more enjoyable and relaxing.

On the other hand, if you are the one that gets crazy while driving, tone it down and take it easy - relax, man...relax. Commuting isn’t a race. Plus, you don’t want to be another stressor in somebody else’s life.

Okay, now that we’ve got those two points cleared, let’s talk about where to find your potential carpool mate.

1) Check With HR & Coworkers

If you work in a really large company, say 1,000+ employees in your office, then there’s a good chance that HR may have a carpool program in place.

Some states in the US require that large employers offer carpooling options for their employees.

If you’re really lucky, the company might even provide a carpool vehicle with fuel paid by the company - that’s the ultimate jackpot.

Even mid-sized companies sometimes offer up carpool programs too.

So, check with your HR department and see if there’s anything in place that you can take advantage of.

If there isn’t an official carpool program, simply ask around and see if there are any coworkers that live in the same neighborhood as you. Who knows, you might discover that Bob in accounting lives right around the block for you.

Again, you should get familiar with their personality. Next, check to see if their work/home schedules are similar to yours. If it is, it’s a great match.

2) Ask Your Friends

Do you have any friends that live close by and also work in the same office as you? Or, at another office that’s within 5 minutes of your office?

They’d be great candidates to pair up with.

The both of you get along well and you already know each other’s personalities. You may even know how they drive, which would be really good to know.

Having a good friend with you as your co-pilot or theirs when they drive, can make your commute go by much faster.

Conversation, chit-chat, laughter, vent sessions, are all things that the two of you can do to make the drive a breeze.

3) Talk With Your Neighbors

Your neighbors are your friends too - well, hopefully most of the time.

If you get along with them and know about what they do for a living and where they work, they can be a possible commuting partner.

In this case, the start point is all set. The both of you live next to or very close to one another.

It’s the end point of work and working schedules that you’ll need to sort out. If their office is close to yours (within 5 minutes or so), then it’ll make for an ideal pairing.

If it’s not within a short driving distance, it’ll make the carpool commute less efficient. Anything more than 5 minutes driving time between offices isn’t really worth it.

4) Use An App

Now, you’re probably familiar with Uber and Lyft and they’re great for taxi-like trips.

However, for commuting they’re not ideal because you can end up paying quite a bit. Essentially, it’d be no different than paying for a taxi to get to work - a pricey proposition.

What we’re suggesting are apps that have dedicated functions/services for matching up other like-minded carpoolers and that don’t charge for rides like Uber and Lyft. They do have a small charge and it’s for the driver to cover the costs of fuel.

A few words of caution up front on using carpooling apps.

When you’re relying on 3rd party apps to be a matchmaker for carpooling, it’s really hit or miss in terms of reliability of other drivers, route similarities, scheduling, availability etc.

The drivers are not hired service providers like Uber or Lyft, so they’re not beholden to picking you up at specific times/locations and dropping you off at specific locations.

You’ve gotta do your part in meeting them at a pick-up point that makes it convenient for them to bring you along.

Next, for these kinds of crowd-sourced apps to work well….well, you need a good sizable crowd. There isn’t one dominant app that has really reached enough critical mass to have 90%+ coverage and capacity for all the major commuting routes.

Anyway, keep those above points in mind when considering the two major apps below and be sure to read the user reviews on the app store before downloading and using it.

Waze Carpool
- Highly rated by users
- Fuel cost reimbursement for drivers (paid by riders)
- Inconsistent coverage
- Buggy app reliability
- Spotty route availability

Scoop
- Highly rated by users
- Offers monthly Uber/Lyft allowance as backup
- Fuel cost reimbursement for drivers (paid by riders)
- Credits for cancelled trips by drivers
- Route matching varies by location

If you want to read more about these apps, check out this article.

So, if you can’t seem to muster up any good co-commuters on your own, then you can check out one of these carpooling apps to get matched up with another person that has or wants a route similar to yours.

Set-Up Your Carpool Plan

Once you’ve partnered up with another person, the next step is to put together a plan on how you’ll commute together.

Step #1: Set A Driving Schedule
- Work out an alternating driving schedule (daily/weekly/monthly)
- Alternating weeks is most ideal to allow everyone to get driving relief
- This also allows fair cost sharing of fuel expenses across the group

Step #2: Set A Morning Meeting Point & Time
- Find a good morning meeting spot & agree on a time
- Here are some options:
> Pick-up at rider at their home location if close by
> Meet at driver’s home location if close by
> Meet at shopping lot or designated carpool lot

Step #3: Set An Evening Departure Time
- Agree on a set daily departure time that works for all
- Establish pick-up spot

IMPORTANT POINT: Stay on target with times.

To make carpooling efficient and minimize frustrations for all, be on time for pick-ups and departures.

Everyone is going to rely on this consistency to maintain their daily patterns, whether that’s arriving at work to make the morning meeting or at home in the evening to eat dinner with the family.

We all have a lot of shit to take care of and being late on either end can really mess things up.

So, be on time and if you know you’re gonna be late, provide an advanced heads up so that everyone can make adjustments - just don’t do this often. If you do, you’ll eventually get booted from the carpool group.

INSIDER EXPERT TIP: Use Carpooling As Your “Get Outta Jail” Card

Often times, you can use the carpool as your valid reason and justification to leave work on time. It also forces you to wraps things up on time and leave.

If you’re being asked by other co-workers to stay late on a project, you can respond, “sorry, I’ve got carpool responsibilities” if you’re the lead driver. Or alternatively, you can say, “sorry, I’ve gotta go. My carpool ride leaves now” if you’re a passenger.

Either way, it’s your daily “get outta jail” card.

Buddy-Up & Bring On The Benefits

Driving and having a car gives us a lot of freedom and flexibility to go wherever and whenever we please.

We fantasize about traveling the open road and experiencing adventure. And, it’s still a good thing that we should all do every once in a while.

However, the daily commute isn’t the type of adventure that any of us are seeking.

There are a lot of things in life where we need to make some significant compromises to get what we want or need.

Losing that weight? Healthy eats and exercise.
Better job? Career focus and advancement.
Relationship? Flexibility and commitment.

But, there are also a few things in life where a small compromise brings big benefits. And, carpooling is right up there.

With some small adjustments and flexibility on your part and your carpool pal(s), you’ll get back more time, money and health.

If Homer Simpson is cool enough to carpool, then you really don’t have an excuse not to give it a try for a couple of weeks.

VIDEO: Homer And Flanders Carpool To Work
YOUTUBE: Animation On Fox
LENGTH: 1:05

Summary points:
> Ned is the quintessential Christian rock fan
> This is the best Christian rendition of Joan Jett ever
> Homer's getting his twice daily dose of faith 

However, if you’re really dead-set against carpooling, prefer driving solo or simply just can’t make it work due to your personal circumstances, then you should at least turn your solo commute into some fun “me-time” and get some joy out of it.

Just be sure to use some of our instant ways to save money on gas so that you’re not spending a ton on fuel.

But, if you can make carpooling a reality, it’s a fantastic way to shorten your workday and extend your personal time.

We say go for it and give it a shot.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]