Family life

Should you spend more on your home or your commute?

With home prices edging downward, Sandra looks at why some people pay more to live close to work, and some prefer a longer, pricier commute.

By Sandra E. Martin
Should you spend more on your home or your commute?

Photo by MCCAIG/

Not too many Canadians feel sorry for Vancouverites, but I do. It's nearly impossible for a hard-working family to buy a home there, with a standard two-storey house selling for an average price of (get ready for it) $1,182,250. 

Even though I live in Toronto, another expensive urban centre, I still associate a seven-figure price tag with a sprawling luxury home, but a mil' gets you a pretty regular house in Lotusland. So it isn't surprising many families look to suburbs such as Surrey and White Rock for more affordable digs.

And it seems the definition of "suburb" is constantly expanding. My boss, Karine, drives more than an hour from her home in Coburg, Ont., to our downtown Toronto office in the morning, and reverses the drive at night. She used to take the train, but found the schedule too confining. Still, she says she wouldn't trade her situation, and she's in good company. Just take a look at Milton, a city northwest of Toronto that's within daily commuting distance of downtown: The 2011 Census found that it's the fastest-growing community in the country

The thing is, commuting can be costly — particularly if you drive. For example, if I moved to Milton, it would cost me $13.45 in gas (at the current price of $1.36 per litre) to take my Subaru Forester to the office every day. (Wonder how much moving to the burbs would cost you? You can do the math manually, or check out a website like Ontario Gas Prices.) Then I'd have to pay for parking — $10 to $12 in most "good" lots near the office, or $6 for the "scary" lot about a seven-minute-walk away. On top of all that, I dislike driving — it's something I do only when I have to — so I'd likely arrive at work discombobulated and/or grumpy. For me, that means commuting isn't worth it.

But every family has their own "right" answer. I'm curious to hear yours would you rather pay more for a house that's close to work, or pay less for your home, but have a longer and pricier commute?

This article was originally published on Apr 10, 2012

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