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Carpooling

How to Save With CarpoolingEveryone knows that carpooling can save energy and it diminishes traffic. When many people use only one vehicle to get to the same place, fewer resources are used up. But does the money it saves passengers really make much of a difference to your pocketbook?

According to the AAA, the average American one-way commute to work is 16 miles, so most of us travel an average of 32 miles a day just to get to and from our jobs. Using the commute computer at RideFinders.com, a ride-sharing portal, we found a savings of more than 50% for people in car pools.

Assuming a vehicle costs 59¢ a mile to operate five days a week (a typical figure under stop-and-go conditions over 15,000 miles a year), we can do a little math and find that when split equally among all members of the car pool, the per-person price for fuel, car maintenance, paring and tolls plunges by half or more compared to solo commuting.

That car will cost about $4,680 a year to get to and from work. Start splitting that among passengers, and the per-person cost plummets. For two people, the per-passenger savings is $2,340 per year. Split between three people, the per-person savings is $3,120 per year; instead of shouldering the whole $4,680 cost, each person in a three-person pool pays only $1,560.

Carpoolers also can become productive during a significant portion of their day. Instead of manning the steering wheel every day, the passengers in a car pool can spend their time doing more productive things, such as reading the news, writing, catching up on books, texting family -- for a 45-minute commute, that's like getting another hour and a half of your life back when you're not driving.

Then there's the positive effect that diminished stress has on a commuter. If you're in a five-person car pool and everyone rotates driving duties, that's only a single day a week when you have to combat traffic yourself. As carpoolers, you'll also often have access to the speedier HOV lanes on the highway. It's hard to ascribe a monetary value to decreased stress, but it's not hard to appreciate.

There are a few minor, unexpected costs associated with carpooling. One is insurance premiums. In 2006, the AAA increased its insurance premiums for a two-person carpool by 1,000%, from 44 cents to $4.44.

Carpooling also takes more coordination. For example, if you have to drive somewhere to go to lunch, you may not always be able to eat where you want, and running personal errands will not always be possible. Then again, the difficulty of a car pool depends largely on the reliability and consideration of your fellow members. If your companions are golden, the negatives can largely dissolve.

Finding car poolers to join your group is easier than it was even a few years ago, and many larger businesses will help their employees find each other. Web-based sites such as RideFinders.com help out, and others, like RideSearch, even offer smartphone apps that locate fellow commuters by detecting your location.

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