The taxi takeaway: Cab costs might make you rethink frequent trips


(istockphoto)
Katherine Boyle
Reporter August 10, 2012

There are many types of people inside the Beltway. But when it comes to commuting, there are two distinct groups: those who own cars and those who don’t. The carless may not understand the horror of parking in Dupont Circle or the high cost of gas, but they have an extra worry: taxicab fares.

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.

At Deal Hunter, we’ve looked at car ownership, the price of gas, parking and commuting. But we haven’t looked at total costs that accompany those who don’t own cars (or choose to take taxis instead). People who take taxis regularly know that the costs can add up. And the inconvenience of the alternatives — public transport or, in many cases, walking — might be worth the cash you’re saving.

This week, we look at three types of cab users and the amount of money they’re spending on taxi transportation. Prices vary, so we used averages from Yellow Cab of D.C. to do the math. We also assumed a single rider; splitting the cost of a cab obviously saves money.

The numbers might make you rethink how often you hop in a cab, whether you use taxis sparingly for trips to the airport or regularly for nights on the town.

The Executive Seat

Whether you cab to and from a meeting each week or to visit your favorite restaurant on Saturday nights, here’s the average cost of your taxi habit. (Calculated with both legs of trip using Yellow Cab’s calculator. Tip and fees included.)


From downtown to Court House/Rosslyn

One destination a week: $32

One cab a week annually: $1,664

Two destinations week: $64

Two cabs a week annually: $3,328

Strategy: For cab users who ride once a week, replacing one leg of your trip with Metro (calculated with an average fare of $2) will save you about $728 a year on taxis.

From Capitol Hill to Dupont Circle

One destination a week: $37

One cab a week annually: $1,924

Two destinations week: $74

Two cabs a week annually: $3,848

Strategy: For cab users who ride once a week, replacing one leg of your trip with Metro (calculated with an average fare of $2) will save you about $858 a year on taxis.

Bottom line: These destinations are within the Metro zone. If you find yourself developing a taxi habit for work or pleasure, using Metro on one leg of a trip can save you hundreds of dollars over a year.

Weekend joy rider

These calculations are for 20-something party animals running from U Street NW to H Street NE on weekend nights. Are you taking cabs between your favorite hot spots? Cabbing to save time doesn’t save money in the long run. The taxi to and fro might not seem so expensive to a young person, but over time, you can spend thousands of dollars to get to where you’re going.

From U Street to H Street

One way: $15

Once cab a week annually: $780

Round-trip: $30

Round-trip annually: $1,560

Bethesda to 14th Street NW

One way: $26

Once a week annually: $1,352

Round-trip: $52

Round-trip annually: $2,704

Bottom line: Heading out on the town once a week in a cab is expensive. The cheaper alternative, Metro, stops running at 3 a.m. Plan ahead or be prepared to foot this bill on top of your bar tab.

Taxi traveler

For commuters with cars, there’s always a question of whether you should drive and park at the airport or take a taxi. It might surprise you that depending on the length of your trip, parking at the airport can be more cost effective. Here’s what you’ll save when you drive and park vs. cabbing to Reagan National Airport. Metro riders, of course, will always get the best deal.

Drive and park vs. taxi?

Downtown to National Airport

Round-trip taxi average: $40

Overnight parking, average daily cost: $10

Total: Taxi cost is equivalent to four days of parking

Bethesda to National Airport

Round-trip taxi average: $90

Overnight parking, average daily cost: $10

Total: Taxi cost is equivalent to nine days of parking

Rosslyn to National Airport

Round-trip taxi average: $46

Overnight parking, average daily cost: $10

Total: Taxi cost is equivalent to about five days of parking.

Bottom Line: If your trip is short, it is often more cost effective to drive to the airport and use long-term parking than to call a taxi.

The Bottom Line Taxis are a major expense for Washingtonians who don’t own cars. Although you may be saving money by forgoing car ownership and insurance, taxis are the most expensive alternative (aside from on-demand private driver Uber — we’re not touching that debate). Be aware of fees and the cost of regular use, and try to substitute public transportation for cabs whenever possible.

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