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MedSchool Financials: Transportation, by Joseph Chiweshe, MD, MPH

On the journey to become a physician, your education will take you to a lot of different places, both geographically and developmentally.

Throughout this process, the cost of transportation is an important and worthwhile factor to monitor. Transportation can become a large a part of your budget; however, there are several things you can do and steps you can take to keep it well within your budget during the time spent in medical school and beyond.

Whilst in medical school, I lived on campus: it saved me money and gave me extra time to sleep, which is always a plus when your life is consumed with eating, sleeping and studying. This was a preference that worked out well for me and possibly for you; however, it’s not the only option, so whichever option you choose, keep the following tips in mind and they will serve you and your finances well.

Option A:

Dependent on where you live and are attending school, commuting may not be necessary at all. If your institution has the option of subsidized housing or apartments, it is worth looking into.

The benefits of proximity are abundant:

  • Save money on gas
  • Save money on car insurance
  • Save on car repairs
  • Save on parking permits
  • Most importantly, you will save on time

Housing affiliated with your learning institution tends to be rented to other professional students at a lower-than-market value rate. This option works well as most of your neighbors will also be focused on their studies and allow for you to focus on studying while saving money.

Option B:

If commuting is something you have to do for external reasons, like family, that’s okay. For some of you, after spending so much time at school and on campus, the last thing you may feel like doing is staying on campus; thus, getting away by staying within a commutable distance may be what works best for you.

Even if you commute, you can still save on transportation. This is easily achieved by taking mass transit or cycling. As long as it is safe and reliable, this is a great option. Taking the train can give you blocks of time to get some work done while en route.

This option often comes with having to purchase transit passes or a bike. However, the overall cost generally leads to cost savings when compared to car ownership, or option C.

Option C:

Although owning a car comes with some additional costs, it brings with it the added benefits of flexibility that allows you to better control your schedule. If you happen to live in an area where having a car is necessary, here are some pointers to help make the most of protecting your finances and your budget from car related transportation costs.

  • New vs Used Car:

As a student entering the car marketplace, there is no point in buying a brand new vehicle or shopping for an expensive car. The saying that if you “live like a doctor as a student, you will live like a student as a doctor” is important to keep in mind.

Edmunds provides a great infographic on depreciation as depicted below by years of how a new car will rapidly depreciate in value:

  1. Year 1: Say the market value for a brand new car is $29,873. As soon as you drive it off the lot, it instantaneously has depreciated to 91% of its market value, to $27,314. At the conclusion of the first year of ownership, the car has depreciated to 81% of its market value at $24,186.
  2. Year 2: At the end of year 2, the car is now at 69% of market value to $20,579
  3. Year 3: 58% of market value
  4. Year 4: 49% of market value
  5. Year 5: By Year 5, the car is only worth 40% of its original market value and will be appraised at $12,069.

The choice to buy a used vehicle has the potential to save you thousands of dollars. Opting for a reliable used car will reap cost savings.

  • Buying vs Leasing a car

More often than not, the cost of leasing ends up being more than that of a loan of the same price. This is partly because in addition to principal payments, the finance charges on leasing tend to be higher because you are paying for them over a longer period of time.

Leasing is essentially no different than if you had taken out a loan, as the cost of the vehicle is tied in the agreement of the amount the finance company provided the dealership.

The option of leasing also comes with limitations on mileage, wear and tear, and what can be done on the car as far as modifications on the vehicle. If possible, it would be better to purchase a low-cost reliable car without going through a lease.

  • Avoid Monthly payments:

There is a large benefit to avoiding monthly payments if at all possible. This is another reason why buying a car outright or being able to aggressively pay it off if it is financed is great. There is an opportunity cost that comes with having car payments.

Of course, it does place additional pressure on your budget. It is money you could have saved or used to pay off existing high-interest obligations, like credit cards.

  • Do your Research:

Take the time to do some research on the vehicle. There are a lot of ways to do this — one of which is using Carfax to learn about the vehicle and its history. It is also advisable to have the car inspected by a reputable auto shop or mechanic prior to purchasing. Taking the extra time will save you in repairs and possible problems down the line. In addition, research insurance providers and plans even if you already have a plan, as this has the potential to decrease your premiums.

In summary, being conscientious of costs related to transportation will only serve you well now and as you grow into your career. It’s wise to put in time up front to do some research because whether it’s by foot, bike, car or train, transportation is just a tool to help you achieve your goals, and thus should never be a burden on your budget or unnecessarily drain on your finances.


Dr. Joseph Chiweshe, MD, MPH is a Preventive Medicine Physician with a Masters in Health Management and Policy. He is Founder and Chief-Editor at where he writes on the Business of Medicine with a focus on health care leadership, personal finance, and systems transformation. You can join the newsletter at for updates and connect with him via Twitter @ChiwesheMD.

Joseph Chiweshe, MD, MPH Joseph Chiweshe, MD, MPH (1 Posts)

Physician Guest Writer

University of Kentucky Medical Center

Dr. Chiweshe is a Preventive Medicine Physician with a Masters in Health Management and Policy. He is Founder and Chief-Editor at where he writes on the Business of Medicine with a focus on health care leadership, personal finance, and systems transformation. You can join the newsletter at for updates and connect with him via Twitter @ChiwesheMD.