Driving vs Flying Cost: What’s Best for Your Next Vacation
Whenever you decide to take a vacation or to travel, one of the first questions often asked is “Should we drive or fly?”. For many, it’s a question brought about for several different reasons. Money, ease, and a fear of flying are some of the most common reasons people debate these two options with the first being the most common.
Keep reading to learn the costs of flying vs driving and what you can do to save money on your next adventure.
Costs of Driving to Your Destination
There are many costs to consider when deciding whether to drive or fly. We’ll detail some of the main (and hidden) costs below!
When you first think about the costs of driving to your destination, you probably think of how much gas for your car will be. Fuel costs are typically the most expensive cost of driving but there are many ways to save gas while driving.
If your trip is 2,000 miles and your vehicle consumes gas at a clip of 24 miles per gallon, if gas hovers around $3 per gallon, you can expect to spend around $250 for the entire trip in fuel costs. If you have an electric or hybrid vehicle you might be able to cut down on these costs.
The most expensive maintenance costs will be the wear on your tires and the oil degradation that occurs over your trip. Normal tires should last around 50,000 miles, so if you are planning on driving 2,000 miles round trip, you should add 4% of the cost of new tires to your total. The cost of new tires is dependent on the brand and style, but you can expect to spend anywhere from $400 to $1,200+ on your tires. If your tires cost $400, you should add $16 to your traveling expenses if driving ($400 * 4% = $16).
In addition to the wear on your tires, your oil life will also take a hit. If your vehicle requires fully synthetic oil, you can expect to spend $100 to $200 on an oil change that will last 6,000 – 10,000 miles. If your trip is 2,000 miles round trip and your oil life lasts 8,000 miles, this will add an additional $25 to $50 to your traveling costs ($100 * 25% = $25).
In addition to these traditional maintenance costs, you should also consider the normal wear and tear on your engine and the additional miles added to your vehicle's life. If you plan to drive a newer vehicle, this might be a factor in your decision. While your car will provide more reliability, is it worth the additional costs that come with it? These costs are extremely difficult to monetize so it’s up to you if you believe it’s worth it.
The other piece to consider when it comes to car maintenance is the risk of a breakdown. If you are driving an older vehicle with hundreds of thousands of miles or a less reliable car, you have the potential to have a vehicle breakdown on your trip costing you a lot of time and money. You should be sure to consider this as a factor in your decision as to how much “risk” you are willing to take with your car.
If you’re traveling a long distance, you might be forced to stay in a hotel for a night or two depending on your situation. This can easily add several hundred dollars to your transportation costs.
If you want to avoid this cost, it’s best to start your travels early in the morning so that you can drive throughout the day in hopes of making it to your destination before nightfall.
If you are planning to drive, there’s a good chance you can expect to spend much more time traveling than if you chose to fly. It is common to assume you will be traveling at 70 miles per hour when on the highway, making it easy to calculate how long it will take to reach your destination. If your trip is 2,000 miles round trip, you can expect to spend around 17 hours and 10 minutes on the road.
NOTE: this doesn’t include bathroom breaks or lunch stops! Be sure to allot time to these to reach your destination on time.
You should also consider the costs of food and snacks while driving. If you have to eat a few meals both ways and snacks in between, this can add an additional $100+ to your traveling costs of driving.
Costs of Flying to Your Destination
For some trips flying might be the only feasible mode of transportation, but for others, you might consider the costs of flying vs driving.
Similar to fuel costs for driving, the most expensive component of flying is, you guessed it, airfare. Plane ticket costs have many different variables such as the destination, the carrier, number of tickets, and your luggage situation. It's best to shop around to get a range of how much your airfare will cost.
Transportation to Airport
How do you plan on getting to the airport? For some, it might be an Uber or taxi, perhaps friends or family, or you might opt to leave their car at the airport overnight. The latter will come with additional costs (more on this below) but is an Uber cheaper?
You can expect to spend anywhere from $15 to $50 on an Uber or taxi service for transportation to the airport each way, depending on the type of service and length of the ride.
If you choose to drive your car to the airport, you can opt to leave it overnight for a fee. Overnight parking at airports can be very lucrative, especially during high volume seasons like November and December. Costs for overnight parking can range from $10 to $50 per night, making a 7-day trip cost anywhere from $70 to over $300.
The major advantage of flying vs driving is the time savings. Where you can only drive at roughly 70mph, most commercial airliners will travel at speeds in excess of 400mph. This can dramatically decrease your travel time. Where a 2,000-mile round trip would take over 17 hours, the time taken to fly the same distance would take around 5 to 6 hours via a direct flight.
But there’s a catch. When deciding how much time flying will take, you need to also add in the time spent at the airport maneuvering through security or waiting for your plane to board. It’s typically advised that you arrive at the airport a few hours before your plane is planned for departure to avoid the possibility of getting left behind. Your time spent at the airport and flying can oftentimes be equivalent to the time spent driving so be sure to account for this time when deciding.
Rental Car or Ride-Hailing Service Costs
If you decide to fly to your destination, you might be forced to either rent a car or use a ride-hailing service to get around town. The costs of a rental car can be hundreds depending on the car, the length of your rental, and the amount it is driven. In addition, if you do not return the vehicle with the same amount of fuel, you may be charged a fee to cover the cost of gas.
It’s a good idea to know how often you will be traveling around before renting a car. If you do not plan to travel much once you reach your destination, using a ride-hailing service might be a more economical decision. You can plan to spend $15 to $35 per ride depending on the length of your ride.
How to Save on Travel Transportation Costs
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
If you plan on flying, one of the best ways to save is by not waiting until the last minute before purchasing your airline tickets. Oftentimes your airfare will be marked up at the last minute, so be sure to purchase them at least a few weeks in advance.
Use Credit Card Points or Rewards
If you have a credit card that offers rewards, you might be able to get a bonus if redeemed for airline miles. This can be a great way to save if you are planning on flying.
If you are driving, be sure to use a credit card that offers great rewards at the gas pump to earn some extra cash.
Pack Food & Snacks if Driving
If you’re planning on driving to your destination, pack food, drinks, and snacks for your trip so that you can save time and money on the road by avoiding gas station stops.
Use Exclusive Offers and Shop Around
In some scenarios, you can find offers that can decrease the cost of your travels. Many different travel sites will offer discounts if you bundle your package. Be sure to shop around to get the best price and read how to save on your next vacation.
Other Factors of Deciding Whether to Drive or Fly
There are a few other factors that might persuade someone to drive or fly other than those mentioned above. Some people might have a fear of flying in an airplane, enticing them to drive. Some may consider the environmental factors of flying vs driving. Or some might simply prefer the comfort of driving.
Which is Better for the Environment?
There has been a long debate as to if driving or flying is better for the environment and it doesn’t show signs of going away. There are many different environmental impacts of both, so trying to decipher which is more efficient can be extremely difficult if not impossible. There are several conflicting reports as to which is better for the environment but researches from the University of Oslo’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis say:
“Air travel results in a lower temperature change per passenger-kilometer than car travel on the long run; the integrated radiative forcing of air travel is on short- to medium time horizons much higher than for car travel. Per passenger-hour traveled however, aviation’s climate impact is a factor 6 to 47 higher than the impact from car travel.”
How to Reduce Anxiety of Flying
Many people have anxiety when flying. It is reported that 25% of people who fly develop some symptoms of anxiety while 6% of American’s have aviophobia or a fear of flying. This may entice some to consider driving disregarding other factors. To reduce your anxiety when flying you can consider doing some of the following:
- Take a drink, but be responsible
- Get distracted
- Educate yourself on all things aviation
- Ask your doctor for recommendations or medical treatment
Deciding whether to drive or fly on your next adventure can be difficult because of the factors involved. You should consider all of the costs associated with both forms of transportation and your general feelings toward both. You should also gauge how much time you want to spend traveling as flying is typically a faster route of transportation.
What are your thoughts on driving vs flying? Comment below!
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