Is it Cheaper to Fly or to Drive?

man flying from airport

Planning your next vacation comes with a number of fun decisions to make including what attractions you want to see, what restaurants you want to try, and where you want to stay. Yet, along with the exciting part of planning a vacation comes the not-so-exciting part – determining the logistics, like whether you’re going to fly or drive to your destination.

Both options come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Which one is right for you depends on many things, but mainly, how far you’ll be traveling. When you’re gearing up for your next trip, weigh the pros and cons of flying vs. driving and use a gas mileage calculator to figure out which transportation method is better for your budget. While fuel efficiency and mpg calculations are key in answering the question, the two modes of transportation are not made equal and it is worth spending some time on the pros and cons of each.

The Pros and Cons of Driving

With driving, you get much more all-around flexibility. You can make whatever stops that you want along the way, offering you the opportunity to do more sightseeing before you even get to your destination. It also gives you a chance to get out and stretch your legs, more so than short walks to and from the bathroom on a plane. Then, instead of adhering to a strict luggage allowance, you can pile up all you want (or can fit) in your car so you can bring more of what you want and need wherever you’re going.

The main drawback with driving is that it’s more of a time and energy investment. The fact of the matter is, a car simply can’t go as fast as a plane. Along with this, you need to be alert and focused while in the driver’s seat rather than relying on a crew to take care of everything for you with a flight as you sleep or watch movies or read.

The Pros and Cons of Flying

The biggest advantage of flying is that you save a significant amount of time. For example, a flight from Los Angeles to Houston would take a little less than three hours flying but around 22 hours of driving. Sure, you still need to account for the time spent on check-in and at baggage claim, but there’s no bumper to bumper traffic or low speed limits in the sky to slow you down!

Regarding cons with flying, you may need to pay for ride-sharing services or rent a car in order to get around and explore after you’ve flown into a city, compared to already having your own vehicle there with you. Another concern is that if you miss your flight or there’s a delay or cancellation, it could seriously interfere your entire vacation itinerary as you wait to get on another flight.  

The Cost Difference Between Driving and Flying

When comparing the cost of driving vs. flying, one of the main things to consider is the cost of fuel. The other is how far it can get you in miles per gallon or kilometers per liter. It’s a given that when traveling by car you need to plan for the cost of gas along the way. What many people don’t realize is that the price of your plane ticket goes mostly towards covering the cost of fuel.

Along with fuel, driving somewhere will entail paying for any food, hotel stays, and tolls along the way. You also need to consider the cost of wear and tear on your car, which could lower its resale value in the future.

With flying, remember that you may need to pay for baggage fees, parking at the airport or transportation to the terminal, and additional food at the airport or on the plane. It may also cost more to fly into the airport of a smaller city because there aren’t as many passengers going there resulting in higher prices to cover the costs.

Calculating the Cost of Driving

If you’re thinking of traveling by car, it’s important to consider the costs. Once you know where exactly you’re traveling to, you can use a gas mileage calculator to see what kind of gas mileage and fuel efficiency (as in how many miles per gallon of gas) you’re expected to get with your car as well as how much that gas will cost you per mile.

When you compare these numbers to the average price of a plane ticket to your destination, you can more easily see which will be the more affordable option, and whether driving will save money or end up costing you more than a plane ticket.

young man driving car

When to Drive Instead of Flying

While there are many personal preferences and unique circumstances at play, driving is most likely a better option if you’re traveling short distances (say, eight hours or less) or only going on a short trip. This is because if you only have a long weekend for your vacation, you don’t want to spend a day or more of that with just trying to get to where you’re going.

Another reason you might consider driving instead of flying is if you’re traveling with a big group since that will greatly increase the cost of plane travel but could really lower your driving costs. Consider this: If you have two kids, you’ll need to pay for two additional tickets to get them seats on the plan. But, with driving, you won’t have the pay anything extra for them to have a “seat” in the car.

Tips for Saving Money While Driving

To save money while driving, travel with others so they can not only share the drive time (which will let you cover more distance in a day) as well as the gas cost. You can also pack your own food rather than racking up the bill eating out for every meal throughout your trip. To cut down on costs with your overnight accommodation, see if there’s a travel card or hotel rewards program you can join to get discounted or free stays.

Even if you have a car, it might be better for your budget to rent one for your trip. You may be saving money using your own car but the miles you’ll put on it will devalue it in the long run. If it still makes more financial sense to use your own car and you happen to have multiple cars in your family, go with the most fuel-efficient vehicle. For example, the Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Ioniq, and Honda Accord are all known to have great gas mileage so they will take you further for the same number of gallons of fuel.

When deciding whether it’s cheaper to fly or to drive to your destination, consider how far you’re traveling, how many people you’re traveling with, and the fuel efficiency of your car as well as the cost of gas with the help of a gas mileage calculator. Once you weigh all of these factors as well as your own personal preferences when it comes to traveling, you’ll be able to decide which option is more budget-friendly.

This entry was posted in Lifestyle, Money, Travel and tagged , , , , , . By Cindy Brzostowski