Driving costs more than the price of gas. There is a bevy of other expenses to keep in mind. Add up all the following costs to get the real cost of driving.
If you’ve been to the pump recently, it’s no surprise to you that the price of gas is rising. Here are the average prices nationwide in January and early February.
|Average cost of gas by date
The price varies not only based on the type of gas you’re getting but also your location. Prices tend to be higher on the West Coast and in Florida and the Northeast, according to AAA.1
If your road trip takes more than a day, you may need to pay for lodging for yourself and your passengers. Hotel rates vary widely based on the season and date.
Here are the states that had the highest average daily hotel rates in January.
||Top 10 highest average daily hotel rate in the United States in January 2023
On the flip side, here is where you would’ve found the cheapest hotels.
||Bottom 10 lowest average daily hotel rate in the U.S. in January 2023
As you can see, Hawaii had the highest hotel rates with an average cost of $354.23 per night while Oklahoma’s average rates were under $80, making lodging there significantly less expensive. This data comes from STR, which tracks average hotel costs across the country. Nationwide, for example, the average daily rate was $140.16 for the week of Jan. 16-21, 2023.2
When driving long routes, you may have to purchase food along the way at expensive rest stops, while flights may offer some food for free and some for purchase. Specifics vary by airline.
Every state in the U.S. has tolls except:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- Washington, D.C.
The state of Florida has the most tolls, followed by Oklahoma, New York and Pennsylvania. The Keystone state wins (and drivers lose) in another category, however. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is the most expensive toll road not only in the U.S. but in the entire world.3 Calculate toll costs for your trip here: https://tollguru.com/toll-calculator.
Driving long distances will put wear and tear on your car, which may require additional maintenance. In 2020, the average cost of maintenance was 96 cents per mile, including parts and labor, according to AAA.
Typically, driving will take longer than flying. For example, driving from Times Square in the heart of New York City to Orlando, Florida’s Disney World will take you about 16 hours via Interstate 95 or under three hours on a flight. Even with the time spent at the airport factored in, flying is quicker, especially if you’re part of a time-saving security program like TSA PreCheck.
Also, consider the opportunity cost of your time. If you make more money in an hour than you’d spend on a flight, flying might make more sense. For example, if you make $50 an hour and a two-hour flight costs $80 vs. a 12-hour drive, flying could save you money, assuming you’re using the saved hours to work.
Maybe you don’t have your own car or maybe you’re part of a pay-per-mile car insurance program that charges a lot for long road trips. If you have to rent a vehicle for your trip, that’ll affect the cost of travel. The exact pricing will depend on:
- Overall cost vs. base rate, such as fees and taxes
- Vehicle size
- Prepaying vs. paying later (you can save by paying for your rental car in advance)
- Supply and demand (rental cars cost more when more people want to rent cars and vice versa)4
If you’re driving across borders from the U.S., such as to either Canada or Mexico, will your U.S. car insurance be sufficient? If you’re driving to Canada, the answer is yes as long as you’re in Canada as a tourist for less than six months. However, U.S. car insurance doesn’t protect you in Mexico unless you have Mexico coverage as an add-on to your policy. The following companies offer car insurance for Mexico:
- American Family (partners with a contracted vendor, Grupo Nacional Provincial, El Aguila Compañia de Seguros)
- Direct Auto
- Liberty Mutual
The cost of this add-on coverage will differ by provider, so if you’re driving to Mexico, ask your insurance agent about rates beforehand.