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Last updated: December 20, 2023

Is it Cheaper to Drive or Fly?

Travel costs are more than just gas or airfare.

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You’re planning your summer vacation, which includes a trip from the East Coast to the West Coast. If you’re bringing three friends, using a gas-powered vehicle and making frequent stops, how expensive would the car ride be? Might you be better off hopping on a plane?

There are several factors to consider when you’re deciding whether to fly or drive for a trip. We’ve compiled the latest data so you can make the most informed decision.

Note that although prices may change, the following data represents the most recent figures available as of February 2023. To find exact costs at the time you’re planning your trip, you’ll have to do your own research, but we can give you great estimates for your travel plans so that you can see whether airline tickets may be cheaper than driving.

How to Calculate Driving Costs

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 Regular Mid-grade Premium Diesel E85
2/1/2022 $3.38 $3.73 $4.00 $3.73 $3.03
1/1/2023 $3.21 $3.62 $3.94 $4.68 $2.58
1/25/2023 $3.48 $3.88 $4.20 $4.66 $2.86
1/31/2023 $3.51 $3.91 $4.24 $4.68 $2.89
2/1/2023 $3.50 $3.91 $4.24 $4.68 $2.88

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

>> Learn More: Can a more expensive, more fuel-efficient vehicle save money?


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.

State Top 10 highest average daily hotel rate in the United States in January 2023
Hawaii $354.23
Florida $181.85
Washington, D.C. $163.15
Colorado $151.24
California $147.71
Wyoming $141.94
Nevada $141.89
Vermont $140.87
Arizona $139.36
New York $139.23

On the flip side, here is where you would’ve found the cheapest hotels.

State Bottom 10 lowest average daily hotel rate in the U.S. in January 2023
Alabama $89.56
West Virginia $87.99
Iowa $87.11
Nebraska $86.19
Mississippi $85.75
Kansas $83.70
South Dakota $82.58
Arkansas $81.55
North Dakota $80.92
Oklahoma $79.35

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:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

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:

Car Maintenance

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.

Rental Car

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
  • Location
  • Vehicle size
  • Insurance
  • Discounts/memberships
  • 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

Insurance Abroad

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:

  • Allstate
  • American Family (partners with a contracted vendor, Grupo Nacional Provincial, El Aguila Compañia de Seguros)
  • Direct Auto
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Progressive

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.

How to Calculate Flying Costs

Just as driving costs more than the price of gas, flying costs more than just airfare — as anyone who has ever tried to get Wi-Fi on a plane knows all too well. Be sure to do your research of the following costs and add them together to get the true cost of flying.


Your airfare is the largest cost of flying, but prices will vary significantly based on your departure airport and destination. Domestic flights in the third quarter of 2022 ranged from only $86 at the San Bernardino airport in California up to $1,733 from the airport in Aniak, Arkansas, both adjusted for inflation. The average ticket price nationwide for Q3 2022 was $484, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.5

Airport code City State Average ticket prices in Q3 2022
SBD San Bernardino California $86
SMX Santa Maria California $106
PVU Provo Utah $114
SCK Stockton California $122
USA Concord North Carolina $129
HGR Hagerstown Maryland $129
SWF Newburgh/Poughkeepsie New York $135
LBE Latrobe Pennsylvania $144
LCK Columbus Ohio $145
TTN Trenton New Jersey $145
PGD Punta Gorda Florida $146
PIE St. Petersburg Florida $147
SFB Sanford Florida $147
BLV Belleville Illinois $149
PSM Portsmouth New Hampshire $150
ACY Atlantic City New Jersey $155
HVN New Haven Connecticut $160
IAG Niagara Falls New York $161
AZA Phoenix Arizona $168
BKG Branson Missouri $169
OWB Owensboro Kentucky $182
CKB Clarksburg/Fairmont West Virginia $183
ITO Hilo Hawaii $188
RFD Rockford Illinois $191
HTS Ashland West Virginia $217
ORH Worcester Massachusetts $223
GST Gustavus Alaska $232
LIH Lihue Hawaii $235
MYR Myrtle Beach South Carolina $240
PBG Plattsburgh New York $241
TOL Toledo Ohio $244
PSE Ponce Puerto Rico $248
ISP Islip New York $253
HYA Hyannis Massachusetts $254
BQN Aguadilla Puerto Rico $255
LAS Las Vegas Nevada $256
KOA Kona Hawaii $260
OGG Kahului Hawaii $262
FNT Flint Michigan $273
BLI Bellingham Washington $274
MCO Orlando Florida $276
BUR Burbank California $278
FLL Fort Lauderdale Florida $279
OAK Oakland California $284
LGB Long Beach California $285
ABE Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Pennsylvania $293
MKL Jackson Tennessee $297
MDW Chicago-Midway Illinois $298
ACK Nantucket Massachusetts $301
MSY New Orleans Louisiana $308
LGA New York-La Guardia New York $314
HNS Haines Alaska $314
SJU San Juan Puerto Rico $320
SJC San Jose California $323
AVL Asheville North Carolina $325
CAK Akron Ohio $328
MIA Miami Florida $330
HOU Houston-Hobby Texas $331
PAE Everett Washington $334
SRQ Sarasota/Bradenton Florida $334
DAL Dallas-Love Field Texas $334
GRI Grand Island Nebraska $334
PIA Peoria Illinois $340
CHS Charleston South Carolina $340
CDR Chadron Nebraska $341
BNA Nashville Tennessee $341
MVY Martha’s Vineyard Massachusetts $342
TPA Tampa Florida $344
BUF Buffalo New York $345
DEN Denver Colorado $346
BIH Bishop California $346
HPN White Plains New York $348
PVD Providence Rhode Island $349
MHT Manchester New Hampshire $350
HNL Honolulu Hawaii $351
VPS Valparaiso Florida $351
RSW Fort Myers Florida $353
BWI Baltimore Maryland $354
HNH Hoonah Alaska $354
CLE Cleveland Ohio $359
SAV Savannah Georgia $359
CVG Cincinnati Ohio $364
AUS Austin Texas $365
BDL Hartford Connecticut $365
ELP El Paso Texas $368
CNY Moab Utah $368
SMF Sacramento California $368
ONT Ontario California $370
PHX Phoenix Arizona $372
HRL Harlingen/San Benito Texas $374
UIN Quincy Illinois $375
ORD Chicago-O’Hare Illinois $375
DCA Washington-Reagan National Washington, D.C. $376
PBI West Palm Beach/Palm Beach Florida $377
DSM Des Moines Iowa $379
SAN San Diego California $380
ROC Rochester New York $381
STL St. Louis Missouri $381
BOI Boise Idaho $382
COS Colorado Springs Colorado $383
TBN Fort Leonard Wood Missouri $384
WYS West Yellowstone Montana $384
SAT San Antonio Texas $385
BOS Boston Massachusetts $385
RDU Raleigh/Durham North Carolina $385
RDD Redding California $386
JAX Jacksonville Florida $387
STS Santa Rosa California $389
SNA Santa Ana California $391
MEM Memphis Tennessee $392
SYR Syracuse New York $393
PIT Pittsburgh Pennsylvania $394
MCI Kansas City Missouri $396
AMA Amarillo Texas $398
BRL Burlington Iowa $399
RNO Reno Nevada $399
IND Indianapolis Indiana $400
ATL Atlanta Georgia $401
SDF Louisville Kentucky $402
PUB Pueblo Colorado $403
EUG Eugene Oregon $403
BMI Bloomington/Normal Illinois $404
IAH Houston-Intercontinental Texas $405
HHH Hilton Head South Carolina $405
DRT Del Rio Texas $406
PHL Philadelphia Pennsylvania $406
TUL Tulsa Oklahoma $406
MKE Milwaukee Wisconsin $407
CMH Columbus Ohio $408
PSP Palm Springs California $409
RIC Richmond Virginia $409
PUW Pullman Washington $409
ABQ Albuquerque New Mexico $410
GEG Spokane Washington $411
IPL El Centro California $413
PWM Portland Maine $413
MSP Minneapolis Minnesota $414
ORF Norfolk Virginia $415
MBL Manistee/Ludington Michigan $415
STT Charlotte Amalie Virgin Islands $415
SLC Salt Lake City Utah $418
LBB Lubbock Texas $418
LRD Laredo Texas $418
FLO Florence South Carolina $418
BET Bethel Alaska $419
IRK Kirksville Missouri $419
BFD Bradford Pennsylvania $420
JFK New York-JFK New York $420
EWR Newark New Jersey $420
ALB Albany New York $420
MAF Midland/Odessa Texas $421
OMA Omaha Nebraska $421
ICT Wichita Kansas $421
ECP Panama City Florida $422
GRR Grand Rapids Michigan $423
SIT Sitka Alaska $423
HOB Hobbs New Mexico $424
SEA Seattle Washington $426
EYW Key West Florida $427
MKG Muskegon Michigan $427
AUG Augusta/Waterville Maine $427
OKC Oklahoma City Oklahoma $429
MFR Medford Oregon $430
FSD Sioux Falls South Dakota $431
CID Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Iowa $431
DFW Dallas-DFW Texas $432
LAX Los Angeles California $432
LNS Lancaster Pennsylvania $432
DTW Detroit Michigan $433
BZN Bozeman Montana $434
SBN South Bend Indiana $434
SPI Springfield Illinois $434
MGW Morgantown West Virginia $435
TUS Tucson Arizona $436
ATW Appleton Wisconsin $436
SBA Santa Barbara California $438
FAT Fresno California $438
LIT Little Rock Arkansas $438
TYS Knoxville Tennessee $439
STX Christiansted Virgin Islands $443
JNU Juneau Alaska $443
PDX Portland Oregon $443
TUP Tupelo Mississippi $443
PNS Pensacola Florida $445
AOO Altoona Pennsylvania $446
LBL Liberal Kansas $447
DEC Decatur Illinois $447
IDA Idaho Falls Idaho $447
BTV Burlington Vermont $448
SOW Show Low Arizona $449
ART Watertown New York $450
JAN Jackson/Vicksburg Mississippi $450
ELM Elmira/Corning New York $450
KTN Ketchikan Alaska $455
WRG Wrangell Alaska $458
FWA Fort Wayne Indiana $458
CLT Charlotte North Carolina $458
MCW Mason City Iowa $459
VCT Victoria Texas $461
HRO Harrison Arkansas $461
MDT Harrisburg Pennsylvania $466
SFO San Francisco California $467
MAZ Mayaguez Puerto Rico $468
CRP Corpus Christi Texas $474
YAK Yakutat Alaska $477
GSO Greensboro/High Point North Carolina $477
SLN Salina Kansas $479
BHM Birmingham Alabama $479
RAP Rapid City South Dakota $480
MFE Mission/McAllen/Edinburg Texas $480
RST Rochester Minnesota $481
BTR Baton Rouge Louisiana $481
BGR Bangor Maine $482
EAU Eau Claire Wisconsin $483
PVC Provincetown Massachusetts $483
MLI Moline Illinois $484
RKD Rockland Maine $486
ILM Wilmington North Carolina $487
GRK Killeen Texas $488
XNA Fayetteville Arkansas $488
PGA Page Arizona $489
CHO Charlottesville Virginia $489
CSG Columbus Georgia $490
LEX Lexington Kentucky $490
PSG Petersburg Alaska $492
ROW Roswell New Mexico $492
SGF Springfield Missouri $492
PIB Hattiesburg/Laurel Mississippi $492
GSP Greenville-Spartanburg South Carolina $493
LEB Lebanon-Hanover New Hampshire $493
ACV Arcata/Eureka California $494
DAY Dayton Ohio $494
CDC Cedar City Utah $495
DDC Dodge City Kansas $495
MTJ Montrose/Delta Colorado $495
PSC Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Washington $497
SUX Sioux City Iowa $497
ITH Ithaca/Cortland New York $497
MEI Meridian Mississippi $497
MWA Marion/Herrin Illinois $498
GPT Gulfport/Biloxi Mississippi $498
GNV Gainesville Florida $498
MLB Melbourne Florida $499
DUJ DuBois Pennsylvania $499
FAY Fayetteville North Carolina $501
OAJ Jacksonville/Camp Lejeune North Carolina $502
ERI Erie Pennsylvania $503
MSO Missoula Montana $503
AVP Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania $504
BRW Barrow Alaska $504
GDV Glendive Montana $504
FAI Fairbanks Alaska $505
RDM Bend/Redmond Oregon $505
VEL Vernal Utah $505
DVL Devils Lake North Carolina $506
HDN Hayden Colorado $507
LBF North Platte Nebraska $508
IAD Washington-Dulles Washington, D.C. $508
BIS Bismarck/Mandan North Dakota $508
BRO Brownsville Texas $509
FAR Fargo North Dakota $509
LNY Lanai Hawaii $509
BPT Beaumont/Port Arthur Texas $510
CDV Cordova Alaska $512
FOD Fort Dodge Iowa $514
CYS Cheyenne Wyoming $514
SWO Stillwater Oklahoma $515
PAH Paducah Kentucky $515
OTZ Kotzebue Alaska $518
FCA Kalispell Montana $519
ALW Walla Walla Washington $519
OTH North Bend/Coos Bay Oregon $520
LAN Lansing Michigan $520
AZO Kalamazoo Michigan $521
AIA Alliance Nebraska $521
PGV Greenville North Carolina $522
MSS Massena New York $522
OGS Ogdensburg New York $523
SGU St. George Utah $523
SHV Shreveport Louisiana $524
GCK Garden City Kansas $524
CAE Columbia South Carolina $525
RUT Rutland Vermont $526
LAW Lawton/Fort Sill Oklahoma $526
BIL Billings Montana $526
ADQ Kodiak Alaska $526
GLH Greenville Mississippi $527
MOT Minot North Dakota $527
SCC Deadhorse Alaska $528
JMS Jamestown North Dakota $528
MHK Manhattan/Ft. Riley Kansas $528
CGI Cape Girardeau Missouri $528
YUM Yuma Arizona $528
DAB Daytona Beach Florida $529
GJT Grand Junction Colorado $531
BGM Binghamton New York $531
ROA Roanoke Virginia $531
DLG Dillingham Alaska $532
LYH Lynchburg Virginia $532
CNM Carlsbad New Mexico $532
CHA Chattanooga Tennessee $532
EVV Evansville Indiana $533
MSN Madison Wisconsin $534
OME Nome Alaska $536
SHD Staunton Virginia $536
MRY Monterey California $537
ESC Escanaba Michigan $537
AKN King Salmon Alaska $538
SDY Sidney Montana $539
ANC Anchorage Alaska $540
ALO Waterloo Iowa $540
PQI Presque Isle/Houlton Maine $543
PHF Newport News/Williamsburg Virginia $546
SPS Wichita Falls Texas $547
BHB Bar Harbor Maine $550
LSE La Crosse Wisconsin $550
BKW Beckley West Virginia $551
LAR Laramie Wyoming $551
MSL Muscle Shoals Alabama $553
MOB Mobile Alabama $555
MCK McCook Nebraska $556
IMT Iron Mountain/Kingsford Michigan $556
JLN Joplin Missouri $557
AGS Augusta Georgia $557
DIK Dickinson North Dakota $558
ATY Watertown South Dakota $558
EAR Kearney Nebraska $561
LNK Lincoln Nebraska $562
CRW Charleston/Dunbar West Virginia $565
ALS Alamosa Colorado $567
LCH Lake Charles Louisiana $568
GTF Great Falls Montana $568
COU Columbia Missouri $569
HYS Hays Kansas $569
ELD El Dorado Arkansas $570
GRB Green Bay Wisconsin $572
GFK Grand Forks North Dakota $573
IWD Ironwood Michigan $573
EWN New Bern/Morehead/Beaufort North Carolina $576
FLG Flagstaff Arizona $576
INL International Falls Minnesota $578
EKO Elko Nevada $579
MGM Montgomery Alabama $581
JAC Jackson Wyoming $581
LWS Lewiston Idaho $582
EAT Wenatchee Washington $587
TVC Traverse City Michigan $588
BFF Scottsbluff Nebraska $588
TXK Texarkana Arkansas $588
XWA Williston North Dakota $590
TLH Tallahassee Florida $590
CMX Hancock/Houghton Michigan $591
HSV Huntsville Alabama $596
CMI Champaign/Urbana Illinois $596
LFT Lafayette Louisiana $597
YKM Yakima Washington $597
SAF Santa Fe New Mexico $598
LWB Lewisburg West Virginia $600
APN Alpena Michigan $604
DLH Duluth Minnesota $610
BQK Brunswick Georgia $610
MBS Saginaw/Bay City/Midland Michigan $616
PIH Pocatello Idaho $617
RKS Rock Springs Wyoming $619
TRI Bristol/Johnson City/Kingsport Tennessee $619
HIB Hibbing Minnesota $621
AEX Alexandria Louisiana $622
HLN Helena Montana $625
DBQ Dubuque Iowa $630
MLU Monroe Louisiana $631
JST Johnstown Pennsylvania $631
BTM Butte Montana $634
CVN Clovis New Mexico $634
BFL Bakersfield California $638
RIW Riverton/Lander Wyoming $639
BJI Bemidji Minnesota $639
BRD Brainerd Minnesota $641
HOT Hot Springs Arkansas $641
CPR Casper Wyoming $643
GUC Gunnison Colorado $644
CIU Sault Ste. Marie Michigan $647
TEX Telluride Colorado $647
SLK Saranac Lake/Lake Placid New York $648
COD Cody Wyoming $653
SBP San Luis Obispo California $653
CLL College Station/Bryan Texas $655
GGG Longview Texas $655
ABI Abilene Texas $656
ABY Albany Georgia $656
FSM Fort Smith Arkansas $657
ENA Kenai Alaska $658
GTR Columbus Mississippi $659
ACT Waco Texas $665
SBY Salisbury Maryland $665
SCE State College Pennsylvania $667
GCC Gillette Wyoming $667
SUN Sun Valley/Hailey/Ketchum Idaho $668
TWF Twin Falls Idaho $671
PKB Parkersburg West Virginia $673
PRC Prescott Arizona $674
CWA Mosinee Wisconsin $674
SJT San Angelo Texas $675
MQT Marquette Michigan $680
SHR Sheridan Wyoming $682
DRO Durango Colorado $684
PDT Pendleton Oregon $684
SPN Saipan Northern Mariana Islands $687
TYR Tyler Texas $695
RHI Rhinelander Wisconsin $699
CEZ Cortez Colorado $702
PIR Pierre South Dakota $703
JHM Kapalua Hawaii $705
VDZ Valdez Alaska $709
VLD Valdosta Georgia $712
PLN Pellston Michigan $721
ABR Aberdeen South Dakota $724
GGW Glasgow Montana $727
EGE Eagle Colorado $727
ASE Aspen Colorado $730
HOM Homer Alaska $746
TVF Thief River Falls Minnesota $774
DHN Dothan Alaska $805
HVR Havre Montana $826
SGY Skagway Alaska $834
VQS Vieques Puerto Rico $856
SDP Sandpoint Alaska $861
MKK Hoolehua Hawaii $880
ADK Adak Island Alaska $897
SNP St. Paul Alaska $999
CDB Cold Bay Alaska $1,042
OLF Wolf Point Montana $1,047
PPG Pago Pago American Samoa $1,139
DUT Unalaska Alaska $1,605
GUM Guam Guam $1,670
ANI Aniak Alaska $1,733
Average N/A N/A $484


Flying to small airports tends to be more expensive than to large airports. With fewer people arriving, only a few airlines fly into them, making it more costly to fly into Palm Beach than Fort Lauderdale, for example, with Palm Beach having the smaller airport.

Checked Bags and Wi-Fi

On top of your airfare, you may have to pay extra for baggage, even carry-ons with some airlines and Wi-Fi access. The following information comes from TripAdvisor and individual airlines’ websites.6

Airline Carry-on fee Bag 1 Bag 2 Bag 3 Bag 4 Wi-Fi fee per device (for nonmembers)
Alaska Airlines $0 $30 $40 $100 $100 Starts at $4.95
Allegiant Air $18-$50 $25-50 $25-50 $25-50 $25-50 No Wi-Fi available
American Airlines $0 $30 $40 $150 $200 Starts at $10
Cape Air $0 $30 $40 $80 $80 No Wi-Fi available
Delta Air Lines $0 $30 $40 $150 $200 1 hour: $7

All day: $19

Frontier Airlines $35-$60 $30-$60 $45-$95 $85-$95 $85-$95 No Wi-Fi available
Hawaiian Airlines $0 $25-$30 $35-$40 $50-$100 $50-$100 No Wi-Fi available
JetBlue $0 Blue Basic: $35

Blue: $35

Blue Plus: $0

Blue Extra: $35

Mint: $0 (up to 70 lbs)

Mosaic: $0

JetBlue Plus Cardmember: $0

Blue Basic: $45

Blue: $45

Blue Plus: $45

Blue Extra: $45

Mint: $0 (up to 70 lbs)

Mosaic: $0

JetBlue Plus Cardmember: $45

$200 $200 $0
Silver Airways $0 $30-$39 $40-$49 $100 $100 No Wi-Fi available
Southwest Airlines $0 $0 $0 $75 $75 $8
Spirit Airlines $35-$65 $30-$65 $40-$100 $85-$100 $85-$100 Browsing: starts at $2.99

Streaming: starts at $5.99

Sun Country Airlines $30-$40 $30-$40 $30-$35 $30-$35 $30-$35 No Wi-Fi available
United Airlines $0 $30 $40 $150 $150 Varies by flight


So-called “budget” airlines like Spirit may have the lowest airfare but will cost you the most once you get on the plane, charging $35 to $65 for just a carry-on. Take into account all the costs you’ll have on top of airfare when you buy plane tickets.

Airline Fees

Many airlines have fees on top of the price of airfare, so be sure to go to the end of the payment process to see your final cost.

Food and Beverages

You may want to buy food and beverages both at the airport and on the plane, which tend to be pricey.

Transportation To and From Airport

Unless you have kind friends willing to drive you and pick you up, you may have to use a rideshare service to get to and from the airport. For a cheaper option, take public transportation.


If you drive yourself to the airport, expect to pay handsomely for parking, although you may be able to save by parking in a lot a bit further away from the airport.

Travel Insurance

Many airlines offer travel insurance, which will reimburse you for the cost of your airfare if you are unable to make the trip. You could also buy travel insurance from an insurance company directly, but if you go on the trip, you’ll lose the money.


Some people pay extra to avoid public gates and wait for their flights in luxurious lounges, where food is free and drinks are plentiful. These perks, of course, will cost you.

Seat Selection

You may also pay extra for seat selection, especially if you’re traveling with a child. Flights have many hidden fees like these, so make sure to take into consideration more than just the cost of your base airfare.

Take into account these advantages and disadvantages when evaluating driving vs. flying:

Driving vs. Flying Pros and Cons

Driving Pros

  • No baggage or booking fees: Take as many bags as your car can handle (but note that the heavier your car, the more fuel you’ll use).

  • Use your car at destination: Avoid rental car fees once you get to your destination, provided you take your own vehicle.

  • No lines: Although you’ll spend more time in a car, you’ll avoid lines for security, baggage, etc.

  • Cost per car, not per person: If your trip involves multiple people, you’ll save compared to buying tickets per person.

  • More environmentally friendly for shorter trips: Especially if you have a hybrid or electric vehicle and have multiple people in your car, driving is less harmful to the environment compared to flying.

Driving Cons

  • Wear and tear: Long trips can cause wear and tear on your car, requiring you to pay for maintenance. Most car insurance policies don’t cover maintenance, but if you have an extended warranty, it may be covered.

  • Gas costs: While the cost of fuel is included in your airfare, you’ll have to pay for it separately when driving.

  • Higher crash risk: You have a higher chance of dying in a car crash than in a plane accident, although the risk is low with either transportation option.

Flying Pros

  • Less total travel time: If you want to get to your destination quickly, flying is the way to go.

  • Safer: Plane accidents are exceedingly rare, despite the common fear of flying.

  • No wear and tear: Your car can stay safely at home.

  • No gas payments: The cost of fuel is built into your airfare.

Flying Cons

  • Fees: From baggage to Wi-Fi and everything in between, airlines love sneaking in fees you didn’t account for when planning your trip.

  • May have to rent a car: If you want to drive when you get to your destination, you’ll have to rent a car while yours sits unused at home.

  • Lines: While programs like TSA PreCheck make security lines shorter, they’re an inevitability at airports unless, of course, you’re flying privately.

  • Jet lag: Because flights are quicker, you may experience more jet lag as your body takes time to adjust to your new time zone.

  • Cost per person, not per car: If you have more than one person in your travel party, you’ll have to buy a separate ticket for each, while one car can hold multiple passengers for the same cost.7

  • Worse for the environment, typically: Unless you’re making a solo cross-country trip in a gas guzzler, flying is usually worse for the environment compared to driving.

Should I Drive or Fly?

You should drive if:

  • You dislike airports, crowds and waiting in line
  • You fear flying
  • You want to make stops along the way
  • You prefer driving
  • You will need a car at your destination
  • The driving time fits within your vacation time
  • It’s cheaper than flying
  • You’re going on a short trip with multiple people, as it’ll have less of an environmental impact
  • You want to avoid contact with strangers

You should fly if:

  • You prefer flying
  • You don’t have much vacation time
  • Flying costs within your budget and you find cheap flights
  • You need to get somewhere fast

More Factors to Consider

  • Personal preferences: If long drives make your back hurt or flights make your ears pop, take that into consideration along with the costs.
  • How far off is your trip: Flying is much cheaper if you pay one to six months before your departure date. But for last-minute travel, driving will almost always be cheaper.
  • Number of people traveling: The more people you have, the more driving could make sense over flying.
  • Ages of people traveling: Seniors or children may have difficulty on flights or long car rides. Additionally, on a plane, you may have to pay a fee for a child or to sit next to a stranger’s kid.
  • Stops along the way: If you want to make stops so you enjoy the journey, not just the destination, driving is a better option than flying.
  • Car quality: Can your car handle a long road trip? Get it inspected to see before you hit the road.
  • Traveling with pets: Some airlines charge extra to fly with pets, while some don’t allow animals at all. If you choose to drive, learn how to drive with dogs safely.
  • Car insurance: You may want to update your car insurance before a big trip, adding collision coverage in case you cause a car accident, comprehensive coverage to protect you if your car is vandalized or stolen or roadside assistance if something else goes wrong, to name a few options.
  • Risk: In terms of risk, flying is the safest form of long-distance transportation. In 2018, the fatality rate was one per 4.2 million flights.8 In comparison, there are 1.34 deaths per 100 million miles traveled or 11.7 deaths per 100,000 people.9 Although a fear of flying is much more common than a fear of driving, flying is much safer, according to the data.
  • Diseases: There’s debate among public health experts surrounding disease transmission rates for driving versus flying. Some believe that driving is safer, as you’re only with the other passengers of the car, compared to flying, where you’re with dozens of people. However, particularly with the transmission of COVID-19, traveling can be very safe on planes due to their air recirculation and filtration systems. Additionally, with driving, you may make more stops at public rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels, areas where you’ll have a lot of contact with others. Wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently during either transportation method will lower the risk of infection, but overall, you’ll have more control of the situation in a vehicle compared to a plane.10
  • Environmental impact: For the typical car, vehicles emit 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. In comparison, a round-trip flight from New York, New York, to Los Angeles, California, emits 0.62 tons of CO2 — 14 percent of your car’s annual emissions for a single flight. In other words, driving cross-country saves 1.26 tons of CO2. Driving becomes even more environmentally friendly when you have a hybrid or electric car, multiple passengers and a trip that’s anywhere from 300 to 500 miles long. And unlike driving, in addition to CO2, flying also produces sulfur and nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, soot particles and emissions during takeoff and landing. If you must fly, it’s better to take one long flight rather than multiple short flights to reduce emissions during takeoff and landing.

How to Save Money While Driving

  1. Plan your route: Planning the best route isn’t just about determining the shortest way from point A to B. You’ll want to avoid construction zones and congested areas, as you can minimize fuel efficiency with less stop-and-go. Apps like Waze can help identify the ideal route with these considerations in mind.
  2. Inflate your tires properly: To maximize your gas mileage, make sure your tires are inflated properly before you go.
  3. Remove excess weight: Although driving can save you money over flying if you have multiple bags, the more weight on your car, the more gas it uses.
  4. Don’t cool or heat your vehicle before driving: It’s not necessary to heat or cool your car before hitting the road. You’ll only waste fuel.
  5. Minimize AC usage at slower speeds: Roll down your windows instead of using the air conditioner.
  6. Roll your windows up on highways: However, if you’re driving on a highway, roll up your windows, as wind resistance creates drag, forcing vehicles to use more energy.
  7. Drive at steady speeds: Try to avoid quick accelerations or decelerations, which use more fuel. Rather, drive steadily between 50 and 65 mph, typically.
  8. Know when to use cruise control: Cruise control is best for flat highways. You shouldn’t use it on hills or mountains, as it wastes gas by accelerating uphill. Instead, decrease your speed as you go uphill, then slowly accelerate as you go down.
  9. Avoid sudden brakes: Similar to avoiding speeding, avoid hard brakes to save gas.
  10. Buy regular gas: If your car can accept it, buy regular gas instead of diesel or premium.
  11. Compare gas prices: Apps like GasBuddy can help you find the lowest per-gallon rates.
  12. Take advantage of discount opportunities: Do you have a credit card with a particular gas company? Are you part of a rewards or loyalty program that can get you discounts on gas? Remember these perks when you’re on your road trip.
  13. Buy gas on Mondays: Gas is cheapest on Mondays and most expensive on Thursdays.
  14. Pack snacks: Rather than having to buy food at rest stops, pack food beforehand and store it in a cooler.
  15. Combine trips: A single long, multipurpose trip will use half the amount of gas as shorter trips, even if they cover the same distance.
  16. Use eco-feedback: Programs like Honda Eco Assist and Nissan ECO Pedal improve fuel economy by 7 percent on average, according to research from the University of California Davis. These programs teach you how to improve your driving habits to save money on fuel.

Alternative Travel Options

Of course, planes and cars aren’t the only travel options. Also, consider the following:

  • Public transportation, such as buses and trains
  • Boats
  • Motorcycles
  • Bicycles


Most of the time, driving is a cheaper option than flying, but you can run into unexpected costs along the way, especially if you get into an at-fault accident. That’s why your best bet, if you choose to drive, is to make sure your car insurance is sufficient. Paying more now could save you thousands later.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to drive eight hours or fly?

Driving eight hours is better for the environment and, typically, will be cheaper than flying, especially if you have multiple passengers or a hybrid/electric vehicle. However, if you are short on time, flying might be a better option.

What is the cheapest way to travel across the U.S.?

If you limit stops along the way, have multiple passengers in your vehicle and get good gas mileage, typically, the cheapest way to travel across the U.S. is to drive.

How much does a one-week road trip cost?

A one-week road trip can cost hundreds of dollars once you factor in the costs of gas, food, lodging and tolls.

How can I travel with a very low budget?

To travel with a low budget, drive a fuel-efficient car and stay at affordable hotels along the way. You can also maximize your gas mileage by driving at steady speeds and using loyalty programs.


  1. Gas Prices. AAA. (2023).

  2. U.S. hotel results for week ending 21 January. STR. (2023, Jan 26).

  3. US Toll Guide: Tolls, Toll Roads and Toll Payment Methods for Each State. Toll Guru. (2023).

  4. How Much Does a Rental Car Cost Per Day? Auto Slash. (2021, Jan 16).

  5. Average Domestic Airline Itinerary Fares. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, United States Department of Transportation. (2022).

  6. Airline Baggage Fees. Tripadvisor. (2023).


  8. Aviation Safety. International Air Transport Association. (2023).

  9. Fatality Facts 2020: State by state. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute. (2022, May).

  10. Is it safer to drive or fly while traveling during covid-19? The Washington Post. (2023).