Photo Illustration of a Summer Road Trip

Making a long road trip soon? Sure, gas prices are low right now, but you’ll still have to pay at the pump to motor into the next great adventure.

That means budgeting is essential. Many frugal travelers use apps and online tools to help them factor all costs. Here are some of the more popular options:

AAA Gas Price Planner
Gas Buddy
Cost to Drive
Travel Math

Which one do you like to use? Do you find them helpful?

Savvy tool users say you still have to reality check the output with how much it actually costs to drive your particular car. It’s of no use that the manufacturer says a car gets 30 miles to the gallon if in reality you know it’s more like 26.

Here’s what Rich Blog founder J.D. Roth had to say way back in 2008:

When Kris and I took our short vacation in early October, I did something a little different. Though I’ve never been a budget guy, I set a budget for the trip. I knew how much I wanted to spend before I left.

As part of my planning, I needed to find out how far we were going to drive, how long it was going to take us (I didn’t want to miss the ferry), and how much all of this was going to cost. I tried a couple of different methods without success before I stumbled upon Cost To Drive, a web tool that does just one thing: estimates the cost to drive from one place in the United States to another.

Cost To Drive is dead simple to use. Enter your starting point (address, city, state, or zip code) and your destination. Select your vehicle information, and then click a button.


That’s it. Cost To Drive calculates travel distance, approximate driving time, and an estimate of your fuel costs.


This isn’t really your actual cost for the trip, of course. I know from past research, for example, that my car currently costs me about 26 cents per mile to run. The site’s owners realize this, too, and they plan to add features in the future.

Related >>Β The True Cost of Car Ownership

For now, Cost To Drive simply calculates your estimated fuel costs, which is exactly what I wanted. Armed with this information, I was able budget for the rest our the trip.

Trivia: In October, Cost To Drive estimated $64.58 in round-trip fuel expenses for our vacation. It actually cost us $72.04. If we were to make the trip now, Cost To Drive estimates a cost of $30.96!

I’ve bookmarked Cost To Drive for the future. It’s not the sort of tool I’ll use everyday, but I know I’ll want to play with it the next time we drive to San Francisco, for example, or if I ever do my long-dreamed-of cross-country trip.

Notes: For now, at least, Cost To Drive is U.S.-only. In the comments, Xepe71 points out that ViaMichelin offers the same service in Europe. Also, Fuelly remains my favorite web tool for vehicle-related expenses. I use it all the time.

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