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Comparing The Real Costs of Driving Vs. Flying

December 28, 2011 · 41 comments

in Personal Finance, Travel

Our family loves to escape to Florida every year just to get a break from the cold, gray Michigan weather.  The past two trips, we have driven to Florida for a variety of reasons.  However, this year, I decided to go extravagant and bought refundable airline tickets for the five of us.

While enjoying my free peanuts somewhere over Georgia, I started wondering if flying really was ‘extravagant’, or if it actually made sense. I then started breaking down the costs for flying and driving, and the details are as follows:

How Much It Cost Us To Fly Round Trip To Florida From Detroit and Rent A Car

Ticket cost:   $1575  ($315/person, including taxes and ‘refundability’.  Actually, three of the tickets were free, but lets pretend I paid full price for all.)

Rental car cost for one week:  $208.  We got a Crown Marquis, so space was not an issue.

Gas:  $55.

Cost of driving to and from airport in Detroit:  $63.00 (100 miles x 63 cents per mile)

Airport Parking back in Detroit:  $140

Baggage check:  $50

Grand Total to Fly to Florida and Back:  $2091

How Much It REALLY Costs To Drive Round Trip to Florida From Detroit

Total Car Cost:  $1700  (2700 miles x 63 cents per mile, based on info from AAA.  Cost is probably higher as that per mile rate was based on $2.88 cost per gallon of gas.  Used a figure based on driving a minivan for 15,000 miles a year.)

Meals:  $240

Grand Total to Drive To Florida and Back:  $1940

Keep in mind, we drive straight through from Michigan to Florida, whereas most people would probably incur hotel charges and make the trip in two days.  If hotel costs were added, it would cost MORE to drive than to fly.

So Why Drive When You Can Fly For the Same Price Or Less?

To tell you the truth, I don’t have a good answer to that question.  Obviously, driving is cheaper up front because you only have to pay for gas on the trip, and possibly hotel.  (It isn’t like you have to pay money out for depreciation and wear on your car, so driving may seem more affordable.)  Plus, it is nice to have all your stuff with you in the car instead of being limited to cramming what you need in carry on bags to avoid the bag-check fee.

However, I can say I don’t think I will ever drive to Florida again.  Even though it is a little cheaper to drive than fly, I don’t want to give up 2 days of my life in a car like that again, not to mention how tired and awful I feel the day after driving that many miles.  I am glad we had the adventure driving, and we did actually have a good time in the car for most of the time.  (Those last 4 hours can be grueling.)   In essence, my time and comfort is worth way more than the small incremental cost of flying versus driving.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have ‘breakeven’ distance, where you insist on flying instead of driving?


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