The Real Cost of a Road Trip

This summer, I’ve gone on my fair share of road trips.  Between camping, cottages, and my vacation on the west coast, I’ve started thinking about the “real” cost of a road trip and how to split the cost fairly between all parties.

Splitting the Cost of Gas

Usually, if there is a person in the group who has a car, it is not unusual for that person to be driving and all parties splitting the cost of gas.  Just a few weekends ago, I drove my friends up to a beautiful cottage.

Round trip, we drove approximately 500km.  Total cost for gas? $57.

Is that Fair Reimbursement?

Prior to driving a car and maintaining a car, I would have not given this a second thought. I mean, even without this road trip, the driver would have had to pay for insurance and maintenance, anyway, right?

However, after maintaining and driving my (parent’s) car for almost 2 years, I think that by just reimbursing the driver for gas is simply not acknowledging the true cost for transportation.

What about the Overhead Costs?

For those of us who drive, we all pay for insurance, the cost of the car (sometimes, car payments or leases), maintenance (oil change, tune ups, winter tires, etc.), and don’t forget about depreciation.  How much does this all add up to?

There are many ways to go about making this calculation, depending on the gas mileage, the make of car, details about the driver, etc.  Here is one way to calculate it.

When I use my car for business purposes, I get reimbursed $0.50 per kilometer.  Is it fair to use that as a base point for the cost of driving?

Worst Case Scenario

Car accidents are common place, especially during long weekends. The greater the distance you drive, the more chances there is of you getting in an accident or having some damage to your car.

If I got in an accident on the road trip, who would pay for it?  What if my insurance premiums were increased, as a result of the accident?

I think I am a careful driver (oh, don’t we all say that?).   But sh*t happens.

In Favour of Car Rental

That’s why I am always in favour of splitting car rentals, especially now that I have a car.  Since I now know the real cost of driving a car, I think it’s only fair that everyone shares in the true costs of taking a road trip.

Car rental rates include the cost of using a car and have an insurance option (if your credit card does not include it).  Sure, the cost of transportation for the road trip may have increased by a factor of 2 or 3, but I think that truly reflects the cost of transportation.


Maybe if all parties had their own cars and didn’t mind taking turns driving, the costs would be evened out.

How do you split road trip car costs?  Do you prefer driving your own car or renting?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



Filed under Finance, Travel

6 responses to “The Real Cost of a Road Trip

  1. Or what if someone spills a drink in the car or leaves food underneath the front seats for a good, oh let’s say, five days? Who’s footing the bill for the cleanup and disharmony it will cause among friends? I’m in favor of the rental car road trip, too.

  2. My BF and I love road trips and took a 6 week one last summer. I fee that your post is reasonable. We split everything 50/50 and it turned out to me much cheaper than any other mode of transportation. It was also great that he didn’t mind putting the mileage on his car.

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