Is it Actually Worth it to Drive?

I just spent the past week doing nothing but driving so I could attend a wedding back home. In total I drove about 3,000 miles. I’m exhausted,and all the posts I have in the works are not complete enough to make a good post out of. Instead I thought I’d take a look at if it was worth it to drive halfway across the country compared to other ways I could have gotten there.

I do want to say from. I expect flying to be significantly more expensive than driving, that’s why I didn’t seriously consider flying to begin with.

The Cost

While I should have been thinking ahead I would have gotten approximate plane ticket prices ahead of time, I did not. I learned about the dates of my vacation about a month before so we’ll just grab some information from a flight for roughly a month out from this writing.

So I chose a flight from a nearby airport to the Albuquerque Sunport. I’m leaving on a Tuesday and returning on a Monday in the middle of January. Much like my flights would have been if you just shifted everything by one month from this writing. Round-trip it looks like it’s about $300-400, we’ll pick somewhere in the middle at $350 since some of the lower cost flights were from airlines I didn’t recognize or had long layovers. I did try to avoid any holiday season travel to try and make the comparison fair. I did not control the departure or arrival time. Just trying to find a general price range.

I also would use about one extra tank of gas in total while driving in New Mexico (although depending on the time my flight arrives I might be able to actually cut down on total driving), so we’ll throw another $50 on the pile, although I don’t know what a tank of gas would cost for the vehicle I would be using. My parents would pick me up and let me borrow their vehicle so I wouldn’t need to worry about renting a car or finding a hotel.

In total that brings the price to about $400.

Now how much did it cost to drive, we’ll break down the cost into three following categories:

TypeTotal
Gas190
Hotel Costs184
Total374

I will note that one of those gas charges was to top off my car, something I would have had to do even if I hadn’t gone.

Had I gotten tired in more fortuitous locations I probably would have just slept in my car and eliminated the hotel costs, which would have made it a lot cheaper. But that’s just not how it worked out.

While there are some other costs associated with the whole thing they would have been the same regardless of travel method.

I have to say, I’m a little surprised by how close the costs are at only about $25 saved in total. I did have an idea that it wasn’t a huge savings. When I checked a few weeks before leaving it was about $800 for a Round-trip so driving was about half of that price.

Probably I could have cut the driving costs down quite a bit. I had thought about just sleeping in my car, but it just didn’t work out when I got tired of driving. I could have used my folks car when driving around New Mexico since it is slightly more fuel efficient, but since mine was already there it was easier.

Non Financial Considerations

With that out of the way, let’s take a quick look through the pros and cons of each that aren’t financial. These are biased towards my point of view.

Pros

DrivingFlying 
Can bring more stuff backNot much of hassle
Not stressfulNot exhausting
No time commitmentFaster

Cons

DrivingFlying
ExhaustingStressful
Time consumingCan’t bring as much back
Increased vehicle wear and tearFairly strict time commitments

Just to summarize real quickly:

Driving is more exhausting, eats up many more hours, and wears out your car. But you can bring back more stuff, I find it low stressful, and at least for the longer sections of driving I could basically leave at any time that I wanted to.

I brought back two small coolers and a grocery bag full of food as well as some other stuff. I will say my car was fairly full of stuff that I brought back with me, most of it stuff I wouldn’t have room for in my carry on or suitcase.

On the flip side, the driving was exhausting, when I got back I just sort of laid down for several hours. I didn’t sleep to keep my sleep schedule consistent, but I sure wanted to. Getting up and going to work the next day did not help. It was also a lot of driving. Google Maps estimates the trip at roughly 46 hours in a car, I’d guess my actual time driving or in a vehicle was closer to 48 when it was all said and done though.

Wear and tear wasn’t too much of a concern to me since I barely drive as is. It was probably good to take my car out for a longer trip.

As for had I flown instead, I would not have been able to bring back as much stuff and I find flying to be fairly stressful. But it is way faster and leaves you less exhausted. I also would have been able to spend an extra two days visiting with my family while I was there instead of spending those extra two days in the car.

Would I do it again?

So would I drive to New Mexico again? It depends. If it’s in the summer, I probably wouldn’t. Most of the food I’d try to bring back is more winter food, and I can always get the stuff my folks are trying to pawn off on me at a later date or tell them to get rid of it themselves.

In the winter I’d probably drive again to bring back said food.

Overall I’d say flying would be preferred when possible and all else being equal. Unless I had a second person going with me. Then I would probably prefer driving since we could switch who was driving occasionally.

Wrapping it up

Driving does save me a bit, and with a bit of planning could save me even more. But, the trade off is that driving is absolutely exhausting and leaves one wiped at the end of it. I find flying to be more stressful but it leaves you with more time to get stuff done.

For the overall cost I’d say it’s probably a wash and comes down to personal preference. $25 doesn’t change my plans too much one way or the other. Maybe

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