This past weekend, I went to visit my mom four hours away from where I live. It’s not all that long of a drive, but it can be a bit of a nightmare depending on traffic and can take an extra hour and a half.
Driving for long periods of time can be expensive. Gas, wear and tear on your car, and other expenses can add up, which can hit your budget pretty hard.
I make this trip once every few months, so here is what I learned as far as saving money on road trips:
Small Towns Have Cheaper Gas
I love this one, because I find it true almost every time; the smaller the town (the farther away from the city), the cheaper the gas.
If I’m really low on gas, I get it while I’m leaving the lower mainland Vancouver area. Gas in some places is much less expensive, and to fill up it can save me $10+. If you can wait until you get to the little towns in the middle of nowhere, it’s even cheaper.
The obvious thing to do here is to just not get snacks, or to bring snacks with you so you don`t have to stop at a drive through. However, this isn’t always realistic. Eating healthy while driving is unrealistic if you don’t want to stop; especially if you are the driver, it’s hard to eat and drive at the same time. Furthermore, it can be dangerous if you bring food that needs to be heated up or refrigerated to go without these provisions.
I propose that instead of stopping at a drive through, or eating while driving (dangerous, expensive), time your trip between meals if it’s not a long road trip. This can also be advantageous because of my point below.
On long weekends, or in high travel time (summer, the holidays) if you leave town at “rush hour” time, you can be caught in traffic. Idling is bad for the environment, your wallet, and your engine. It’s also not efficient, because who wants to waste their time in a car for hours longer than they should have to?
I find that leaving at around 10:00 AM and 1:30 PM on Fridays beats the out-of-town rush. Saturdays can be hard to work around, but leaving earlier rather than later in the day will help you avoid some of the traffic.
I hate watching my car chug down the gas on road trips; since I’m in the car the whole time, it’s more noticeable when the gas gauge goes down steadily.
I drive a standard transmission, so when I am on anything with a slight slope, I tend to pop it in neutral and coast as far as I can (without losing speed).
Perhaps I shouldn’t be mentioning this, but who wants to go the (ridiculously low) speed limit while on a road trip on a big highway? Not me. In Canada (British Columbia), there is an “unwritten” rule of thumb where you can drive 10 KM over the speed limit without getting pulled over or risking a ticket. Anything over 10 KM above is ticketable.
If you have a heavy foot, don`t go faster than the people in the fast lane in front of you. Those are the people that get ticketed. Follow the person in front of you (unless they are going above your comfort level), and watch for brake lights in the distance. This is usually a pretty good indicator of radar, because people are generally kind of dumb and stomp on their breaks when they see cruisers.
Or, you know, you could just follow the speed limit. Right. That too.
How do you save money when driving long distances?