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Cheaper to Fly or Drive? Crunching the Numbers

Is It Cheaper to Fly or Drive? Crunching the Numbers

When it comes to budget travel, one common question is whether it is cheaper to fly or drive to your destination. There are a few factors to consider when making this decision.

Breaking Down the Costs of Driving

The Van


If you own your own car, the cost of driving is partially offset by the wear and tear on the vehicle. According to a 2017 AAA study, car maintenance costs are approximately 6-10 cents per mile. Renting a car can also be a cost-effective option, especially if you do not have your own car, do not want to add extra mileage to your personal vehicle, or need a larger van to accommodate your travel group.

The Cost of Car Maintenance = Miles in your trip * Maintenance price per mile

Renting a Van

Before making a final decision, consider the option of renting a van for your vacation travel. This option has the potential to save you money in two areas of your vacation budget - transportation to your destination and transportation during your stay. Compare the cost of renting a van to flying to determine the most cost-effective option for your vacation.


Getting There

Renting a van can be a more budget-friendly option compared to flying because the expenses are similar to driving your own car. You will need to pay for the rental, fuel, and potentially e-Toll service, but you won't have to pay for depreciation or insurance (unless you choose to add on additional protection or insurance). By comparing the costs of renting a van to flying, you can determine which option is more cost-effective for your vacation. Most rental van s also come with some perks that make driving to your vacation spot even nicer:

  • Unlimited miles, for most van s (confirm with your rental location).

  • Pristine interior and exterior 

  • Industry leading maintenance record

  • Late-model features

  • vehicle options  (passenger vansminivans, suvs & more)

If you don’t have your own car, if you prefer not to add the extra miles to your personal ride, or if the car you have won’t fit your whole travel group, a rental van is a great alternative to flying.


How Much Will it Cost to Rent a Van?

Is it more economical to rent a van instead of flying? It's difficult to know the specific flight prices you are considering, but you can get an estimate of the cost of renting a van by filling out the form at the top of this page with your desired rental dates and pickup and drop-off locations. Once you submit this information, you will be able to see the available vehicles and their associated costs. This can help you compare the cost of renting a van to flying and make an informed decision about the most cost-effective option for your vacation.


Getting Around

By renting a van for your vacation travel, you can avoid the need to rent a van once you arrive at your destination. This allows you to start exploring and enjoying your vacation as soon as you arrive. Additionally, you only need to pay for one form of transportation - the rental van - rather than paying for both plane tickets and a rental van. This can potentially save you money and give you more flexibility during your vacation. 


Unlike car maintenance costs, the cost of fuel for a long-distance trip is not a recurring expense. To determine how much this will cost you, you need to consider the following factors: the capacity of your car's fuel tank, the distance your car can travel on a full tank, the total distance you will be driving, and the cost of gas along your route. It can be challenging to estimate the cost of gas for a long-distance trip, but the fuel calculator at GasBuddy can quickly provide an estimate for you. 

Auto Insurance & Van Payments

You may be wondering why these costs are relevant when calculating the cost of a road trip. While it's true that you pay for car insurance and car payments on a monthly basis regardless of whether or not you go on a road trip, it's important to consider these expenses when comparing the cost of flying versus driving. The cost of an airline ticket includes not only the value of your seat on the plane, but also the expenses incurred by the airline to operate the plane, such as employee salaries, fuel, and insurance. To accurately compare the cost of flying versus driving, it's necessary to take these costs into account.

To calculate the cost of car insurance and car payments for your trip, you can use the following formula: (Insurance + car payment) / 30 days * Number of days on your trip. For example, if your insurance costs $75 per month and your car payment is $315 per month, and you are going on a 5-day trip, the cost would be ($75 insurance + $315 car payment) / 30 * 5-day trip = $65." 


This is an expense that you won't need to worry about when flying. If your road trip will take you through an area with toll roads, you have the option to use them to save time and potentially reduce traffic. Alternatively, you can use a map application to avoid toll roads and eliminate this expense altogether.

If you do choose to use toll roads and are renting a van, you can request affordable OnePass from AVR. Our rental vans are equipped with electronic transponders that allow you to pass through the toll windows without needing to handle cash. To estimate the cost of tolls for your trip, you can use an app like TollSmart 

Breaking Down the Costs of Flying


If you choose to fly, the cost of airline tickets will likely be your biggest expense. This cost increases with each additional person on the trip. You can calculate the cost of airfare by multiplying the cost of tickets by the number of people flying.

Airfare = Cost of airline tickets * Number of people flying


Most airlines charge a fee for each piece of checked luggage. While it's possible to try to fit everything in a carry-on, the overhead compartments can get crowded quickly. Some items, such as electric razors and large bottles of shampoo, are not allowed in carry-on luggage. To calculate the cost of luggage fees, multiply the cost of each checked bag by the number of bags you need to check.

Luggage Fees = Cost of per checked bag * Number of checked bags

In-Flight Services

Some in-flight services come with additional charges, such as blankets, in-flight entertainment, or premium snacks and drinks. Keep these potential costs in mind when budgeting for your trip. 

Getting to and from the Airport

You have lots of choices for getting to the airport, each with its own costs. 

  • Train/public transportation: $4-20 per person (plus lugging your bags on and off)

  • Taxi/ride-share: About $5 per mile or $0.30 per minute, plus service fees

  • Ride from a friend: Free! (do you have gas money?)

  • Airport parking: $30-70 per day

The math: Multiply the cost for public transit or taxis by 2 if you’re making a round-trip journey. If you’re parking at the airport, multiply the number of days by the daily parking fee.


Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can provide peace of mind by allowing you to cancel or reschedule your flight without losing all of your money in the event that you are unable to take the trip. However, this protection can come with a cost, usually amounting to at least 4% of the cost of your ticket. For example, on a $600 round-trip ticket, travel insurance would cost at least $24. Keep in mind that airlines may require you to purchase travel insurance for each ticket. To calculate the cost of flight insurance, multiply the cost of travel insurance by the number of airline tickets you need to insure.

Is It Cheaper to Fly or Drive on Vacation?

When comparing the cost of driving versus flying, driving is typically the more budget-friendly option. Even if you don't own a car, renting a van for your vacation is likely to be less expensive than purchasing plane tickets, especially if you are traveling with others. To determine which option is the most cost-effective for you, it's important to consider all of the associated expenses and compare them to make an informed decision.

If you need a rental van for an upcoming road trip, journey with friends, sporting even book it now at AVR Van Rental.

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