How far should you drive to save money?
(Note: This calculator automatically calculates a round trip)
- In the first field, enter in the miles per gallon that your car gets.
- In the second field, enter the amount you pay for a gallon of gas.
- In the third field, enter in the amount you will save on the purchase if you make the trip.
- Click the "Compute" button and the break-even distance will be displayed. Drive further than that distance and the trip will cost more than the savings.
MapQuest.com - Use to find distances to stores.
Driving to Save Money
by Joseph Ganem
With family budgets stretched so tight, it is critical to shop for the lowest prices. But, the high cost of gas is adding a wrinkle to the efforts of bargain hunters. For example, driving out-of-the-way to use $4 or $5 dollars worth of coupons might cost more for the gas than the savings. The same could be true for driving across town to get a sale price on an item at another store when you can buy the same item in your neighborhood. So how far should you drive to save money?
The break-even distance depends on the cost of gas, miles per gallon your car typically gets, and the price difference for the item you purchase. Suppose gas costs $4 per gallon and your car gets 20 miles per gallon. If you are driving to save $5 on a purchase, a 25 mile round trip will burn $5 worth of gas. That means a store 12.5 miles away would be at the break-even distance. If the store is closer you will save money; if the store is further the trip will cost more than the savings. Use the calculator on the left the next time you are thinking of driving to a distant store for a sale price. The trip might not be worth it.
Joseph Ganem is author of the award-winning book: The Two Headed Quarter: How to See Through Deceptive Numbers and Save Money on Everything You Buy. Hear him talk about the book below.