Life Style

Is it cheaper to fly or drive?

If you’re traveling domestically in the United States and trying to save money on your journey, deciding whether to drive or fly to your destination can be an important decision. The cheapest option is not always what you think.

You might assume that a road trip is always cheaper for those traveling on a budget. However, there are times when flying is not only the fastest way to get to your destination, but also the most affordable — especially if you learn how to maximize points and miles for your travel.

Of course, every situation is different; In some cases, driving can make much better financial sense, especially if you have a large family or pets in tow.

Here’s how to determine which shipping method is best for you and your budget.

How to calculate the cost of driving versus flying


It’s always best to start by getting out some pen and paper (and ideally a calculator) and doing the math. Let’s consider a hypothetical number of trips between Louisville, Kentucky, and Chicago.

June 2024 flights between Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) cost as little as $99 round-trip with United Airlines if you choose the basic economy ticket.

If you made the same trip in your car, you would drive 590 miles round trip. At the time of writing, the average gas price in the US is fluctuating around 3.60 USD/gallon. Assuming a fuel tank capacity of 14 gallons and fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon, you would need to fill up your car 1.68 times to get from Louisville to Chicago; This total amount will be 84.67 USD.

For a solo trip, driving between Louisville and Chicago is only slightly cheaper than flying. That small cost difference may not be worth spending five hours in the car when the flight time is only an hour and a half.

However, if you’re traveling with your family or with multiple people, driving can be a much cheaper option per person.

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Let’s look at a second example with a longer trip that requires an overnight hotel stay to break up the trip.

A round-trip flight between Atlanta and Miami in June 2024 costs just $40 Border Airlines or $157 above Southwest Airlines (if you want to experience a more complete service including checked baggage and carry-on baggage). This direct flight lasts about two hours.

Driving between Atlanta and Miami is 1,326 miles round trip. Assuming the same fuel consumption and fuel tank capacity as above, you have to fill your car’s gas tank 3.79 times for the whole journey. The total cost of gas would be $191.02 – just slightly less than five Frontier Airlines tickets for the same trip.

Related: Here’s how to save money and earn rewards on gas purchases

The drive is about 10 hours, so you may also want to stop and stay overnight at a hotel during your trip. This will add at least $100, plus food costs, to the total cost of your trip.

This sample trip is a perfect example of how flying is sometimes cheaper than driving.

Here are other things you should consider when choosing between driving and flying.

Consider how many people are in your travel group

If you find something great flight agreement or book with low cost airlines, you can score one-way flights for under $50. However, that cost increases when you have a spouse and children. If you’re traveling with a large group, flying can be more expensive than driving – even when you add in the costs of gas, meals, and an overnight hotel room.

Use a calculator to help compare costs

How do you determine whether flying or driving is the more affordable trip for you? The best way is to calculate the numbers, as in the example above.

Consider how much it costs to fill up your car’s gas tank and how many times you’ll need to fill it up for the trip. Then add an estimate for food stops along the way as well as any accommodations you’ll need if it’s a multi-day journey.

Tools like those from AAA Easy-to-use gas cost calculator does most of the work for you. Simply enter your starting point, destination, make and model to find out how much gas you’ll have to pay to get where you want to go.


Compare that price to the flight price for everyone on the trip. Flights on weekends or holidays will likely be more expensive, but if your dates are flexible, You can find a good job.

Choose a flight to anywhere


If you really want to play wild cards, you can use sites like Google Flights or Skyscanner to search for flights to multiple destinations by simply entering your departure airport and travel dates. The results will show prices for multiple destinations so you can find the one that best fits your budget.

Consider the time commitment

Finally, you can’t forget the time commitment between driving and flying. For long road trips, is it worth spending all the time stuck in the car staring at the highway to get to the final destination? Would you rather pay more to be able to spend that time at home or at your destination? Or is the journey part of what makes the trip so exciting?


On the other hand, flying can take almost as long as driving in some cases. You must arrive at the airport at least an hour before your flight (sometimes more), and if you have a connecting flight, you may have a long layover.

Bottom line

Driving is not always the cheapest way to get where you want to go. Quick trips can be a great way to save money, but flying can be a surprising way to save money when booking a domestic getaway this year.

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