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  1. Default Road trip planned for Nov. - baffled by gas costs...

    I realize I am going to sound really dumb. Please have mercy.
    We are planning a first ever road trip this fall...starting in western NC and ending in NM, then back. (By way of TN, AR, MO, KS, OK, TX, NM...then along the gulf home and up through GA.)
    My issue is I do not trust the gas estimates. I realize I am inexperienced in all this but I cannot IMAGINE this trip could possibly cost much less than like a thousand $, gas alone.
    I'm sorry if I do indeed sound stupid but what's up with all these low gas estimates, are these sites to be trusted? Can anyone point me to a very reliable place to get an idea of fuel costs.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default No, not stupid at all... better to be sure.

    Hi, and Welcome to the The Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    Have you checked out RTA's own fuel cost calculator, on the right of these posts. It is pretty close, but if you have doubts, why not add 10%. It's always much nicer to come home with a little, than to run short.

    For example, on my current trip north, I planned on $5/gall. So far, that has only happened on fewer than a dozen occasions. But it could have been worse. At least I know I will not run out of gas money.

    Lifey

  3. Default

    Thanks! Just tried it, same result. Do people find these things to be accurate? There cannot be ANY way anyone can drive across the country on $500, I don't care how many MPG or the price of gas...unless most of it's free. This just seems crazy to me.

    Oh man. :(

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    The Fuel Cost Estimator on this site is very trustworthy. Here's how I do it myself, though:

    Figure out the mileage of the trip JUST to get from start to finish. I do this via 2 or 3 methods, first by figuring out day-to-day mileage and adding it all up. Then I recheck by getting on an electronic map and playing with that for awhile. They are usually within a couple of hundred miles of each other, so I take the top estimate. Then I add another 20-25% of "sightseeing mileage"....the mileage you use when you drive around a national park, or do a day-trip from someplace. When I figure out mileage, I use the lowest mpg that my car gets, and $5/gal for the price. As Lifey says above, you only have to pay that on occasion, but at least you won't be stranded someplace.

    I estimate $3-4K on the fuel (diesel) for our upcoming trip this summer. But our truck doesn't get wonderful mileage (15 mpg) and it takes diesel which has been more expensive for awhile now.


    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Simple Math

    There are only three numbers involved in computing overall fuel costs for a trip: how many miles you have to go, how far you can go on each gallon, and what each gallon costs. Taking 3 fairly conservative numbers, 3000 miles, at 20 miles per gallon and $4/gal., that makes the cost for a cross-country drive $600. If you get 40 mpg, that cuts your cost in half to $300. If gas were $5/gal and you got 20 mpg, the cost would be $750. That should give you some ballpark ideas, but I'm sure whatever algorithms you're using are getting it right. It's just (miles/mpg) times the (average) price of a gallon of gas.

    AZBuck

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default doing the math

    The fuel cost estimator is completely accurate, as long as you are putting in good data.

    Charlotte to Albuquerque is about 1600 miles, and about 2000 if you are heading back home along the coast. So lets figure 4000 miles total round trip, factoring in detours and other stops that take you off the most direct path.

    4000 miles divided by 25 mpg for an average car equals 160 gallons of fuel needed for your trip.

    160 gallons times $4 per gallon equals an estimated cost of $640.

    All the fuel cost calculator is doing that equation for you, plus giving you some extra tools to get a better idea of actual current gas costs, and the fuel mileage for your specific car.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default beyond math

    Of course, having run those numbers, it should also be pointed out that gas costs are a relatively small part of the overall costs of a roadtrip. Food, Lodging, Entertainment/Attractions, and other misc expenses all will typically cost quite a bit more than just your gas, and if you are only looking at fuel costs, then the cost of a trip could seem much less than it actually costs to drive cross country. Its very unlikely you could do the kind of trip you are talking about for under $1000.

  8. Default

    Oh for sure! I have budgeted for motels, food, etc...I just couldn't figure out what to add for fuel as these estimates seem so low to me.

    Thanks all, I appreciate it. Maybe I just have unrealistic views of gas costs. :)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Gas costs can be found in several places online. There are several websites that specialize in posting the latest in gasoline prices. I use sandiegogasprices.com, since I live in that area. From there, I can get the gas prices for any city/state in the US by using their search bar.

    Another place I use is pilottravelcenters.com, and then click on the Check Fuel Prices link near the top. It lists the prices at almost every Pilot or Flying J Travel Center in the US and Canada -- and that's unleaded, mid-grade, premium, diesel AND propane. It is often slightly out of date (maybe by a few days) but no more than a week.

    Between those two, I can find the best prices for fuel for the following day's travel while we're on the road. As I said above, I've budgeted at $5/gallon for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 trips. So far, though, we've NEVER found that price. (Lifey has gone north of the border, where $5 gallon is a lot more common. We haven't.)


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    If you go to gasbuddy.com, look for the Gas Price Heat Map in the left sidebar. This will give you reported gas prices at individual stations in the past 24 hours. However, there's no way to forecast what gas prices will be in the future!

    If you have a smartphone, you can get the Gas Buddy app for it to look for stations and prices while you are on the road. I use this to plan and optimize my gas stops.

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