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  1. #1

    Default Google maps driving times

    Hello All,

    I have been reading a lot of questions (including my own) and answers on this great forum, and it would seem that this Google Maps (or other electronic mapping device) driving time issue comes up all the time. People assume the times they give you are realistic and then start planning their trip accordingly, only to be told that their trips are not feasible, which of course is then very disappointing.

    The biggest hindrance to the planning of my own future trip are these Google times, even if I have now become aware of how unrealistic they are. It is a constant hassle to be thinking about how long driving a particular distance might actually take.

    I personally do not understand why Google put those times there - who could they possibly benefit? - and also know that of course they will never take them down. So my suggestion is this (I am a very new and inexperienced member on this forum, so I don't expect my suggestion to carry a lot of weight... : ) But I will put it out there nonetheless): SO,

    Why not have a clear and permanent thread about these driving times somewhere on the forum? Advising people to add 20-30% to the Google drive times or, as per Donna's advise, divide your distance by 50-55 miles per hour to get a realistic time, and so on?

    I think that a lot of people (myself included) would find this very, very helpful.

    Anyway, just a thought.

    Thank you, as always, for a great site that is helping me a lot with my road trip planning!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Each trip is unique.

    There are just so many variables, whether it is Interstate driving, taking scenic Byways, or slower still if you drive through a National park. Then there are the open roads of the desert southwest to the congestion of the east coast around New York and Washington etc.

    So although a full day on the road could equate to an average 55-60 mph, each persons trip is an individual affair. The time of day, the weather and even the vehicle [RV or car] can make a difference to the overall time. The longer you are on the road the average speed will alter, if you are on a 3 hour journey that starts and finishes near the Interstate and you start with a full tank of gas, you could probably get close to Google times. The longer you are on the road the more fuel stops, bathroom breaks, lunch stops and time to stretch those tired limbs is needed. This is why Google estimates do not usually add up, each trip is unique.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Make this thread a sticky! Good information here!

    It should also be noted that Google and Mapquest usually put some sort of tag on the map that mentions "that's a long drive!" and wants to find you an overnight place. Sometimes it's in a reasonable place, other times it isn't. One time Mapquest told me that a place 300 miles away was a long drive, and could they help me find a hotel? Ah, trying to make their advertisers happy, I suppose!

    Here is our rule of thumb:

    Driving a car on the interstate -- 600 miles = 10-11 hours, plenty long.
    Driving a car using US and state 2-lane highways -- 450 miles = 9-10 hours, plenty long.

    Driving an RV, U-Haul or towing a trailer of any type on interstate -- 450 miles = 9-10 hours, plenty long.
    Driving an RV, U-Haul or towing a trailer of any type on 2-lane highways -- 350 miles = 9-10 hours, plenty long.

    Use Google and Mapquest only to get mileage via the quickest route. Then divide the mileage accordingly -- by 55 or 60 for freeways, 50 for US and state highway 2-lanes -- to get the drive and stop times. DO NOT use the times they give you for long-hauls!

    Mapquest and Google have always come up unrealistic even when running short hauls like San Diego to El Centro, or Yuma to Phoenix. GPS's also do not allow for your gas, food and rest area stops, though they adjust your "arrive time" accordingly every time you slow down or stop.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default It's a Poor Workman Who Blames His Tools

    The fact is that Google Maps, MapQuest, Streets and Trips, and even our own Map Wizard are simply tools to help the user plan a RoadTrip. As with any other tool, they take intelligent use to get the most out of them. I am afraid that many people are now so used to getting their answers from their computers or smart phones, that they simply don't question what comes out of them. Thus we have people blindly following their GPS's into lakes and into remote woods - putting their very survival at risk. But their 'computer' told them to!

    No mapping software can tell you how long an actual trip will take. It has no way of knowing what the traffic conditions will be like, how often you'll stop, what your particular driving style will be like, what the weather will be, or how long you can keep going on any given day. All that it can do is give you an estimate of the driving time, assuming that you never stop. They also assume that you will always drive at the maximum speed limit, that you will catch every light green, that you will drive Interstates whenever possible, that you will never encounter traffic, that you will never need to stop for food or fuel or to go to the bathroom, that you will never get tired and can continue indefinitely, and several other ludicrous assumptions. YOU then have to account for actual conditions; add in the time for food, fuel and bathroom stops; adjust for any sight-seeing; and most importantly - realistically determine your own physical limits.

    I personally use several rules of thumb, and these have not needed much adjustment over the past 50 years of driving. The first and foremost among them is that on long RoadTrips I do not think or plan in terms of hours. Period. I think in terms of days and total miles per day. I disagree somewhat strongly with advice given by others here that puts an upper limit of 600 miles on a day's drive. That is simply too much for anyone who is not used to it. Yes it's what professional drivers can legally drive, but it is not recommended even for them, and certainly not for someone who's not used to it and isn't carrying their motel in their back seat as most professional long-haul truckers do these days. 500-550 is more within the average driver's reach and allows for two or three extended breaks during the day to have a short walk in a local park, stretch your legs, refocus your eyes, and clear your mind. Taking 15-30 minutes away from the wheel, in addition to a major meal break and minor gas/restroom breaks, is the best way to keep yourself fresh and alert - prerequisites to being a safe driver. But taking them means you won't get quite as far in a day, thus 550 miles is what I generally plan on. That's a pace that I can keep up day after day for weeks on end. And I have. As others will tell you if you try to drive too many miles in a single day, you will pay for it the next day, and the next, and the next.

    Another similar rule of thumb is that I can average around 50 mph (a nice round number) with my own typical stops as described above and that I can keep that up for 10-11 hours a day. See how that meshes with my 500-550 mile/day rule of thumb? Trying to do more hours is, again, counter productive. I plan on pulling up for the night right around sunset. First of all, it's tough to do any sight-seeing in the dark, and second of all, it's just more dangerous to drive on into the night. I also plan on taking a solid hour at least to wind down from the day's drive, get unpacked, take a shower, check my email and the next day's weather and finally fall asleep. Then I insist on a solid eight hour's sleep and another hour in the morning to awake at my leisure, get dressed, have coffee and breakfast, recheck email and the weather and hit the road. That leaves my stated 11 hours or so for the day's drive. I do not assume that I can plan out every minute of every hour so I liked to leave a one or two hour margin in each day. I can always use it to my advantage if I don't absolutely need it for the basics of driving.

    As for GPS. I have one and I use it, but only as a Heads Up Display while actually driving. I do not use it for route planning nor do I follow it's suggestions while on the road. Again, that is my responsibility as the driver. I work out my plans with a good old paper map which still allows the best synoptic view of an entire day's driving. The things I find the GPS most useful for, actually, are that mine will give the current speed limit for the road I'm on and warn me when I exceed it, and that it keeps a running estimate of my arrival time at my next destination or way point. It is also good (when it chooses the 'right' route) about letting me know how far it is until the next time I need to make a turn. But as I said, and will emphasize, I do not let it decide where I'm going. That's my job.

    I am a former pilot, and there is a concept in flying known as the PIC or Pilot-in-Command. The PIC is responsible for all decisions made in the cockpit. With all the instrumentation and navigation equipment at his/her disposal, every thing that happens is the PIC's, and only the PIC's, responsibility. He/she can't blame the instruments or the navigation radios, or even erroneous instructions from some air traffic controller. And there is very little margin for error when speeds are measured in the hundreds of miles per hour, and you're tens of thousands of feet above the ground. Things are a bit slower and there are only two dimensions to worry about on the ground, but vehicles are a lot closer together. And no matter how skilled you are, the person in the next car could be 16 and driving for the first time, 99 and driving for the last time, on their cell phone while trying to eat and only marginally paying attention to their driving, or drunk and not consciously driving at all. It's up to you to be awake, alert, and responsible for your own safety and none of that is compatible with driving 600 or more miles a day.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Congratulations!

    WOW!! Buck, that is by far the most comprehensive report I have read as to the driver's responsibilities when driving a motor vehicle and planning a roadtrip. And completely in line with my own thinking and practices.

    I have bookmarked it to refer others to it in future.

    Thank you.


  6. #6

    Default Google map driving times are for robots.

    A robot driven car would simply drive from A to B conforming to speed limits etc. just with the purpose of completing the drive, which maybe from a few miles to over 5000 miles in USA with no stops whatsoever day or night. Nothing more or less.

    Hopefully, being humans we all have different agendas and needs from robots; breaks, sightseeing, hotel stops, traffic/weather hold ups, visits to side attractions, even an old cuddle :- )

    So pleased I am not a robot.

  7. #7


    Thanks everyone for the advise. I certainly find it very useful, as I suspect will many others.

    Incidentally, the longest drive I ever took was in Finland, of all places, from the south to a ski resort in Lapland, well inside the Arctic Circle. This was around 850km, with my dad driving as well, exclusively on 2-lane roads, and it was a long, hard day. We were delayed by reindeer herds on the road three times (you need to get out of the car to usher them away). It took us around 14 hours to complete, and we certainly could not have driven another metre the following day. Google seems to think it's a breeze at 9h 56mins.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    OK, my husband is a former commercial trucker. So he thinks nothing of a 600 mile day in the car or pickup, as long as we're on an interstate and the weather is decent. If we have to go a little further, and we don't have to do it day after day, it works for us. But true, I'm not saying it will work for everyone.

    On the Alaska Highway, there were quite a few days where we only drove 125-150 miles. We may have been able to go further, but we picked our overnight stops according what was to see in the area, the availability of an RV park for two vehicles, and what was coming up on another day. We took our time going up, enjoying everything we could. This is definitely a place where Google/Mapquest would be atrociously wrong. I just looked -- Mapquest says that you can do the 1464 miles of the Alaska Highway, from Dawson Creek BC to Fairbanks, in 24-3/4 hours. Doing a little calculating, they are estimating that you can drive 60 mph on the road at all times. HAH!!!!! There are sections of washboard road -- do more than 30mph, you'll ruin your car. During the summer, there is lots of construction. (Two seasons on the Highway: winter, and construction.) I remember waiting for pilot cars, waiting for another rig to be towed away, and of course the inevitable "animal jam". (One was a moose. Another was a group of Dahl sheep that were standing in the highway -- as Subman mentioned above with reindeer herds.) I think we averaged 40mph on travel days, sometimes a little more.

    Thanks for this thread -- I hope it's helpful to those that read it!


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