Can Anyone Estimate the Expense of a Cross-Country Trip by Car?

Can Anyone Estimate the Expense of a Cross-Country Trip by Car?

Can Anyone Estimate the Expense of a Cross-Country Trip by Car?

If you have the time and resources, you can drive to any part of the United States. You may have thought about the cost of a cross-country road trip for a variety of reasons, including a desire to see family, take a planned vacation, or simply see where the road leads. We’ve done the legwork so you can make an educated decision about your trip by giving you a rough estimate of the costs involved, the variables that can change those costs, and what to expect.

You should have a better idea of the daily travel budget now. If you want a comprehensive understanding of how much a road trip will set you back, read on. We’ll go into greater depth about the aforementioned expenses, as well as address other frequently asked questions regarding vehicular travel.

Road Trip Costs

The above cost breakdown and other factors will be better explained in this section. We have already mentioned that the choices you make on your trip can cause prices to vary quite a bit.

Big Factors To Consider

Road Trip Length

The length of your trip is a major factor that affects the total cost of your trip but is not a direct cost. We calculated the cost per day, but the United States is enormous. Crossing the country by car from coast to coast takes several days, but crossing a few states only takes a day or two.

Drive Time

Day-to-day driving can affect how much money you spend on gas and how long it takes you to get anywhere. Ten to twelve hours of driving per day is ideal for the average driver, leaving eight hours for rest and four to six hours for breaks and lodging. This will allow you to travel between 700 and 840 miles per day at the typical highway speed of 70 miles per hour.

Calculating how many days of travel you can anticipate and how much gas will cost requires only knowing your average daily mileage and the total distance of your planned road trip. The 2,460 miles between Jacksonville, Florida, and Santa Monica, California, along Interstate 10 would require at least four days of travel time.

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When travelling for several days, you’ll want to make sure you have a comfortable place to lay your head each night. Although it is technically possible to sleep in your car at a rest area, doing so is not recommended. The costs of hotels and motels can range widely. A night’s stay at a luxury hotel can easily cost over $300, while a stay at a motel may cost less than $50. The cost per person for a hotel room can be split among more travellers. You can use to help you find cheap hotel rooms in advance of your trip.

If you do your research, look for hotel discounts, and book your accommodations well in advance of your trip, you can cut costs by carefully selecting your lodgings. Although RVs have a higher initial investment due to fuel costs, overnight stays in RV parking lots are relatively inexpensive. Camp in a national park or other designated camping area for about $20 with a pass if you enjoy the outdoors and appreciate the value of doing so.


An average car has a fuel capacity of 15 gallons and can travel 20 mpg on a single tank of gas. Every 300 miles or so, you’ll need to pull over and refuel. You can also use this time to grab some refreshments, eat, or go to the bathroom. Fuel economy and tank capacity are two factors that can increase or decrease the total cost. Using our examples, you must account for this.

At the time of writing, national average gas prices ranged from about $3.90 on the West Coast to about $2.50 in the Southeast. A fill-up of a fifteen gallon tank will run you between $37 and $59. When using the above fuel economy, your per-mile costs will range from $0.12 to $0.19. Gas for a daily trip of 700 to 840 miles would cost between $84 and $160.

Food And Drinks

Food is essential for any road trip. Getting some snacks, drinks, and jerky for the road and you and your companions can cost less than twenty dollars if you shop at a convenience store. You should also plan on making a meal stop. Stopping for fast food instead of at steakhouses or other expensive restaurants can help keep costs down while travelling.

Again, this varies greatly depending on the establishment you frequent for refreshments.


Tiny towns with big potential for fun can be found all over the United States. Many points of interest along the way provide welcome opportunities to get out of the car and stretch your legs, from the world’s largest ball of yarn to a renowned distillery and a breathtaking national park. A ticket to a theme park will set you back significantly more than admission to a national park or the price of a photo next to a fifty-foot-tall Paul Bunyan statue.

The most important factor in determining how much you will spend at tourist destinations is your own discretion regarding where and what you want to see and do. Forget about costs altogether if you skip out on all but free sights. Remember that delays on the way will extend your trip and add to its overall cost.

Car Rentals

If you’re visiting from out of town, you might be tempted to hire a car for your road trips. When you factor in taxes and fees, the average daily rate of a rental car is $56. There are both cheaper and more expensive options available, but you’ll still have to buy the gas and return the tank full. The best way to save money and have a pleasant driving experience is to look into fuel-efficient vehicles.


The mileage on your car will rise rapidly on any trip you take. Adding a lot of miles to a brand-new car quickly reduces its resale value. Don’t forget to get in those oil and filter changes, as well as that tyre rotation, before you take off on your travels. These kinds of measures can reduce the likelihood of a breakdown due to mileage and the expenses associated with fixing it.

Other Factors

Although we have discussed the most typical and significant expenses associated with a road trip, there are still other factors to consider. Although most major thoroughfares are toll-free and well-maintained, this is not always the case. Minor expenses for toll roads are offset by the potential delays caused by construction that can extend a trip by hours or even days.

In busier urban areas, accidents are more common. They can completely or partially close roads, causing hours of delays even if you’re not directly involved. Some travelers have had a lot of bad luck on their trips, causing them to lose precious time and incur additional costs. Furthermore, wear and road debris can cause your vehicle to malfunction or necessitate tyre repair. Your trip time and budget will both increase with the addition of extra fuel and repair costs for your vehicle.

The price can go up if you lose valuables like your phone, wallet, or passport. It’s easy to lose or forget essentials like a phone charger while travelling, so set aside a small amount of money in case of emergency. There are even some that you can add to your snack budget and buy at truck stops and gas stations.

The expenses mentioned in the article can often be reduced by adjusting lifestyle or transportation choices. While sleeping in your car is not ideal, it is a cheaper alternative to staying in a hotel. Recreational vehicles (RVs) are convenient because they provide a place to sleep, but they are also more expensive to operate. Getting back to the topic of gas, electric cars eliminate the need for gas entirely, can be charged at no cost at stations across the country, but are still not widely owned. Spending less money and having a more enjoyable trip is entirely possible with some forethought and careful decision making.

How Long Would A Road Trip Around The US Take?

The United States is so large that circumnavigating the entire country would take a considerable amount of time. In this scenario, we will pretend that you are taking a trip to all four corners of the United States. To estimate how long a trip will take, divide the total distance by 700 (a reasonable daily average) and multiply by seven days. If you know how far you need to travel and can assume a constant speed of 70 miles per hour, you can easily calculate how many hours it will take.

We will assume that the circumnavigation of the United States begins in New York City and continues on to Jacksonville, Florida, Santa Monica, California, Seattle, Washington, and finally back to New York City. Seven thousand three hundred forty-eight miles is a very long way to travel. If you averaged 700 miles per day on the road, your trip would take more than ten days. That doesn’t factor in time for sightseeing at any of the stops along the way.

Final Reflections

Cross-country road trips in the United States have been idealized for decades. Traveling across the country can take several days because of its massive size and the abundance of interesting stops along the way. After reading this, you should have a solid grasp of how much a road trip typically costs, as well as some ideas for how to allocate funds for future excursions of this type. Keep in mind that you can drastically reduce your travel expenses with some forward thinking and smart decisions.

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