If you're heading over the river and through the woods like countless others this holiday season, you may be wondering whether it's cheaper to drive or fly to grandmother's house. Or wherever it is you're going.
The Cost2Drive iPhone app lets you estimate your driving costs based on real-time gas prices, and weighs those expenses against the price of air travel, based on airline information from Kayak.com. The app also lets you calculate a car trip's carbon footprint, and you can even purchase carbon offsets if you want to go green.
Car vs. Air Costs
After downloading the $1.99 app, tap the "Add a New Vehicle" tab at the bottom of the setup screen. Enter the year, make and model of your vehicle and the type of fuel you use. The next screen displays your vehicle's information, including average mpg and gas tank size, and also includes fields for inputting the starting and ending points of a trip.
Next, a Results screen displays the one-way driving costs, as well as miles and time to a destination. It also shows the lowest available one-way airfare on an orange bar below. If you're driving solo and the airfare sounds like a good deal, you can tap on the orange bar to book a flight through Kayak.com. But if you're traveling with family or friends — and the price for airfare isn't quite a bargain when multiplied by several people — tapping on the "Get Trip Details" tab directs you to the Cost2drive Web site to get you on your way by car.
From App to Web
The Cost2drive Web site displays a map highlighting your trip, with directions available using MapQuest, Yahoo Maps or Google Maps. Yellow gas pump icons along the route show where to stop for fuel; tap one of the icons and details about the station pop up on the screen. Hitting the Details tab gives you information on how many gallons of gas you will need to reach your destination, the average gas price along the route and a list of recommended pit stops.
The best features of the Cost2Drive app are the snapshot comparison of travel costs by mode of transportation and the convenient gas station listings. But once you've been shunted over to the Web site, the interface isn't particularly iPhone-friendly. I was interested in finding out my carbon footprint for a trip, but couldn't locate it using my iPhone while on the site. Plus, it was difficult to scroll around the map and zoom in for more detail.
The Cost2Drive app is a great tool to plan a trip and compare the costs of air vs. car travel. But since it's free to use the Cost2Drive Web site, skip the app and spend the $1.99 on fuel instead — whether that's gas for the car or a latte for the driver.