Driving Across America Was Still Cheaper Than Flying

Soaring gas prices made each stop a pain — but it was still better for my wallet than flying

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Old Blue was a champion, despite gas prices.
Old Blue was a champion, despite gas prices.
Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Last week, I road tripped from south of San Antonio, Texas up to north of Toronto, Ontario, a whopping 1,900-mile drive thanks to a quick detour to visit some friends. The notoriously poor gas mileage of my 1996 Chevrolet Suburban was no doubt going to leave a lot to be desired in terms of spending along the way — but I wanted to know if it was still going to be cheaper than flying. Spoiler alert: It was.

Now, there were a lot of reasons why flying wasn’t an option for us — mainly the fact that we bought the Suburban explicitly to use it to haul my car back across the border after its registration lapsed during the Covid-19 pandemic. On the way home, we’re also camping out of the ‘Burb at Watkins Glen during the IMSA Six Hour race weekend. We kind of had to drive, but when I plotted the gas prices along our route, I had to know if flying would ultimately be a better choice.

A one-way trip from San Antonio to Toronto on United Airlines for that weekend was $559 per person. With my husband and I traveling together, it would have added up to $1,118 — before any extra fees, luggage costs, or airport parking. When gas prices rise, so does the cost of airline tickets, and we’re already reporting a 25 percent increase in costs this summer.

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I saved our gas receipts and tallied them up along the way, and I was shocked: All told, we had spent $562 on gasoline alone, which was far less than I’d been expecting. With another $351 on hotels and $198 on food, we clocked in at $1,111 for the whole adventure.

That being said, we weren’t exactly driving through any states that have been recording egregious gas prices. Our route took us through Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, and southern Ontario. The highest gas price I saw was $5.28 per gallon in Missouri. The lowest was in Texas, where we filled up for $4.19.

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Neither of those fees are exactly comforting on the ol’ bank account, but with the current gas price fiasco, I had to breathe a sigh of relief at the end of this. I was going to have to drive no matter what; it was just nice to be able to consider my four days of driving at least had some small gains.