How to divide the costs of a road trip:

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

Recently, my wife, two of her sisters, and I drove from Wisconsin to Oregon to visit their brother. Before leaving, the two sisters said they would buy all of the gas, which they did. I know this is not a mechanical problem, but it is a concern for people who share traveling expenses. We drove about 4,800 miles, and the gas cost $182, but I sense that they think they paid more than their fair share for the trip. I had the oil and filter changed in Oregon and again when we returned at a cost of $50. Would you have any idea as to what a passenger should pay for a long trip? $91 each on this trip seems reasonable to me. My car is a 1987 Oldsmobile.

TOM: Wow, Jerry, it sounds to me like your sisters-in-law got the bargain of the century. $91 for 4,800 miles round trip and they're complaining??? That's less than 2 cents a mile!

RAY: To give you a little perspective, most companies reimburse employees who use their cars for work-related travel at a rate of about 27 cents a mile. That figure is calculated to cover not only gas, but also the wear and tear on the car. So if you drove your car 4,800 miles on business, for example, they figure that every moving part on the car is going to wear out 4,800 miles sooner than it otherwise would have, and they pay you for it.

TOM: If you calculate the cost of your trip to Oregon based on 27 cents a mile, it comes out to nearly $1,300! Even if you divide that four ways, the sisters still owe you another $450 bucks! And that's not even counting the relative costs.

RAY: Those are the costs of having to endure 4,800 miles with all those relatives.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One