Fuel cost calculator

Budget how much gas will set you back for your next road trip

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Susan Meyer

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Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

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Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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Travel budgeting means calculating the cost of gas

When laying out the plans for your summer road trip, there are a lot of costs to consider. You may be focusing on things like lodging, food and activities. But more often than not, the cost of gas sneaks up on you — and can sometimes make the trip significantly more expensive. 

But, can you determine how much you’ll pay for fuel to reach your location? 

With our fuel cost calculator, you can easily determine how much you’ll pay for fuel to get to your destination. Try it out below:

How the fuel cost calculator works

 

Calculating the cost of fuel for your road trip is relatively simple. To figure out how much fuel you’ll need for a road trip, simply determine how many miles you’ll be driving, what your vehicle's average miles per gallon (MPG) is and the current price of gas.

From there, you can divide the number of miles you’ll be driving by the MPG of your vehicle. Then, simply multiply the number of gallons needed by the current fuel price to get the fuel cost for your trip. You should also research the price of gas both where you are now, along your route and at your destination, as prices can vary as you change locations. 

Say you’re driving up the east coast from Atlanta to Boston in your 2022 Hyundai Tuscon — a trip around 1,000 miles in a vehicle that gets up to 33 MPG on the highway.

Knowing that the average national fuel price right now is $3.397, we can easily determine the cost of this road trip. Take the distance, 1,000 miles, and divide it by your vehicle’s MPG, 33 miles. 

The result, which is 30, is the number of gallons of gas you’ll need to complete the road trip. You can then multiply 30 by the current gas price — $3.397

The result is the fuel cost of your trip from Atlanta to Boston: About $102

While the national average will give you a pretty good estimate of the price you’ll pay, you may want to look specifically at state prices if you live in or are traveling through a state where gas is more expensive, like California, Nevada and Oregon.

What factors determine fuel prices?

To the frustration of many commuters and road trippers, gas prices can often be volatile — rising and falling with supply and demand. Take 2022, for instance, when the war in Ukraine caused gas prices to spike. Or in 2021, when the early effects of the pandemic caused fuel costs to shoot through the roof.

The macroeconomic environment will always play a role in the cost of fuel, but why does it? Here are the main factors that play into the rises and falls of gas prices.

 factors that determine fuel prices

Cost of crude oil 

Accounting for 54% of the price, the cost of crude oil is the largest component to go into the price of gasoline. The U.S. relies heavily on outside imports for oil, with the majority of imports coming from Saudi Arabia, Canada and Mexico.1


Another entity that directly affects oil costs is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Comprised of the 13 countries responsible for 60% of internationally traded oil, OPEC yields significant control over the global price of oil. Therefore, any geopolitical instability that affects OPEC will also affect the price of oil.2

Taxes

The second-largest component of the price of fuel is taxes. According to the Department of Energy, federal, state and local taxes account for around 17% of the cost of fuel. In certain states, car ownership can be far more expensive due to state taxes on fuel. 

In 2022, the federal tax we paid on gasoline was 18.4 cents per gallon, with the average of total state taxes at 31.67 cents per gallon. Beyond these taxes, you’ll likely also be paying sales tax and taxes applied by local and municipal governments. 

Distribution costs 

Distribution and marketing account for a little over 14% of the total cost of gasoline but can largely depend on location. 

Many gas stations are owned by refiners, like Chevron and Exxon; however, you can also purchase gas from individual business owners who buy gas from refiners but sell it separately — often for a loss. In the case of individual businesses, factors like wages, benefits and salaries can influence distribution costs.3 

Refining costs

While the gas itself can be costly, so is the cost to distill crude oil into gasoline and mix in the necessary additives. 

According to the Department of Energy, refining costs account for around 14% of the price of gas — the lowest percentage of the four factors. Refining costs tend to vary both seasonally and regionally, as some cities have stricter regulations regarding pollution control.

How to save money on fuel

While we can’t change the price we pay at the pump, we can find ways to travel more efficiently — limiting the number of times we pull off to fill up. Here are a few ways to improve your gas mileage and make your road trip as fuel efficient as possible. 

 ways to save on gas

Use the right grade of oil

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save 1%–2% on gas if you use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of oil. 

Also, you can opt for “energy conserving” oil to save money. Designated on the API Performance Symbol, this oil contains friction-reducing additives that are more fuel efficient.4

Air up your tires before you leave

The U.S. Department of Energy additionally claims that you can save up to 3% on gas prices if you keep your tires properly inflated.5 Not only are properly inflated tires safer and more reliable, but gas mileage reduces as tires become less inflated. 

If you’re wondering what the proper tire pressure for your vehicle is, check for a sticker on your driver-side door. If not there, this information may be in the manual in your glove box. 

Take advantage of the offseason

The more time you spend in the car means more time at the pump, meaning if you’re sitting in long traffic jams, you’ll be burning more fuel. As a result, traveling outside of peak seasons can be a great way to avoid traffic and spend less on gas. 

Look into rewards programs

Certain credit cards allow you to receive points when you fill up on gas. Some programs also allow you to accumulate savings by paying an annual fee. It may make sense to join a rewards program depending on your average miles driven and where you frequently fill up. Some of the most popular rewards programs include: 

  • Exxon Mobil Rewards+
  • Shell Fuel Rewards
  • Circle K Easy Rewards
  • BPme Rewards 

Avoid speeding

An easy way to cut down on fuel costs is to avoid speeding. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, for most vehicles, every five miles driven over 50 MPH equates to an additional $0.24 paid in gas. As most highways have speed limits of 60 or 70 MPH, driving above those limits is sure to cost you more on fuel.

What cars get the best gas mileage?

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle and looking for a more gas-friendly vehicle, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most fuel-efficient vehicles, not including electric vehicles. According to True Car, the 10 most fuel-efficient cars are.6

  1. 2022 Toyota Prius: 49–56 MPG
  2. 2022 Toyota Prius Prime: 54 MPG
  3. 2023 Hyundai Elantra: 23–54 MPG
  4. 2023 Hyundai Sonata: 27–52 MPG
  5. 2023 Toyota Camry: 25–52 MPG
  6. 2023 Toyota Corolla 34–50 MPG
  7. 2023 Honda Accord: 32–48 MPG
  8. 2023 Lexus ES: 25–44 MPG
  9. 2023 Mitsubishi Mirage: 37–39 MPG
  10. 2023 Kia Rio: 36 MPG

Frequently asked questions

If you still have questions about calculating fuel cost after using our calculator above, we’ve got you covered. See some of the most common questions and answers about calculating the cost of a road trip below. 

Can google maps calculate fuel cost?

 While the Google Maps app can’t calculate fuel cost, it does show the most fuel-efficient route. This feature takes into account real-time traffic updates, your vehicle’s engine type and CO2 emissions.7

How do you calculate fuel cost per mile?

You can find the fuel cost per mile by taking the current per-gallon price of gas and dividing it by your vehicle’s miles per gallon. 

For example, if the current price of fuel is $3.50 and your vehicle gets 25 miles to the gallon, you would do the below calculation: 

3.50 / 25 = 0.14

This means you spend 14 cents on fuel for every mile that you travel in your vehicle. 

How do you calculate fuel per gallon?

While you should be able to determine a vehicle’s gas mileage by researching the vehicle, you can also do the calculation by hand. 

In order to calculate MPG, take the following steps: 

  1. Fill up your gas tank and reset your odometer.
  2. Drive until your gas tank is empty or about to be empty.
  3. Note the number of miles it took for the tank to reach empty and then refill the tank. 
  4. Note how many gallons it took to fill the tank. 
  5. Divide the miles you drove by how many gallons it took to refill the tank. 
  6. Repeat the process a few times to get an average MPG.

The formula for calculating this value is: 

Miles driven from full to empty / Number of gallons necessary to go from empty to full = MPG

Does mileage make your insurance go up?

Mileage can make your insurance go up, as the amount you drive will be a factor in the price of your premium. Since you’re statistically more likely to get in an accident, it makes sense that you’ll pay a little more on insurance.

Find a policy that matches your driving habits

There are many ways to pay less on gas, but if you’re a frequent road tripper, shelling out at the pump is unavoidable. 

However, you can control getting a policy that matches your driving habits — and doesn’t overcharge you just because you're a frequent driver. 

Use our car insurance quote comparison tool to find a plan that’s right for you.

Sourcing
  1. Gasoline explained. U.S. Energy Information Administration

  2. OPEC in a Changing World. Council on Foreign Relations

  3. Estimated Gasoline Price Breakdown and Margins. California Energy Commission

  4. Estimated Gasoline Price Breakdown and Margins. U.S. Department of Energy

  5. Gas Mileage Tips. U.S. Department of Energy

  6. 20 Cars with the Best Gas Mileage TrueCar

  7. Use eco-friendly routes on your Google Maps app Google Support

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