Whenever you're considering taking a trip and you can't decide what form of transportation you should use, it's a very smart idea to make use of a point-to-point mileage calculator to determine the true cost of the trip based on your method of travel.
How to Calculate Driving Mileage
Today, there are a lot of people who use online maps and mileage calculators without really understanding how to calculate mileage with a paper map. If you understand how mileage works, then you'll be able to make better use of the online mileage calculators that are available.
Manually Calculating Your Mileage
Before the advent of computers or the Internet, people calculated point-to-point mileage using an actual calculator. The method for calculating mileage using a simple map and a calculator is as follows:
- Check the scale on your map. You can usually find this in one of the margins of any map. It's a straight line that looks like a ruler, and it shows how many miles the equivalent distance on the paper map equate to.
- Plot out your route on the paper map using a pencil or a highlighter.
- Many people use a ruler to measure the entire length of the road that you plan to travel from point A to point B. If you want more accuracy, you could tape a string along the entire route. Then, cut the string at the start and end points and then measure the total length of string using a ruler. This helps with accurately measuring curved roads.
- Get out your calculator, and multiply the total distance you've measured with your ruler by the denominator in the scale. For example, if the map scale is 1/100, then you would multiply by 100. The result is the total mileage of your trip.
- Some maps only show you the length of the line that equates to one mile. In this case, you would count how many of those lengths fit into your total length of string.
For example, if you're using a map with a scale of 1/100, and you measure your total trip on the map equals four inches, then your total trip will be 400 miles. This process takes a fair amount of time, and since it's nearly impossible to accurately measure roads that curve or go through elevation changes, the final calculated mileage is usually off by a few miles.
What a Point-to-Point Mileage Calculator Tells You
If you've ever used any of the popular online mapping programs, then you know that most maps have the ability to calculate the exact mileage between two points. However, there are certain assumptions that these point-to-point mileage calculators make when calculating your total mileage. Unless you understand the behavior of these calculators, you may be in for a bit of a surprise when you head out on your trip.
Assumptions that Most Mileage Calculators Make
When you use online maps to calculate your route and total mileage, the mapping system searches for the fastest possible route to your destination. Usually the mapping system assumes the following when planning your route:
- You want to follow all roads that have the highest posted speed limits.
- You plan to utilize highways, toll roads, or even seasonal roads if they provide that fastest route.
- Traffic, weather, and road construction are usually ignored.
The mapping software calculates mileage by tallying up the total length of road you'll be traveling and simply adding the total miles that you'll be driving. Sometimes this route really will take the least time, but you could end up putting a lot more mileage on your vehicle than you want to.
How to Make Mapping Software More Efficient
When you use online tools, you can make them more accurate by choosing advanced options and modifying the selections to take your unique trip into account. Maybe you know that there's a lot of road work going on, or you'd rather avoid major highways. Most online mileage apps let you define those trip rules. Additionally, you can usually tell the mapping software to choose the shortest route rather than the fastest route - because those two are not always the same.
Point-to-Point Mileage Calculator Online
If you'd rather use online calculators than perform your own mileage calculations, there are plenty of tools that will help you determine the overall distance of your next trip:
- DaftLogic hosts an interesting online calculator that uses Google Maps. It lets you select two points on the map, and it will give you the straight-line distanced between the two points. While such "as-the-crow-flies" distance may not be the same as what you'll have to drive, it gives you some idea of the scale that you're looking at.
- Rand McNally, the map retailer, provides a very useful online tool for calculating mileage. All you have to do is type in the start and end addresses.
- ConvertIt provides a very basic tool that lets you click on two major cities throughout the United States, and it provides the total distance in miles and kilometers.
- MapQuest is one of the most popular mapping sites, and it provides both fastest routes and shortest routes.
If you're planning your route for an upcoming trip, always remember that sometimes even though the shortest route isn't always the fastest, it will certainly reduce the overall wear and tear on your car. So, figure out the shortest route to get where you need to go, and then sit back and enjoy the ride.