If you look online for automatic mileage trackers, nearly all of the blogosphere and search results are about apps. Because of this, it’s really easy to think that free or very cheap apps are the best mileage trackers. That’s anything but true, and bloggers/reviewers have done a great disservice to their readers.
Most drivers only think about three things when purchasing a mileage tracker:
- Is it easy to use?
- Will it cover my butt in an audit?
- Is it affordable?
These aren’t bad questions, but there’s a really important fourth question that never gets asked:
Is it capturing all of my miles?
Why This Matters
Since you’ve been using a mileage tracking app, you haven’t been paying attention to your log (that’s the whole point of the app, right?). So when the app says that you drove 878 miles last month, you assume it’s right.
But what if it’s not right? What if it missed some miles?
At Mileage Ace, we’ve been performing a number of comparison tests between mileage tracking apps and our mileage tracker. Mileage Ace is over 99% accurate to the odometer – usually closer to 99.7%. The good apps are anywhere from 96% to as low as 80%, depending on the path you are driving. The free apps are way, way worse.
This is where the Illusion of Free comes in.
Let’s look at some numbers.
If you drove 100 miles in a day, your deduction should be $54 (in 2016). A good app would record $51.25. That’s $3.75 the app is costing your deduction, per day, because of their lack of accuracy.
Say you drive 15 days a month, the app is actually costing an additional $56 per month. You can imagine how missed miles quickly add up, month over month. The accuracy loss is over $600 per year or more!
You would have a difficult time finding any high-end mileage tracking system that costs as much as these apps do!
The point is, mileage tracking apps (free or not) are far more expensive than you realize!
The other problem with these apps
The above loss is only if you remember to have your app running 24/7.
It’s very common to miss whole days of driving because you forget to turn your app back on after an update or drained battery. Even in our own comparison testing, when we were repeatedly making drives just to compare the different trackers, we’d forget to turn on the apps – and that was the whole point of our trip. This happens more often than people care to admit, and when tax time rolls around they just claim their logged total.
Those missed trips are actual dollars out of your pocket!
Can You Capture Every Mile?
The good news is you can come darn close to matching your odometer. You just have to think beyond the scope of an app. A good dedicated mileage tracking device easily pays for itself. The important thing to realize is that saving a little money up-front can actually cost you a bunch of money later on.
Let’s look at Mileage Ace since we know how accurate that is (about 99.5%). When we compare our mileage tracker using the numbers above (100 miles a day, driven 15 times a month) we come up with:
- Daily deduction of $53.75
- That’s a $3.75 loss from your log each month versus $56 with your mileage tracking app
- Only $45 loss for a whole year, versus over $600 with an app
In the next month we have a detailed comparison coming between the Mileage Ace and various popular mileage tracking apps. But the gist of our findings is this: free or cheap mileage tracking apps are an illusion. They are far more expensive than anyone realizes, and dedicated mileage trackers are by far worth the additional cost up-front.