"Reliability of Smart Phone apps with my clients has been unreliable over time. Clients also tend to fall-out of regular use of these SmartPhone apps because they require too much interaction and people either forget to use them, or just get tired of them."

-Quote from CPA


The App Store is flooded with all sorts of mileage tracking apps that claim to solve your logging needs. They are offered at a ridiculously low entry rate or even for free. For a business professional wasting hours each week generating a log by hand, these deals seem too good to be true. And they are.

Recalling what we discussed in part 1, the true cost a mileage tracker is...

over time


from miles missed by the tracker


over time
Apps seem great because they have a low up-front price, but let’s take a closer look at the other 2/3 of the equation.

Apps are software running on the hand-held computer you call a phone. In order to work, the program needs to be open. Most apps require constant interaction, forcing a driver to turn them on and off for every trip. Others won’t work without getting plugged in to a power source. And others hide the fact that they require additional hardware (which is expensive). For the busy business pro, it’s too easy to miss miles off your deduciton. Remembering to log your miles is the last thing on your mind. Now imagine needing to dig out your phone, open an app, plug it in and turn it on every time you get into the car.

Unless you are 100% diligent, trips will be missed. And missed trips can cost you hundreds of dollars off your deduction.

An example of how a mileage tracking app costs you:

If your tracker misses only 10 miles every two days (which is easy for an app to do), you are losing out on over $900 of your deduction every year. Going cheap, in this case, costs you big time!

Okay, say, for the free download, you think you can deal with that annoyance. It’s time to consider the real issue with apps and why most business professionals should avoid them.


“But we have GPS and WiFi,” the designers tout. "All the important elements for a legit tracker, right?”


WRONG! When it comes to mileage tracking apps, they all have one critical flaw that no software designer can ever address:

They run on your phone, and phones are tied to you, not your car.

How are they legitimately able to know when you are driving? They don’t!

Apps, all apps, are guessing when you drive! And it’s your mileage deduction that takes a hit when they are wrong.


Patches and gimmicks, the hodgepodge method of generating a mileage log.

Some apps claim to have solved the problem of guessing when you are driving with some techy-sounding features. Keep in mind, these “features” are really just hacks to try and make better guesses. Plus they still require you to have the app running in the background of your phone 24/7, which will eat up your battery life. If your phone crashes during the day and you forget to reopen the app, too bad. If you turn the app off because it’s killing your battery, then forget to turn it back on, too bad.


Gimmick #1: The Phone in Motion Patch

Most mileage tracking apps try to guess when you are driving by looking at how your GPS signal is moving. When it detects a certain speed, say 5mph, it will says, “well, I guess you are driving now,” and it begins recording a mileage log.

  • You theoretically don’t have to say ‘start’ and ‘stop’ on every trip.
  • Inaccurate Logs: Your phone has no idea if you are actually in your car. It’s guessing. There are 100 reasons it can think you aren't driving when you actually are, and vica versa. These apps are wrong all the time!
    • If you are in traffic, they’ll think you’ve stopped driving and will end the trip.
      Result: you get 100 tiny trips on the highway instead of one trip.
    • If you turned the car off, they don’t know, and they’ll combine all your trips so you have one giant trip instead of several.
      Result: totally inaccurate and useless log for a potentially large number of miles.
    • If you walk fast, drive slow, or lose GPS signal (in a tunnel, around trees, etc) they’ll log something inaccurately.
    • If you have poor GPS reception (like when you are inside), your signal jumps around and the app thinks you are driving, so you get crazy trips you have to manually delete.
  • Constant 24-hour GPS use.

    In order to guess when you are moving, the app is always, and we mean ALWAYS, using your GPS. “Am I moving now? Am I moving now? Am I moving now? Am I moving now?…”
    Result: This wrecks havoc on your phone’s battery and makes all your other apps run slower.

  • Your trip won’t begin until you hit 5mph. This means your start address will be wrong and your true mileage will be less than you actually drove. Every foot counts, and these miles add up over time, COSTING YOU BIG.
  • LABOR: Because of all the errors, you have to manage your log all the time. Which takes time. And time is money.
  • The IRS knows they can easily question these logs because the trips get improperly recorded so often.

Gimmick #2: The Bluetooth Connection

Some apps say they are more accurate because they connect to a bluetooth sensor that you leave in your car (which you have to purchase separately). Your phone will hopefully connect with it every time you get in your car, so it takes out the guesswork of when you are in your vehicle.

  • It theoretically guesses when you are in your car more accurately than the phone-in-motion method.
  • Bluetooth connections are totally unreliable! How many times have you had a bluetooth device not connect automatically when it should? If these apps don’t make that connection when you get in your car, every trip you drive is missed until you realize the bluetooth connection isn’t working. This could be one trip, or it could be one month of trips!!!
  • App must ALWAYS be on: Bluetooth connections require a lot more power than your GPS unit - and these apps are doing the same thing the apps above are doing, except with BOTH GPS AND BLUETOOTH. Talk about a power drain on your battery.
  • PRICE - Bluetooth adapters often cost over $100.
  • FEES - most apps will charge you an additional fee for linking to bluetooth.
  • Many still require the 5mph feature to trigger the onset of a trip, making the bluetooth add-on virtually pointless.


The intangible quality that apps can’t fully offer.

All the above issues lead to one point that can’t be put into dollars and cents:

You can only trust a mileage tracking app so far.

You truly need to ask yourself how much extra would you pay for something you know is going to be there for you, all the time, even if you forget about it. Forget accuracy, forget the extra time you spend, and focus on this idea. “If I knew the car was tracking itself without me needing to do anything, how much is that worth to me?”

The reason we mention this is because there are other tools that can give this to you.


So you’ve generated some GPS trips, now what?

Once you start using a mileage tracker, you’ll realize that just having a GPS path where you drove isn’t enough. In fact, not by a long shot. Remember, the IRS requirements for a valid mileage log include identifying which trips are for business, and having the business purpose set for each trip. You’ll want an easier-than-easy way to add these details to your log. The problem is, most people don’t realize this until after they’ve made a purchase.

Most apps just filter your trips into an excel type spreadsheet with no tools to assist in auto-filling your log. It’s worth about as much as you paid for the app. You end up having to sort through each trip manually to decipher which miles were for business, and you will need to add details to ensure the log is fully IRS compliant. This makes apps’ reporting process only somewhat less burdensome than when you did it by hand. By no means are apps hassle-free.

When it comes down to it, even the best apps suffer from the fact that there is absolutely no foolproof easier-than-easy way to allow you to identify a business trip while you are driving. And because of that, you will have to go back over your log to identify identify business trips, which results in TWO SERIOUS COSTS.

Cost #1: Mislabeled Trips - The Other Way Apps Miss Miles

Because apps can’t offer a foolproof way to identify business trips while you are driving, you will end up having to dig through your log to find those trips. And guess what? You won’t catch everything and you'll fail to claim recorded trips that were actually driven for business.

While that’s fun enough, you’ll likely also end up claiming trips that weren’t for business, which greatly increases your risk of being penalized if you are ever audited.

Cost #2: Yay! Now you get to fix your log!

How long does it take to fix your log? Nobody remembers to do this on a daily basis, so at best you are trying to fix 2-3 days worth of driving. Most people will not be this diligent, and it’ll be a week or more - maybe even months. Even if you can go back and catch everything, this is your valuable time being wasted on something that is a complete pain in the butt.

A few hours of your time wasted on an app will pay for a higher quality device that automates that process.

The TRUE Cost of Mileage Tracking Apps

Add up the costs and it gets ugly.

True Cost of mileage tracker = Price of Tracker over time + MISSED deductions per year + Labor Involved over time.

We’ve already shown that apps have a HUGE risk of missing miles, costing you thousands in missed deductions. They are also more labor intensive than other options on the market in both the logging and reporting process. But there is also one additional cost hiding out there: the fees app designers charge for using their software.

On the surface, the price of an app seems minimal compared to a physical tracker. By not designing and manufacturing hardware, the designers are theoretically passing their savings on to you. They average between $2.99-$10 for their basic package, but then they nickel and dime you for every other feature.

For the apps that use bluetooth, their fees are higher. Some lull you in with a free download, but will only give you a limited number of trips before they charge you. In one case, unlimited trips were only available at $59.99 per year. Not so cheap anymore, huh? Over the course of your mileage logging needs, these fees quickly add up.

Consider this scenario:

Your app fees fall in the range of $20 per year. Because of all the reasons stated above, you missed logging a ten-mile trip every other day (1,825 total miles in a year). That equates to $1,022 in lost deductions (or $358 actual dollars not coming back from your return)!! Without adding in your labor costs, this app has already cost you $375+ per year.

So Who Are Mileage Tracking Apps Good For?

Remember that cost/benefit ratio? Apps are ideal for those who aren’t driving for work constantly. If you are logging only 1,000 miles per year for business, your actual dollar deduction is about $200. This doesn’t justify buying a higher end tracker. If you miss trips, it isn’t so labor intensive to manually add them back in. Plus, your risk of audit is lower, so having moderately inaccurate logs is less of a concern.

But for those of you who drive more, those who need to squeeze as much from their mileage deduction as humanly possible, there is a MUCH better solution.


Learn about the tools successful business people have been using to maximize their deduction for years.