Traveling by car on either short or long trips has a number of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of car travel so you can weigh up your options.
My experiences of travelling by car
While I might be more well known for having cycled long distances such as Alaska to Argentina and England to South Africa, I've also undertaken quite a few travels by car.
And I'm not just talking about weekend trips. In fact, my first big travel adventure involved buying a car in Australia in 1997 and driving around the entire country in 12 months!
This is the car below – Surprisingly I managed to drive it around the entire country without any problems!
Since then, I've also driven around New Zealand, and more recently, when we go Greek island hopping, we also take our car from Athens with us.
For example, during our most recent 4 month trip around the Dodecanese islands of Greece, we've had the car with us. Sure it's added some expense to our ferry crossings, but the flexibility it's given us to explore the Greek islands has been amazing. I totally recommend renting a car in Greece during your vacation so you can see and do more!
This is the car we're using below – perfect for travel on the narrow roads of some of the islands!
Pros and Cons of Car Traveling
Of course, there's many advantages and disadvantages to planning your travels with a car. That's why I've put together this guide.
If you're thinking of taking a road trip, or want to embark on an epic cross-continent adventure, these pros and cons of travelling by car will definitely help you make your decision.
Related: How to plan a travel budget
Advantages of Car Traveling
There are many advantages to travelling by car, particularly if you're planning a longer trip. Here are 10 of the main benefits:
1. You can travel at your own pace in a car
When you travel by car, you're the one in charge. You can choose your own route, make spontaneous decisions and change your plans on a whim. This is great if you want the freedom to explore without being tied to a specific itinerary.
One of the best things about road tripping is that you can go at your own pace. If you want to take your time and enjoy the journey, you can do so without having to worry about making it to your destination on time.
There's no need to worry about making connections with flights or buses. If you want to spend a few extra days in one place or move on quickly, it's entirely up to you.
It can also be a great benefit to simply sleep in on days you are tired, knowing you don't need to rush off to take a bus or train.
2. It's more comfortable than public transport
Let's face it, car transport is a lot more comfortable than taking a bus or a train. When you travel in your own vehicle, you can stretch your legs, take a break when you want to, and you don't have to share your space with anyone else.
Related: 20 Reasons To Travel Around The World
3. You can make spontaneous stops when driving
Have you ever been driving somewhere and seen a sign for something interesting but haven't had the time to stop? With a car, you can just pull over and check it out! This spontaneity is one of the great joys of road tripping.
Being on your own schedule means you can stop at small villages and places of interest you ight normally pass by. From personal experience driving around the Greece and the Greek islands, having a car has enabled us to get off the beaten path and explore some of the interesting but lesser known areas.
Take a look at our road trip in Mani, Greece.
4. You can travel with more stuff in a car
When you're travelling by car, you can bring everything you need with you – including your kitchen sink (not recommended by the way)!
This is great news if you're travelling with kids as you can pack all their toys, clothes and other essential items. It also means that you can bring your bike or other sports equipment with you if you want to explore the local area during your stay.
I tend to find that it also makes it very cost effective to stock up on groceries in bigger places and then you don't need to buy so much in small places where goods are more expensive.
5. You can share the driving to reduce fatigue
Travelling by car also means that you can share the driving to avoid getting too tired. This is particularly important on long journeys where driver fatigue can become a real issue.
If you're planning a trip with friends or family, taking turns behind the wheel can make the journey much more enjoyable for everyone.
6. You can listen to music on a road trip
One of the great things about driving is that you can listen to music as loud as you want! This is perfect for long road trips when you need some entertainment to keep you going.
Here's some ideas of songs to listen to on a road trip!
7. You can save money
If you're travelling with a few people, car travel can be much cheaper than flying or taking the train. That's because you can split the cost of petrol and accommodation between everyone in your group.
You can also pack your own road trip snacks to eat along the way in order to save paying for food at roadside diners.
If you're looking at money saving options for your next trip, perhaps consider going by car.
8. You can avoid crowds
If you're looking to avoid crowds, travelling by car is a great option. You can explore less-travelled roads and paths and enjoy a more peaceful journey. Also, no more packed buses and trains!
9. You're not reliant on public transport
When you travel by car, you're not reliant on public transport, which can be unreliable, especially in rural areas. You also don't have to spend so much time waiting in a bus station, or going through pretty stressful times if you miss a vital connection.
10. Car travel is an adventure
Last but not least, one of the main advantages of travelling by car, is that it is an adventure in itself! There's something exciting about hitting the open road and seeing where it takes you.
It might test your driving skills, offer incredible opportunities to see things you might not otherwise, and give you a real sense of freedom. If you're looking for an adventure, travelling by car is a great option.
Disadvantages of Car Traveling
Of course, there are also some disadvantages to consider before hitting the open road. Here are 10 of the top disadvantages to keep in mind:
1. You might encounter car trouble
If you're driving an older car, you might have to deal with flat tyres, breakdowns and other car problems. This can be frustrating, especially if you're in the middle of nowhere.
Being able to fix minor car problems is essential if you're planning to travel by car. It's also a good idea to have breakdown cover in case of emergencies.
2. What happens if your car get stolen?
Another disadvantage of car travel is that your car could get stolen. Potential theft is especially a risk if you're travelling to a country where crime rates are high.
If you're worried about this, it's important to take precautions such as parking in well-lit areas and not leaving valuables in your car. It goes without saying that you want good car insurance as well as travel insurance!
3. A higher risk of road accidents
The more you do of anything, the higher the chances of something happening become, and this definitely applies to car accidents.
In fact, studies have shown that the risk of being in a car accident increases with each hour you spend driving. So, if you're planning a long road trip, be sure to take regular breaks and drive safely.
4. Car travel can be tiring
Driving can be tiring, especially if you're behind the wheel for long periods of time. This is why it's important to take regular breaks and share the driving if possible.
One top safety tip is to avoid driving at night if you're feeling tired. This is because your reaction times are slower and it's more difficult to stay awake.
5. You might get lost
If you're not used to reading maps, there's a chance you might get lost when travelling by car. This can be frustrating and waste a lot of time, especially if you have to keep stopping to ask for directions.
Before setting off on your journey, be sure to plan your route and have a good map handy. If you're worried about getting lost, you might want to consider using a GPS system or good old Google maps.
6. You can't always find parking
Depending on where you're travelling, finding parking can be a real challenge – and a costly one at that. In big cities, you might have to pay for parking and in rural areas, you might have to park your car a fair distance from your destination.
When we drive around Greece, we often have to leave our car parked in side streets. This might be a bit nerve-wracking for people not used to doing it!
7. You might have to pay tolls
If you're driving on a motorway or expressway, you might have to pay tolls. This can add up, especially if you're making a long journey. For example, driving from Athens to Thessaloniki can cost around 30 euros in tolls!
Of course, there are ways to avoid paying tolls, such as taking back roads or planning your route in advance. But this isn't always possible, or even desirable if you're short on time.
8. Car travel can be expensive
Travelling by car can actually be quite costly, especially if you're making a long journey. For example, you have to pay for petrol, tolls, parking and accommodation.
In 2022 in particular, petrol costs have been very high here in Greece. We've been lucky to get it for less than 2.50 Euros a litre!
You might also have to pay for car repairs if you encounter any problems on the road. All of these costs can add up, so it's important to factor them into your budget before setting off.
9. Traffic Jams
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that traffic jams are one of the most frustrating things about car travel. They can cause delays, wasted time and even accidents.
Of course, there's not much you can do about this except plan your journey in advance and try to avoid peak times. But even then, there's no guarantee that you'll escape the traffic!
10. Other road users
And finally, one of the most frustrating things about car travel is other road users. This includes aggressive drivers, people who don't know how to park and cyclists who seem to think they own the road! I'm not one of them – I promise!
As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider when travelling by car. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons. If you're planning a road trip, make sure to do your research and plan ahead so that you can have the best possible experience.
Tips for traveling by car
If you've decided that you want to go by vehicle for your next trip, these 10 insightful tips will help you prepare:
1. Get good using Google maps!
2. Don't leave valuables in the vehicle
3. Allow plenty of time for your journey especially in bad weather
4. Double check the condition of the car
5. Check where you find the gas stations with the best petrol prices using an app
6. Share the driving if possible
7. Avoid driving at night if you're tired as this is when many crashes happen
8. Make sure you have your drivers license and insurance details to hand
9. Be prepared for unexpected expenses and hidden costs
10. Have a positive attitude!
Here's some car rental tips you might like to read.
Final Thoughts On The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Vehicles
Whether you're planning a road trip or travelling by car for another reason, it's important to consider the pros and cons of this mode of transport. On the whole, driving gives you more freedom and flexibility than other forms of travel, but there are some disadvantages to keep in mind.
Personally, I find using a car a great way to travel for longer trip.
What are your thoughts on travelling by car? Have you had any good or bad experiences? Let me know in the comments below!
Dave is a travel writer who spends his time traveling around and writing about Greece. As well as putting together these insights into the pros and cons of traveling in a car, he has written hundreds of travel blog posts about destinations and adventure activities. Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from around the world:
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