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How Far Would You Drive to Save Money?

Saving MoneyIf you live in the adult world long enough, you are going to find yourself facing a big expense. It might be something you’ve planned for. It might be unexpected and cause you to dip into your emergency fund. Since we work hard for our money, and want our money hard at work for us, it’s important to find the best deal before shelling out our hard earned cash. My question today is how far are you willing to travel to get a better deal and save money?

Wild Variation in the Price of Tires?

We have known for a while that our truck needed new tires. We try not to drive it much in the summer because it drinks more gas that our cars, but with winter around the corner, it was time.

I have to give a big shout out to my husband. A few years ago, he would have gone into the closest tire place and bought whatever they recommended. It would have gone on the credit card or one of those 6 months same as cash offers. This time, he got a quote from every place in town that sells tires, including the dreaded Wal Mart. Sadly, the least expensive quote was around $950 for a good all weather tire, rated at 55,000 miles. Why is rubber so expensive?

We’re all for buying local if we can, but all the local shops are chain affiliates, so we don’t really have a loyalty there. Next he began searching online, and we found a place across the state line in New Mexico that offered the same tires for $675. If you look far and wide, it is likely that you’ll find a better deal than what’s in your back yard, but how far should you go to save money? I think it comes down to a few things.

Compare Apples to Apples

Before you set off on a road trip to save a few hundred dollars, make sure the products you are looking for are comparable. I see ads all the time for $499 per eye LASIK surgery when I know the good surgeons charge double that. If you look at the fine print, that price usually includes no pre-and post-op care and is based on a -1.00 prescription. If you have a prescription like most people who want LASIK, it’s much higher than that, and you’ll get charged extra for each unit of correction. Make sure your quote is for exactly the same product or service.

Value Your Time

I had a family that I used to see in my office whose employer changed vision plans. The nearest provider was now in Greeley, an 8 hour drive. Since there were four of them, they made the drive to get eye exams. It did save them about $400 in exam fees and contact lens costs, but they ended up having to stay two nights in a hotel, plus gas and food expenses. Greeley isn’t exactly a family vacation town unless you like to visit cattle slaughterhouses. I guess it’s up to them to say if it was worth it, but I would not have taken three days of my life to save the small amount that they did. Also if you have to use your vacation time for something like this, would that be a good value? Not for me. Sometimes your time is more valuable than saving money.

Service Counts

As I’ve said before, I sometimes will choose a good customer service experience over a bad one, even if it costs a bit more. Cheap usually comes with a price, and that price is usually service. Everyone knows how much they can and can’t afford, but sometimes, having good customer service is worth paying more.

How Much Did We Really Save?

In the end, we decided to go out of town to get the better deal on tires. I wasn’t expecting much, but the place was really nice and clean. They gave us bottled water to drink while we were waiting. The service was promt and professional.

It was 140 miles round trip. The truck gets about 20 miles per gallon, and gas was $3.39 a gallon (thanks to our Safeway value card). Our travel expenses were about $24 in gas, so leaving town saved us about $250. We tend to be in this area about every three months, so we’ll be able to take advantage of the free tire rotations. Overall, I was pretty happy with the deal, and it certainly paid off to shop around in this case.

What is the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a deal?

Now that you’ve saved some money, learn how to make more with my guest post today at Make Money Your Way, then check out the new launch of Fearless Dollar!

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About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I’m not willing to go all that far off my beaten paths for a deal most of the time. I’ll try and do the best I can and am often willing to wait for a sale, but the idea of driving hours to save a few bucks isn’t worth it to me. (Driving is stressful and NOT fun for me!)

    • If I remember correctly, driving in South Florida is not very fun. Here, the worst you can get is being stuck behind a tractor or if there is a cattle drive down the middle of the road (yes, I’ve been stuck in those several times!)

  2. I think you made the right choice travelling a bit to save money. I had one friend who was seriously considering flying to Arizona and driving to Minnesota because there was one specific car that was a really good deal and he was willing to fly to save the thousand or so on the purchase. I haven’t traveled too far to get a deal, but I would definitely consider doing it if given the choice.

  3. We always factor in time/convenience when making a saving decision. Usually we end up going for the monetary savings, but I think we know enough to realize when it won’t be worth the hack on our time, too. Tires are much more expensive there! The tires we’re looking at for Rick’s truck next month are under $700.

  4. I can relate to your tired experience. I have a friend from the US that moved to Canada. He needed tires for his car. In Canada, he was quoted at $950 for a set of 4 tires. He called his mechanic back here in the US (he frequently goes back and forth) and was quoted at $500 for the same set of 4 tires. He ended up getting the tires when he was back in town.

    Personally, I was willing to drive 3 hours to buy a car. But in the end, the deal wasn’t good enough to warrant the drive.

  5. Hey Kim, first off, I love the new look of the site! It’s great! I’ve never really driven to save money. I’ve always looked at how much it would cost in time, gas and wear and tear on my car. It never seems to add up!

  6. I would’ve totally done the same thing, especially to save $250. We’ll do the same thing many times, at least compare, to see what else we can find out there that could be a better deal. Like you said, it’s vital to compare apples to apples and make sure it’s worth your time.

  7. I sometimes take drastic measures to save money. It just depends on the situation.

    Love the new site design!

  8. The more I think about things, the more I realize I probably spend too much time trying to save money. I’m finding more and more just living simply and buying less is the best option.

  9. I’m not very likely to travel far for savings. Maybe for a one-time purchase, but definitely not on a regular basis. Of course, if I’m already in a particular area where I can score, I’ll load up….

  10. I am the type of person who will NOT drive out of my way to save money. I am very lazy 🙂

  11. I will do the cost analysis before I travel. If it makes sense and I am still saving a good amount of money ($250 is a good amount), then I will make the trip.

  12. It depends on the amount of savings. Time is truly my most precious commodity so I am willing to pay more (with reason, of course!) if it saves me time. But I don’t like paying more than I need to either so I look for the best price, then weight it against the time it would take to reap the savings. Taking 3 vacation days to save $400 is too high of a price for me. 🙂

  13. I’m grateful for online shopping. I can usually find the best deals there and no need to travel (of course, you have to factor in shipping costs). Any recommendations for where to order cheap contacts? 😉

  14. Everything depends on how much savings. I traveled as far as 50 miles to save $1,000 on a car.

  15. I actually don’t own a car, which is how I save money 🙂

    I realize this may be cheating but the money i save on gas, maintenance, insurance, tires, oil, check-ups, means that I can live my life doing less of what I don’t like, and more of what I do like.

    Take care and thanks for an enjoyable post 🙂 Oh…and for the record, I have no issues with cars and the folk that drive them…it’s just not for me!

    All the best.


  16. It really depends. Last week we drove to another city to look at range hoods and managed to get a floor model priced at $4000 for $1400 and it’s in mint condition. They are changing the demo floor and putting all new kitchen displays in and are selling off the demos which are less than a year old. I wouldn’t drive if I didn’t have to. If I can price match groceries I will do that rather than driving far.

    • That is a sweet deal. I love it when you can find floor models. That’s how we bought our TV. Otherwise, I’d probably never buy the super high end stuff at regular price.

  17. I just went 1,000 miles out of my way for a cheaper flight which was plain dumb, like your family driving 8 hours for eye tests, you need to value your time and comfort and person. Lesson learned.

  18. Kim, I love the new blog look! It looks fantastic.

    I would drive farther for larger ticket items.

  19. For big ticket items I will go out of my way but for the most part I prefer the convenience of shopping locally. I will, however, spend more money for good customer service. If I’ve had a bad experience with a store I don’t want to go back.

    • There is usually too much competition to go back to bad customer service. I’ll give someone once chance because maybe they were having a bad day, but two times is my limit.

  20. The farthest I’d travel is to Delaware since it’s a hour and a half a way because I live in Jersey. Delaware is tax free, so you can save a lot on big ticket items.

    • I used to cross the bridge into Arkansas when I lived in Memphis because the sales tax was much lower on groceries. It was only a 10 minute drive though, and I liked to drive over the pretty bridge.

  21. I think that was a pretty nice find. Usually I don’t look too far out of the way but I did a little bit with our car search. For something that big it was worth it to me to at least explore some of the further options, even though we ended up buying pretty close to us.

    • I think sometimes if the seller knows you are willing to drive to somewhere else, the price comes down. We were all set to drive to Santa Fe to look at a Toyota truck once when the local place called and matched the price.

  22. I’d drive extra miles as long as the savings greatly exceeded the cost of the gas and also as long as the trip could be treated like a date with my husband (yeah, we don’t get out much!). Being in the car gives us some time to talk and if we could also stop at a favorite coffee shop or take a scenic route, or something along those lines, then I would enjoy the extra time.
    That said, though, one big consideration that I use for making a decision of where to purchase something is the likelihood that my purchase will need warranty work or whether I might need to return the item. I wouldn’t want to have to make several long trips if the product ended up being defective or needing repairs.

    Your new site design is great!

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