Splitting the Cost of a Ride Home

I emailed Rob to ask if he was for sure coming home for Spring Break and if I should therefore go ahead and buy the bus tickets (there is a great students-only bus with free Wifi that drives kids almost all the way to our house)—and he said actually, a college friend who is also from our town offered him a ride home.

So, okay, let’s not discuss how this compares to the nice safe rental bus that is very high off the ground and is driven by a professional and has a chaperone on board. Let’s not address how much more anxious I will be while he is traveling. Let’s avoid picturing the two teenagers getting into a “STAHP it, no YOU stahp it!” slap fight while driving, ending in fiery death. Or falling asleep while driving because they stayed up until 3:00 in the morning, ending in fiery death. Or being inexperienced drivers, ending in fiery death. Let’s snort together as we dismiss Paul’s argument that this is like the anxiety felt on the first day Rob went to kindergarten: on the first day of kindergarten, I was not LEGITIMATELY ANXIOUS ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF FIERY DEATH.

Let’s instead discuss what are the right things for Rob to do, in order to cover his share of this trip. Should he pay half of the gas? All of the gas, since the other student is putting all the miles on her car? Should he treat for meals (they’ll be stopping for two meals, probably)? What is The Right Way? What is The Fair Thing?

29 thoughts on “Splitting the Cost of a Ride Home

  1. Shawna

    I think he should offer to split the gas, but not insist if they say there’s no need. Presumably the friend would be driving home anyway, with or without Rob. When I was in college, road trips were such good bonding experiences, and I often went with my friends to their homes with them on breaks or weekends. Tbh, their parents were usually paying for their gas so they didn’t ask for gas money.

  2. Kerry Clifford

    Paying for gas seems like a slightly better plan than paying for meals…depending on the potential awkwardness of paying for meals being mistaken as a romantic gesture. Also, I know when I was that age and someone was paying for my meal I felt obligated to order the cheapest thing on the menu.

  3. Monica

    Offer to pay for half the gas. She might say no, if her parents are paying for it, or because she’d be making the drive anyway, but that’s the right course in my mind. In college we didn’t expect our friends to pay for meals and nobody thought about wear and tear on vehicles, but chipping in for gas was expected. If Rob wants to and has access to a grocery store, he could bring along a few road snacks to share.

    My biggest anxiety is that my loved ones will die in a car crash. Last fall, my husband’s car was t-boned by a car going 45-50mph. The cars were totaled but both men walked away without a scratch. It actually made me feel a lot better to see a terrible crash where nothing truly bad happened. Cars are safer than you might think!!

  4. Ginny

    Agreed, paying for half the gas is plenty. If the friend were going significantly out of their way, I’d suggest an additional gesture, but since the friend’s making the drive anyway Rob’s company is probably a gift in itself. It will be more fun than driving alone, and safer. (When I would do the 12-hour college trip alone, I’d have bouts where I had to fight to stay awake — never an issue with a friend in the car.)

  5. Robin

    Is it far enough that they’ll have to stop to fill up on the way home (they’re almost definitely not going to start with a full tank, right)? Rob should just pay to fill the tank when they go to the gas station. Then there’s no figuring out what ‘half the gas’ means – number of trip miles/car’s gas mileage*cost of gallon of gas/2. He’ll come off way more casual like this rather than nickel and diming her about the actual cost of the trip.

    You are lovely for thinking about this beforehand!

    1. Kerry Clifford

      My husband has a friend who didn’t get his license until he was 23, so they drove everywhere together for years. Any time you stop for gas he hops out and washes the car windows while you’re filling up.

    2. Guinevere

      I agree that rather than calculating gas costs, Rob should just pay at the gas station stops. They probably won’t start or end on empty, but I think that is a relaxed and chill way to do it… and the other student is putting miles on their car, so that seems fair. Meals being shared seems romantically charged and puts pressure on spending. My vote is he should bring car snacks to share and fill up the tank.

  6. Carolyn Russell

    I’m in agreement with all the people who have already commented – the friend would already be making the drive, so those miles on the car would be an issue either way. But splitting the cost of gas is perfect for both parties, though I wouldn’t pull out a calculator and write a check or anything. I’m not sure how long the drive is/how much gas would be needed, but I’d take turns paying for a fill-up (and if only one is needed, maybe just pay for the one direction and the friend can pay for the other leg of the trip). As for meals, I think they should handle that however they as friends usually do (do they take turns paying for meals? Or do they order separately and pay their own way? Whatever it is, I don’t think it has anything to do with the road trip!). As a thank you, it might be nice if he showed up with some road trip snacks (provided the friend doesn’t mind eating in the car!). But some bottles of water, pretzels, and gummy bears (or some other assortment of food/drink and/or sweet/salty) would be a bonus for the driver and make them more likely to invite him again in the future! :)

  7. Mary

    I took lots of road trips of various lengths with college friends and would just ask them what they wanted for gas. The answer varied from “Nothing” to “Twenty bucks” to “I’ll save all the receipts and give everyone an itemized bill at the end of the trip.” And I agree with Monica, no one thought about the cost of wear and tear.

  8. Celeste

    He should offer to pay for half of the gas, and he should offer to share the driving. IIf They should be on their own for meals, because one person always has a bigger appetite. He should make sure not to leave any trash in the car; it can really add up on a road trip.

  9. JMV

    1/2 of the gas. Instead of making this awkward and using math, just alternate filling the tank. He buys it the first time they stop; she buys it next.
    Freshman yr, a guy’s family from my same hometown picked him up and brought me along. I don’t think we exchanged any cash because his parents paid for everything. They were the type of family that enjoyed taking secondary roads with a max speed of 45 mph for the 300 mile trip. They felt it made the trip go faster. There were several times I had to stop myself from beating my forehead against the car window. Ha. Odd that I can remember that from over 20 yrs ago, but cannot remember his name. Terrible.

  10. LK

    He pays for approximately half the gas. Either by paying to fill the tank or by offering cash that is a round number and more than half the cost. They should not be adding up receipts and figuring it out to the penny. Bringing snacks to share is always a nice gesture.

  11. Jenn

    He pays 1/2 gas and shares some snacks as any roadtripping buddy should do. He should be upfront about paying for 1/2 gas and should suggest alternating paying for tank refills. He goes first and also checks in to see if his driver thinks he owes anything additional when they arrive. He should have some cash to casually settle up at the end.

  12. Holly

    I agree with everyone else. When I attended college a 15-hour drive from home, I several times rode with strangers who posted cards on a “ride board” in the student union. (Yet I would not be so brave today!) Only once was it scary … I was riding with a set of twins who argued a lot about driving/directions and at one point the girl twin reached over and turned the wheel while her brother was driving. But we all survived. :P

  13. Ernie

    Agree. Pay for some gas. Not meals. Grab some snacks to share. As for anxiety, wish I could help there. Kids are nuts. My son texted that he planned to go to the eagles super bowl parade, bc he goes to school on east coast and his buddy is from Philie. Coach and I urged him not to. Hello icy driving conditions AND we keep hearing about how crazy the fans are. He claims they didn’t go. I texted him after and asked how the parade was. I figured he probably went but was just trying to throw us off. Thought I’d trip him up. He still swears they opted not to go. I think of the crazy shit we did in college and it is amazing we survived.

  14. Maureen

    As so many said-Rob should pay for half the gas. Bring some fun snacks, because ROAD TRIP! Hopefully he has a credit card for any emergencies. It sounds like the driver is female, which is good-so hopefully there will be no slap fights :)

    He probably already knows this-but make sure he knows the directions home! Seems so simple, right?? Cue me, 2nd year of college-a person I knew from my dorm driving me home. We are on the expressway, close to where I know we need to get off, and I realize-I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO GET HOME! My father wouldn’t let us get our driver’s licenses, even though we took and passed driver’s ed. He said, “you can get your license, pay for the increase in insurance, but you can’t use the car.”. Gee Dad, I’ll be sure to do that! Anyway-not being a driver makes it hard to give directions. My driver was so pissed at me, and I didn’t blame her!

  15. Tess

    My school is about 2 hours away from home, and we have a Facebook page for rides. People usually charge about $10. So you could base his trip off of that.

  16. Alice

    I agree with everyone else – approximately 1/2 the gas, which is most easily and breezily accomplished by alternating tank fill ups. + bring car snacks if he’s able. and have podcasts / playlists already downloaded on his phone if they need something to listen to – I’m always kicking myself 30 minutes into car trips that I didn’t proactively download more podcasts before we left.

  17. rebeccaeee

    Plus sometimes long drives are more fun and safer with another person so the driver maybe very HAPPY to have Rob along for company. Half gas and goodwill snacks. Plus make sure return trip is guaranteed in advance.

  18. Jean

    Half the gas, snacks, clean up the trash, but most importantly….DO NOT nap as the passenger (or driver haha)! EVEN IF driver says its ok! Actually, don’t even talk about. Just stay awake. Help driver stay awake and alert. As a female who drove home from college frequently, the times I drove tired or zoned out were too many.

    1. Jean

      Im sorry, just re-read and you did not want to discuss that. So I apologize. Please dismiss that part. My vote is – half the gas.

      1. Swistle Post author

        Ha, no, you’re fine! It’s the rhetorical let’s-not-discuss, as opposed to the actual let’s-not-discuss!

  19. bethann28

    He should pay for half the gas and half the tolls if there are are any. Paying for her meals may seem like too much of “date” and make them feel awkward.

    Her parents are probably super-psyched that she has a friend to drive home with her, so you will be reducing their worries!

  20. M

    I was going to say 1/2 the gas but then saw the comment above about EZ pass and tolls. If there are tolls and she has EZ pass to cover that, I think I would offer to pay for all the gas. It’s so easy to forget how expensive tolls are, until you get that credit card bill.

  21. Mommyattorney

    This is an extremely lawyerly answer, but I’d check with your car insurance agent before splitting the gas. It can have the effect of turning the friend into a cab driver, meaning Rob may not be covered in the event of an accident.

  22. Sarahd

    I would offer to pay for half the gas and buy the driver lunch. Also maybe offer to drive part way, if he’s comfortable with that.

  23. Chris

    Yep to everyone who said: he offers to alternate filling up the tank, and definitely stay awake to talk to the driver. Also offering to drive if he does in fact drive? I didn’t get my license until I was 19 and in college, so IDK. But when I did, people let me just borrow their cars to drive off to the mall, and once all the way home (2 hrs away) and back when I desperately needed to pick something up. Ah, the days of being young and not responsible for your things…


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