Traveler's Edition icon
Traveler's Edition
  •   5 min read

When getting from A to B there’s a vast number of transport options available to us in today’s travel friendly world. Train, car, bus or flight – each has its pros and cons whether they’re price, time or comfort based. We decided to take a look at two very different methods of transport to determine just how much we’re paying to save time.

Yep, we’re pitting bus and air travel against each other to find out which is the cheaper option based on price per distance, and how much more we’re paying to travel by plane in a bid to reach our destination as soon as possible.

We’ll consider which is the faster and cheaper option, and will take a look at the trade off between time and price: when traveling over a longer distance, is that 20 hour bus journey really much cheaper than reaching your destination faster by flying?

In looking at flight times, we’ve added one hour of travel time to each route to allow for a consideration of time spent both getting to, and waiting at, the airport.

1. Price v. Distance

For shorter distances, there’s a clear winner: taking the bus is both relatively fast and much cheaper. In some cases, especially when no direct flights are available, traveling by bus takes a clear lead in terms of both time and price. Traveling from Fort Myers to West Palm Beach by bus, for example, is actually 2h48 faster than flying – and $129.03 cheaper.

The following graph shows how, for journeys of a shorter distance, there’s a huge gap in price between the cost of a bus ticket and a flight fare. For a distance of less than 200 miles, flying is around $100 more expensive.

Chart bus v plane

As the distance increases, so does the average price of a bus ticket – from $8 to $120. The trend in flight fares is slightly different, with only a small difference of $5 between the cost of a flight for a distance of just 25 miles and one of over 1,400 miles.

When it comes to traveling over a longer distance, that’s when things get interesting. You’d assume that sitting on a bus for 20 plus hours would be significantly cheaper than taking a speedy 2 hour flight, however that’s not always the case. Instead, the trend actually shows that journeys over 1350 miles are cheaper when traveled by plane.

2. Price v. Time

From the following graph, we can see that the longer the bus journey, the lower the price difference between flight and bus tickets.

Price difference bus v flight> Does choosing the bus over a flight really save money?

In some cases, taking the bus over a longer distance can save you big: let’s take the example of a trip from Tampa, Fl to Memphis, TN. Taking a flight between the two cities takes just 1h55 compared with a bus journey time of 18h15. That’s a time difference of just over 15 hours! However, traveling by bus is much cheaper: at $166.63 compared with a flight cost of $307.23, there’s a price difference of $140.60.

In contrast, a journey from Orlando to New York City paints a very different picture. With a bus time of 23h48 compared to a much shorter flight time of just 2h29, the winner in terms of timing is clear – taking the bus will add 21h21 onto the journey. The price difference between the two is just $2.45, meaning that traveling for 21h21 longer saves you $2.45.

If we follow the curve, routes where the time difference is very small (less than 5 hours) should incur extra costs of between $70 to $95 when traveling by plane rather than bus. However when traveling from Los Angeles – Las Vegas, the extra cost is just 40$ (for a 3.5h time difference). So rather than paying $80 to save time, the cost is instead $40.

Price difference bus flight

How much are we really paying to save time?

Multimodal graph

When traveling over a shorter distance, the average savings for picking the bus over a flight are high: $30 per hour saved for a trip of 250 miles, and $20 saved for a trip of 350 miles. At around 450 miles, the savings begin to decrease significantly, dropping from $8 per hour for a journey of 450 miles to zero savings on trips of 750 miles.

> When traveling by plane saves you both time and money

Multimodale graph 2

From the table above we can see that, in fact, not only is traveling by plane sometimes faster but it can also be the cheaper option! Whilst not always the case, we’ve looked at some popular routes when choosing to save time on your journey will also save you money. From smaller savings, of $2.50 when traveling from Los Angeles to New York, to larger savings, such as the $32.93 you could save by choosing to fly from Dallas to Phoenix rather than taking the bus, picking a flight could be the best all round option.


So what can we conclude from all this?

Firstly – and perhaps, surprisingly – taking the bus is not always the cheaper option! On the other hand, flying is not always the faster option – so when making the decision to reach a destination faster or cheaper, it pays to shop around and know your options.

Secondly, when opting to save time on a trip by choosing to fly over taking the bus, the cost can be high. Ultimately, it pays to do your research and look into all options when planning how to travel.

About The Research

In conducting our study, we took a look at searches made on from mid August – mid September 2016 for domestic routes within the US. Taking into account the minimum travel time required for each route when traveling by both bus and plane, the average taken from 50 prices per route was considered.

We’ve also added one hour of travel time to each flight route to allow for a consideration of time spent both getting to, and waiting at, the airport.

IMG: Shutterstock

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

footer logo
Made with for you