Flying vs driving to Durban and Cape Town – The price winner is clear

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula recently gazetted the new toll tariffs for 2020, outlining fee increases for toll roads across the country.

The gazette also included the fees schedule for the controversial Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) – also known as e-tolls.

These toll fee increases mean it is even more expensive to drive from Johannesburg to Durban and Cape Town, but many South Africans may still prefer this to the perceived expense of flight tickets.

However, once you factor in the maintenance and fuel costs associated with driving to these cities, it is actually cheaper to fly.

We compared one-way flight prices with the maintenance and fuel costs of these trips, as well as the updated toll fees.

Travel costs

Toll fees for one-way trips to these cities reflect only a portion of the cost of the trip – the most important costs are fuel and maintenance.

We can calculate the fuel and maintenance cost per kilometre for each of these trips using guidance provided by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

These figures are used to calculate travel allowance for employees, which is tax-deductible.

We used the rates for a car worth between R255,001 and R340,000, based on the average new car value in South Africa, which exceeded R300,000 in 2018,

The per-kilometre fuel and maintenance rates for this value bracket are listed below:

  • Fuel rate – R1.24/km
  • Maintenance rate – R0.51/km

We used these rates and the new toll fees to compare the cost of a trip to Durban and Cape Town by motor vehicle to that of a one-way flight.


Durban – Flights vs Driving

Below are the new toll fees for the route to Durban via the N3 toll road.

The route was defined according to the toll route map listed on the Automobile Association (AA) website.

N3 Toll Class 1 Fees
De Hoek R51
Wilge R71
Tugela R76
Mooi River R53
Mariannhill R12.50
One-way Trip R263.50

Below is the total price of a trip via motor vehicle to Durban compared to the cost of a one-way flight with Mango Airlines, based on airline prices at the time of writing.

Durban (one-way) – Flying vs Driving
Fuel Maintenance Tolls Total Price
Driving (568km) R708.86 R294.79 R263.50 R1,267
Flight (Mango Airlines) R560

Durban


Cape Town – Flights vs Driving

Below are the new toll fees for the route to Cape Town via the N1 toll road.

The route was defined according to the toll route map listed on the Automobile Association (AA) website.

N1 Toll Class 1 Fees
Grasmere R21
Vaal R69.50
Verkeerdevlei R59.50
Huguenot R41.50
One-way Trip R191.50

Below is the total price of a trip via motor vehicle to Cape Town compared to the cost of a one-way flight with FlySafair, based on airline prices at the time of writing.

Cape Town (one-way) – Flying vs Driving
Fuel Maintenance Tolls Total Price
Driving (1,403km) R1,750.94 R728.15 R191.50 R2,671
Flight (FlySafair) R1,190

Cape Town at night


Flying is the cheaper option

It is apparent from the comparisons above that if you factor in maintenance, fuel, and toll fees, it is much cheaper to fly to Cape Town or Durban than to drive there.

In both cases, the price of a flight is less than half of driving – meaning that even if you take a passenger on your road trip, you will still be paying more.

Flying to these locations also buys you convenience and time.

From Johannesburg, it will take you around six hours to drive to Durban and 15 hours to travel to Cape Town via car.

Flights to these cities are only one and two hours respectively and are much safer than driving on South African roads.

The comparison above shows that unless you are travelling with three or more people and are especially concerned with saving money, flying to these locations is usually the better option.

Now read: It now costs R500 in toll fees to drive from Joburg to Durban and back

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Flying vs driving to Durban and Cape Town – The price winner is clear