If you drive in your own car for business purposes, your may be eligible for a significant tax deduction to lower your taxable income. However, in order to receive this tax credit – you need to keep a detailed mileage log of the driving you perform for business purposes. There are a number of options available for tracking mileage for business purposes. These include Mobile Apps, Dedicated GPS Tracking Devices, Diagnostic Port Devices and of course – the tried and true paper and pencil.
iPhone and Android Mileage Tracking Apps
These apps are loaded onto your phone and require the app to be running on the phone to track location, distances and number of drives. After driving, user then utilizes the app to classify the drives as business or personal drives. Typically, the data for these apps is collected on the mobile phone and synced to a service the app maker provides in the cloud – providing a secure storage solution for your driving mileage log regardless of what happens to your phone. These apps are very accurate in their ability to track drives, however the app needs to be running on your phone at all times. Forgetting to turn on the app before a long day on the road could easily be a $200 mistake.
Triplogmileage – for iOS, Android and web – Supports tracking of fuel and other expense (repairs, meals..etc). Highly customizable reporting outputs in CSV format. Monthly and annual plans available on a per-driver basis.
MileIQ – for iOS and Android and web – Mileage tracking only, syncs to the cloud, has web interface for reviewing data and generating reports. Integrates with Freshbooks and Concur. CSV format reports. Monthly and annual plans available on a per-user basis.
MileBug – for iOS, Android and Windows Phone – syncs to the cloud, reports can be created in either HTML or CSV formats. It is mobile-only and does not have a web interface. App purchase required. No monthly or annual fees.
Stand-alone GPS Tracking Devices
These GPS-enabled devices are dedicated devices designed for recording all driving activity. They automatically turn on and begin recording as and when you drive – a huge advantage over their mobile app counterparts. These devices are very useful for business owners who own a fleet of vehicles for business purposes as they allow accurate mileage tracking without relying on the drivers/employees to record their driving habits. Some models have simple buttons to classify a drive as business or personal. Other models automatically connect to your WIFI network and upload the data when you arrive back at your home. Users later login to an administration website to view their driving logs and print driving reports.
The Mileage Ace – Supports WIFI connection to instantly upload all trip data upon return to your home of business. Connects to USB power charger in car. Device cost over $100 AND annual subscription required.
EasyMileLog – Has buttons on device to select Business or Personal classification of drive in session. Connects to USB car charger. Unit must be plugged into your computer to download data from the unit. Tracking device costs $150 – however there are NO subscription fees.
Paper Mileage Log
Good old pen (or pencil) and paper. This is a tiresome and tedious exercise, however many people still utilize this method. The physical log is the most simple solution of them all for tracking your mileage. Critics of the manual written log format note that it is possible the log is lost, stolen or otherwise damaged. However, software and apps can crash or you could have the device stolen, broken or otherwise rendered useless. Worse yet, if the tracking data or reports are being stored on media (USB, disk drives, hard drives) then that media also could become corrupt, damaged or disappear. Therefore, a paper-based mileage log is still a contender in this day and age of high-tech tools that are marketed as making your life easier.
Standard Diagnostics Port (ODM) Mileage Tracking Devices
There are several adapters on the market that enable you to retrieve car data (including odometer readings) and capture this data to your mobile device or computer. The data these adapters capture is limited to car-related data. However, the apps or computer software that interfaces with them usually overlay the vehicle data with location, time/date, and other details. The advantage of these adapters is that they require no additional power cables and can provide a wealth of information (RPM, fuel levels, temperatures..etc). Mileage logs are generated from the app or software. Since the adapter cannot track location, the user must record the location, purpose and other details within the app of software after the drives are complete.
What is the best Mileage Log Tracking App, Service or Device for Me?
A few questions to consider regarding mileage tracking devices and software.
- Do you need a solution that is “always on” – like a dedicated device? Or can you suffice with a solution that requires more of your attention.
- What kind of tracking data does your business require? Does the method or device you choose support the data you are needing? For solutions with software or apps – do they output in the proper format for your purposes?
- Which is your preferred method of tracking mileage? Why?
- What is in the future of mileage tracking devices and software?
- Should more efficient vehicles be credited at a higher rate per mile by the IRS in order to promote vehicle efficiency?