How to Use Google Maps Timeline for Mileage Tracking

Last updated: April 12, 2024

Google Maps is a world-renowned application that billions of people use daily for navigation, street views, looking up stores, restaurants, and addresses, and of course, it is used by many for work-related tasks.

Since Google Maps is able to track your daily trips, one might think that its Timeline extension, which shows these trips in the form of a log based on your past activity, makes adequate mileage logs for taxes, too. Actually, since a lot of people are searching for a “Google mileage tracker” app, or a “Google Maps mileage tracker”, we dedicated a full article to the subject.

Google Maps Mileage Tracking: Is There Such A Thing?

In exploring the feasibility of using Google Maps for mileage tracking, particularly for business purposes, it is crucial to note that Google Maps lacks a native mileage tracker as of April 2024. However, it can still serve as a valuable tool in this regard.

Mileage tracking apps, such as MileageWise, can integrate with Google Maps, offering businesses the ability to cross-reference reported trip distances for accuracy. Additionally, not only Android, but iOS users too have the option to utilize Google Maps Timeline, which provides estimates of routes and locations based on location history.

So while the assumption of being able to rely on Google Maps as your free mileage tracker and use your Google Timeline records as adequate mileage logs for taxes is not entirely accurate, it is possible to create an IRS-Proof mileage log from the trips recorded automatically by Google in the background, without you even noticing (or remembering) it.

Do you want to know how you can create a fully IRS-compliant mileage log out of your Google trips? We’ll show you the ropes in this article by highlighting how to export Google Timeline to Excel and then how to turn those records into a proper mileage log.

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happy man with mileage app

What is Google Maps Timeline and how does it work?

Google Maps Timeline displays all significant locations you’ve visited and driving routes you have taken, thanks to Google’s locations services. As technology is constantly advancing, this service of Google is becoming more and more accurate and precise year by year.

NEW: Manual action required to save your Timeline

In order to enhance privacy, Google is gradually rolling out major changes regarding the storage of Location History & Maps Timeline – namely it will store your location history (your trips) directly on your phone instead of Google cloud.

By default, Google will auto-delete your trips just after 3 months instead of 18 months, which means that you’ll have to decide how long you’ll want to keep your trips.

If you’re driving for business purposes, those trips are extremely valuable due to mileage tax deduction, so I strongly suggest that you turn Auto-delete off in the Google Maps app as the IRS might check your mileage log retrospectively for up to 3 years.

Whether you’re an Android or iOS user, this step is crucial, so I’m going to show you step by step what to set on your phone:

How to enable or disable Location History

When you enable Location History, Google used to store your location in your Google Account, starting mid-2024 it’s going to store it on your phone, even when the app for Google Maps isn’t open.

As enabling and setting up your phone are somewhat different processes on Android and iOS devices, we’ll guide you through both.

Location History on Android phones

To enable or disable your location in Google services, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Maps app on your Android phone or tablet
  2. Tap your profile image or the first Account Circle, followed by Your Timeline
  3. Tap More, followed by Settings and Privacy
  4. Turn Location History ON
  5. Turn Auto-delete OFF

google maps timeline history turn on turn off

NOTE: You may change your Timeline and erase your Location History at any moment.

As your Timeline is private, only you have access to it. The timeline is accessible through both mobile and desktop, so you can basically get into it anytime, anywhere in the world.

IMPORTANT: Double-check the optimal settings to make sure that everything’s set up correctly.

Now, let’s see what iOS users has to set to maintain their Timeline:

Location History on iPhones

As far as your iPhone or iPad is concerned, please make sure to follow these steps. Since Google Maps is not a default app on iOS systems, you need to start by installing it.

    1. Download Google Maps to your iPhone: Ensure you have the Google Maps app installed on your iPhone. If not, download it from the App Store.
    2. Enable Google Maps Timeline on your iPhone: Open Google Maps and sign in with your Google account. Go to your profile picture or initial, tap ‘Your Timeline’, and then enable ‘Location History’ to activate the Google Maps Timeline trip-keeping feature.
    3. Access Google Timeline on your iPhone: Once Location History is enabled, your movements will be recorded in the Google Timeline. To view this data, open Google Maps, tap your profile, and select ‘Your Timeline’.
    4. Export Data from Google Timeline on iPhone: You still get to export this data via Google Takeout, but keep in mind that Google might change this feature as well sometime during 2024. At this moment, you can still open a web browser on your phone or on a desktop, and go to Google Takeout.
    5. Select Data to Export: In Google Takeout, select the data you wish to export. Make sure to choose Location History under Select data to include. This will include your Google Maps Timeline data. Click Next step.
    6. Customize Export Format and Frequency: Choose ZIP file format and frequency for the export. You can select a one-time download or schedule regular exports. Click Create export. Google will prepare your data, which might take some time depending on the amount of takeout choose file format
    7. Download Exported Data: You will receive an email notification from Google once your data is ready to download. Follow the link in the email to download your data.
    8. Import Data into MileageWise: Once you have downloaded the data, go to the MileageWise Dashboard and follow the steps explained in our video guide further below in this timeline trip import in mileagewise

This process allows you to effectively manage and export your Google Maps Timeline data from your iPhone and/or iPad, making it accessible for use with MileageWise.

How to view your location history on Google Maps

When you enable Location History, Google Timelines displays where and how you traveled, such as walking, bicycling, driving, or taking public transportation. For a vehicle mileage log, you’ll only need trips that were taken by car, but MileageWise’s solution solves this issue, too 🙂

Let’s see the steps:

      1. Open the Google Maps app on your device.
      2. Tap your profile image or the first Account Circle, followed by Your Timeline.
      3. Tap Today at the top to find another day or month. Swipe the calendar left or right and press a day.

manage your location history

TIP: You may locate information on places you’ve been to by switching between the tabs at the top of the page, such as Places, Cities, or World.

How Google Maps Timeline helps you track your mileage

As you’re able to track your trips with Google Maps Timeline Location History turned on, it runs completely in the background, if you have your mobile data turned on as well.

NOTE: As this function works on all phones, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re trying to access Android or iOS location history – it works on both operating systems.

Besides that, Google Maps also records the date, time, location, and number of miles taken for each trip. This data is super important as you’ll need it all for your IRS-Proof mileage log, which we’ll speak about later in this article.

The next step is to export these trips from the software right into your phone or computer via Google Takeout, which is Google’s data export service. We’ve written a detailed step-by-step article about the entire trip export via Google Takeout, follow its steps to get the data you just need out of Google in order to change Google Maps to miles for your mileage tax deduction.

Open Google Takeout To Export Trips

Once the export process is done, it only takes a drag-and-drop to add your JSON file with your Google Maps road trips in MileageWise’s Web Dashboard platform, opened in a browser from your desktop.

This step needs to be done as neither the trip list in Google Timeline nor the exported saved places from Google Maps are sufficient by themselves in the eyes of the IRS for a vehicle mileage tax deduction claim.

We’ve also created a help article that shows you step-by-step how to import your downloaded JSON file into MileageWise’s software in order to get a 100% IRS-approved mileage log.

As mentioned above, Google has made updates to the Location History feature that could disable your yearly Retrospective Trip Recovery from Google Timeline!

Steps you should take to save your Google Timeline data:

  1. Turn auto delete OFF: Google will change the automatic deletion of the Timeline from 18 months to 3 months by default

  2. Turn location history ON: Location History is turned off by default

  3. Back up your Timeline in the Cloud: Instead of the Google Cloud, the Timeline will be stored on your device by default

Google will introduce these changes gradually on iOS and Android devices and will notify you when your account receives the update.

Is your Google Timeline History missing?

No worries! If you lost data, reconstruct your trips with MileageWise’s very own AI Recommendation Wizard!

With our AI Wizard feature, you can recreate your past miles and fill in the gaps with ease while ensuring IRS compliance. Embrace the simplicity and accuracy of our solution and maximize your tax savings.

Try MileageWise for free

Check out our tutorial video on how to create an IRS-proof mileage log from a Google Timeline file in a matter of minutes:

Benefits of using Google Maps Timeline for mileage tracking

While the method mentioned above is great for fixing your mileage log retrospectively, it’s highly recommended that you start using a bulletproof mileage app like MileageWise as soon as possible for your day-to-day mileage logging.

Besides that, enabling Location History in your Google account makes a powerful mileage log backup by Google just in case – this method is also strongly advised, no matter what day-to-day mileage tracking software you’re using.

On top of these, having a mileage app or software means that you don’t need to worry about having a Google Maps mileage calculator as MileageWise does it all for you.

Tips and tricks for getting the most out of Google Maps Timeline

How to view your maps history and export data

      1. Create an Export on Google Maps
      2. Near the bottom, select “Your Data in Maps.”
      3. On the next screen, scroll down and select “Download Your Maps Data.”
      4. For those items offering “Multiple Formats,” click one to view or change the file format for that particular item.

google takeout export data

How to delete location history from Google Maps

Remove specific locations from your history

      1. Open the Google Maps app on your device and sign in
      2. Tap your profile image or the initial Account Circle, then Settings, then Maps history
      3. Tap Remove and then Erase next to the entries you wish to delete.

remove entries from google location history

Delete all locations from your history

      1. Open the Google Maps app on your device and sign in
      2. Tap your profile image or the initial Account Circle, then Settings, then Maps history
      3. Tap More in the top search box, then Delete activity by
      4. To remove by date, select a date range from the “Delete by date” column.

delete all locations from google location history

Frequently asked questions about Google Maps Timeline

“How do I access my Google Maps timeline data?” / “How to check my Location History”

      1. Open the Google Maps app
      2. Tap your profile picture or Your Timeline
      3. Select a place from Timeline
      4. Tap Details
      5. Scroll until you find Timeline. . Next to this icon, you can find information about the last time you visited.

“What can I see on my Google Maps Timeline history? Can I see where I have been on Google Maps?

In your Google Timeline history, you can see the places you’ve visited with dates included, as well as the routes you may have taken between those locations.

“How can Google get my location information?”

Google can use real-time signals, such as your IP addresses or your devices. Turn on location access on your device and log in to your Google account. Google will have access to your locations to store them in your Timeline.

“How accurate is the data shown on my Google Maps Timeline history?”

Because of its access to our mobile, Google’s chronology is incredibly precise. We know the precise location where we are traveling since it has always happened on our cell phone through GPS and added to the interaction we have with the many WiFi antennas and telephone antennas around us.

“Can I download my routes and trips?”

Yes, you can extract your location history which will include the locations you have been to, the dates of your visits, and the routes you have taken.

“Can Google Maps track the distances of my trips?”

Yes, Google Timeline records the distances of your travels. 

“Can my Google Timeline history be changed/updated manually if needed?”

If a place or a route is wrong on Timeline, you can edit the location and when you were there. On your computer, go to Timeline. Choose the correct place or search for a place in the search box. To edit when you were there, click the time.

What are some of the uses for Google timeline history that people have come up with so far?

Besides being used as a mileage logging method and a mileage log backup, you may utilize Google Maps Timeline as:

      • a travel diary,
      • a reminder of what places you’ve visited,
      • quick access to your recent locations & trips
      • your Google Maps search history,
      • a source of email updates highlighting recently visited places

Can I use Mileage Tracker Google Sheets?

While some Youtube videos deal with the subject, please note that they usually encourage you to build simple mileage trackers in Google Sheets that will require your manual input after each trip, or each day. If you have access to your Google Maps data, we highly recommend that you don’t waste your time trying to stay on top of your mileage log by manually updating it daily, but take advantage of the easier and more accurate option.

Can I use my fleet’s Google Timeline records to create company mileage logs retrospectively?

Sure, just follow the steps described above and you’ll be able to take advantage of the records Google automatically recorded in your employees’ vehicles. But make sure that you use MileageWise to turn those records into proper mileage logs.

If you get stuck, you can always contact us and avail of MileageWise’s tax preparation service called Mileage Log Tax Preparation Service which guarantees that our experts review and recover past trips accurately and create an IRS-Proof log out of them.

How many retrospective years am I allowed to recover from my Google Timeline records?

You actually have 3 years to file a tax return and claim mileage reimbursement so if you haven’t done so yet, you should definitely dig into your Google Timeline records!

As you can see, mileage logging with Google Maps is pretty easy, and with MileageWise it can also be converted into a 100% IRS-approved mileage log.

Enable your Location History as a mileage log backup, but be sure to get your day-to-day mileage logging game straight with an automatic mileage tracker app like MileageWise – available on both Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

You can try MileageWise for completely free for 14 days, without any obligations or credit card info needed.

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