Simple Mileage Log: Just What You Need For Efficient Tracking

Last updated: May 24, 2024

Small business owners, gig workers who drive for work, employees whose jobs necessitate a car, real estate agents – what features do they share? Well, one thing they have in common is that they all must provide the Internal Revenue Service (or their employers) with IRS-proof mileage logs to claim mileage deductions.

But what are the best and the most simple mileage log techniques? What are the requirements for a mileage log? These are just some of the questions we’re going to answer in this article.

man with smartphone and car

Why keeping track of your mileage is important

It’s crucial to keep track of your mileage if you drive for several resons:

  1. Fuel efficiency: Tracking your miles provides you with a better understanding of your fuel usage so you can plan how to use your car more effectively. Your car’s fuel consumption in relation to its miles will show whether it is still as fuel-efficient as it once was or whether a repair is needed.
  2. Mileage-based car insurances: Additionally, keeping track of your miles is essential for tracking your auto insurance, especially if you have a mileage-based policy. Tracking your mileage enables you to know whether to get a top-up or when to drive less so you don’t go over your limit.
  3. Tax deductions: And last, but not least, if you’re driving your car for business and looking to deduct your vehicle-related expenses, you’re going to need a simple & acceptable mileage log with the trips you tracked or logged, which can be kept in several different ways.

How to keep a simple mileage log

Now we’re going to introduce the 3 major ways to keep a simple mileage log for taxes:

Manual mileage log on paper

Starting with the manual log, this method is appreciated for its simplicity and straightforwardness. Anyone can start a manual log using just a notebook or a printed form, without needing any technical know-how. This approach is particularly appealing to those who are hesitant to use digital tools.

However, it requires consistent diligence as you must remember to log your mileage after every trip, which can be time-consuming. Moreover, manual logs are susceptible to human error and can be easily lost, damaged, or destroyed without any backup, posing a significant risk of losing important data.

TIP: Check a printable simple mileage log PDF sample by MileageWise

Free mileage log spreadsheet templates

Moving to digital spreadsheets, this method offers more organization and the ability to easily edit and calculate totals using built-in formulas. Spreadsheets can be backed up online, which minimizes the risk of data loss. They can also be highly customized to include extensive details and cater to specific tracking needs.

Nevertheless, this method does require a certain level of digital literacy, as users must be comfortable with spreadsheet software. Like the manual log, it still involves manual data entry, which can be error-prone and time-consuming. Additionally, updating spreadsheets on mobile devices can be less convenient for those constantly on the road.

Download MileageWise’s Google Sheets mileage log template or simple Excel mileage log template for manual tracking.

Mileage tracker apps

Mileage counter apps are ubiquitous nowadays, millions of people use them day by day. They’re easy to use, they track your trips automatically with GPS, and they create a list of your trips (i.e. your mileage log), which you can print and file to the IRS to claim a vehicle mileage tax deduction. Moreover, they often offer other helpful features, such as vehicle expense trackers, client libraries, trip categories, or odometer logs.

TIP: Check our comparison table about the best mileage tracker apps of 2023

What information to include in your vehicle mileage log book

The IRS’s mileage log requirements are:

  • The date of each travel
  • The purpose for each travel (business or personal) – an automatic mileage tracker app like MileageWise auto-categorizes these trips
  • The addresses of your starting and ending points (including zip codes)
  • The total amount of miles you drove
  • Odometer readings

NOTE: The IRS only requires the annual starting and ending odometer readings. However, If you’re working as an employee, tracking your miles for mileage reimbursement, your employer might need your odometer readings more often – it’s a matter to discuss for sure. If you need a retrospective mileage log but don’t have your past odometer readings, just use our Odometer Reading Calculator.

What should I do with personal trips?

Although the IRS doesn’t require personal trips in your mileage log, it’s strongly recommended that you include them because it will provide clarity for both yourself and the IRS, since you need to separate your total business mileage, total personal mileage, and total commuting mileage for the year.

Tips for making the most of your mileage tracking

Download a mileage tracker app

The most straightforward way to track business miles nowadays is to download a miles tracker app as it is the most time- and money-efficient technique. With a mileage app like MileageWise, you won’t need to keep track of when to resume or end monitoring at each drive, thanks to its fully automatic mileage tracking. Business owners and independent contractors may carry on with their daily activities without worrying about proper reporting thanks to the clever software of the app.

Additionally, by the time tax season rolls around, you’ll be equipped with all the knowledge required to claim the mileage deduction. MileageWise is a great solution for a simple mileage and expenses log without GPS tracking.

Download MileageWise’s automatic mileage tracker app from Google Play or the App Store & try it for free for 14 days. No credit card required!

Try MileageWise for free

Use your car’s odometer

Your car’s dashboard is equipped with an odometer, which is a device that counts the miles you’ve driven. The odometer in your car is either mechanical or digital, depending on its age. Although it seems trustworthy, your odometer may be readily reset at any time, which could mess with your maintenance and auto insurance plans. By indicating the mileage cap on the car window decal sticker, you may avoid this issue.

Use Google Maps Timeline as a mileage log backup

When using a miles tracker app like MileageWise to keep track of your travels, be sure to enable Location History in your Google account. Using this technique, you’ll have a mileage log backup as a second line of defense against losing your trips ever again.

In addition, you can use MileageWise to turn your Google Timeline travels into an IRS-proof mileage log if anything unexpected arises in the future.

What to do with your mileage logs at tax time

The supporting documentation for a mileage deduction must be kept for at least three years. Make a copy of the records and file a personal copy if the IRS requests to view the paperwork to support the mileage deduction. For each tax year, make a new log to keep everything organized.

I hope I could give you useful tips for mileage tracking. If you’re wondering what mileage tracking app you should start with, try MileageWise.

Download MileageWise’s automatic mileage tracker app from Google Play or the App Store & try it for free for 14 days. No credit card required!

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