Simple Mileage Log: What You Need to Know Before Tracking Your Miles

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.

But what are the best & the most simple mileage log techniques? What about the ones who are first starting and don’t know where to head?

These are just some of the questions we’re going to answer in this article.

man with smartphone and car

Let’s start with the foundations:

Why keeping track of your mileage is important

It’s crucial to keep track of your mileage if you drive, period. This 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.

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 because the premium for pay-per-mile vehicle insurance is based on how much you drive.

And last, but not least, if you’re driving your car for business and looking to deduct your vehicle-related expenses, you’re gonna 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

We’ve already written a detailed article about how to keep track of your mileage for taxes, now we’re going to introduce the 3 major ways to keep a free simple mileage log for taxes.

Simple mileage log alternatives

Manual mileage log on paper

Come on, don’t be kidding. You’re not gonna log every single trip you do on a piece of paper using a pen, are you? It’s 2023, there are way more effective solutions for than a DIY simple daily mileage log on paper. This method is not worth more characters to type.

Spreadsheet templates

This was the most advanced technique for logging miles until the early 2010s, and surprisingly, a lot of people still choose to go with Google Sheets mileage log templates or simple Excel mileage log templates.

It’s a fairly convenient way to log your miles, however, it still takes up a big chunk of your time and there’s no way to find out if it has any mistakes or not – which is a dangerous game, considering that an IRS fine can be enormous(link).

Mileage tracker app

Mileage counter apps are ubiquitous nowadays, millions of people use them day by day. They’re easy to use, they track your trips automatically straight from your pocket, 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.

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) – NOTE: 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.

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.

Try MileageWise for free

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.

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.

Check a printable simple mileage log PDF sample by MileageWise

Bonus: 11 tips for increasing your fuel efficiency and reducing your gas expenses

  1. Reduce your use of the brakes and gas
  2. Stay away from excessive idling
  3. Remove unnecessary weight from your car
  4. Do not keep extra cargo inside your automobile
  5. Keep your engine in good working order
  6. Make sure your tires are filled appropriately
  7. Use the specified motor oil grade
  8. Maintain & get your vehicle checked regularly
  9. Fill your tank just with the necessary amount of fuel
  10. Don’t coast (i.e. driving out of gear) – it’s a bad driving technique

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 for 14 days for completely free – no commitments, no credit card needed!

Try MileageWise for free

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About the blog

I have been blogging for my readers since 2005, primarily about mileage logs and related subjects: about our software development, customer service, and sales experience. I am happy to share my opinion in a humorous manner on the great things in life - if necessary with a firm stance on the subject -, sharing my own raw thoughts.

"I write original content. I'm not copying others."

Akos Barazsy
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