Thanking/compensating a friend of a friend for driving
August 5, 2017 9:10 PM   Subscribe

I have a friend who occasionally invites me along to activities that require a car to get there (ie. hiking). Now this friend has another friend who is the one who is doing the driving (and who I don't know so well). We usually drive to these places with three or four of us in the car and are driving a total of three to four hours to get there and back. I would like to be properly appreciative/offer proper compensation to the person driving, I just want to feel less awkward about it.... tips?

Last time we went on a trip, I offered friend of a friend some money for driving and she said, "I'm happy to accept money if you want it to give it to me, but you're 100% not obligated to"

I'm totally happy to give her the money, but also want to feel less weird and awkward about it since no one else is giving her gas money (although I also know that the other folks in the car have all been friends for years and not sure what their arrangement or whatever is). Any tips for it not being weird/having the interaction feel less transactional?
posted by twill to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "I'd like to chip in for gas. How much should I give you?"
posted by John Cohen at 9:32 PM on August 5, 2017 [13 favorites]

It's never wrong to offer to chip for gas. It's okay if the driver declines to accept.
posted by rtha at 9:50 PM on August 5, 2017 [12 favorites]

How old are you? If you're 30 or under, chip in for gas. If you're over 30, don't chip in for gas but offer other perks - bring hiking snacks or bottled water or sunscreen. Home made granola bars or fresh trail mix. Nice sandwiches. Or buy coffee for the group at a pit stop. DJ the drive. So many ways to be a contributing member without paying cash.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:56 PM on August 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Offering to chip in for gas (no matter how old you are) is never amiss. You can do it privately if you feel weird about offering in front of your fellow passengers because their relationship to the driver may be different than yours. The driver may decline, in which case, don't press it. I like to be prepared with cash in case they accept, but lots of folks these days prefer the Venmo thing.

I don't drive and am frequently in similar situations. In addition to offering to chip in for gas (or the rental if it's a rental situation), I usually buy coffee for the driver when we stop during the trip, or get their first drink or snack or whatever at our destination.

For partners or closer friends who are doing all the driving, I do the above plus get out and wash the windshields at gas stops (after asking the car's owner, of course). I would feel weird doing this if the majority of the people in the car weren't people I was really close to, though.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:07 PM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the assumption that people over 30 don't need gas money is erroneous. That's a pre-Millennial dividing line.

Personally I would Google map the mileage, figure out the approximate gas costs, and pony up half of it in an envelope if you can afford to. Otherwise, a third or a quarter of it.

The driver always has the option of saying no and returning some or all of the cash.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:16 PM on August 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think paying for gas depends a lot on how flush y'all are, even more than the ages. If you *know* that money isn't tight, then sure, just make sure you're a contributing member of the group and make it clear that you appreciate the ride. (For me, the work of actually having to drive rather than zone out in the car is a bigger deal than the gas money.)

I'm usually totally "ask" culture, but asking somebody how much to chip in for gas always winds up being an awkward conversation. On a trip that long, I'm assuming that you wind up at the gas station with them. That's a great time to take a look at the pump, estimate a reasonable share (Round up! Typical reimbursement schedules include wear&tear/maintenance!) and hand them cash along with verbal thanks.

I've also had a friend offer to buy me dinner on long trips, which worked out well.
posted by Metasyntactic at 10:18 PM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

"You're happy to accept? Perfect. Here's the cash." [big smile]
posted by clawsoon at 11:16 PM on August 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: "I'm happy to accept money if you want it to give it to me, but you're 100% not obligated to"
That means "yes". Next time, have cash on hand, folded and hand it to the driver when you can do so discretely and say "Here's something to help pay for the gas. Thanks again for driving me."

I would try to find a moment where you can be subtle, I think you are right that you don't want to make the other passenger's uncomfortable. You can take a moment to do when people are getting in or out of the car - it doesn't have to be at the end of the trip if it seems like it would less obtrusive to do it at another time.

If you aren't sure how much, take darlingbri's suggestion and google the trip, divide by some rough guess about the mileage for the car (you can also find that on google) times the local price of gas. It is OK if it just a rough guess since you are only going to offer part of it.
posted by metahawk at 12:24 AM on August 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

Absolutely agree with metahawk. You were told "yes."
posted by Peach at 12:41 AM on August 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

"Hi (person I don't really know). Thanks a lot for the ride! Can I give you some cash towards fuel and expenses?" ... and make sure you have cash on hand.
posted by Diag at 2:56 AM on August 6, 2017

I don't know where you're located, but in California we have to pay before we pump. I wouldn't even ask; I'd hop out of the car and pay for gas for the driver at the pump or pay the attendant inside without even asking. Driving long distances is stressful and tiresome. Paying for gas is the least one can do. Especially if it's a trip you would've wanted to do yourself anyway; you'd be spending the same amount. Just pay for the gas.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:00 AM on August 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

Seconding LuckySeven~ just fill up the tank when you stop. Easier than the cash awkwardness and offer to buy lunch. Also, a fruit basket or small gift/souvenir of some kind might be nice.
posted by lunastellasol at 3:35 AM on August 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you're spending multiple hours over several trips of several hours, I think an option could be that you fill up the car at the fuel stop on one of these trips, say every third trip. I know that as a long term designated driver over long trips ferrying others, I've really appreciated my guests just getting out of the car at the fuel stop and saying 'hey, let me do this, why don't you stretch your legs n get a coffee?' whilst they do the nozzle n fill n paying thing.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:25 AM on August 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

FWIW, with the advent of E-Z Pass and how tolls just get paid automagically as you drive through them anymore, I've noticed passengers sometimes don't account for that cost. A recent trip to NYC from Philly (and back) cost me $43.00 in tolls and no one offered to share that cost with me, so make sure you're accounting for tolls as a travel cost too. As someone who's usually the driver, I appreciate free meals, snacks, sodas, and cash for gas is never awkward, just don't make me put a price on it - that is where it gets awkward.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:39 AM on August 6, 2017 [12 favorites]

I have this sort pf situation all the time around hiking trips. Sometimes I'm the one driving, sometimes a friend is. Similar distances of 3-4 hours each way.

What I try to do and what I appreciate when others do is to a) pay for some of the gas and b) offer to do some of the driving. If you're looking at 6-8 hours driving, there's going to be at least one fill-up. Make a sincere effort to pay for the first one. If they resist a little, say something like, "At least let me give you a $20, you're doing the driving too after all." If they don't let you pay anything, re-instate your offer at later gas stops until you've paid for some gas. Also, offer to drive on the way back when everybody is tired and the driver is probably dreading having to stay alert for another three hours.

You may not get taken up on any of your offers, but that's fine. The point is to show willing and recognize that the driver is taking on an extra share or the load on this trip. If you do get taken up, you should make good on your offer gracefully and happily.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:07 AM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Compared with other answers, this might sound pushy, but what I usually do is put $10 or $20 in e.g. a cup holder and tell the person later, "Oh I left a few bucks for gas in the cup holder. Thanks so much for driving!"
posted by little_dog_laughing at 7:26 AM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Like a true millennial, I get a "sure, give me some $" from the driver and then send the actual money via Google wallet / Gmail.
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:45 AM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I'm happy to accept money if you want it to give it to me, but you're 100% not obligated to"

As the person who is frequently the driver in this situation, I take a similar line and I mean *exactly* what I'm saying - I don't need help with gas money, and I was going to go to this place whether or not you came. But if contributing is important *to you* for whatever reason, I'm happy to let you, because I want you to feel as good about this outing we are going on as I do.
posted by solotoro at 8:14 AM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Last time we went on a trip, I offered friend of a friend some money for driving and she said, "I'm happy to accept money if you want it to give it to me, but you're 100% not obligated to"

I disagree with Solotoro - you got as clear of a "yes, thank you" as you'll get. If, after saying this to you, you then smiled awkwardly and sidled away I'd be irritated and think that you were offering without any intention of actually contributing. Please just have money for gas and either a) fill up the tank when you stop at a gas station (perfect! that would make my day!) or hand them some cash and say "Thanks for driving - here's my contribution to gas money". Be generous, if you can afford to be - in addition to accumulating wear and tear (and miles) on their car, the driver is always driving which can be a tiring experience.
posted by arnicae at 8:25 AM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just put whatever amount you decide in an envelope and give it to her, place it on the dash or just leave it in the car with her name on it. It can't be too difficult to figure out a reasonable amount if you know what kind of car she drives and how far the trip is. Don't make a scene about it, that's what makes it awkward.
posted by stormyteal at 9:23 AM on August 6, 2017

A friend and I routinely drive an hour or two each way to concerts. The passenger will usually buy the meal for both and we just take turns driving so it all works out.
posted by noloveforned at 9:48 AM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Assuming a 4 hour drive is about 175 miles each way, make a guesstimate of the car's mpg. For ease of calculation, say 25 mpg, 350 miles total and 3 passengers. Driver contributes car, oil, wear-n-tear. So that's 10 gallons of gas, at 2.40, for a total of 24. Your share of gas is 8 bucks. You're smart, you'll correct for miles, mpg, gas price.

You can compensate Driver in cash for every trip. Just pull out cash, and cheerfully say This is to help with gas; thank you for driving. Do not discuss calculations. Round up, no change. Must be cash, not a check. Or you can keep a running tally and present Driver with a gas gift card from time to time I want to help with gas costs; I'm so appreciative of the rides. It could be a card to the grocery store or anyplace you know Driver will use it. Or, if you know that Driver needs a catsitter, dog walker, or some other skill, you can offer that. I have a sewing machine; I'd be happy to hem your curtains. Or you can buy Driver's meal or pay for Driver's ticket. Driver, you always drive us to concerts, can I buy your ticket this time? I think regular cash contributions are easiest, but some people feel awkward and like to give a gift card. Unless Driver makes genuinely egregious errors, no criticism of their driving. Always thank Driver for driving and use of their car.
posted by theora55 at 10:18 AM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone who says you've already gotten your yes. And, you're in a great situation because the driver isn't counting on your money. That means there's no pressure on you to give it to her at any particular moment, or to be super-careful in your calculations.

So what I'd do is just hand her some cash at any point in the trip, or as you're leaving at the end of the trip. I would aim to give her money in denominations of no less than $10, and to pay somewhere between one-third and 100% of the total amount you estimate she spent on gas. Leaning lower if you are less well-off than her and/or you think other people are contributing in non-financial ways, and higher to the extent that you're best-positioned to pay. So, e.g., if you estimate she spent $30 on gas you would ideally hand her either one ten, a twenty, or one ten + a twenty, depending on your assessment of everybody's financial situation. theora55 is right: cash only, no change.

(One-third to 100% may seem high. That's because it's calculated to assume a bunch of stuff including wear-and-tear on the car, the actual work of driving, the hassle of picking-up and dropping-off people, the lock-in of being unable to change plans once you've committed to drive, costs like tolls or parking that may be invisible or unnoticed, plus unknowns. The idea is that you want to err on the side of over-paying, because you surely don't know the full cost to her.)

I agree that buying coffee or lunch or whatever is normally welcome and ideal, but I wouldn't do it in this situation because there are other people involved. You don't know what kind of arrangement/relationship they have with the driver, and you don't want to risk making anybody feel uncomfortable or shamed, like for example if they can't afford to pay.

You are a good road trip friend :)
posted by Susan PG at 10:41 AM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am over thirty. I can afford to spring for all the gas. I am none the less thrilled that you have offered. It means you appreciate what I'm doing and don't take me for granted or just expect me to always foot the bill. I would say the same thing this friend of a friend said just in case you were the type of person who needed to feel like they are contributing, but I would sincerely mean it when I said its not necessary. At present, I am heartily sick of being in a situation where I am always
expected to drive and no gas payments are ever offered.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:05 PM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing that it means yes, and you should hand them some cash discreetly!

I am exactly 30 and my husband and I are the car-owning and driving couple in our group of friends - we have friends we routinely take trips with, and give rides to. It's not about the money; it is just about making your appreciation felt, and just expressing sincere thanks.

There is one couple in particular amongst our friends who always stand out in terms of how they acknowlege and appreciate us giving them rides, and me planing trips. Looking back, these are the things they have done on day trips that have made me feel like "Wow, they really do appreciate us": they've said thanks for picking us up when we go grab them, they've always acted happy to be there/they always express how excited they are for the day, they've said thanks for the ride as we drop them off, they'll shoot a quick text message afterwards saying "Thank you for the ride; we really appreciate it" (along with a "We had fun" or whatever), they'll get the coffee at the first stop, they've brought along snacks for the group, they have thought to pack some nice sandwiches for all of us on a hiking trip, they've sometimes offered to connect their phone and take charge of playing music during the drive, they've often paid for parking saying "it's the least we can do", they've chipped in for gas, going so far as just getting out at the gas station and footing the whole bill, they've sometimes gotten us something small but nice during some trips when we've stopped at a farmer's market (something small like a nice quiche or farm fresh eggs).

Of course you shouldn't have to do all of the above on one trip; it would be overkill. I've just given examples of things our friends have done over the course of multiple trips that made me feel like they've gone above and beyond in validating our efforts. But just some gas money + a sincere "thank you; I had fun" at the end of the day would go a long way.
posted by spicytunaroll at 11:56 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just to add again, it's not about the money, as of course that $10 or $20 isn't going to make a huge difference in somebody's budget and whether they take the trip or not. But these kind of niceties are the lubrication of social life, especially given that this person is not your friend but is the friend of a friend. You may find that as you spend more time together, it propels you towards friendship.
posted by spicytunaroll at 12:07 PM on August 7, 2017

You, or the other passenger, should be picking up the tab for a tank of gas. Work out the details between the two of you. Hop out and swipe your card at the pump or pay inside. I wouldn't offer to run the pump myself, many drivers prefer to deal with their own car.

You shouldn't be picking up the tab a third of the time -- the driver does not have "a share" of the gas. The driver is paying for insurance, depreciation/lease/loan, registration, maintenance, and repairs. This costs a lot more than gas does.
posted by yohko at 3:27 PM on August 8, 2017

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