Keeping the Miles

I hate the end of the year. It’s always messy because of taxes. I feel like I’m losing a piece of my soul dealing with the IRS.

In fact, one of my biggest problems is trying to functionally manage and accurately account for vehicle mileage. I don’t think there’s an effective way to do it. If I try writing everything down, I seem to inevitably lose my paper. I can spend hours in December painstakingly recreating a list of places I’ve been, then pouring over the IRS regulations to hopefully avoid an audit. Unfortunately, every possible solution seems destined for failure.

That’s when I turn to the apps. Fortunately, there are two Android apps that I prefer or regularly use for this purpose. The great thing is that both are free (aside from a caveat with number 2) in the Android Market.

The first app is my favorite, called My Tracks. This app is developed by the My Tracks Team at Google, and has great on and off-road use. Basically, the app was designed probably for mountain bikers or hiking, and has evolved into a all-around GPS tracker program.

There are 2 really killer features about this program. The first is the ability to track your location in real-time and plot your tracks as you go

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The second is the ability to upload your data to your Google account.

One of the biggest drawbacks to this application is that the output of data sets is limited. It’s difficult to truly view everything in an organized manner.

My other favorite app, which would probably win out if I gave it more time and attention, is TripLog – GPS Mileage Tracker. Thankfully, this app fixes the data output problem of My Tracks, but still lacks some of My Tracks’ “coolness” features. In particular, I miss the fact that you can’t output your track to your Google account.

First, and most useful, this app has the flavor and design of something built to beat the IRS. For instance, the app has robust data-input settings that allow you to track mileage use by specific vehicle, start/end mileage, and date; features that My Tracks only dreams of.

TripLog Screenshot Android

Secondly, TripLog can output data to a .csv or HTML file for quick view. Admittedly, I haven’t used this feature too much (and only 2 data points doesn’t really count), though I can see the practical application at the end of the year when I’m frantically trying to make up recreate properly account for my business mileage.

The one big caveat with this application is that some features, such as exporting, require a “Power User Package.” This kind of sucks, since the whole cool part of the app is that it’s free. If you want me to pay for some premium features, make me buy the app. (Yes, I understand the marketing concept, so please don’t email me about it.) However, the upgrade only costs $2.99, so I think it’s well worth the purchase price. Again, just make me buy the app.

As my expectations for TripLog grow, this should become my go-to mileage accounting app for attorneys and businesses using Android devices.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.