Per the UNM Travel Policy 4030, section 7.4.3 “Out-of-State Mileage”: “Reimbursement for expenses incurred when traveling by personal automobile in lieu of air travel for out-of-state travel may not exceed the cost the traveler would have otherwise incurred if the traveler had flown. If the traveler drives due to personal preference, they must provide documentation of what the total costs would have been had they flown. This documentation should include at least three (3) airline quotes for the actual travel dates, the lowest of which should be used in the comparison, as well as documentation showing what the most economical local transportation would have cost. The reimbursement amount allowed will be the lower of the total air travel costs, or the mileage reimbursement. If the traveler fails to provide the required comparison information, the Financial Services accounting office will calculate the comparison and determine the allowable reimbursement.”
If there is a valid UNM business purpose for driving a personal vehicle to an out-of-state destination, the allowable costs associated with this method of travel (current allowable per mile mileage rate, tolls, parking, etc.) will be allowed to be reimbursed, even if these costs exceed what the costs would have been if the traveler had flown. The business reason for needing to drive must be fully explained in the Travel DPEZ. An example of an allowable reason might be that large equipment or exhibits had to be transported, etc.
However, if a traveler drives their personal vehicle due to personal preference, before the trip takes place the traveler should determine what the costs would be if they were to travel by air. This would include the cost of a round-trip airline ticket at the lowest available rate, and the cost of necessary ground transportation to the airport, as well as at the destination (rental car, parking, shuttles, taxi, etc.). The potential cost of the airline ticket should be determined far enough in advance to obtain the lowest possible fare.
Similarly, if a traveler determines that, due to personal reasons, they are going to fly to an airport other than the one closest to the business destination, documentation of what the cost would have been to fly to and from the business destination on the dates of the business event must be provided. If there is business reason or a documented cost benefit for flying to other than the closest airport, this should be fully explained.
Various resources can be used to determine the airfare. Expedia.com is a resource commonly used by Unrestricted Accounting. Quotes for estimated ground transportation expenses should also be obtained and provided, so that the appropriate comparison can be made.
If, after the comparison, the total estimated costs if the traveler had flown are less than the total actual costs of driving a personal vehicle, or if the cost of flying to the closest airport is lower, the traveler will only be reimbursed this lesser amount. Keep in mind that the current allowable mileage rate, which is authorized by the New Mexico State Per Diem and Mileage Act, is intended to include all costs associated with owning the automobile, including gasoline, maintenance and repairs, insurance, etc.