How to Calculate Miles Between Towns

Written by morgan o'connor
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Whether you're at home trying to plan a road trip or already in the car---running low on gas and wondering if you can make it to the next town---it can be helpful to calculate the approximate number of miles between towns. Almost any modern map you purchase will have a bar scale to give you a sense of how far apart things are, and you can use this scale to figure out the distance between destinations.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Map of the relevant area
  • Ruler
  • Calculator

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  1. 1

    Locate the towns in question and the bar scale on the map.

  2. 2

    Use your ruler to measure the length of the bar scale and notice how many miles it corresponds to. For example, let's say the scale is 1.5 inches long and corresponds to five miles.

  3. 3

    Measure the distance between the two towns with your ruler. For this example, let's say it's six inches from one town to the other.

  4. 4

    Divide your result from Step 3 by the length of the scale. In this case, you would divide six by 1.5 for a result of four.

  5. 5

    Multiply the number you obtained in Step 4 times the length in miles to which the scale corresponds. In this example, we would multiply four (the result from Step 4) times five (the number of miles represented by 1.5 inches) for a result of 20. Therefore, in our example, it is approximately 20 miles from one town to the other.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a large-scale map---one which covers less area in the same amount of paper---for more accurate and precise results.
  • Some travel websites will tell you the exact distance between one town and another. If you search the sites for directions between the two towns, you will probably also find the exact driving distance.
  • If your map does not have a scale bar and only describes the scale in numbers (for example, "1:500,000") you can use a scale conversion chart to find the number of miles per inch.
  • Since roads from one town to another are often not perfectly straight, the driving distance between the two towns will probably be slightly longer than the distance you find by using a bar scale.

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