Cover Story: Myrtle Beach - fastest and cheapest way

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Lots of ways to get to the beach from Charlotte but not a good one.  So what's the best route?

Now, finally, we're about to answer the question. Thanks to a six-car, Cannonball Run-style road trip to Myrtle Beach.

Just in time for spring break AAA Carolinas on Friday sent six drivers on a mission to find the best way to the beach.  Not only the quickest route but the cheapest route.

Because we all want to get there fast.  And we all want to save money.

It's like buying a car - everybody thinks they got a good deal - just like everybody thinks they know the best way to Myrtle.  There are dozens of different ways.

And unfortunately getting there fast and saving money don't go hand in hand.

Spring Break is here and the beach is calling your name.

But with high gas prices in sight what's right?  Finding the cheapest way to get there, of course!

"Here are the routes. All leaving from here."

Triple A Carolinas picked out three of Myrtle's most popular routes - to try each one out.  What they're calling The Great Myrtle Beach Road Trip.

The goal is not only to find the quickest way but how to get there on the fewest dollars.  Here's a hint - fastest may not be the cheapest.

"Triple-A guys are driving the speed limit cars. And volunteers that we appreciate will be driving the other cars. And we're not gonna pay for the ticket," said Tom Crosby of the automobile club.

"Ready, set, go."

It's also a test to see how speed affects gas mileage.  And it does.

For every five miles an hour you go over 60, your fuel economy goes down by anywhere from 7-percent to 23 percent depending on the type of car you drive.

And for this road trip there was a pair of cars going: one speeding and one not.

And there were some gas guzzlers going, a Jeep SUV driven by Steve Phillips.  It takes 69 bucks to fill it up.

He says, "What'll be interesting is the guy who's driving the same route that I am.. that is doing the speed limit is also driving an SUV. So it'll be interesting."

And there are some going who don't fill up as often.  But for Whitney Berongi sticking to the posted limit in her tiny Toyota Yaris will be a trip in and of itself.

"To drive exactly the speed limit. It's going to be a little bit out of my normal flow of things. It's going to be a little bit difficult to do that," said Berongi.

This won't surprise you, it's estimated that 95-to-96 percent of drivers don't follow the speed limit religiously.

But slowing down can pay off when you reach the finish line, in this case Myrtle Beach, which is where the contestants arrived mid-afternoon.

So according to AAA which way was the best way?

The quickest route was US 74 to Wadesboro, then US 52 South.  One in South Carolina you pick up SC 9 and SC 38 which turns into US Highway 501.

The trip that took 3 hours and 18 minutes - speeding and going with the flow of traffic.

And the cheapest trip was the same route - going the speed limit.  Contestants saved one gallon of gas, which now is running about 4 bucks.

And how much sooner did the folks who were speeding (and going with the flow of traffic) reach their destination at the beach?  Twenty minutes sooner.

We have the three routes they took to Myrtle Beach on Friday here on our website, just look under web extras.

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