Getting tired of manually planning routes for your drivers? Looking for ways to make your life easier with route planning software, but not sure where to start? We’ve done the hard work for you and reviewed the best route optimization apps to help you find the right software for your business.
Our mission at Routific is to make route optimization accessible to every delivery business with the best delivery route planning software. We strongly believe that manual route planning leads to wasted driving time and fuel. In fact, research has shown that transitioning from manual route planning to route optimization software has the same impact on the environment as planting 86 trees a year!
That’s why we want everyone to transition away from manual route planning to using route optimization software—even if that means using one of our competitors!
The goal of this review is to help you navigate the myriad of options, including the best free route planning software with unlimited stops.
Read on to learn which free route planners could work for your delivery business, as well as more sophisticated paid route optimization software to use as your business grows.
Free multi stop route planners
If you've just launched your delivery service or only deliver up to a dozen stops per day, you’re probably fine sticking to free online tools. The benefit of using free tools is that, well, they’re free! You have nothing to lose, other than your time spent learning to use the app.
It’s a good way to get started delivering to multiple stops, but if you have multiple drivers and larger volumes with more complex customer needs, you might want to skip ahead to the next section.
Google maps route planner
Does Google Maps have a route planner?
Technically, Google Maps doesn’t offer route optimization. They help you navigate from A to B, but they won’t optimize the sequence of stops for you. You can read more about the difference between Google Maps and Route Optimization here. Because of this, once your delivery business begins to grow, you may want to consider route optimization software.
How do I create a delivery route in Google Maps?
There are some limitations when you’re trying to plan routes for deliveries with Google Maps:
- Your routes need to be 10 stops or less
- You can only plan for 1 driver at a time
- You can’t optimize routes using constraints like delivery time windows, vehicle load capacities, driver breaks, etc.
- You need to eyeball and manually determine an efficient order for your stops (this gets tricky when you need to factor in things like the constraints mentioned above)
Related post: How to use Google Maps Route Planner for deliveries
Since you can’t plan multiple routes at the same time in Google Maps, you’ll need to plan your routes in batches. Here are a few tips to route multiple locations on Google Maps:
1. Driver territories
If you have more than one driver, cluster delivery stops into driver territories so they use the least amount of fuel for a set of deliveries. This can be done by assigning postal codes to your drivers, or by dividing the city up into neighborhoods or zones (north, south, east, west).
By giving your drivers the same territories each time, they’ll build up their knowledge of the area, helping both of you to map out the most efficient routes when planning in the future.
2. List stops in order of completion
Within each territory, do your best to list each stop in the order you want it completed. You can do this in Google Maps directly or by using a spreadsheet.
Download this handy excel template to help you list your stops in the right order
The order of stops should be based on proximity to the next stop, as well as things like delivery time windows (when your customer wants something delivered) or office/store hours, if you’re delivering to a business
3. Give drivers delivery instructions
To make your routes more efficient, compile notes for your drivers about where to park, drop off the delivery, delivery times, ETAs, etc. This will speed up your driver’s routes, meaning you either pay less wages or can fit more stops into a single route.
4. Build routes in batches of 10
Use Google Maps to find the shortest path between each stop. You’ll need to do this in batches of 10 due to Google Maps’ limitation.
5. Dispatch routes to drivers
Google Maps gives you the option to send a route via email or SMS.
6. Repeat steps 2-5
Since you can only route 10 stops at a time, you’ll need to repeat steps 2-5 a few times until you’ve planned all your stops in an order that makes sense. This prevents drivers from showing up at a stop at the wrong time or doubling back unnecessarily.
Mapquest route planner
Mapquest is geared more for business use, as it supports mass upload of addresses (with copy/paste or spreadsheet upload), and offers a free route optimization option to re-order stops in the optimal sequence.
One of the options is to set it as a round trip, which is good for delivery businesses that have a central depot or warehouse that the driver needs to return to. You can send your optimized route to your driver via an SMS link.
Some Mapquest limitations are:
- You can only use it for a single driver
- You can only schedule up to 26 locations
- Pop-up ads—if these bother you, consider looking elsewhere
RouteXL is free to use for up to 20 addresses. There is an option to pay 35 EUR/month to increase that limit to 100 addresses.
While they do offer mass upload of addresses using copy/paste, it does not support uploading spreadsheets, which come in handy when you’re looking to sort and organize a large number of addresses. Spreadsheets also allow you to import and export data into different software programs a little more easily. RouteXL does offer more advanced route optimization options such as splitting up your stops across multiple routes. So if you need to split your orders up between multiple drivers, Google Maps and Mapquest won’t be helpful.
Route XL’s limitation is that the route setting applies to all routes; you cannot set up individual drivers with different shift times or starting locations.
Flightmap’s basic route planning tool offers a free tier of up to 200 stops per month for 2 vehicles. Beyond that, you can increase the limits by paying $0.04 per stop or $5/vehicle/month.
They support uploading address data via spreadsheets and give you a few route optimization controls such as “max tasks per vehicle” and “trip duration limit”.
Flightmap also has a direct integration with Tookan (a paid delivery management solution), because both products were built by the same parent company.
Same as RouteXL, their limitation is that you cannot have different settings for each driver.
The Travelling Salesman problem and Route Optimization algorithms
You might be thinking the steps listed above don’t seem very efficient. And you’d be right. Free route planners are great for personal route plans and small delivery routes. But as your business grows, route planning can become extremely complex and time consuming.
That’s because you’re now dealing with something called the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) or Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP). This is a complex problem mathematicians and computer scientists have been trying to solve for years. It also happens to be one of our favorite topics of conversation here at Routific.
Essentially, the more stops you have to make and the more drivers you have, the more complicated it gets. In fact, the possible routing solutions grow so exponentially, it becomes impossible for any human to accurately calculate the most optimal order of stops without some help. The closest we’ve come, albeit imperfectly, is algorithms.
Route optimization algorithms are able to quickly calculate a massive number of dependencies, including addresses, delivery time windows, driver speeds, vehicle load capacities—you name it! In this next section, we’ll provide you with route planner apps with these more robust planning features.
Route planner apps with more features than free tools
Once your delivery operation includes multiple drivers and more than 25 stops per day, you might want to look for more sophisticated delivery route planning software.
The below options offer more capabilities, such as customer time-windows and service durations, that might meet your unique routing needs better.
Although Onfleet’s primary focus has been delivery management since 2012, they’ve since added route optimization as a paid add-on, giving businesses the best of both worlds.
You can create your individual driver profiles with their own start and/or end locations and shift schedules, as well as their capacity. For each delivery, you can specify a single time-window, service duration, and quantity.
Once you’ve optimized your routes, you can dispatch them straight to the OnFleet app for drivers, and track the progress from the dashboard.
The Basic package with route optimization costs $349/month.
OptimoRoute offers you flexibility and control for you to set up your routes exactly as you want. On the downside, it has a bit of a learning curve.
You can set up individual driver profiles with their own shift schedules (including breaks and overtime), start/end locations, skills (if you’re in the service industry), vehicle types, service areas you want them to stay in, and even cost and speed settings. You can also set up multiple capacity constraints (e.g. weight & volume).
They have a mobile app for the drivers that you can dispatch the routes to, and you can track the progress live from the dashboard.
A limitation is that you can’t adjust the routes easily with a drag and drop interface.
WorkWave Route Manager
WorkWave Route Manager is the only app in this review that doesn’t offer a free trial. They also don’t publish their pricing transparently—you’ll have to book a demo or talk to sales to find that out. The only thing they say on the website is that it starts at $49/vehicle/month.
WorkWave focusses their products for pest control and field services industries primarily, but can also be used for delivery routes. It has all the basic route planning functionalities: drag and drop, multiple time-windows, multiple capacities, etc. But they also offer more advanced routing needs such as paired pickup and drop offs, driver territories, and even different cost structures for your drivers to optimize routes based on minimizing total cost.
Despite all this, a surprising limitation is that you don’t see the route lines drawn on the map, only coloured dots on a map with numbers on them. This makes it hard to see which roads your drivers are actually taking.
They also have a mobile app for the drivers which can also be used to monitor things like speeding and hard braking incidents.
Route4Me claims to do everything under the sun for any type of business. In fact, we counted 92 business types listed on their homepage and one more called “Other”.
When you explore their capabilities on their “Marketplace”, you’ll notice that they’ve taken a very modular and customizable approach. Each feature is a paid add-on that you can pick and choose to create your own subscription.
One limitation is that the routes are assumed to all start and end at the same location and with the same shift times. Other than that, since they support such a wide variety of use-cases, there are a ton of bells and whistles you can discover.
They present a ton of information about your routes, allows for a lot of customization and setup, and even offers a multitude of ways to view your routes (together on a map, broken out with single route views, or in a matrix overview). They also have a mobile app for the drivers with live progress tracking as well as the ability to trace the driver’s routes after the fact.
Pricing with route optimization for a fleet starts at $299/month. The cheaper $199/month option allows only single-person routes. Note that these prices don’t include any of the modular add-on features, some of which can be quite pricey.
We may be partial, but if you’re considering a route planning app with more features than the free options, Routific is worth a look.
Routific’s route optimization algorithm has been in development for more than 10 years and can shorten routes by up to 40%. Not only does Routific offer all the route optimization extras like time windows, driver speed, lunch breaks, and more to save your business time, money, and effort, but also has drivers and customers in mind. We’ve built our app to make the delivery experience seamless for everyone involved.
Routes can be dispatched straight to drivers’ mobile devices via SMS, so you can keep your team organized and on track.
Routific also offers fancy features to improve customer satisfaction, including automatic delivery updates and notifications, proof of delivery for peace of mind, and live driver GPS tracking.
To further improve efficiencies and reduce costs, Routific has robust analytics that help your business measure success and identify where improvements should be made.
Pricing starts at $39/vehicle/month for the Essentials package, increasing from there, depending on the features you’d like to add.
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Optimized routes for your delivery business
If you’ve read this far, you hopefully feel more informed about the various route planning software options for your delivery business, so you can transition away from manual route planning.
This review covered 9 of the best delivery route planner apps on the market, roughly ordered in increasing complexity and capabilities. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, however. There are many other options on the market that weren’t included in the list that you may want to look at as well.
You might want to check out some of the route planner apps listed above, but if you're interested in Routific, we offer a free 7 day trial. No credit card required.