We all love free software. That’s the beauty of the Internet. I personally use a host of freebies every day, but I’ve also upgraded some of my accounts and pay a small monthly fee in order to access more convenient features.
I’ve found that free software usually works well in the very beginning when you have rather simple needs—especially as a business owner . As a delivery business just starting up, that might mean using free software to plan and optimize a small number of routes, or doing your delivery route planning and route optimization once or twice a week.
I’m going to say right now that free route planning software with unlimited stops is really hard to find. Most free software doesn’t allow you to route with unlimited stops. Period. Having said this, there are a number of free route planning options that can be finessed to work for your business’s specific needs.
Below, I’m going to talk about why your route planning software needs to have multiple or unlimited stops, feature some free route planning software, and also provide some workarounds that might be good for your business during its growth stage.
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What is the best free multi stop route planner?
Here are a few route planner apps worth checking out. Note that because they’re free, they do come with some limitations:
- Google Maps
- Apple Maps
- Speedy Route
If you’re planning routes with 10 stops or less, you can probably get away with using Google Maps to plan your deliveries. Google Maps is free—hooray! But while it can plan your delivery route, it won’t necessarily optimize it.
That’s because Google Maps is the best solution for finding the shortest path between two stops, but it’s not particularly handy for finding the best (ie. optimized) path for a route with multiple addresses.
If you’re using Google Maps to plan a route with multiple stops, you’ll need to eyeball the map and manually determine an efficient order for your stops. This gets even trickier when you have to factor in constraints like delivery time windows, vehicle load capabilities, and driver breaks.
Of course, one of Google Maps’ best features is its accurate turn-by-turn directions right on your mobile device.
Can Google Maps plan a route with multiple stops?
Although the answer to this question used to be “no," I recently discovered a workaround. I stumbled upon a site that helps route planners piece together multiple routes from Google Maps, in a way allowing you to route with unlimited stops. Check it out here.
- Leading mapping software
- Compatible on all mobile devices
- User friendly
- Reliable maps
- Only allows 10 stops or requires use of a workaround
- Does not allow for multiple drivers
- Cannot optimize routes with constraints like delivery time windows, vehicle load capacities, driver breaks, etc.
RouteXL is a good alternative to the Google Maps route planner, as it allows up to 20 stops, as well as optimizes your route. Once you enter your stops, RouteXL will organize them according to the most efficient order, for the fastest, most optimal route. This is especially useful for delivery drivers or home service technicians who have multiple stops in a day.
Another advantage to RouteXL is that you can easily import all your stops from an Excel spreadsheet so you can share or save routes. The downside to RouteXL is that it is a web-based application and has a bit of a learning curve. You’ll need to read up on their tutorial before starting and log into the mobile version of the website on your phone in order to access it on the go.
- Allows up to 20 stops
- Optimizes your route for efficiency
- Allows Excel spreadsheet imports
Before there was Google Maps, there was Mapquest. I’m sure we all remember printing off Mapquest directions while road trip planning! Mapquest allows multiple stops in one route (up to 26), can provide the most speedy route according to shortest distance or shortest time, and has a mobile app; however, it doesn’t have advanced route management features like allowing for multiple drivers, and its software is not as advanced as other route planning tools I’ve mentioned in this roundup.
- Allows up to 26 stops
- Compatible with on all mobile devices
- Optimizes route according to shortest distance or shortest time
If you own a trucking fleet or are a truck driver, this one’s for you. TruckRouter is a web-based route planning tool designed to optimize truck-specific routes. As trucks have height and weight restrictions and are not able to travel on certain routes, TruckRouter optimizes routes for truck clearance at low bridges and highways. Because long-haul trucks usually make 1-2 stops to deliver or pick up goods, TruckRouter doesn’t offer a high number of stops. It makes up for this with its trip cost calculator, which offers a way for business owners or fleet managers to calculate the cost efficiency of their trip for profitability.
- Optimizes for truck-specific routes
- Trip cost calculator
- Provide low clearance and route elevation information
Designed for everyday trips, Apple Maps is similar to Google Maps, with some key differences. Apple Maps only allows for up to 2 stops, and does not allow pre-planning of routes. Instead, you can add 1 pit stop along your route. Where Apple Maps does excel, however, is in its easy-to-use functionality and sleek map design compared with other free route planners, complete with 3D buildings and the ability to easily sync maps across all your Apple devices.
- Sleek design with 3D view
- Optimizes pit stops along your route
Speedy Route is an excellent free route planner for those running sales calls or for delivery drivers who need to make multiple stops in a day. Speedy Route has the ability to reorder stops to create the most efficient route, as well as supports timeboxes so you can assign a specific delivery time to a stop and optimize the route around it. The downside is that Speedy Route only allows up to 10 stops, and is a web-based application with an old-fashioned interface.
- Optimizes routes for efficiency
- No frills interface (although this could be a con for those who enjoy a more sophisticated design)
Circuit offers a free and paid subscription with advanced features for larger businesses, however, their free route planner app does come with certain features useful for small businesses with delivery drivers. Like Speedy Route, Circuit supports timeboxes, but also provides the option to prioritize certain stops first on your route. Then, Circuit will optimize the rest of the route once stops have been customized. Circuit is only available on mobile devices and the free route planner allows up to 10 stops.
- Allows you to prioritize important stops first
- Available on all mobile devices
Flightmap is a free route planner designed for delivery professionals and businesses with multiple vehicles and stops required. Flightmap supports 200 stops per month for 2 vehicles, which works out to 9 stops per day, per vehicle. While this may not seem like much, the option to have two vehicles on the go, each with customizable maps is a plus. Flightmap also allows optimizations of maps based on vehicle type according to size and speed—ideal for businesses with different types of vehicles. Flightmap is a web-based software, however, you can export and share trips as well as get turn-by-turn directions on your mobile device.
- Supports multiple vehicles
- Optimizes routes according to vehicle type
- Ability to export and share maps
Waze was acquired by Google Maps in 2013, so its mapping software is reliable and user-friendly, with a colorful design and entertaining interface. What makes Waze stand out from the competition, however, is that it collects real-time data from other users on traffic, diversions, and even police stops. Its Spotify integration is also a handy feature for long drives. While the community feature is well designed, it’s only valuable if you’re travelling in high-traffic areas where others are using the app and contributing data. And the downside of Waze is that it does not allow for multiple or unlimited stops—but can be used in conjunction with another free route planning software so you can still reap Waze’s benefits.
- Fun, colorful interface
- Spotify integration
- Real-time, community driven data
- Available across all mobile devices
If you require route planning in remote areas with limited cell phone coverage, Maps.me shines. Its biggest advantage is the ability to allow offline navigation by downloading an unlimited number of maps to your mobile device. You can add new stops, search for pit stops along the way, and navigate routes—all without using a single byte of data. Although Maps.me only supports up to 5 stops, it’s great for long haul truck drivers with fewer stops and deliveries to remote locations.
- Offline navigation
- Available across all mobile devices
SalesRabbit is a lead management tool for businesses, which allows route planning according to selected leads—it’s ideal for sales professionals going door to door or who schedule multiple appointments with clients throughout the day. Through the app, you can optimize an efficient route for up to 23 stops and appointments on an interactive map, as well as set appointments and reminders, and get turn-by-turn directions on your way to your destination. To get access to Sales Rabbit’s lead management tool and free route planning software, you’ll need to sign up for Sales Rabbit Lite, a free, lean version of their sales and team management software.
- Ideal for door knockers, canvassers, and sales people
- Supports appointment scheduling and reminders
- Offers lead management
- Supports up to 23 stops in a day
- No web application
- Doesn’t supposed multiple vehicles
What are the limitations of free software?
Limited stops per optimization
Many of the free services limit the number of stops you can optimize. For example:
- Google Maps: Up to 10 stops
- RouteXL: up to 20 stops
- SpeedyRoute: up to 20 stops
- Mapquest: up to 26 stops
Some software also only allows you to optimize a certain number of routes within a 24-hour period.
One vehicle optimization only
Most of the free services only allow you to optimize routes for one vehicle, except for Flightmap, which allows you to route with two vehicles. Once you have more than one delivery vehicle or delivery route, you’ll need to find another solution.
Difficult to use
Good design and ease-of-use aren't that important when you're dealing with a small number of stops. You just need something that gets the job done! But as your volume of orders grows, so does the time it will take to plan your delivery routes. This problem is compounded if the software is clunky, feature-poor, and awkward to use.
How many hours do you or your staff spend planning routes each week? How much does this time cost in salaries or wages? Could this time be better spent on other parts of the business? This is the real cost of "free" route planning apps. As your business grows, the time it takes to plan and manage delivery routes grows exponentially. Meaning your cost-per-delivery starts to sky rocket.
Software that has been thoughtfully designed can shave off hours of route planning each week. And will significantly lower your cost-per-delivery as your business grows. Ask yourself, "How long can we use a free route planning app before it starts costing us too much?"
Delivery time windows
Who hates sitting around waiting for a delivery all day? It’s shocking to admit, but most delivery companies — including industry leaders UPS and FedEx — still provide their customers with 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. time windows, forcing people to wait around all day for a delivery. In this new era of delivery, if a customer requests a delivery to be made between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., delivery companies have access to the tools to accommodate this request. Setting delivery time windows is not available with most free routing software (except Speedy Route and Circuit), but a paid subscription will most certainly have it.
Mobile app for driver
Route planning only gets you halfway there. Your delivery driver now needs to execute on those routes and deliveries. For that, you’ll need to equip your driver with the right tools in order to provide the best possible delivery service for your customers.
Easy access to the routes, as well as any delivery instructions and notes are vital for this. Drivers need to also stay accountable to the business and to their customers with some kind of proof of delivery — something you certainly won’t get with freemium software.
Customer support and SLAs
Free software means the person who built it isn’t constantly updating the software, providing attentive customer service, or any kind of guarantee that the service will always be available.
When you pay for something, most software companies have Service Level Agreements that help to guarantee that the software will always work — and if it doesn’t, you’ll be sure the team will be in touch to make it right.
Route planner apps with more features than free tools
When your business starts to grow and you find yourself hiring more than one delivery driver or having more than 20 deliveries to make a day, you might want to look for more sophisticated delivery route planning software.
We are the makers of Routific, which you can try out with a free 7-day trial.
While we’d love for you to use Routific, we also want to arm you with knowledge of what else is out there, and let you make up your own mind. So, we’ve gone and done the research for you, reviewing 8 routing planning apps currently in the market.
If you’re just starting up your delivery business, and you have just one delivery driver and a handful of stops, you should use the free route planner software we mention at the beginning of the blog.
Just know that when your business starts to grow, you’ll need something more robust. That’s when you can check out the best route planner apps we feature near the end of the blog.