Switching to Mapbox: the Less Expensive Google Maps Alternative

Catherine Kleimeier Aug 22, 2018 | Updated Nov 18, 2020 Read time: 3 minutes
Switch from Google Maps to Mapbox

With Google Maps' recent price hike, many sites may face a massive cost increase. Mapbox is a less expensive, full-featured alternative to Google Maps. It may make your site look even better, too.

The Great Google Maps Price Hike of 2018

Google Maps is a ubiquitous presence on contact pages and store finders across the web, but the recent price hike may make the service too expensive for many sites. Starting in July 2018, Google cut the limit for free Dynamic Maps Javascript API calls from 25,000 per day to 28,000 per month. Google also now requires all API calls to use a valid API key. That API Key must be linked to a Google Cloud Platform billing account.

Smaller sites that don’t generate lots of map views may never reach the 28,000/month allotment. However, many sites make heavy use of Google Map’s more complex services, like Dynamic Maps (maps that a user can interact with). Those sites may face a massive cost increase.

Google Maps Platform Pricing Chart

Google Maps Platform Pricing Chart

This was exactly the case for one of our clients, a travel site with more than 100,000 map views each month. With Google’s new pricing model, the cost of their maps was suddenly poised to skyrocket. They faced a difficult ultimatum: find an alternative map source, or completely change the way they use maps. Since a complete site rewrite was out of the question, they had to look for a different map provider.

This is where Mapbox came in.

Mapbox to the Rescue

Functionality

Mapbox is a map and location data platform (and Google Maps alternative). It boasts highly-customizable, detailed, and interactive maps. Many of Google Maps' features have similar functionality on Mapbox. Mapbox offers custom markers, heatmaps, marker clustering, and much more. With Mapbox, your map can feature standard markers, custom markers (with text!), marker clusters, paths, shapes, and even custom styles! Take a look at their tutorials and Built with Mapbox Blog pages for an idea of the range of functionality that Mapbox offers.

Mapbox Studio

Mapbox Studio is another clear advantage over Google Maps. Mapbox Studio is an application that enables you to design completely custom maps and create reusable datasets. It’s great for creating good-looking maps and working with large datasets.

Mapbox Studio custom style example

An example of a custom Mapbox Studio style

Cost

Mapbox dynamic maps are also far less expensive than Google Maps’ Dynamic Maps. In the month since that travel site switched from Google Maps to Mapbox, they’ve saved about 92% of what Google Maps’ new pricing model would have cost them. That results in approximate savings of over $28,000 for the year.

Google Maps Platform Dynamic Maps

Up to 28,000 loads/monthFree
0–100,000/month7.00 USD per 1000
100,001–500,000/month5.60 USD per 1000

Mapbox Dynamic Maps

50,000/monthFree
1,000 web map views0.50 USD

Making the Switch

Mapbox can make maps from many of the same types of data as Google Maps. Similar data sources and similar functionality mean it’s easy to switch from Google Maps to Mapbox. The aforementioned travel site is one of the largest, oldest, and most complex sites that Masuga Design works with. Even on that site, it took less than two weeks to make the switch. The client even prefers the look and functionality of the Mapbox maps over the previous Google Maps setup!

In Summary

Mapbox is cheaper than Google Maps, easy to set up, and offers similar (and often better) functionality. Plus, you can create custom maps that fit the look of your site or brand.

If you're concerned about Google Maps’ dramatic price increase, consider Mapbox as an alternative.

For more information on how to switch from Google Maps to Mapbox, check out our blog post "How We Switched from Google Maps to Mapbox."

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