Why Building Your Mapping Application with Google APIs Might Cost You More

Why Building Your Mapping Application with Google APIs Might Cost You More

While building a map application using Google Maps APIs can be a great way to enhance the UX of your product, the cost structure of Google Maps Platform (GMP) can be difficult to navigate, especially for applications with moderate to high usage.

It also doesn’t help that their once generous free usage limits have been reduced to a $200 monthly credit, which can be quickly depleted depending on the APIs used and the application’s traffic.

GMP uses a pay-as-you-go pricing model, with costs varying based on the specific APIs and the number of requests made, with costs per request ranging from $2 to $30 per 1,000 requests, depending on the APIs used.

Here’s a breakdown of key Google Maps APIs and their associated costs.

Google Maps JavaScript API

The Google Maps JavaScript API lets users integrate interactive maps directly into web applications. GPM pricing focuses on two key offerings:

  • Dynamic Maps: How many times are the maps on your web pages loaded? The initial 100,000 map loads are charged at $0.007 per load, with subsequent loads dropping to $0.0056.
  • Dynamic Street View: If you want to integrate panoramic street-level views into your maps, the initial 100,000 panoramas are priced at $0.014 each, decreasing to $0.0112 thereafter.

Important Considerations

  • Free Tier and Usage Limits: Google offers a $200 monthly credit applicable to both Dynamic Maps and Dynamic Street View usage. If you have a low-volume application, this may be helpful.
  • Request Limits: The user functionality will be disrupted after 30,000 requests per minute (QPM) overall and 300 QPMs per IP address.

Places API

The Google Places API includes access to Google’s extensive database of location information,  like business names, addresses, operating hours, and user reviews. Pricing varies depending on the specific request type:

  • Basic Place Details: Retrieving essential information about locations costs $17 per 1,000 requests.
  • Autocomplete: To get suggestions as users type in location searches, prices range from $25 per 1,000 requests (up to 100,000 requests) to $20 per 1,000 requests (up to 500,000 requests).

Important Considerations

  • Free Tier: A $200 monthly credit applies to Place details requests, which can come in handy if you’re just getting started or expect low volume of requests.
  • Incomplete Sessions: Google uses session pricing for Autocomplete, meaning incomplete sessions are only billed for the actual Autocomplete requests made.

Directions API

The Google Directions API lets users generate dynamic driving, walking, bicycling, or transit directions between locations. Pricing is based on a couple of factors:

  • Request Type: If your query includes traffic directions, waypoints optimization, or location modifiers (such as heading or side of the road), it is considered “advanced” and billed at 0.01 USD per each query.
  • Number of Waypoints: Less than 10 waypoints is billed at a lower price, 0.005 USD per each query. 

Important Considerations

  • Usage Limits: The maximum allowed number of waypoints per request is 25.
  • Request-Based Pricing: Costs can accumulate quickly with high volumes of direction requests, so make sure to monitor usage, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t have a request volume baseline.

Real-world Google Maps API Usage Scenarios and Cost Accumulation

Small Business with Store Locator

Let’s say a small business with a physical location, like a cafe or pharmacy or dry cleaner, uses the Google Maps JavaScript API for a store locator feature, averaging 1,000 map loads daily. This translates to a monthly cost of around $210 (1,000 loads/day * 30 days/month * $0.007 per load) but the business really only incurs a cost of $10 thanks to the free $200 credit.

Medium Business Delivery Service

Imagine a delivery service using Places API to display nearby restaurants for users. With 500,000 basic place details requests per month, the cost would be $8,500 (assuming usage surpasses the free credit – 500,000 requests * $17/1,000 requests).

Large Enterprise Tourism App

Consider how a tourism app might leverage the Directions API to provide users with directions to various attractions. Assuming a large tourism app with 1 million direction requests per month and an average of 2 waypoints per request, their cost could average $50,000 per month (1,000,000 requests/month * a conservative estimate of $0.05 per request with waypoints)

Use the above figures as a guideline, but remember: the cost of using Google Maps API can significantly increase with higher usage. As a real-world example, this real estate website, while still in its staging phase, got a bill from Google Maps exceeding $400 in a single month due to API calls that exceed their volume expectations. Use this as a reminder to carefully monitor usage, but also to make sure you are using only the APIs and functionalities your users truly need.

Technical Requirements and Hidden Expenses of Google APIs

Integrating and maintaining Google Maps APIs requires deep technical expertise. It may also trigger hidden expenses.

Technical Expertise for Integration and Maintenance

Building a map application using Google Maps APIs requires proficiency in both front-end and back-end development, especially if you are developing for mobile use:

  • Front-End Development involves integrating the JavaScript API into your web application to display maps and user interactions. Developers need a solid understanding of web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to implement features effectively.
  • Back-End Development manages API keys securely, handles user interactions with maps (like APIs that provide directions, distance matrix calculations, geocoding), and builds custom back-end services to interact with Google Maps data all require back-end development expertise.  Languages like Python, Java, or Node.js are commonly used for this purpose.

Hidden Expenses Within Google Maps APIs

The pay-as-you-go pricing model of the Google Maps Platform can cause unexpected costs in a few ways:

  • Billing Complexity: The pricing structure for GMP is very complex, especially for newcomers who struggle to anticipate volume of queries. Because of their intricate pay-as-you-go structure, you need to continuously monitor usage and set up billing alerts to avoid unexpected charges.
  • Functionalities with Higher Costs: 
    • Nearby Search, a functionality within the Places API, is very convenient for users, but carries a hefty price tag of $32 per 1,000 requests. 
    • Autocomplete is another example, as the Places API’s Autocomplete feature bills per session, including even incomplete user interactions (e.g., keystrokes that don’t lead to a final search).
    • Dynamic Maps and Street View are both features that get billed per map load or panorama view, and costs can accumulate quickly with popular applications exceeding the free tier.

Hidden Expenses Beyond Usage Costs

Depending on your business and application, using Google Maps APIs could lead to incurring indirect expenses due to: 

  • High-Availability Infrastructure: To ensure your map application is always accessible, you might need to invest in redundant servers and load balancers. If your application has a high traffic volume, this can generate significant additional costs.
  • Security Measures: Securing your API keys to prevent unauthorized access requires additional infrastructure and ongoing vigilance. Implementing robust authentication and authorization mechanisms further adds to the security overhead.
  • Data Privacy Compliance: Depending on the data collected and user location, your application might need to comply with regulations like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act).  Ensuring compliance can involve additional development time and legal consultations.

Optimizing for Cost-Effectiveness

To avoid additional costs when building a map application using Google Maps APIs, make sure to optimize your map usage by employing techniques like lazy loading or replacing embedded maps with links leading to AJAX pop-ups or separate pages housing the map data. This will avoid unnecessary loads and, by extension, charges.

You should also choose the right APIs for your application and audience by carefully evaluating your application’s needs and selecting the most cost-effective Google Maps APIs for the functionalities you truly need.

Long-Term Maintenance and Upkeep Costs

Continuous Updates and API Evolution

Keep in mind that every time an update happens, your developers will need to update your systems to prevent existing user code from malfunctioning.

Similar to most APIs, Google Maps APIs use a versioning system to manage changes and deprecation. This system ensures a smooth transition for developers when encountering new features or breaking changes.

Google also deprecates older versions of the API after a grace period. This provides developers with ample time to migrate their applications to the latest version and avoid potential disruptions in functionality.

The High Cost of Downtime

While Google Maps outages are relatively uncommon, businesses need to take into account the downtime incurred if the API system crashes or if version updates become problematic. The potential cost of downtime for businesses can be severe, reaching over $1 million per hour in extreme cases, depending on the industry and the severity of the disruption. Tech companies are particularly vulnerable, as even brief outages can erode customer trust and, by extension, translate into lost revenue.

Technical Support Options

The Google Maps Platform offers tiered support options starting with their Standard Support, which includes basic troubleshooting and documentation access, and is included with any subscription. 

For enhanced support features like 24/7 access to engineers and priority response times, you can upgrade to Enhanced Support for an additional fee (typically $500 per month plus 3% of your monthly Google Maps Platform charges).

Alternatively, companies can choose to outsource technical support for Google Maps API integration. This can encompass setup, maintenance, and upgrade services. The cost of outsourced support varies depending on the provider and the chosen level of service.

Strategies for Effective Maintenance

First and foremost, businesses need to keep a close eye on usage and budgeting through the Google Cloud Console to avoid unexpected charges and adhere to planned API call volumes.

Aside from that, your full-stack team should be following best practices in API design during development and implementing regular updates to minimize unforeseen issues, avoid downtime, and reduce overall maintenance effort.

You can also streamline the maintenance process by using automated tools for continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD), further reducing long-term costs.

Scalability Challenges

With Google Maps’ tiered pricing structure, costs increase proportionally with usage–so the more you scale, the bigger the price tag. As some developers have painfully discovered, this can lead to significant budget overruns if not managed carefully.  

Not only has GMP undergone significant changes, including reported increases in costs of over 1400%, but they have also reduced their free tier, offering only 25,000 map calls per month compared to the previous 28,000 daily calls. For businesses relying on the free monthly credits, unexpected charges have become more common–for example, the Nearby Places API can cost over $30 per 1,000 requests after the credit is used, translating to a limited number of free requests per month.

If you have the budget, the best solution is to have ongoing technical experts who can navigate the complexities of cost structures and usage patterns for your applications. However, there are limits and alerts you can set up in Google Cloud Console to help as well, like setting daily quotas and monitoring usage through the console–so you can prevent unexpected charges and ensure your applications stay within budgeted API call volumes.

Alternative Solutions for Scalable Mapping Needs

Depending on the size of your business and type of applications you’re building, considerations around potential cost spikes and ongoing maintenance requirements might lead you to explore other mapping solutions.

Maptive offers a compelling alternative to Google Maps APIs. Our tiered subscription plans provide clear pricing structures, allowing you to budget effectively and avoid surprises often associated with pay-as-you-go models.

For example, a 45-day pass starts at $250 and includes features like user licenses, recyclable maps, and location limits per map.  Annual subscriptions range from $1,250 to $2,500 and offer significantly higher geocode volumes per month.

Plus, Maptive offers additional functionalities, like mapping for site location selection and sales territory building thanks to their access to U.S. Census Demographic Data. Our heat maps and driving intelligence tools, such as Driving Radius Maps and Drive Time Polygon Tools, offer real-time data to assist in strategic decision-making.

Maptive vs. Google APIs

Predictable Costs and Budgeting

Maptive offers tiered subscription plans with clear annual or monthly costs, providing a predictable budget for your mapping needs. This is in stark contrast to Google Maps APIs’ pay-as-you-go structure, which, as we’ve discussed above, can lead to unpredictable expenses depending on fluctuating usage patterns.

Maptive’s transparent pricing allows for more accurate budgeting and avoids hidden cost surprises.  Here’s a breakdown of their plans:

  • 45 Day Pass: $250 provides access for 45 days.
  • Pro Plan: $1,250 per year or $110 per month.
  • Team Plan: $2,500 per year or $220 per month.
  • Enterprise Plan: Custom pricing based on volume and specific user needs.

Maptive also offers a 10-day free trial that includes all its features:

  • Access to all map tools
  • Phone, chat, and email support
  • Data and mapping features like heat mapping, demographic overlays, and territory tools

Seamless Integrations

Maptive integrates with a variety of CRMs–including Salesforce, Hubspot, Zoho, and others–streamlining workflows and centralizing location data. This eliminates the need for complex custom integrations often required with Google Maps APIs.

Overall Usability

Through to its intuitive interface and no-code map creation, Maptive prioritizes ease-of-use for users of all technical backgrounds. This eliminates the need for extensive development expertise often required with Google Maps APIs.

Extensive Customization Capabilities

Maptive’s software comes with built-in customization features without incurring additional costs or requiring extensive technical expertise–so that businesses can tailor their mapping solutions to their unique needs without heavy development efforts. This includes customizable markers, map styles,  and data overlays, exceeding the level of customization available through Google Maps APIs.

Expert Customer Support

Maptive provides reliable customer support with a team of mapping experts available to assist with questions and troubleshooting. This ensures you receive specialized guidance tailored to your business mapping needs, unlike generic developer support offered by Google for their APIs.

Reduced Maintenance Needs

Maptive handles all backend infrastructure and ongoing maintenance. This eliminates the burden of managing API updates, security concerns, and server upkeep, allowing you to focus on core business activities.

Simplified Data Management

Data handling is very streamlined in Maptive. The platform allows for easy data import and provides  powerful tools for data analysis and visualization. This eliminates the need  for  juggling multiple tools and simplifies the process of extracting insights from your location data.

The software also provides built-in mapping tools that would normally require additional programming or external services with Google Maps APIs. These include route optimization, heat mapping, territory mapping, and more.

Real-World Success Stories with Maptive

Ryan J. 

I signed up for Maptive to better understand my audience demographics and locations for business expansion. Given my reliance on spreadsheets and marketing tools, the ability to visualize my data proved to be immensely effective. As a newbie to mapping software, I was a bit unsure about how I would transition into using Maptive. However, using the software was surprisingly easy and intuitive.

I would also like to give a big shout-out to the support team at Maptive. In addition to their existing knowledge base, I was able to schedule a demo about my specific use case, and the team was able to guide and teach me.

Overall, as a business owner, I am pleasantly surprised about the value Maptive has delivered to my business.

Scott D

Maptive has a very user friendly interface, allowing for controlled mapping solutions for business needs. With easy data management of thousands of locations, territory overlays, custom map markers and many other useful features, it filled a need within our business nicely. The ability to view set locations, print high resolution maps and keep the maps on brand makes Maptive a very useful product. Their support is great and they are open to new feature suggestions and input from their customers. 

It’s a fantastic solution to many business mapping needs.

Hooman R. 

When we were exploring different mapping tools for our purpose of matchmaking delivery volunteers throughout the US with xmas tree recipients, we quickly chose Maptive because it could do everything we needed.. integrate with our Google backend (ie. Drive and Sheets), show different pins based on our data columns and allow us to quickly see radius for quick matchmaking. All of these and many more features that we didn’t even use made us choose Maptive. The speed to bring everything up and start using the tool quickly was a factor in the decision. Customer support was super helpful early in the process.

Analeah C.

I am a Territory Planning and Development Analyst. Maptive has become an integral part of my job. It is essential for us to visually see where opportunity is located in an area we are targeting by using the import option to import our prospects and leads, creating territories around them by using the shading feature, sharing them with others and then adjusting them accordingly.

Analyzing and developing territories has been a portion of my job for the past 7 years and was recently turned into a full time position. I believe a big part of that decision was made possible by others seeing the importance of what I do through Maptive.

Additionally, I have never experienced better customer service from any other company. I can always rely on them to return my emails very quickly, sometimes within minutes. Time is money, and when you have someone who you can rely on to make sure deadlines are met, that makes a world of difference and makes your job so much easier.

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