Most Affordable Commutes

Which are the most and least affordable US commuting cities?

Someone is driving in a car.
Someone is driving in a car.


In 2021, 73 per cent of Americans used their own car to move between home and work, making it the most popular mode of transportation by far. 

With this in mind, we want to find out how much time and money is spent on commuting to work, from the crowded city of New York to the vibrant city of LA. We will look at the most populated cities across the nation, analyzing factors such as the average time spent commuting and the cost of fuel. We’ll also consider driving expenses based on location, such as parking costs and car insurance.

As well as the cost of commuting, car owners are frequently hit with pricey new bills due to inflation and rising costs. Vehicle owners can opt to switch to a car subscriptions service and feel secure that they are already covered, with included comprehensive insurance and a simple monthly rate, which takes the load off of searching for new quotes.

The Most Affordable Cities for Commuting in the US

1. Tulsa, Oklahoma

City Score /10: 8.93 

Tulsa, the second-most populous city in the state of Oklahoma after Oklahoma City, swiped first place in the running for the most affordable commuting cities in the nation, scoring 8.93 out of 10.

Residents in Tulsa have an average travel time to work of 30 to 34 minutes, and costs for gas are low ($7.60 to fill up ten liters of gas) compared to other large cities. Parking costs are not a major worry in Tulsa, as they start as low as $2 per hour. However, insurance costs are slightly higher than in other large cities, averaging $2,095 annually.

2. Memphis, Tennessee

City Score /10: 8.69

Memphis, the largest city on the Mississippi River in southwest Tennessee, comes in second for the most affordable cities to commute, scoring 8.69.

Memphis commuters tend to spend 30 to 34 minutes driving to their workplace. Costs for gas and parking are slightly higher than in Tulsa ($8.50 for ten liters of gas and $2.50 per hour for parking), but the average car insurance premium is lower ($1,954 annually). Memphis residents will likely fork out a little more towards gas per year due to sitting in traffic ($19 extra per year).

3. Omaha, Nebraska

City Score /10: 8.36

Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska, sitting on the Missouri River in the Midwestern region of the US. Scoring 8.36 out of 10, the city scored third place.

Omaha residents tend to spend 24 minutes on the road to work, which is the shortest commuter distance on our list. Streets in Omaha are generally free of traffic, making the ideal conditions for driving. Car drivers in the city spend an average of $1,805 on car insurance per year and pay an extra $24 yearly towards being stuck in congestion. 

4. Columbus, Ohio

City Score /10: 8.21

Columbus, Ohio's capital and most populous city, scored fourth, scoring 8.21 out of 10. 

Despite the city’s large population of 908,534 people, the average commute to work is around 30-34 minutes, and the fuel consumption per person is just $27 annually. Insurance costs are also low, averaging $1,350 yearly, although commuters pay around $9 per hour for parking.

5. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

City Score /10: 7.97

Milwaukee is the most populous city in the state of Wisconsin, with a population of 548,919 people. Scoring 7.97 out of 10 in the ranking, the Midwest city placed fifth.

Commuters in Milwaukee spend around 30 to 34 minutes on the road, and whilst the city enjoys short commute times, it is not immune to traffic congestion. Due to traffic, drivers pay around $31 extra towards fuel costs per year. Despite this, motorists tend to pay less towards car insurance, averaging $1,826 per year in premiums.

New York City is the Worst US City for Car Commuters

The Least Affordable Cities to Commute in the US

1. New York City

City Score /10: 2.09

Driving in New York City is not for the faint-hearted, as it is the worst city to commute in, placing last and scoring just 2.09 out of 10 in the ranking.

Even for the most confident drivers, New York City’s traffic-packed streets and fearless pedestrians can be intimidating. The toughest times to travel in and around the city are between 8 am and 9 am. Many commuters avoid rush hour or consider alternative routes and can expect to drive for an hour or longer in the mornings. 

Although the congested roads are treacherous, fuel costs are not as steep as you might expect, as topping up your car with ten liters of gas costs just $9.70. However, commuters typically spend an extra $107 a year in fuel costs thanks to the levels of congestion, and according to NBC New York, the average resident spends 117 hours sitting in traffic annually!

2. Los Angeles, California

City Score /10: 2.25

With a population estimated at around 7.6 million, Los Angeles is the second most populous city in the United States behind New York.

Los Angeles is incredibly car-centric, like many North American cities, and the idea of commuting around the city without a car is almost unheard of. Public transport is somewhat limited, and the accessibility of sidewalks plus the California sun makes walking inconceivable. Yet, the city is often struck with gridlock, congestion, and a whole lot of stress. Drivers in LA spend an hour or more in traffic every morning and disburse $74 a year in fuel costs due to it. Car parking is typically cheaper than in New York, with the most inexpensive fee at $10.50 per hour. Fuel costs are more expensive, though, at $13.90 per ten liters.

3. Chicago, Illinois

City Score /10: 2.38

Chicago, Illinois, placed third for the least affordable commuting cities and is coincidentally the third largest city in the US, with a population of 2.5 million people.

City traffic in Chicago is known to be some of the worst in North America, and trips to and from the suburbs regularly take 90 minutes or more. Moving anywhere in the city is equally as tiring. Due to recent road work and shifting traffic patterns, the issues have increasingly worsened, causing commuters to be pushed to their breaking point. Chicago drivers typically pay $105 per year on fuel due to traffic costs and spend an hour or longer commuting to work. Fuel costs are more expensive than $14.39 per ten liters in any other city, but insurance premiums are more affordable than in New York or LA, at $1,171 annually.

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

City Score /10: 2.77

The city of Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s largest city, scoring 2.77 in the ranking and placing fourth in the nation for the worst commutes.

Philadelphia can be challenging to navigate for unfamiliar drivers, and like every other major city, there are unwritten rules of the road. A report written by found Philadelphia among the worst cities when it comes to unpleasant driving conditions. Parking rates tend to be high, with the cheapest rate for an hour of parking costing $10.10. The survey also found that drivers spend an average of 40 hours stuck in congestion annually, resulting in costing motorists an extra $59 a year due to congestion.

5. Seattle, Washington

City Score /10: 2.85

Washington state’s largest city, Seattle, placed fifth, scoring 2.85 out of 10.

Seattle is notorious for rain and rush hour traffic; getting to your destination on time is nearly impossible. While morning commutes can be painful, it still is not nearly as bad as before the pandemic. According to a study from INRIX, traffic congestion in Seattle in 2022 is still 38% lower than traffic levels from 2019. Seattle commuters’ travel time to work averages one hour or more and tend to pay $15 or more for parking hourly. Insurance costs in Seattle are among the highest on our list, where motorists tend to fork out $3,315 annually to insure their vehicles.

The Cities with the Longest Average Travel Time to Work

There were 29 US cities in total which travel for an average of one hour or more to work. The second highest average travel time was 34 minutes or longer, and sixteen cities commute within this time frame. Just one city out of 44 cities travel for 24 minutes or longer to get to work.

The National Average Travel Time to Work

Average: 49.73 minutes

The typical travel time to work across the 44 cities we looked at averaged 49.73 minutes. This means that 29 cities were above the national average, where commuting time takes one hour or more.

The National Average Fuel Costs

Average: $10.33

The average fuel cost for 10 liters of gas is $10.33. Cities including Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles have higher fuel costs.

The National Average Cheapest Parking Prices

Average: $6.67

The cheapest average parking price for three hours of parking is $6.67. There were 17 cities with higher parking costs, including Boston, New York and Philadelphia. However, 27 cities on our list recorded prices lower than the national average, including Tulsa, Louisville and Memphis.

The National Average Car Insurance Costs

Average: $2,288.45

The national average yearly premium for car insurance is $2,288.45 across 44 cities. There were 15 cities with a more costly premium than this, including Detroit, New York and New Orleans, where car insurance costs more than double the average at $4,726 per year!

There were 29 cities in our research with lower average insurance prices, including Raleigh, Charlotte, Columbus and Indianapolis.

The National Average Fuel Price due to Congestion (yearly)

Average: $45.88

On average, across 44 cities, residents pay $45.88 towards extra fuel per year due to congestion. However, 14 cities pay more than this, including Boston, where commuters pay $ 106 and New Yorkers pay up to $107.


A list of the 50 most populated cities in the United States was collected from the World Population Review and removed the cities without sufficient data.

The average travel time to work was taken from the United States Census Bureau American Community Survey for 2022.

The average gasoline cost for each city was taken from Numbeo using the travel calculator for traveling 200km and consuming 10 liters of gasoline.

The lowest average car parking price for every city was taken from SpotHero to find the lowest price per hour for three hours of parking.

The average car insurance cost per city was taken from The Zebra.

The annual fuel price due to congestion per year was taken from TomTom.