Which states have the longest commute?

Every year it can feel like your commute is getting longer and longer, and the data does bear that out with the hours spent in traffic each year having risen from 16 in 1982 to 42 in 2015., which is an all-time high. But the amount of time spent sitting in traffic does not necessarily correlate to the distance being traveled. For this post we decided to take a look at the average commute length of people who drive their own car to work. Using this metric means that many workers in states with the highest rates of public transit usage (NY, NJ, and PA, where over 40% of workers take public transit to work) are not included in the average commute miles. Check out the charts below to see commute length by state.

map showing states with the longest commute

New Hampshire (#1) takes the top spot on our list with an average daily commute of 46.8 miles. At first glance, this might seem like a bit of an anomaly to sit at the top of the list but if you look at the state’s demographics, it starts to make more sense. With lower taxes and less expensive housing than Massachusetts, New Hampshire has become a commuting-hub for Boston, and many of those commuters drive their own car, unlike in some other parts of the northeast, as we’ll touch upon on later in this article.

At #2 on the list is Texas, and as the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas, and apparently that includes commute length. It’s no surprise to find the Lone Star State near the top of this list as the state’s housing boom occurred after the introduction of interstates, which means the bulk of housing is located relatively far from job centers. Georgia (#3) is similar to Texas in that it has lots of freeways feeding a metropolis (Atlanta) so its high position on the list is to be expected as well.

Commute distance versus time spent in traffic

While commute length by state means people are spending a lot of time in traffic, in some states they’re not actually traveling very far. California (#44) appears quite low on the list in terms of average daily commute miles, but the big metro areas of the state (LA, Bay Area) often appear at the top of lists of regions with the worst traffic in the nation. So a 40 mile commute in California could take far longer to complete than a 45 mile commute in a less densely populated state such as South Carolina (#4). Portland is the most populous city in Oregon (#46) and is famous for being one of the most bike-friendly (and geographically compact) cities in the nation, which makes it no shock to find that even those who drive have some of the shortest commutes (in miles) of any state. Overall, our data seems to show that states which have a lot of interstate freeways feeding very large cities tend to have longer commutes in terms of miles driven.

And those hours spent sitting in our cars do not merely make us less happy. They also make us less healthy. Recent studies, have shown a correlation between long commutes and obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia. Why do people choose to put themselves through these long commutes? For many people they would rather live further away from their place of employment if it means being able to live in a larger, less expensive home. One day all this may be remedied by self-driving cars, which will free us up to do whatever we please while being whisked to and from work, but in the meantime, might we suggest subscribing to a few more podcasts to help pass the time?

To keep tabs on your commute times, try our Streetwise app, which lets you track your trips and earn rewards for smart driving.

infographic of states with the longest average commute