Commuting is a way of life for millions of Americans, but many employees absolutely hate it.
Economists used to think that long commutes wouldn’t have any effect on well-being because they're a rational trade-off workers make in exchange for benefits. But studies have found that commutes have a negative effect on employees’ quality of life and that a 20-minute increase in commute time felt as bad as taking a 19% pay cut.
After a few months of commuting, you may decide to look for a real estate agent and sell your house to be closer to the office.
A new study from Clever Real Estate ranks the best and worst cities for commuters, and the findings might surprise you.
The best commuter city in the U.S. has such a short and cheap commute, on average, that it’s possible you’ll want to go online to buy a house there once you calculate the staggering number of hours per year you’ll reclaim by shortening your commute.
If lengthening your commute feels as bad as a pay cut, shortening it might feel as good as a raise— or at least as good as lowering your real estate commission.
15. Indianapolis, Indiana
In Indiana’s capital city, commuters spend $6,892 on their annual commute — nearly one-fifth (19%) less than the cost ($8,466) in the average U.S. metro.
Indianapolis excels by other measures, such as time spent in traffic. Indy residents sit in traffic 14 hours a year, while the average U.S. commuter spends more than twice that much time in traffic — 32 hours per year.
Indy commuters spend around 17% of their annual income on commuting, while the average U.S. commuter spends 19%. That may seem like a small difference, but it’s an 11% discount that adds up in the long run.
Indianapolis offers a lot of small differences that add up to significant improvements for commuters. At $1,284 a year, even car insurance is 36% cheaper than the national cost of $2,000 a year.
14. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Steel City residents spend 43% less time in traffic per year than the average U.S. commuter. That means they spend only 18 hours a year in traffic, compared to 32 for the average commuter.
That amounts to 3% of their year — about 234 hours, which breaks down to approximately 27 minutes each way.
Pittsburgh is cheap for commuters, too. Pittsburgh drivers pay $1,486 on car insurance each year — 26% less than the $2,000 a year the average U.S. resident pays. What they save in car insurance pays more than half of a Pittsburgh commuter’s average annual fuel cost — $791.
13. Louisville, Kentucky
If you’re looking to minimize the amount of time you spend in traffic, it’s hard to beat Louisville, where commuters spend only seven hours a year in traffic, a whopping 78% less than the national average.
Add up all the traffic jams in an entire year commuting in Louisville, and you’re wasting less than one full workday sitting in traffic being frustrated. For employees striving for the ideal work-life balance, that’s a massive plus.
Louisville boasts a short average commute, too. Louisville commuters spend 210 hours a year going back and forth to their job, 12% less than the average U.S. commuter.
In a city known for its affordability, fuel costs are nearly one-fifth (18%) lower than the average U.S. metro. Louisville commuters spend $714 a year on gas, while the average U.S. commuter spends $867 a year.
Cheap gas, few traffic jams, a brisk commute, and great overall affordability make Louisville a commuter’s dream.
12. Kansas City, Missouri
If you’re looking for an affordable, low-traffic town for your commute, Kansas City deserves a long look.
The average commute in Kansas City is only 24 minutes, and commuters lose just 13 hours a year sitting in traffic, whereas the average U.S. commuter loses 32 hours. That’s a staggering 146% more than Kansas City commuters.
Total commute time in Kansas City is 204 hours annually, compared to 239 hours for the average U.S. commuter. That 15% difference means more time to spend at home with your family or pursuing your non-work passions.
Finally, Kansas City is super affordable for commuters. Drivers spend $7,404 a year going to and from work, which is 13% less than the average U.S. commuter.
Notably, it’s also one of the few cities where car maintenance costs are trending downward, falling from $501 in 2019 to $417 in 2022 — a 17% decrease.
11. Richmond, Virginia
If you hate sitting in traffic, Richmond is a city for you. Richmond commuters lose only 10 hours a year idling in traffic jams, compared to 32 hours lost by the average U.S. commuter.
Affordability is also exceptional in Richmond. Commuters spend only 16% of their annual income on commuting, which is at the low end of the spectrum nationally. Total commuting costs have plummeted 21% since 2019, dwindling from $8,690 to $6,891.
Fuel costs have dropped even more over that span, decreasing from $1,133 to $812 — a 28% reduction. Maintenance costs dropped by more than half — a 57% tumble from $937 to $407.
In an era of steep inflation, Richmond looks attractive to workers who spend a lot of time in their car.
10. Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh excels in a couple metrics. First, this city boasts the lowest average annual car insurance premium of any U.S. metro— $952, which is less than half the $2,000 national average.
Second, Raleigh is in second place for the number of hours per year lost to traffic. Raleigh commuters lose only six hours a year to traffic jams, compared to 32 hours nationally.
Raleigh also boasts rock-bottom costs that are trending in the right direction. Since 2019, total commuting costs in Raleigh have decreased by 6% from $7,430 to $6,984.
Already affordable maintenance costs have declined by an impressive 18% in the past three years — from $485 to $398. If you hit a pothole in Raleigh, don’t even sweat it.
If you’re thinking about relocating to Raleigh to escape your long commute, make sure you check out average real estate commission rates in North Carolina before you start looking for a new home.
9. Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is one of three Ohio cities in the top 10, suggesting the Buckeye State is a commuter’s paradise.
What makes Cincinnati special? Maintenance costs have fallen steeply from $548 to $407 over the past three years. Additionally, commutes are getting shorter — down to 25 minutes from 28 minutes only three years ago.
Commuting costs are declining, too, from $7,089 to $6,762. Best of all, drivers here waste only 13 hours stuck in traffic, compared to 32 hours nationally.
By nearly every measure, commuting in Cincinnati is headed in the right direction. If you’re thinking of relocating to Ohio to slash your commute, check out the average real estate commission in Ohio before you start looking at houses.
8. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s capital city is an exceptional place for commuters. Oklahoma City residents spend 17% less time commuting per year than the average U.S. commuter (198 hours versus 239 hours) and 69% less time sitting in traffic (10 hours versus 32 hours nationally).
The average Oklahoma City commute has decreased by 12% in the past three years, from 26 minutes to 23 minutes. Maintenance costs are also down 23% from $522 to $402 during that time period.
Fitting for a state with a large oil and gas industry, fuel costs are $744 a year, much lower than the national average.
Overall, Oklahoma City commuters don’t have to spend much time or money going to and from work. When their neighbors in Texas hear about it, they might just sell their house in Texas and relocate to Oklahoma City.
7. Hartford, Connecticut
This historic Northeast city boasts rock-bottom annual fuel costs ($706), as well as a brief 24-minute commute. Over the course of a year, Hartford commuters spend 210 hours on the road — 12% less than the 239 hours the average U.S. commuter spends.
Commuting costs are dropping sharply here, too. Maintenance costs since 2019 have decreased by a stunning 46% — from $633 to $342 — and annual fuel costs have dropped by one-fifth over that span, from $880 to $706.
In 2022, Hartford commuters spend only 16% of their annual income on commuting, which is low enough to comfortably earn the seventh spot on this list.
6. Columbus, Ohio
The second-best Ohio city on this list is the laid-back college town of Columbus.
Columbus commuters spend an average of $6,602 on their commute each year, compared to $8,466 nationwide. That amounts to 16% of their income — 16% less than the national average.
Auto insurance is exceptionally cheap here, too. The average Columbus commuter pays $1,170 a year in premiums, compared to $2,000 nationally.
Columbus commutes are relatively brief and efficient. Columbus commuters waste only 13 hours a year in traffic, compared to 32 hours nationally.
5. Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland takes the crown as the best city for commuters in Ohio.
Annual fuel and maintenance costs are well below the national average in Cleveland, with maintenance costs decreasing sharply by 23% in the past three years. Car insurance is also affordable in Cleveland, with yearly premiums ($1,235) that are 38% less than the national average ($2,000).
Cleveland commuters spend less than half as much time sitting in traffic as the average U.S. driver (15 hours versus 32 hours) and spend only 215 hours annually commuting.
4. Virginia Beach, Virginia
By every metric, Virginia Beach is among the most commuter-friendly cities in the U.S. Commuters lose only nine hours a year sitting in traffic, less than a third of the national average.
Virginia Beach is actually the cheapest city on this list in terms of annual commuting costs. Annually, commuting costs $6,367 — 25% less expensive than the national average of $8,466.
Annual commuting costs decreased 11% in the past three years and eat up just 15% of a Virginia Beach commuter’s annual income, compared to 19% nationwide.
3. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee boasts one of the shortest commutes of any metro area. It takes only 23 minutes to get to and from work, compared to 28 minutes nationwide.
That five-minute difference may not sound impressive, but it adds up to 10 minutes a day, nearly an hour a week, and nearly a full workday every two months. Over a year, those five minutes save you nearly a week of lost time.
Milwaukee commuters spend only 16% of their annual income on commuting, 16% less than the national average of 19%.
Annual maintenance costs are only $346 and have dropped by nearly a quarter (23%) in the past three years.
2. Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City offers the most affordable commute as a percentage of income on this list. Salt Lake City commuters spend only 15% of their annual income on commuting.
That’s driven by fuel costs that are 25% lower than the national average, as well as annual maintenance costs that are 26% lower than the national average.
Commutes are short here, too. In fact, only one city on this list has a shorter average commute than Salt Lake City, where drivers spend an average of 23 minutes on the road to work each way.
There isn’t a lot of traffic either. Salt Lake City commuters waste only 10 hours a year in traffic, compared to 32 hours nationwide.
1. Buffalo, New York
The best city in America for commuters is Buffalo, New York.
Not only does Buffalo boast the shortest commute — a very brief 22 minutes — it’s also tied for the most affordable commute. Buffalo commuters spend only 15% of their annual income getting to and from work.
Buffalo’s also tied with Raleigh for the least amount of time spent sitting in traffic jams — only six hours. Buffalo also has the lowest annual fuel costs and is tied for second for least expensive annual maintenance costs.