Bay Area’s Worst Commutes: More Gas, Higher Insurance and Wasted Time

Auto Insurance, Insurance
Bay Area's Worst Commutes: Insurance, Gas, Time

The San Francisco Bay Area’s economy has been on the rise in recent years, and so has its roadway congestion, which can lead to expenses such as higher car insurance quotes. According to the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, the Bay Area has the third-worst traffic in the U.S. behind Los Angeles and Honolulu. In addition, the Bay Area has the highest concentration of “mega commuters” — workers who drive over 90 minutes and 50 miles one way to their office. But which cities are the worst for Bay Area commuting?

NerdWallet looked at all the places within the nine counties that make up the Bay Area and found that the East Bay’s Discovery Bay and Brentwood are the two worst cities for commuters. We crunched the numbers and ranked the worst commutes after analyzing the major costs: time and money.

Financial costs

Commuters in the Bay Area can end up paying very different amounts for car insurance depending on where they live, according to a NerdWallet study. Drivers in Cupertino pay the cheapest annual car insurance premium, with an average cost of $793.71. In contrast, residents in San Francisco pay the most, with an average annual premium of $1,166.30.

Gas prices also vary widely in the Bay Area. Based on an analysis of 2014 prices, drivers in Marin County’s Larkspur paid the least at an average of $3.63 a gallon. Those in San Anselmo and San Francisco paid the most at an average of $4.01 a gallon.

Minimizing insurance costs

Long commutes may be hard to avoid, but finding the cheapest car insurance can lower your commuting costs. Different carriers may charge different prices for the same coverage, so shopping around can help you reduce your costs. Insurance companies also offer various discounts for qualifying customers.

Another major factor in determining insurance costs is the car you drive. For example, even among the most popular car models, insurance premiums easily can vary by several hundred dollars a year. Expensive and exotic cars can cost far more to insure. Talk to your insurance agent to find the vehicles with low insurance costs.

[For more information about auto insurance, check out NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool.]

Key findings

Commute times vary significantly. Drivers in the South Bay’s Santa Clara County have the shortest commutes at an average of just 24 minutes, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. However, commuters in some East Bay places drive over 40 minutes each way on average.

Car insurance costs more in some places. Depending on where you live, you could be paying 47% more for car insurance.

Solo drivers, busy highways. Only 37% of San Francisco residents drive alone, while 73.8% of workers in the North Bay — Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties — commute solo.

San Francisco commuters take public transit. In the city, 32.6% of workers say they commute by mass transit versus a low 4.3% in the North Bay.

Seven of the 10 worst commutes are in the East Bay. The remaining three bad commutes are in the North Bay.

The 10 worst Bay Area commutes

1. Discovery Bay

Average car insurance premium: $1,024.00
Average gas price: $3.76
Average commute time: 46.0 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 78.3%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 1.2%

2. Brentwood

Average car insurance premium: $1,046.13
Average gas price: $3.76
Average commute time: 40.9 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 78.1%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 2.6%

3. Antioch

Average car insurance premium: $1,067.21
Average gas price: $3.80
Average commute time: 40.0 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 72.1%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 5.8%

4. Oakley

Average car insurance premium: $1,060.17
Average gas price: $3.76
Average commute time: 40.2 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 75.6%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 3.9%

5. Hercules

Average car insurance premium: $984.92
Average gas price: $3.83
Average commute time: 38.6 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 68.9%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 9.1%

6. San Anselmo

Average car insurance premium: $969.13
Average gas price: $4.01
Average commute time: 32.4 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 63.9%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 11.3%

7. Pittsburg

Average car insurance premium: $1,048.29
Average gas price: $3.77
Average commute time: 35.5 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 66.1%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 8.9%

8. Vallejo

Average car insurance premium: $1,034.89
Average gas price: $3.79
Average commute time: 33.0 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 71.2%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 4.7%

9. American Canyon

Average car insurance premium: $1,046.92
Average gas price: $3.75
Average commute time: 31.7 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 78.8%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 0.9%

10. Moraga

Average car insurance premium: $1,050.96
Average gas price: $3.84
Average commute time: 33.3 minutes
Percentage of workers driving to work alone: 64.8%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 15.5%

NerdWallet’s analysis

NerdWallet analyzed the following factors to determine the worst cities for commuters in the San Francisco Bay Area:

How expensive is gas? We looked at average gas prices in each ZIP code for 15% of the total score.

How much does insurance cost? Insurance is costly and premiums can vary depending on where you live. We found average insurance costs by ZIP code to provide an estimate of how much you could be paying for 15% of our score.

How long are workers’ commutes? We looked at the length of the average worker’s one-way commute for 50% of the score.

How many workers commute alone? We looked at the percentage of workers who drive alone to work. Higher percentages of commuters driving alone mean more traffic congestion and longer commutes. This is 10% of our score.

Is public transit available? We looked at the percentage of workers who commute on public transportation for 10% of our score. Higher percentages suggest more availability of public transit.

Bay Area’s worst commutes data

Rank Location Average insurance premium Average gas price Average commute time Percentage of workers driving alone Percentage of workers using public transportation Overall score
1 Discovery Bay $1,024.00 $3.76 46.0 78.3% 1.2% 16.53
2 Brentwood $1,046.13 $3.76 40.9 78.1% 2.6% 23.72
3 Antioch $1,067.21 $3.80 40.0 72.1% 5.8% 24.60
4 Oakley $1,060.17 $3.76 40.2 75.6% 3.9% 25.01
5 Hercules $984.92 $3.83 38.6 68.9% 9.1% 30.37
6 San Anselmo $969.13 $4.01 32.4 63.9% 11.3% 34.64
7 Pittsburg $1,048.29 $3.77 35.5 66.1% 8.9% 35.20
8 Vallejo $1,034.89 $3.79 33.0 71.2% 4.7% 36.55
9 American Canyon $1,046.92 $3.75 31.7 78.8% 0.9% 37.17
10 Moraga $1,050.96 $3.84 33.3 64.8% 15.5% 37.88
11 Corte Madera $1,037.04 $3.90 29.8 70.4% 8.5% 38.21
12 Richmond $1,126.59 $3.80 31.4 62.3% 13.2% 38.94
13 Half Moon Bay $1,016.67 $3.87 28.9 73.6% 1.8% 38.95
14 Union City $1,004.13 $3.88 30.1 75.5% 8.6% 39.09
15 San Pablo $1,104.83 $3.82 30.4 61.8% 10.0% 39.60
16 San Francisco $1,166.30 $4.01 30.5 37.0% 32.6% 40.54
17 San Ramon $921.63 $3.81 32.7 75.3% 6.2% 40.57
18 Millbrae $1,053.33 $3.91 27.5 71.9% 9.3% 40.60
19 Belmont $1,016.50 $3.97 25.6 74.4% 5.0% 40.80
20 Suisun City $1,002.63 $3.73 31.6 76.6% 3.0% 40.90
21 Pinole $945.17 $3.75 34.7 67.1% 9.0% 41.20
22 Mill Valley $1,026.21 $3.89 29.0 64.1% 8.5% 41.25
23 Daly City $1,136.96 $3.89 28.6 60.7% 20.1% 41.56
24 Danville $905.63 $3.87 30.3 77.3% 5.0% 41.73
25 Hayward $1,063.32 $3.79 29.1 72.2% 8.1% 42.12
26 Alamo $952.08 $3.83 30.3 75.6% 6.4% 42.15
27 Oakland $1,147.04 $3.88 28.3 55.2% 18.3% 42.32
28 Saratoga $914.75 $3.91 26.9 82.9% 0.6% 42.58
29 Novato $931.25 $3.90 28.7 72.2% 5.6% 42.91
30 Dublin $899.83 $3.86 31.3 72.6% 9.2% 42.94
31 Walnut Creek $984.22 $3.86 30.7 66.0% 15.4% 43.44
32 Pacifica $994.96 $3.86 27.7 74.6% 7.0% 43.47
33 El Sobrante $1,027.92 $3.71 31.2 70.6% 7.0% 43.49
34 Benicia $915.63 $3.83 29.8 76.9% 4.5% 43.56
35 Rohnert Park $1,008.79 $3.78 27.7 80.6% 2.6% 43.73
36 Livermore $916.46 $3.83 29.1 79.0% 3.3% 43.86
37 Newark $977.42 $3.86 27.1 77.2% 4.8% 43.97
38 Burlingame $1,001.42 $3.91 27.2 72.4% 12.3% 43.99
39 San Bruno $1,035.54 $3.94 25.4 70.6% 11.3% 44.10
40 Pleasanton $914.10 $3.85 29.6 73.5% 7.1% 44.49
41 Concord $995.71 $3.78 30.0 70.9% 9.8% 44.64
42 Fremont $965.85 $3.78 29.7 75.0% 7.4% 44.88
43 Alameda $1,015.23 $3.88 28.7 61.8% 15.2% 45.00
44 Orinda $963.63 $3.93 28.6 62.6% 15.6% 45.25
45 Lafayette $943.38 $3.93 28.6 66.4% 15.2% 45.33
46 Emeryville $1,119.29 $3.85 28.3 52.5% 19.3% 45.37
47 South San Francisco $1,056.33 $3.95 23.8 67.1% 10.2% 45.48
48 El Cerrito $992.92 $3.85 32.2 52.5% 22.3% 45.58
49 San Carlos $892.42 $3.93 26.3 76.9% 4.7% 45.84
50 Morgan Hill $901.13 $3.74 31.0 74.3% 3.0% 45.86
51 Los Gatos $966.94 $3.86 24.8 81.5% 0.9% 45.91
52 San Mateo $973.50 $3.94 24.9 70.6% 7.6% 46.19
53 San Leandro $1,041.29 $3.76 28.4 71.7% 11.2% 46.29
54 Petaluma $841.13 $3.85 29.3 73.2% 2.4% 46.46
55 Sonoma $970.50 $3.85 25.5 72.2% 0.6% 46.52
56 Martinez $989.54 $3.77 27.9 74.9% 6.5% 46.74
57 San Lorenzo $1,039.42 $3.74 27.7 73.8% 7.8% 46.80
58 Castro Valley $977.90 $3.71 30.1 74.5% 9.2% 47.20
59 Pleasant Hill $936.25 $3.77 30.7 69.8% 13.0% 47.56
60 San Jose $998.34 $3.78 25.9 77.5% 3.5% 47.62
61 San Rafael $1,025.88 $3.86 25.4 61.2% 11.4% 49.20
62 Fairfield $970.73 $3.70 27.7 74.3% 2.2% 49.31
63 Gilroy $894.29 $3.71 29.6 71.4% 2.7% 49.78
64 Windsor $947.33 $3.81 23.5 81.3% 1.0% 50.68
65 Berkeley $1,089.45 $3.87 26.9 36.7% 20.2% 50.70
66 Redwood City $972.76 $3.85 23.2 73.5% 4.5% 50.87
67 Vacaville $945.75 $3.69 25.8 82.6% 0.8% 51.77
68 Santa Rosa $1,023.11 $3.75 22.8 77.6% 1.9% 51.92
69 Menlo Park $919.58 $3.93 22.1 70.5% 4.3% 51.92
70 Palo Alto $969.95 $3.91 22.1 64.6% 5.3% 51.94
71 Milpitas $927.50 $3.82 23.3 78.5% 2.5% 52.30
72 Sunnyvale $948.28 $3.83 23.0 76.8% 4.5% 52.41
73 Santa Clara $951.25 $3.86 21.8 77.3% 3.6% 52.54
74 Albany $974.92 $3.80 29.9 48.9% 24.1% 52.85
75 Cupertino $793.71 $3.86 25.4 79.2% 2.5% 52.86
76 Napa $961.92 $3.82 21.5 77.7% 1.1% 53.29
77 Larkspur $1,034.63 $3.63 27.7 69.8% 12.6% 53.48
78 Los Altos $866.73 $3.86 22.1 79.4% 2.0% 54.66
79 Campbell $833.54 $3.79 23.8 80.2% 2.5% 56.24
80 Dixon $902.92 $3.71 22.1 80.1% 0.8% 58.63
81 Healdsburg $938.08 $3.73 20.6 72.1% 1.6% 60.21
82 Stanford $949.54 $4.00 12.5 20.9% 3.1% 69.90

Methodology

NerdWallet surveyed 82 places in the Bay Area. Places with populations under 8,000 or places without data were excluded. Our study was conducted using the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area as defined by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s main government planning organization.

The score for each place was calculated from the following measures:

  1. Average car insurance rates are from NerdWallet’s Car Insurance Comparison Tool.
  2. Average gas price from January to November 2014 is from Gas Buddy data.
  3. Mean travel time to work is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.
  4. Percentage of workers commuting alone by car is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.
  5. Percentage of workers using public transportation is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.

 [Car insurance premium data are from NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool.]


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