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

Auto Insurance, Insurance
Colorado's Worst Commutes: More Gas, Higher Insurance and Wasted Time

Colorado is famed for its beautiful vistas, which is great news for locals, since the average resident will spend 22 minutes driving to work every day.

NerdWallet crunched the data to determine where Colorado traffic is heaviest and which cities are the worst for commuters by analyzing average commuting time, average insurance premiums, gas prices, availability of public transit and whether drivers typically motor solo.

Of the 66 Colorado cities included in our study, Johnstown and Evergreen have the costliest commutes — both in terms of time and money.

Financial costs

Where you live affects what you pay for insurance. Residents of Evergreen — Colorado’s second-worst city for commuters — pay the highest average auto insurance rates in our study at $1,254 a year, about $154 more than the national average. Residents of Lafayette pay the cheapest insurance rates — about $933 a year for coverage.

Where you choose to purchase gas can also have a big impact on your pocketbook. Fill up in Aspen and you’ll feel the pinch more than anywhere else in our study. Stations there charge an average of $4.49 per gallon compared with the state’s average of $3.45 per gallon. Drivers who fill up in Thornton enjoy the cheapest gas, at an average of $3.31 per gallon.

Minimizing car insurance costs

It can be difficult to find ways to spend less on your commute, but comparing car insurance premiums might help lower your expenses. Insurance companies also provide discounts for a variety of reasons — from customer loyalty to vehicle safety features, such as anti-lock brakes — so check that you’re getting all the discounts possible.

The kind of car you drive also has a dramatic impact on your insurance premium. Nationally, the annual premium for a Honda CR-V is $271 cheaper than for a Honda Civic. That means CR-V drivers can indulge in an extra 15 boxes of Helliemae’s salt caramels every year!  See NerdWallet’s round up of the most popular cars and their corresponding insurances rates here.

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

Key findings

Most of Colorado’s 10 worst commutes fall within the Front Range — where the mountains meet the plains. Johnstown takes the crown for worst commute thanks in part to the fact that nearly 84% of the population drives to work alone and 0% travel by public transit. On average, 73% of Coloradans drive to work alone.

Gas prices aren’t everything. Despite Aspen’s high fuel prices, it has the survey’s ninth-best commute. Residents spend 13 minutes getting to work every day, and a mere 30% of the population drives to work alone.

Colorado’s better commutes

Colorado commutes aren’t all doom and gloom. The state’s 22-minute average commute is just below the national average of 25.5 minutes.

Workers could fly on the shortest commute. The U.S. Air Force Academy has the survey’s shortest average commute — just 9.8 minutes.

City drivers can have good commutes, too. Boulder, with a population just north of 100,000, has the survey’s sixth-best commute. The city’s residents pay an average of about $952 a year for car insurance, and have an average commute that clocks in at 19.2 minutes.

The 10 worst Colorado commutes

1. Johnstown

Average annual car insurance premium: $982
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.45
Average one-way commute time: 34.7 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 84%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0%

2. Evergreen

Average annual car insurance premium: $1,254
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.44
Average one-way commute time: 28.7 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 72%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 2%

3. Fort Lupton

Average annual car insurance premium: $1,062
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.43
Average one-way commute time: 32.4 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 74%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 1%

4. Milliken

Average annual car insurance premium: $941
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.51
Average one-way commute time: 34.1 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 77%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 1%

5. Wellington

Average annual car insurance premium: $1,000
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.41
Average one-way commute time: 30.8 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 87%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0%

6. Frederick

Average annual car insurance premium: $1,017
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.43
Average one-way commute time: 29.9 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 82%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 1%

7. Berthoud

Average annual car insurance premium: $984
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.48
Average one-way commute time: 29.9 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 82%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 2%

8. Aurora

Average annual car insurance premium: $1,133
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.38
Average one-way commute time: 28.4 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 76%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 6%

9. Castle Rock

Average annual car insurance premium: $1,037
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.35
Average one-way commute time: 29.0 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 80%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 1%

10. Commerce City

Average annual car insurance premium: $1,052
Average price for a gallon of gas: $3.36
Average one-way commute time: 29.2 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 77%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 3%

Colorado’s worst commutes

Rank Location Average annual car insurance premium Average gas price per gallon Average one-way commute time in minutes Percentage of commuters driving alone Percentage of commuters using public transportation Overall score
1 Johnstown $981.80 $3.45 34.7 83.7% 0.0% 26.32
2 Evergreen $1,254.00 $3.44 28.7 72.3% 1.6% 28.16
3 Fort Lupton $1,062.00 $3.43 32.4 74.2% 0.8% 29.10
4 Milliken $940.70 $3.51 34.1 76.9% 0.6% 29.88
5 Wellington $1,000.30 $3.41 30.8 86.8% 0.0% 33.44
6 Frederick $1,017.30 $3.43 29.9 82.0% 0.7% 35.12
7 Berthoud $983.70 $3.48 29.9 82.1% 1.8% 36.67
8 Aurora $1,133.20 $3.38 28.4 76.0% 5.8% 37.12
9 Castle Rock $1,036.70 $3.35 29.0 79.6% 0.6% 37.33
10 Commerce City $1,051.80 $3.36 29.2 77.2% 2.7% 37.67
11 Thornton $1,027.10 $3.31 29.2 80.2% 3.0% 39.18
12 Parker $1,047.10 $3.35 28.1 80.7% 2.2% 39.39
13 Woodland Park $1,118.20 $3.35 26.3 74.9% 0.9% 39.74
14 Rifle $1,050.50 $3.54 26.9 69.3% 1.3% 40.22
15 Brighton $1,001.20 $3.34 27.7 76.2% 1.2% 42.58
16 Arvada $1,039.30 $3.36 25.8 80.8% 2.8% 44.58
17 Carbondale $1,079.50 $3.78 26.0 52.6% 10.6% 45.01
17 Erie $976.30 $3.40 26.8 75.9% 1.7% 45.01
19 Fountain $1,100.80 $3.34 23.6 82.8% 0.8% 45.03
20 Westminster $1,037.70 $3.37 26.3 77.2% 4.7% 45.04
21 Denver $1,140.00 $3.38 24.6 69.6% 7.1% 45.94
22 Gypsum $1,132.40 $3.53 21.0 85.1% 1.6% 46.49
23 Englewood $1,072.60 $3.36 25.3 76.7% 7.1% 46.99
24 Wheat Ridge $1,052.50 $3.38 24.5 77.5% 3.4% 47.16
25 Broomfield $972.40 $3.33 26.2 77.3% 4.6% 48.75
26 Clifton $963.50 $3.35 25.1 76.6% 0.2% 48.80
27 Fruita $966.40 $3.46 24.0 80.9% 0.0% 48.81
28 Littleton $1,038.80 $3.37 24.6 77.3% 5.3% 48.82
29 Golden $1,055.70 $3.42 23.6 67.3% 2.7% 49.24
30 Delta $997.30 $3.37 24.1 75.1% 0.5% 49.30
31 Loveland $935.10 $3.38 24.7 80.4% 0.5% 50.14
32 Manitou Springs $1,073.30 $3.32 21.9 78.0% 2.0% 51.24
33 Glenwood Springs $1,088.20 $3.63 22.1 60.8% 7.3% 51.49
34 Colorado Springs $1,091.80 $3.34 20.8 79.1% 1.0% 51.66
35 Lafayette $932.60 $3.32 25.4 74.6% 3.6% 52.16
36 Windsor $940.20 $3.41 23.3 79.6% 0.0% 52.23
37 Craig $1,104.20 $3.58 19.4 69.4% 2.6% 53.02
38 Evans $980.80 $3.38 22.3 78.0% 0.6% 53.23
39 Longmont $957.60 $3.39 23.8 73.8% 3.6% 53.39
40 Monument $1,078.30 $3.40 20.4 67.7% 0.5% 53.56
41 Lone Tree $1,010.10 $3.34 22.4 77.8% 3.6% 53.93
42 Edwards $1,116.90 $3.78 16.6 75.6% 4.8% 55.86
43 Montrose $1,036.40 $3.53 18.8 75.6% 0.2% 55.90
44 Greeley $939.50 $3.40 21.9 77.4% 1.0% 56.05
45 Pueblo $1,123.20 $3.37 17.7 78.4% 1.3% 56.26
46 Brush $1,094.50 $3.51 16.6 85.5% 0.0% 56.42
47 Canon City $1,048.10 $3.40 18.6 76.9% 0.3% 57.25
48 Louisville $933.90 $3.33 22.9 73.4% 5.3% 58.12
49 Trinidad $1,038.40 $3.52 17.6 75.6% 1.5% 59.05
50 Cortez $1,077.90 $3.39 16.3 78.8% 0.0% 60.14
51 Fort Collins $933.10 $3.45 19.5 72.7% 1.2% 61.29
52 Estes Park $972.30 $3.62 17.9 71.9% 2.5% 61.33
53 Sterling $1,101.20 $3.49 14.9 69.8% 0.2% 61.91
54 Fort Morgan $1,090.50 $3.39 14.2 72.5% 0.4% 64.85
55 Lamar $1,102.90 $3.43 13.5 72.3% 0.0% 65.01
56 Grand Junction $969.50 $3.38 16.4 78.5% 0.5% 65.54
57 La Junta $1,065.50 $3.43 14.1 70.8% 0.0% 65.75
58 Aspen $1,119.50 $4.49 13.1 30.0% 16.0% 66.03
59 Durango $1,106.50 $3.39 15.1 59.4% 4.3% 66.20
60 Vail $1,118.70 $3.80 15.7 52.4% 17.8% 67.71
61 Boulder $952.40 $3.41 19.2 51.6% 9.0% 68.57
62 Alamosa $1,040.60 $3.45 12.6 72.4% 0.3% 69.64
63 Steamboat Springs $1,074.80 $3.57 13.1 62.9% 6.5% 70.24
64 Salida $1,007.50 $3.53 11.2 71.0% 0.0% 72.93
65 Gunnison $1,009.70 $3.53 12.2 48.4% 2.3% 75.11
66 U.S. Air Force Academy $1,037.70 $3.36 9.8 10.0% 0.3% 84.68

Methodology

NerdWallet examined several factors to determine the worst cities for commuters in Colorado. We excluded places with populations under 5,000 and locations without data. The score for each place was calculated from the following data:

1. The average one-way commute time, according to 2013 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is 50% of the score.

2. The average price of gas from January to November 2014, according to Gas Buddy. This is 15% of the score.

3. The average car insurance rate, according to data from NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool. To determine average insurance premiums, we retrieved quotes for eight different driver profiles in each location: 27-year-old single men and women and 40-year-old married men and women, each driving a Toyota Camry and a Ford Escape. For each driver profile, we used every city’s three cheapest car insurance quotes to determine the overall average. The 27-year-old profiles included a liability coverage limit of 30/60/10 and uninsured motorist coverage for the same amount. The 40-year-old driver profiles included a liability coverage limit of 100/300/100 and uninsured motorist coverage for the same amount. All profiles have a comprehensive and collision deductible of $500. This is 15% of the score.

4. The percentage of workers commuting alone in their cars, according to 2013 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is 10% of the score.

5. The percentage of workers using public transportation, according to 2013 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is 10% of the score.

Victoria Simons is a senior analyst covering insurance and loans for NerdWallet.


Boulder, Colorado, image via iStock.