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

Auto Insurance, Insurance
Greater Houston's Worst Commutes

Driving to work in south Texas can be a pain, especially if you have one of the longer Houston commute times. But hours spent in traffic isn’t the only factor to endure. A NerdWallet study found that the average resident in Greater Houston pays over 20% more for Texas car insurance than other drivers in the U.S. In addition, the Houston area has one of the most congested highway systems in Texas. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute analyzed state highways and found that four of the top 10 most congested roads are in the Houston area.

NerdWallet examined 42 places in Greater Houston and found that Dayton and Fresno are the two worst places for commuters. We crunched the numbers and ranked the worst commutes by analyzing commuting environment, car expenses and time.

Financial costs

Car costs, in the form of gas and insurance, are expenses that many commuters bear; however, depending on where you live, you could pay more than others. Car owners in Houston have the highest rates for car insurance, at an average of $1,448 a year. In contrast, drivers in Sealy enjoy the lowest rates in the area: $1,188 annually for car insurance.

Gas prices can also affect the driving experience. Galena Park has the priciest gas at $3.27 a gallon. Instead, maybe everyone should head over to La Marque to fill up — it has the cheapest gas at an average of $3.10 a gallon.

Minimizing car insurance costs

Commuting can be an unavoidable hassle, but finding the cheapest car insurance premium can help alleviate some of the pain. The cost of the same coverage can vary significantly depending on your insurance carrier. Comparing car insurance premiums will help you find the best deal. In addition, discounts can bring down your bill. Here’s a look at who offers the most car insurance discounts.

The kind of car you drive will have a dramatic impact on the cost of your annual insurance. Premiums for the most popular car models can range in price by a few hundred dollars. To find the cars with lower insurance costs, talk to your insurance agent.

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

Key findings

Location matters. Car insurance premiums can vary up to 22% depending on where you live in Greater Houston.

Cars rule. Greater Houston commuters aren’t using public transportation. While 5% of U.S. commuters take a bus, subway, train or other option to work, only 0.8% of Greater Houston workers use public transportation.

Congested roads. Some Greater Houston commuters spend over 76% more time getting to work than others.

The 10 worst Greater Houston commutes


1. Dayton

Average car insurance premium: $1,402
Average gas price: $3.22
Average one-way commute time: 30.1 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 98.4%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0%

2. Fresno

Average car insurance premium: $1,362
Average gas price: $3.25
Average one-way commute time: 32.1 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 94.4%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 1.2%

3. Cleveland

Average car insurance premium: $1,401
Average gas price: $3.16
Average one-way commute time: 28.9 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 95.7%%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0%

4. Friendswood

Average car insurance premium: $1,390
Average gas price: $3.17
Average one-way commute time: 30.9 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 91.6%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 1.4%

5. Pearland

Average car insurance premium: $1,264
Average gas price: $3.13
Average one-way commute time: 30.6 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 95.3%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0.3%

6. Highlands

Average car insurance premium: $1,437
Average gas price: $3.15
Average one-way commute time: 27 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 99.4%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0%

7. Spring

Average car insurance premium: $1,333
Average gas price: $3.18
Average one-way commute time: 30.1 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 93.4%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 1.6%

8. Liberty

Average car insurance premium: $1,401
Average gas price: $3.24
Average one-way commute time: 25.9 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 95.8%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0%

9. Bacliff

Average car insurance premium: $1,214
Average gas price: $3.15
Average one-way commute time: 30.7 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 89.4%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0.5%

10. Channelview

Average car insurance premium: $1,433
Average gas price: $3.23
Average one-way commute time: 25.6 minutes
Percentage of workers traveling by car: 95.5%
Percentage of commuters using public transportation: 0.4%

Greater Houston’s better commutes

Although many workers can expect long and expensive commutes, some folks in Greater Houston enjoy lower costs and fewer traffic delays.

Galveston ranks as the best commute, according to the NerdWallet study. Residents here pay $1,214 for car insurance, which is $109 less than the average insurance costs for the area. Additionally, commuters here spend an average of 19.8 minutes traveling to work, 30.8% less than other Greater Houston drivers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Galveston’s daytime population increases 27.8% because of commuting.

Freeport ranks as the second-best commute in Greater Houston. Like Galveston, Freeport residents enjoy lower-than-average car insurance costs at $1,246 a year compared with other drivers in the area. Workers in Freeport also don’t waste as much time sitting in traffic — they spend 29.5% less time commuting than the average Greater Houston resident. Freeport’s population increases 57.6% during the workday — those who live and work in Freeport don’t have to go far.

NerdWallet’s analysis

NerdWallet analyzed the following factors to determine the worst cities for commuters in Greater Houston:

1. How expensive is gas? We looked at average gas prices in each ZIP code for 10% of the score.
2. How much does auto insurance cost? Insurance is costly and premiums can vary depending on where you live. We found average insurance costs by ZIP code for 10% of the score.
3. How long are workers’ commutes? We looked at how long it takes Greater Houston residents to make a one-way trip to work. This is 50% of the score.
4. How many workers are commuting by car? We looked at the percentage of workers who get to work by car. Higher percentages of commuters traveling to work by car mean more traffic congestion and longer commutes. This is 10% of our score.
5. Is public transit available? We looked at the percentage of workers who commute on public transportation. Higher percentages suggest more availability of public transit. This is 20% of the score.

Greater Houston commutes

Rank Location Average insurance premium Gas price Average one-way commute time Percentage of commuters traveling by car Percentage of commuters using public transportation Score
1 Dayton $1,402 $3.22 30.1 98.4% 0.0% 12.513
2 Fresno $1,362 $3.25 32.1 94.4% 1.2% 12.972
3 Cleveland $1,401 $3.16 28.9 95.7% 0.0% 21.958
4 Friendswood $1,390 $3.17 30.9 91.6% 1.4% 23.498
5 Pearland $1,264 $3.13 30.6 95.3% 0.3% 24.508
6 Highlands $1,437 $3.15 27.0 99.4% 0.0% 25.851
7 Spring $1,333 $3.18 30.1 93.4% 1.6% 27.864
8 Liberty $1,401 $3.24 25.9 95.8% 0.0% 27.991
9 Bacliff $1,214 $3.15 30.7 89.4% 0.5% 29.243
10 Channelview $1,433 $3.23 25.6 95.5% 0.4% 30.451
11 Alvin $1,250 $3.20 27.7 94.0% 0.0% 30.710
12 Sealy $1,188 $3.22 27.8 94.2% 0.0% 31.432
13 Galena Park $1,435 $3.27 24.1 97.7% 0.4% 32.144
14 League City $1,213 $3.18 29.1 93.0% 1.0% 33.498
15 Missouri City $1,370 $3.19 29.1 92.2% 2.5% 34.311
16 Sugar Land $1,377 $3.22 28.9 89.3% 2.5% 34.692
17 Dickinson $1,214 $3.18 28.4 93.4% 0.8% 34.821
18 La Porte $1,335 $3.25 24.8 95.7% 0.4% 35.818
19 Seabrook $1,336 $3.19 25.9 93.6% 0.3% 36.079
20 Humble $1,429 $3.19 24.5 94.9% 0.6% 38.211
21 Tomball $1,339 $3.12 27.2 88.8% 0.3% 38.215
22 Rosenberg $1,362 $3.18 25.0 93.2% 0.1% 38.222
23 Santa Fe $1,215 $3.15 27.5 92.0% 0.3% 38.262
24 Stafford $1,422 $3.23 25.6 92.3% 1.6% 38.325
25 South Houston $1,356 $3.19 25.4 93.3% 0.6% 38.694
26 Pasadena $1,358 $3.20 25.0 93.3% 0.6% 39.469
27 Conroe $1,307 $3.19 26.0 91.2% 1.0% 41.500
28 Hitchcock $1,216 $3.17 25.7 94.4% 0.3% 42.114
29 Katy $1,346 $3.16 26.8 91.6% 1.8% 42.371
30 Baytown $1,408 $3.19 23.7 93.7% 0.7% 43.054
31 Deer Park $1,347 $3.18 22.9 95.4% 0.2% 45.523
32 Richmond $1,353 $3.15 23.6 90.3% 0.0% 46.575
33 Webster $1,345 $3.21 24.0 91.1% 1.6% 48.914
34 Angleton $1,243 $3.14 24.1 92.2% 0.3% 49.901
35 La Marque $1,215 $3.10 24.6 93.7% 0.5% 51.595
36 Houston $1,448 $3.22 25.9 88.0% 4.3% 51.871
37 Texas City $1,216 $3.15 23.1 94.0% 0.1% 51.949
38 Lake Jackson $1,244 $3.11 21.9 95.4% 0.0% 56.279
39 Bellaire $1,355 $3.25 19.6 89.4% 0.8% 59.252
40 Clute $1,246 $3.18 18.2 91.0% 0.0% 67.931
41 Freeport $1,246 $3.18 20.0 87.7% 2.8% 76.419
42 Galveston $1,214 $3.25 19.8 82.2% 2.6% 76.506

 

Methodology

NerdWallet surveyed 42 places in the Greater Houston metro area. Places with populations under 6,000 or locations without data weren’t included. The score for each place was calculated from the following data:

  1. Average car insurance rates are from NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool. To determine the average insurance premium increases, we retrieved quotes for eight different driver profiles in Texas: 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 reflect consumer behavior and to determine our overall average.
  2. Average gas prices from January to November 2014 are 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 by car is from the 2013 American Community Survey.
  5. Percentage of workers using public transportation is from the 2013 American Community Survey.

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


Downtown Houston, Texas, image via iStock.