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

Auto Insurance, Insurance
Greater Seattle's Worst Commutes: Gas, Higher Insurance and Wasted Time

Commuting in Seattle and its metro area produces some of the toughest daily slogs in the nation. A U.S. Census Bureau study found that the Greater Seattle area has one of the highest concentrations of “mega-commuters” — those who commute over 90 minutes and 50 miles one way to work. Even drivers with a more modest 30-minute commute can expect 89 hours of delays each year, according to TomTom. 75.4% of Greater Seattle commuters also drive to work alone, leading to high levels of congestion on major highways and interstates. These traffic delays affect not just your stress level, but finances too, including your Washington car insurance rates.

Financial costs

Time spent in traffic is not the only cost for commuting workers. Drivers also face significant financial costs, especially when it comes to insurance and gas.

The average Greater Seattle driver spends $1,038.12 on car insurance each year, but this figure varies depending on location. Drivers living in Stanwood pay the least for insurance, $848.67 a year, according to a NerdWallet study. But residents in Auburn pay $1,135.44 for car insurance — $286.77 more. In most cases, drivers with longer commutes pay more for insurance than those with a shorter or no commute.

Similarly, gas prices vary from place to place. Steilacoom and Sumner drivers, according to 2014 figures, paid an average of $3.54 a gallon for gas. Vashon drivers paid 59 cents more on average, with gas at $4.13 a gallon. Overall, the average Greater Seattle driver paid $3.68 a gallon for gas compared with the national average of $3.43.

Key findings

Car insurance premiums depend on location. Depending on where drivers live, car insurance rates can differ by as much as 33.8%.
Larger cities mean easier commutes. Drivers living in Seattle and its largest suburbs generally didn’t have the worst commutes. All 10 places with the worst commutes in the region have populations under 30,000 residents.
Average commute times can vary by 23.8 minutes. Drivers in Redmond, home of Microsoft, spend the least time getting to work, with an average commute time of 21.1 minutes. On the other hand, workers living in the island community of Vashon can expect to need 44.9 minutes to get to work.

Minimizing insurance costs

Long commutes may be unavoidable, but lowering your insurance costs can help alleviate some of the financial burden. Not all carriers charge the same amount for the same coverage, so shopping around for insurance may help you lower your yearly costs. In addition, insurance companies offer many kinds of discounts depending on driver profile and history.

One of the biggest factors when it comes to the cost of car insurance is your vehicle. Talk to your insurance agent to find out which vehicles are the cheapest to insure.

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

Greater Seattle’s worst commutes

1. Vashon

Average car insurance premium: $987.17
Average gas price: $4.13
Average commute time: 44.9 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 56.3%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 16.7%

2. Graham

Average car insurance premium: $1,071.92
Average gas price: $3.65
Average commute time: 39.5 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 83.2%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 1.7%

3. Orting

Average car insurance premium: $1,051.13
Average gas price: $3.60
Average commute time: 39.1 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 77.0%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 0.4%

4. Maple Valley

Average car insurance premium: $1,009.63
Average gas price: $3.68
Average commute time: 37.4 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 79.4%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 2.6%

5. Bonney Lake

Average car insurance premium: $1,068.88
Average gas price: $3.62
Average commute time: 36.1 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 79.1%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 2.8%

6. Spanaway

Average car insurance premium: $1,132.13
Average gas price: $3.62
Average commute time: 32.6 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 82.4%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 2.2%

7. Duvall

Average car insurance premium: $998.00
Average gas price: $3.70
Average commute time: 33.1 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 78.7%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 1.6%

8. Lake Stevens

Average car insurance premium: $1,011.79
Average gas price: $3.78
Average commute time: 32.3 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 78.9%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 4.0%

9. Enumclaw

Average car insurance premium: $1,012.63
Average gas price: $3.62
Average commute time: 33.8 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 77.5%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 2.6%

10. Snoqualmie

Average car insurance premium: $959.88
Average gas price: $3.78
Average commute time: 32.6 minutes
Percentage of workers driving alone: 74.6%
Percentage of workers using public transportation: 2.5%

NerdWallet’s analysis

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

    1. How expensive is gas? (15%) We looked at average gas prices in each ZIP code.
    2. How much does insurance cost? (15%) 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.
    3. How long are workers’ commutes? (50%) We looked at the length of the average worker’s one-way commute.
    4. How many workers commute alone? (10%) We looked at the percentage of workers who drive alone to work. A higher percentage of commuters driving alone means more traffic congestion and longer commutes.
    5. Is public transit available? (10%) We looked at the percentage of workers who commute on public transportation. Higher percentages suggest better availability of public transit.

Greater Seattle’s worst commutes data

Rank Location Average car insurance premium Average gas price per gallon Average commute time Percentage of workers driving alone Percentage of workers using public transportation Overall score
1 Vashon $987.17 $4.13 44.9 56.3% 16.7% 24.984
2 Graham $1,071.92 $3.65 39.5 83.2% 1.7% 28.042
3 Orting $1,051.13 $3.60 39.1 77.0% 0.4% 32.412
4 Maple Valley $1,009.63 $3.68 37.4 79.4% 2.6% 36.570
5 Bonney Lake $1,068.88 $3.62 36.1 79.1% 2.8% 37.923
6 Spanaway $1,132.13 $3.62 32.6 82.4% 2.2% 40.658
7 Duvall $998.00 $3.70 33.1 78.7% 1.6% 45.381
8 Lake Stevens $1,011.79 $3.78 32.3 78.9% 4.0% 45.523
9 Enumclaw $1,012.63 $3.62 33.8 77.5% 2.6% 46.072
10 Snoqualmie $959.88 $3.78 32.6 74.6% 2.5% 48.102
11 Monroe $1,030.83 $3.72 30.5 77.0% 2.1% 49.394
12 Snohomish $1,016.21 $3.76 29.1 80.7% 2.2% 51.025
13 Auburn $1,135.44 $3.64 29.1 75.9% 5.6% 51.090
14 Federal Way $1,134.94 $3.61 29.9 75.4% 7.0% 51.093
15 Marysville $1,018.96 $3.63 30.9 78.8% 3.2% 51.507
16 Kent $1,126.98 $3.59 29.3 73.2% 6.3% 53.566
17 Milton $1,087.29 $3.76 25.5 83.0% 2.8% 54.499
18 Arlington $940.63 $3.64 30.8 82.4% 3.9% 54.852
19 Puyallup $1,079.40 $3.65 27.8 77.9% 3.8% 54.940
20 Pacific $1,120.04 $3.74 26.7 72.8% 5.3% 55.166
21 Steilacoom $1,086.33 $3.54 28.2 82.7% 4.0% 55.198
22 Renton $1,079.29 $3.65 28.3 73.4% 6.9% 56.895
23 Kenmore $1,018.54 $3.66 30.3 69.2% 8.2% 57.570
24 Mountlake Terrace $1,070.83 $3.71 28.1 73.5% 9.7% 57.692
25 Edmonds $1,052.75 $3.72 28.5 70.4% 9.4% 58.314
26 Sumner $1,016.73 $3.54 29.9 75.5% 6.3% 58.653
27 Sammamish $982.06 $3.69 28.9 72.5% 5.5% 59.229
28 Bothell $1,029.47 $3.70 27.7 72.8% 6.5% 59.458
29 University Place $1,087.83 $3.57 25.8 82.7% 4.4% 59.612
30 Woodinville $1,023.17 $3.71 26.1 79.6% 4.4% 59.735
31 Lynnwood $1,072.07 $3.65 28.5 67.9% 10.5% 60.419
32 Tacoma $1,123.71 $3.60 25.1 76.0% 4.5% 60.508
33 North Bend $959.88 $3.70 26.2 81.8% 1.2% 60.727
34 Mukilteo $1,030.92 $3.68 26.5 75.3% 5.3% 61.022
35 Lakewood $1,102.54 $3.57 25.0 77.5% 5.6% 62.723
36 Issaquah $958.40 $3.71 28.1 70.1% 8.2% 63.796
37 Dupont $1,093.46 $3.59 21.3 84.8% 1.2% 65.930
38 Everett $1,027.83 $3.66 24.5 70.8% 6.5% 67.884
39 Kirkland $1,005.75 $3.68 24.4 73.3% 7.5% 68.522
40 Mercer Island $983.17 $3.96 21.7 72.1% 7.5% 68.617
41 Seattle $1,133.46 $3.78 25.4 51.5% 19.2% 69.968
42 Stanwood $848.67 $3.63 25.4 82.2% 2.9% 70.789
43 Gig Harbor $947.24 $3.69 23.0 75.7% 4.2% 71.793
44 Redmond $1,009.98 $3.75 21.1 70.9% 6.9% 73.855
45 Bellevue $977.23 $3.74 22.2 65.4% 12.2% 77.982

Methodology

NerdWallet surveyed 45 places in the Greater Seattle area with over 5,000 residents. Places with a population less than 5,000 or places without data were excluded. 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.
  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.


Seattle, Washington, image via iStock.