How Bad Is Austin Traffic?

Austin traffic ranks 21st among the worst cities in America with an average of 32 hours lost to traffic in 2021.
Written by Macy Fouse
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
According to statistics, Austin drivers lose around 32 hours to traffic each year, making it the 21st most congested U.S. city.
Austin, Texas is beloved by many. With its world-class barbecue, friendly locals, and warm weather, it’s no wonder Austin has been named one of America’s best cities to live. Despite its booming population and prodigious business growth, Austin does have a downside—bad traffic.
Is it really that bad, though? Here to lay out the details of traffic in Texas’ state capital is
, the No. 1-rated
car insurance
app and certified car expert. We’ll cover the major traffic statistics, traffic trends due to COVID-19, and a few tips for navigating the streets of Austin. As a bonus, we'll show you how to save on your
Austin car insurance costs

How bad is Austin traffic?

According to the
2021 Global Traffic Scorecard
—the giant international study of traffic trends—Austin traffic ranks No. 21 when it comes to America’s most congested cities. Analysts determined that the average Austin driver loses 32 hours to traffic each year, costing drivers about $500 each.
The numbers over the last couple of years improved due to COVID-19—but traffic seems to be steadily increasing in the wake of the pandemic, as drivers return to the office.
Hours lost to congestion
68 hours
41 hours
32 hours
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Why is Austin traffic so bad?

A city’s traffic is the result of several different factors, including the overall population, infrastructure, and driving habits of locals. Here are some of the reasons Austin suffers from such awful traffic. 

Population size 

Austin is the 11th-biggest city in the United States but only the fourth-biggest in Texas. Around 962,000 people live in the Austin metropolitan area—and pre-pandemic, about 83% of them drove to and from work each day. This factor alone contributes significantly to Austin’s traffic issue.

Poor infrastructure

Booming cities like Austin weren’t created to sustain the current—and increasing—population. City planners did not predict the drastic growth, so Austin has only one major interstate running through it. To address the issue, toll roads like Highway 45 and 130 were built, but traffic will only continue to be an issue as Austin grows.

Driving habits

Austin’s population may be sizable, but the metro region spans 327 miles with just 3,214 people per square mile. This means Austin drivers must travel longer distances to get across the city, leading to more traffic. This tendency to drive farther causes major traffic congestion, as well.  
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How to navigate Austin traffic like a pro

Traffic can cause issues like
road rage
and late arrivals—and it also leads to more serious incidents like an increase in car accidents. 
In 2021 alone, Austin had 116 deaths involving vehicles—the deadliest year on record for the city per the
Texas Department of Transportation
. Even without fatalities, collisions can cause major stress and damage—to your body, car, and wallet. What’s more, they may even
increase your insurance rates
Austin drivers aren’t destined to sit in traffic forever, though. Here are some tips to help you save time and money by avoiding Austin’s traffic: 
  • Avoid driving during rush hour if possible. Peak rush hour windows in Austin are around 6 to 9 a.m. for the morning rush, then 4 to 7 p.m. for the drive home.
  • Drive less-frequented roads. The bigger highways aren’t always the best route to take—not when driving in Austin, at least. Steer clear of the major thoroughfares in lieu of lesser-used routes when possible.
  • Use a traffic app to stay on top of congestion. Apps like Waze will give you real-time updates on traffic jams, accidents, construction zones, and other delays, so you can always stick to the shortest possible route. 
  • Keep your eyes on the road. We get it—traffic jams are boring. Sitting in traffic, it can be tempting to focus on other things—like snacks or your phone—to keep yourself entertained, but this can lead to
    distracted driving
    . Always stay focused and remember to leave plenty of space between your car and others!

Prepare for Austin traffic by updating your car insurance

Whether you’re heading to Austin for a trip or you’re one of the many daily commuters, it’s a good idea to double-check your car insurance policy to make sure you’re covered for any possible accident that comes along with Austin’s bad traffic. 
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Plus, Jerry users save an average of $887 a year. That’s way more than the average cost of sitting in Austin traffic per year! 
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Navigating Austin’s highways shouldn’t be too difficult if you use GPS navigation and pay attention to the road and surrounding drivers.
To avoid the constant flow of traffic, Austin’s best travel hour is between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.
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