How Bad Is Charlotte Traffic?

Charlotte has the 50th-most congested traffic of any city in America, with an average of 17 hours lost to congestion in 2021 alone.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
The Inrix 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard reported that on average, drivers in Charlotte lose about 17 hours to congestion each year.While Charlotte traffic is not nearly as bad as many major cities in the U.S., any local of the CLT area knows that rush hour can cause major, unpredictable delays.
Charlotte, North Carolina rests southeast of Lake Norman and east of the Catawba River. It’s a vibrant city among the subtropical humidity of America’s Southeast. With a population of just under 900,000 and a metro population of just under three million, Charlotte is the 16th-most populous city in America. The CLT metro is the 23rd-most populated. 
With a fairly low population density of about 3,000 people per square mile, but a high number of commuters traversing different areas of the city at once, CLT drivers know Charlotte’s traffic during rush hour can unpredictably turn into a nightmare.
But how bad is Charlotte’s traffic, really? Here to answer that question and more is
, the
car insurance
super app! We’ll analyze some key traffic statistics for Charlotte, go over some pointers for avoiding rush-hour traffic jams like a pro, and even share how we can help you keep your
Charlotte insurance costs

How bad is Charlotte traffic?

According to the
2021 Global Traffic Scorecard
, a yearly international study that compiles and analyzes data on traffic trends, Charlotte traffic is the 50th-worst in the United States. Transportation analysts concluded that the average Charlotte driver forfeits 17 hours to congestion each year, with a cost per driver of $259.92
Congestion levels went down quite a bit when the COVID-19 pandemic brought city life to halt in 2020, but as restrictions have begun to ease and life is getting back to normal for city-dwellers, the roads have gotten a bit more crowded in 2021.
Below, check out the changes in traffic over the past three years.
How congested was Charlotte?
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What does this mean, you ask? On average, in 2021, traffic was 15% slower than in non-congested baseline conditions. So, a trip that would normally take 30 minutes would take five minutes longer at 15%.

Why is Charlotte rush hour so bad?

Traffic jams happen due to several factors, including population density, infrastructure, and the driving habits of residents. Here are some of the reasons why you might find yourself caught in a rough Charlotte rush hour.

Population size 

The city of Charlotte is the most populous city in North Carolina and the 16th-most populous city in the U.S., surrounded by a metropolitan area that’s population ranks 23rd in America. Almost 77% of commuters in Charlotte drive alone to work. That means hundreds of thousands of Charlotteans navigating roadways at once.

Major chokepoints

Any highway exit into and out of the Charlotte city center is likely to be a chokepoint, especially during rush hour. The particular problem highway to avoid in highly congested times is I-77.
Otherwise, the main issue with Charlotte’s traffic seems to be that there are no sufficiently fast roads through the city. Everyone has to traverse local roads together, and this can lead to accidents and major delays.

Driving habits

While Charlotte is one of the larger cities in the U.S. population-wise, it is also one of the larger cities geographically. This means that you have a large number of people traversing a large area, many of whom are converging downtown all at once. The average Charlotte commute time is over 25 minutes, but this can be much worse if traffic is slowed by an accident or construction.
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How to navigate Charlotte traffic like a pro

Traffic jams don’t just cause rage and waste people’s time, they’re also a recipe for a high rate of both major and minor collisions.
While fatal crashes do continue to rise in U.S. cities, you’re more likely to end up in a classic fender bender here. But even these types of mishaps can drastically raise your
car insurance premium
If you want to skirt any degree of annoyance—or worse—it is possible to avoid peak traffic congestion in Charlotte and ward off the possible headaches associated with it. Here are some things you can try to minimize the amount of time (and money) that you lose in traffic:
  • Don’t drive during rush hour if you can avoid it. Charlotte’s morning rush hour is fairly mild, running from about 7 to 9 a.m. True rush hour runs from about 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., when it can reach more than 35% congestion (the worst hour is 5 to 6 p.m.).
  • Use a traffic app and take alternate routes if they can save you time.
    has a free app that will allow you to look at live city traffic trends so that you can plan your route and avoid bottlenecks and backups.
  • Stay focused. Sometimes there’s just no winning, and you find yourself caught in one doozy of a traffic jam. It’s important to
    avoid distractions
    because stop-and-go traffic can play tricks on you. Even if you manage to quell your distractions, always be sure to leave plenty of following distance between you and your fellow drivers on the road. No one likes a tailgater!

Prepare for Charlotte traffic by updating your car insurance

If you’re preparing for a visit to Charlotte or if you commute daily on its sometimes-clogged roadways, it’s a solid move to consider updating your car insurance policy to ensure that you’re covered for the kinds of accidents that can happen in stop-and-go traffic.
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But that isn’t even the whole story, my Charlottean friends. The best part is that Jerry saves users an average of $800+ a year!
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If you’re not used to tight stretches of highway riddled with stoplights, Charlotte can be a daunting place to drive, especially during rush hour. GPS navigation can help you stay on course, and avoiding distractions will help you stay focused when driving in Charlotte for the first time.
If you want to avoid rush hour, it’s best to drive through the city before 6 a.m., after 7 p.m., or between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
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