Everything You Need To Know About Driving in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is the third-most traffic-congested city in the United States and 13th in the world.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
One of the oldest cities in the entire country, Philadelphia is a major road trip destination for history buffs, families, and cheesesteak enthusiasts. While many vacationers drive to Philly, they often learn quite quickly how frustrating it can be to drive in the City of Brotherly Love. To make sure you stay safe, we’ve sourced some key information to help you navigate Philadelphia’s eccentric-at-best driving environment.
If you don’t know what to expect from Philadelphia’s traffic, we’ve got bad news—Philadelphia is one of the worst cities in the country for driving. Traffic delays cost an estimated $1,404 per local driver every year in Philadelphia, over half the national average. In 2021, the average commuter spent 90 hours total sitting in traffic.
So whether you’re a commuter who’s new to the city or a tourist planning your trip, we've got the insider info on driving in Philadelphia. We’ll look into traffic conditions and trends over the past few years, local driving laws that could be unfamiliar to you, and a few safe driving tips.
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What is driving in Philadelphia like?

Despite the fact that Philadelphia is a classic American road trip destination, it is certainly not the most enjoyable city in the U.S. when it comes to driving. Inrix ranks Philadelphia as the third-most congested city in the U.S. and the 13th in the entire world.
If you and your family are heading to Philadelphia and taking the family SUV with you, here are some key points of info to get into that cute little noggin of yours.

Roads

Philadelphia was the first city in the U.S. to be arranged in a street grid system, following original plans drawn up by William Penn. The grid converges on Penn Square, where City Hall stands.

Parking

Philly has ten lots and parking garages that are operated by the city’s Parking Authority, and these are usually more affordable than private lots. Monthly passes are available, and there are several apps out there that allow you to compare parking garage prices, such as SpotAngels, ParkWhiz, SpotHero,and ParkMe.
While on-street parking is usually free after 8 or 10 p.m., Philadelphia parking meters charge an average of $2 per hour during the day, and you pay on your phone via the
meterUP
app. 
You could also check out community parking lots outside of the city center, listed on the
Philadelphia Parking Authority website
. There are also city-operated surface lots where you’ll pay $2 per hour or a flat rate of $10 for an event or weekend parking. 

Weather 

Pay attention to weather conditions, as this can impact driving conditions and sometimes lead to road closures. Here’s a general overview of the weather in Philadelphia as it relates to driving:
  • Summer: Summers in Philadelphia are typically hot and humid. The heat can make driving difficult and lower your concentration or reflexes, and the summers often bring heavy rain, making the roads unsafe. Fog can lead to visibility issues.
  • Winter: Winters in Philadelphia are cold, and snow is quite a normal part of the season. Snowplows are dispatched after heavy snow has finished falling, so if it’s still snowing, be aware that the roads around you may not be clear of any snow or ice.
Pro Tip Wear sunglasses during the summer! Even though it’s partly cloudy almost year-round in Philadelphia, you’d be surprised how sunny the city can get.
MORE: How to find a parking spot in a city
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Traffic and transportation options in Philadelphia

Realistically, the best way to get around Philadelphia, especially if you’re mostly hanging around the city’s center, is by foot or PHLASH bus. Cabs and Ubers are always available as well, but Philly traffic will not magically move out of their way either. 
If you are driving, be prepared for all the classic frustrations and difficulties that may come with driving in one of the most congested city traffic systems in the world.
Here are the worst times to drive in Philadelphia if you’re hoping to hit the town:
  • 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.:Avoid the morning rush to the best of your ability. This rush starts early and ends later than in most cities.
  • 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: Rush hour will be even worse in the evening when you might experience some of the worst traffic delays of your life.
In terms of the best times to drive in Philadelphia, aim for the window between the morning and evening rushes or wait until after 6:00 p.m. Do your research to see what sorts of events might be going on in the areas where you want to drive—an evening Flyers game could mean downtown rush hour traffic lasts well past 8 p.m.
You can tune into
KYW news radio
(103.9 FM or 1060 AM) for traffic updates in Philadelphia.

Should I rent a car in Philadelphia?

Renting a car in a city like Philadelphia can definitely have its benefits, but a rental car can also very easily end up being just another added stressor—sure, you might be able to get yourself to your destination without switching bus lines or paying a fare, but instead, you’ll have to contend with traffic and parking issues.
For car-less visitors, the best way to get around Philadelphia is by using the well-maintained, ecologically-friendly, efficient, and safe public transportation provided by the city of Philadelphia. If you don’t want to spend your time stuck in traffic. The PHLASH buses can get you to most main areas of the city center, and out to all four corners of Philly.

Local driving laws in Philadelphia

Before you hit the road in Philadelphia, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local traffic laws. Here are a few examples:
  • It is
    illegal to use a handheld phone
    while driving in Philadelphia, but any hands-free or voice-activated infotainment features are okay to use while driving.
  • When you drive through a construction zone, you must slow down, yield to workers and work vehicles, and move into the far lane if possible.
  • If an emergency vehicle is approaching, you must pull over or slow down safely to allow the emergency vehicle to go by. You are not allowed to take photos or use a cell phone within 500 feet of where emergency personnel are working.
  • Red light cameras
    and speeding devices are in effect in the city of Philadelphia

Crime rate in Philadelphia

Analysis of FBI crime data suggests that Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of motor vehicle theft in America; your chance of getting your car stolen living in Philadelphia is one in 241. It’s crucial to have
comprehensive coverage
on your car insurance policy if you drive in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia has a higher crime rate than other metro areas of similar sizes, but the average property crime rate is lower than the average crime rate (29 per 1,000 citizens). What’s more, Philadelphia’s crime rate has continued to decline over recent years along with the rest of the nation. 
Ultimately, Philadelphia is about the same as what you should expect from other cities of a similar size in terms of its crime rate.

How to find car insurance in Philadelphia.

Driving in Philadelphia during rush hour can be a serious drag. It sure is nice that car insurance shopping doesn’t have to be this hard, thanks to
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Did we mention that this is really all about making things easier and saving you money? Jerry users don’t just save on time, they also save $800+ on average a year on their car insurance!
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