The Best Road Trip Songs To Sing (& Rock Out To) While Driving

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Couple driving on sunny road

I’ll be honest, I’ve got this love-hate relationship with driving, and one of the things that make or break a trip for me is the soundtrack.

I need a powerful playlist of road trip songs to fend off the highway hypnosis, chronic clock checking, and especially sleepiness.

The other make-or-break factor on a long road trip is whether or not I have passengers, if I’m sharing the road with good company great, but if not then that playlist has to pull even more weight.

Good Road Trip Songs Will Help Keep You Sane And Alert On Long Empty Roads

I used to take the same quiet 3-hour drive from campus a few times each semester when I was in school and let me tell you, good, singable music is critical when you have 130 miles until your next turn. Oddly enough, I’m planning another trip up there soon to see some old friends. So, here’s what I’ll be listening to.

After years of driving and a healthy familiarity with long, empty roads, here’s my list of the best road trip songs that will keep you actively engaged and singing along the whole way. Check out the end of our list for the Ultimate Road Trip playlist!

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Pop Songs For Road Trips:

Memories — Adam Levine

Am I the only one that can’t believe that this song only came out in 2019? No? Because I really feel like this song has existed in my subconscious for at least the last 5 years. Anyway, it’s a great opener for our playlist as a good throwback, maybe not to a time that was literally that long ago, but one that sure feels like it was.

Just the Way You Are — Bruno Mars

This 2010 gem is peak Bruno Mars, between the expeditious pace and an oddly old-world feeling, this pop ballad is perfect for a long, introspective drive. You can guarantee that everyone in the car is going to instantly recognize and sing along to this one.

Talking to the Moon — Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars makes our list again here with another 2010 song, but we’re slowing it down a bit with this entry. I can’t have every song on my car ride playlist be high-energy and fast-paced. That would just get exhausting. This piece is a great palette cleanser coming off of some faster-paced pieces.

Night Changes — One Direction

Full disclosure, I’m not super into One Direction but I’d be remiss not to include some of their music on this list. The folkish feeling of this song is perfect for sharing with your fellow travelers or to enjoy with nothing but the road to keep you company. This is another one of those songs that feels like it’s from a totally different age.

Good as Hell — Lizzo

Alright, after a few slower songs, it’s time to speed things up. Energizing and upbeat are great things to have in a song once you’re hours in with hours to go, right around when your lower back starts rebelling against that horrible car seat. A must-have for any car ride when you need a quick wake-up to get you through the next leg of the journey. And if you have passengers? The whole car will be dancing and singing along.

Send My Love (To Your New Lover) — Adele

This 2015 song by Adele was an instant classic when it came out and it's only gotten better with time. Adele is the kind of singer whose voice transports you and anything that takes you away from the highway hypnosis is an asset on a long car ride. And you can bet that this isn’t going to be the only entry from Adele on this list.

Someone Like You — Adele

This one’s a real throwback to simpler times. Back when crazies were screaming from the rooftops that the world was going to end all because the Mayans didn’t write their calendar to last a thousand years after they were wiped out. This one takes me back to car rides from a decade ago and that nostalgia will help you get through this one too.

Hello — Adele

This song’s another familiar emotional ride from Adele. Hello has achieved legendary status since its release in 2015 and with good reason. Frankly, if you aren’t compelled to sing along with the chorus on this one then you have more restraint than me. This one’s a great addition to any long car ride. 

When We Were Young — Adele

Ok, so I said that there were going to be a few songs from Adele but I promise that this is the last one from her album “25”. It’s kind of crazy to look back on 25 today, it was powerful when it was released but so many of the songs in it have achieved iconic status since then. When We Were Young still resonates today with its highly memorable lyrics that are sure to evoke some strong nostalgia on that long open road.

Say You Won’t Let Go — James Arthur

Ok, so we’re done with Adele, but we’re not done with mid-2010s iconic songs. James Arthur’s Say You Won’t Let Go is another one of those songs that only came out a few years ago but has somehow infiltrated some of the deepest recesses of memory. Both recent and classic, James Arthurs 2016 song is singable, emotional and memorable.

Before You Go — Lewis Capaldi

There’s something really strange about listening to Lewis Capaldi’s Before You Go these days. It only came out in the last two years, but having released in the middle of  November 2019, this song gives me this strange sense of otherworldliness. It’s like this one came from a recent, but much different age. It’s a good feeling, let pre-Covid Lewis Capaldi’s voice carry you and your traveling companions back to a different world that wasn’t from too long ago.

Story of My Life — One Direction

Returning to the early 2010s, Story of My Life is another energetic entry in our road trip sing-along playlist. The marching beat, punctuated by slower moments is perfect for pushing you forward and maintaining the energy in the car when everyone’s starting to wane.

Steal My Girl — One Direction

We’re not quite done with the early 2010s defining boyband quite yet, with this upbeat single from their album “Four”. Steady but high energy, this one strikes a nice balance by being upbeat but not beating you over the head with it. Steal My Girl fits nicely into our playlist anywhere, but it’s especially nice during low points in the trip when you’ve come a long way with a long way yet to go. Also, the music video has Danny Devito in it… I don’t know what else to do with this information so there you go.

We Are Young — Fun

Who doesn’t love this song? I can’t remember if We Are Young is one of those songs that felt really overplayed after it initially came out but frankly, I don’t care. I’m two hours into this five-hour drive and I desperately need someone to carry me right now.

Golden — Harry Styles

Ok, so remember when I implied that we were done with One Direction? Well here’s Hary Styles with his song from the Fine Line album, to take you away from whatever dark and dreary highway we’re currently and transport us to a spacious coastal road with our top-down, sunglasses on, cool breeze blowing through our hair, the works.

Adore You — Harry Styles

Here’s one from Harry that I was more familiar with before doing research for this list. This one is vibrant and animated and perfect for any point in the ride, but especially when you need a break from some of the slower, more emotional pieces. Perfect for lightening the mood, Adore You is sure to be a hit with the entire car.

Perfect — Ed Sheeran

You and all of your passengers are sure to instantly recognize this 2017 song from Ed Sheeran’s third album when it comes on. Perfect is an excellent choice for when you feel the need to just belt out some heartfelt lyrics. As a mid-ride emotional sing-along, the British singer-songwriter delivers.

Castle on the Hill — Ed Sheeran

Ok, after a few of the slower entries on this list we’re starting to risk a high-speed nap so this next one from Ed Sheeran is designed to wake everyone back up. Play it loud and this high tempo beat is perfect to turn any road into memory lane.

Dive — Ed Sheeran

We’re still here with the endearing British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. “So don’t call me baby” was meant to be sung loud and proud by a gaggle of friends crammed into an old beater cruising down the road.

Photograph — Ed Sheeran

Out there on the open road when you’ve got nothing but time, Photograph is a great, slow rise sort of song to help ease the monotony of a long drive. While it’s certainly slower than a lot of the entries on this list, this one's great to get lost in the lyrics on. Please note, NOT the Nickleback song of the same name.

Greedy — Ariana Grande

Alright so Ed’s great and all but those eyelids are getting heavy and the road lines are starting to merge together. What we need right now is a loud, energetic piece and Ariana Grande is here to deliver with her 2016 piece, Greedy. The punchy percussion and brass will bring the car back to life after hours of staring out of windows and when all of the conversation options have been exhausted.

Into You — Ariana Grande

Grande maintains that high tempo on this trip with her next song Into You. Into You received critical acclaim when it came out in the Dangerous Woman album in 2016 and it has certainly help up. Into You is quite different from the previous song on our list, but it’s certainly another great addition to our car ride sing-along playlist.

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The Best Taylor Swift Songs To Sing To On A Road Trip:

You Belong With Me — Taylor Swift

This list would certainly not be complete without a healthy serving of Taylor Swift. Starting with her 2009 song, the lyrics come easily and the pace is quick. Although we may have all been tired of it once, You Belong With Me has held up well over time and, if you ask me, belongs in this ride’s soundtrack.

All Too Well — Taylor Swift

After that high energy entry onto our list, we’re slowing thing’s down a bit with Swift’s next song, All Too Well. Emotional, full of rises and falls and with a distinctly homey feel to it, All Too Well is classic Taylor Swift. This song’s five and a half minute length is sure to make every second fly by.

Dear John — Taylor Swift

In the same vein as our previous entry is Dear John. Over the course of three songs, the entire will experience some of Swift’s development as an artist and the development of her perspectives on love and romance. As with the last song, this is among one, coming in at nearly seven minutes long and, as always, Taylor makes good company for every minute.

Style — Taylor Swift

Our next song is somewhat of a funkier entry onto our list. Style is one that everyone in the car is sure to remember from 2015 when it was released. There’s something about a bunch of good friends belting out “Cause we never go out of style” that is just perfect for a long road trip.

Our Song — Taylor Swift

If you were looking for a way to transport the whole car back to a time when smartphones were only a couple of years old and Barack Obama’s presidency was in its infancy, Our Song is the ticket. Country songs don’t normally really do it for me but everyone has a soft spot for the early days of Taylor Swift.

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together — Taylor Swift

I feel like this was the only song on the radio in 2012. And, listening to the punchy beat and the impactful lyrics today, I get it. Everyone in the car is sure to recognize this one and it's perfect for this list.

Dancing With Our Hands Tied — Taylor Swift

Jumping forward into the future with our next entry, Dancing With Our Hands Tied is a more modern song from Swift. This time Swift has a refreshing synth/electro sound to her song. This one didn’t seem quite as popular when it came out as a lot of Swift’s songs so it’ll make for a good break from Swift’s big chart-toppers.

cardigan — Taylor Swift

Folklore was a total departure from the Taylor Swift pop that we’re familiar with. In cardigan, as in the whole album, Swift embraces a mellow, soft folk feeling and I love it. I talk a lot about how important it is to have high-energy music and to keep the mood light on a long car ride but that can’t be the whole playlist. Sometimes you need a break to keep the high tempo stuff from losing its charm and cardigan is really great for that.

betty — Taylor Swift

A return to country for Swift while maintaining the folk feeling of the rest of the Folklore album, Betty is great to sing along to when the hours and minutes start blending together in the same way that it blends some old Swift with new.

...Ready For It? — Taylor Swift

Can you say range? This 2017 song from Swift’s Reputation album is a massive departure from her normal style. And it’s great on this car ride, particularly as a change of pace from the rest of Swift’s comparatively mellow style. ...Ready For It? is sure to wake up anybody who has started to fall asleep on you a few hours into the ride.

Love Story — Taylor Swift

When you saw Taylor Swift on this list, you had to know that this song was going to be on here somewhere. As the final Swift song on our playlist, it’s only fitting that it was one of her biggest hits. This Romeo and Juliet-inspired melody has been burned into all of our brains since its release in 2008 and do you know what? It holds up.

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2000s Throwback Road Trip Songs:

Payphone — Maroon 5

Come on, everyone in the vehicle knows this one. Payphone dropped in 2012 and has been ringing around in all of our heads ever since. When We Are Never Getting Back Together wasn’t playing on the radio, this was the other song on the airwaves. Maroon 5 is eternal, I swear they’ve been releasing music forever and are a highly reliable source of great music to sing along to.

Riptide — Vance Joy

Riptide is another one of those songs that feels like it was released a really long time ago when, in reality, it was only released in 2013. The song has a floaty, summery feeling to it thanks to the ukulele that is perfect for summer drives or when you just want to feel like it’s summer again.

I’m Yours — Jason Mraz

This next entry is the perfect follow-up to the previous song on our list. I’m Yours maintains that bubbly, light-hearted summer feeling. I’m Yours will surely keep the air on our long ride light and fun as everyone syncs up for the chorus, or you just give you belt it out solo.

Sex on Fire — Kings of Leon

This 2008 single haunts me because I don’t really know why I like it. I don’t have a lot to say about it. Sex on Fire is just good, and everyone's sure to know it and sing along.

Bad Romance — Lady Gaga

Speaking of everyone singing along, the car is going to reverberate with everyone (or just the driver on a solo trip) singing along to “I want your love, and I want your revenge”. This song is perfect to revitalize a car full of weary travelers and bring a little life to the vast, open road.

Dynamite — Taio Cruz

We’re getting there but we still have a long way to go. Thankfully Taio Cruz’s Dynamite is exactly what we need to give us the energy to keep going and to transport us away from this endless, dreary road and directly to the dance floor at the nightclub.

Hey, Soul Sister — Train

Ok, so you may have gathered that I like the ukulele. Frankly, if you were going to have a car concert that would probably be the featured instrument given that it’s the only one that could fit. Hey, Soul Sister is sure to keep things light and easy and to bring everyone together. This late 2000s throwback is truly timeless.

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Stereo Hearts — Gym Class Heroes

A staple of every car ride for years in the early 2010s. Gym Class Heroes’ Stereo Hearts will instantly worm its way back into everyone’s heads, just like it did a decade ago. This one might warrant a few replays if it's been a while since, after all, “good music can be so hard to find”.

Umbrella — Rihanna

Our throwbacks section for road trip jams wouldn’t be complete without this late 2000s track. Solo or as a group, yell “Um-br-ella ella ella” like it’s 2008 all over again. One of the advantages of long empty stretches of road is no judgment. So sing like it.

Sugar, We’re Going Down — Fall Out Boy

Only about a year before their hiatus, Fall Out Boy’s Sugar, We’re Going Down is both iconic and extremely singable. The fast tempo and memorable lyrics are sure to make this one a hit on any road trip.

Dirty Little Secrets — The All-American Rejects

As long as we’re in the 2000s we have to get some All-American Rejects. With fast-paced and memorable lyrics, Dirty Little Secrets screams 2000s pop-rock.

Mr. Brightside — The Killers

This one is a certifiable car ride classic. It didn’t matter if you were on a 15-minute ride to grandma’s house or a cross country trip, if you were in a car during this song’s heyday, you were guaranteed to be treated to this classic from The Killers. The tumbling pace is a ride in and of itself and is sure to be a memorable hit with driver and passengers alike.

Somebody Told Me — The Killers

This one has a special place in my heart and I’d hazard a guess that it does for a log of other people too given the 185 million views on its 2009 music video. This one’s an easy one to sing along to and its pace is fast enough to breathe some life into weary travelers. An easy pick for any road trip sing-along playlist.

Gives You Hell — The All-American Rejects

Gives You Hell, the kind of song that I never really think of until I hear it. And when I do? I get taken right back to its release in 2008. No matter how long it’s been, whenever this one comes on I find myself singing along just like I did all those years ago.

Party In The U.S.A. — Miley Cyrus

Another one from a simpler time that everyone is guaranteed to know. Close your eyes, put your hands up and rock out to these classic lyrics (unless you’re driving).

Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me) — Train

You’ve gotta love Train. We’re traveling all the way back to 2001, it’s hard to believe that was two decades ago now. Drops of Jupiter is a great musical palette cleanser, slowing things right down and giving everyone a break from the nonstop tempo of the previous songs on our playlist.

Since U Been Gone — Kelly Clarkson

There are plenty of songs from 2004 that feel dated and out of touch with today. Kelly Clarkson’s Since you Been Gone is not one of them. The whole car is sure to enjoy singing along to this timeless piece.

Stacy’s Mom — Fountains Of Wayne

Rounding out our 2000s Throwbacks is Stacy’s Mom. Fountains Of Wayne comes through with another timeless song. I have this theory that it might be impossible to not sing along to this song when that chorus hits and it just pulls you right in.

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Classic Road Trip Songs (pre-2000):

Livin’ On A Prayer — Bon Jovi

Now that we’re pre-2000 I’d call all of the remaining songs on our playlist classics, but this one from Bon Jovi deserves that moniker more than most. The whole messaging of this song is perfect for a road trip. Bonus points if played at the midpoint of the whole ride.

Jessie’s Girl — Rick Springfield

Jessie’s Girl by Rick Springfield isn’t the kind of song that comes to me on a daily basis, but instead, one that I’m always happy to hear even if it’s not something I normally think to seek out. Whenever anyone puts this song on in the car, you can bet that I’ll be singing right along.

Build Me Up Buttercup — The Foundations

Well, we’re on the last leg of our trip now and wow are we tired. Thankfully we have The Foundations here to build us back up strong enough to make it through the rest of this trip. Yet again we have a song that is both classic and infectiously singable.

Come On Eileen — Dexys Midnight Runners

No matter how many times I hear this song, I never recognize it until a few notes in. And then when that chorus hits? You can bet that I’m instantly singing right along.

Life is a Highway — Rascal Flatts

Did you think that we forgot this one? No, we were just saving it for later, during the final push, when we were going to need it the most. We all know it, we all love it. Life is a Highway is a true classic of road trips and driving and frankly, I don’t know if any road trip playlist would be complete without it.

Hey Jude — The Beatles

One of my best friends is a music nut and she would probably kill me if I didn’t have The Beatles on this list somewhere. So here is our representative from The Beatles on this long and lonely road. I can’t lie, I do get goosebumps every time at “Na na na nananana, nannana, hey Jude…”

Piano Man — Billy Joel

Come on, it’s Piano Man, this song is literal sing-along gold, dug up straight out of the 70s. Who would have ever thought that a harmonica could be the best part of such a jam? So sing us a song, you’re the piano man, and we’re almost there.

She’s Always a Woman — Billy Joel

Billy Joel provides us with this tumbling beat just as we’re putting that blinker on and taking our exit. That’s it, we’re cruising on back roads now and Billy Joel is just what we need to get us through the last few minutes.

Landslide — Fleetwood Mac

The last song on our list is a classic from Fleetwood Mac. As our destination is coming into view and we can already feel the relief in our weary backs of being able to get up and stretch, Fleetwood Mac will bring our trip to a close. That’s it, we have arrived and the slow cathartic final moments of this trip play out to the plucking strings of this 2002 country classic.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics and social justice. Follow him on twitter.