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Best Rock Songs For Driving

Updated on July 18, 2011
by Patxi Izkue at flickr
by Patxi Izkue at flickr

The most daunting moment of any road trip--when your car rolls through that invisible FM iron curtain and your favorite hometown radio station dissolves into static. (Or for all you tech junkies, when there's nothing good playing on your xm radio.) This is the moment where the fainthearted roadtripper is most tempted to turn back. Be ready with your own playlist of the best driving songs. Here's my compilation of the best rock songs for driving, a veritable round table of the best car songs-- from classic to punk to indie rock. Now get your motor runnin'.   

One Big Holiday--My Morning Jacket

The impetus for every road trip is perfectly summed up in these lyrics: "from this town we'd escape...we'd all live one big holiday." The song starts out delicate, builds up and then explodes into something mythic--just like a great journey. And in my humble opinion some of the coolest guitar in recent rock history.

Red Barchetta--Rush

No matter how hard your playlist rocks, you're not going on any road trip without a set of wheels. If, like the lucky dude in this song, you happen to have a white-haired uncle who's been saving a red Barchetta for you, you can always take that for a spin. But, oh wait, you live in some bleak futuristic society where petroleum-burning cars are outlawed, and now you're in a deadly race against the cops. Sounds like a rock epic waiting to happen.

by gumdropgas at flickr
by gumdropgas at flickr

Brand New Cadillac--The Clash

So you checked and none of your uncles have any Italian sports cars stashed away in their barns? Maybe you can still get a brand new Cadillac-- like the one Joe Strummer's babe rolls up in to let him know it's over. Cadillacs are such snazzy rides that even as he's getting dumped he's impressed enough to wonder: "Jesus Christ, where'd she get that Cadillac?" This punk-meets-blues-meets-rockabilly sound will have you headbanging your way to the beach.

by the big429 at flickr
by the big429 at flickr


First things first--before you set out on that road trip you need a full tank of gasoline. You also need this song by Audioslave--"I just want to go for a ride." You can actually smell the smoking rubber when you listen to this.

Roadhouse Blues--The Doors

Jim Morrison has some surprisingly wise advice for drivers: "Keep your eyes on the road and your hands up on the wheel." Roadhouse Blues is the ultimate driving song--it just seems to perfectly match the rhythm of the highway. The inescapable foot-tapping beat, the swashbuckling attitude, that smoky barroom harmonica and Morrison's smooth voice--all road trip perfection. "Let it roll, baby, roll."

Riders On The Storm--The Doors

Inevitably, in spite of your obsessive Weather Channel habit, at some point your road trip will get rained on. Instead of holing up in a hotel and trying to wait it out, put this song on, roll your windows down and drive right into the eye of the storm like the badass that you are.

Reptilia--The Strokes

This classic of the 00s has to be on the best car songs list. It's all about speed: "I said please don't slow me down if I'm going too fast," and then: "you're no longer laughing, I'm not driving fast enough." On second thought, be careful with this one-- it might inspire driving at unlawful speeds.

Use Somebody--Kings of Leon

A mellower, sort of melancholy road trip song for when everyone else in the car fell asleep in the backseat and you just wanna drive with the wind through your hair and ponder your deep poetic thoughts.

Audience--Cold War Kids

Sometimes nothing beats night-driving--and nothing beats this song as a soundtrack for night-driving. It's soulful, blues-tinged indie rock with a sublime bassline. Listen to this with "windshield wipers waving for an audience of one."

by davesag at flickr
by davesag at flickr

Born To Be Wild--Steppenwolf

This is an obvious choice--no self-respecting road trip playlist would be caught dead without this mother-of-all road trip songs that starts out with the line :

"Get your motor runnin, head out on the highway. Lookin for adventure, and whatever comes our way."

Check out the vintage live performance.

Burnin Sky--Bad Company

Ever wanted to roll into a strange town like a mysterious and dangerous drifter? For that, you need a Bad Company song. This one is so nonchalantly badass, it makes sunglasses and leather jacket optional. It's got rugged bluesy guitar, smoldering lyrics and Paul Rodgers at his swaggering best.

All Right Now--Free

While we're talking about Paul Rodgers--before Bad Co. he was the lead singer for Free. All Right Now is really the only one of their songs that gets radio time nowadays, so if you've never heard their "deeper cuts' you should definitely give them a listen. But when it comes down to it All Right Now is undeniably one of the best songs for driving. It's definitely a good-time song. "Let's move before they raise the parking rate."

Check out this clip of a live in studio performance.

Ain't No Rest For The Wicked--Cage The Elephant

For the record, I think pretty much this whole CD could be a list of the best car songs.

Ain't No Rest For The Wicked is all strutting, soulful storytelling against some rockin' dirty guitar. And a bonus: if you're road trip buddies start whining, just tell them to watch the video and see a real road- trip -from -hell courtesy of Cage The Elephant. It should shut 'em up. 

by Roby at flickr
by Roby at flickr

What's Your Go To Driving Soundtrack?

See results

As a universal theme in American music, running away to Mexico ranks pretty close to sex and drugs. Mexico is the de rigueur hang-out spot for black hat sporting bad guys. So I decided to include a special section on the best songs for driving to Mexico.

There's a number of reasons for going "way down south, way down to Mexico". Sometimes you just want to languish on the beach with a few coronas. Sometimes you want to be awed and inspired by the rich history of the Aztecs and conquistadors.

Hey Joe--Jimi Hendrix

Sometimes you need to run away to Mexico for more practical reasons-- because you had to "shoot your old lady down" after you "caught her messing around with another man."

Hopefully not, because as Jimi points out, "that ain't too cool". But if you're at a loss as to how to break the news of your road trip to the girl or boy you're leaving behind, just borrow this line: "You better believe it baby, I gotta go now."

Check out the video to witness Hendrix rocking the guitar solo--with his teeth.

Lay Me Down--Dirty Heads

Fast-forward a few decades and you get this carefree, colorful reggae-rock tale of two lovers-- and partners in crime-- who also flee to Mexico with a bounty on their heads. This is pure summer party music. Even if you're one of those staid boring characters who always manages to stay on the right side of the law, you can still take a trip to Mexico. Maybe you agree with the Dirty Heads when they declare: "I could never ask for nothing better than this, it's just tequila and the beach it's quite salty when we kiss."

by Wonderlane at flickr
by Wonderlane at flickr

Ramble On--Led Zeppelin

Too lazy to make a road trip playlist? You could just turn on the Zeppelin album of your choice. Any one of Led Zeppelin's songs could be ranked among the best songs for driving.

When that first rush of wanderlust subsides and the road gets rougher, don't turn back --just take some advice some Robert Plant:

"But now it's time for me to go.

The autumn moon lights my way.

And now I smell the rain

And with it pain

And it's headed my way.

Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I've got to do--

Ramble on."

This is the song that you drive off into the sunset too.

Long May You Run--Neil Young

Neil Young's homage to a car he loved and lost is a must on the playlist for anyone who's car is no mere set of wheels but a friend: "we've been through some things together, with trunks of memories..." In this simple but beautiful rock song, he gives his wheeled comrade a final salute:

"Long may you run

Though these changes have come.

With your chrome heart shining in the sun

Long may you run."

by stuck in custom at flickr
by stuck in custom at flickr

I'm sure I've left some of the best driving songs out--so leave a comment and let us know what music you wouldn't dream of going on a road trip without. So there you have it, hope you guys enjoyed my list of the best car songs. It's my tribute to my first car- -not as poetic a tribute as Neil's of course, because we can't all be rock legends. RIP, buddy. Long may you run.

What's Your Favorite Driving Song?

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you! I've chosen a few songs from your list. They're going to blow our car speakers in our first trip to the US :D

    • daniel mcgoldrick profile image

      daniel mcgoldrick 

      7 years ago from ireland

      hey awsome chose of songs, but i have 2 suggest some songs which out rule all yours-

      Steppenwolf - Born to Be Wild

      Call Me the Breeze-Lynyrd Skynyrd

      Golden Earring - Radar Love

      Black Betty - Ram Jam

      Quiet Riot - Slick Black Cadillac

      Kings Of Leon - Use Somebody

      Motörhead - Ace of Spades

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      8 years ago from Minnesota

      Hi a.l.-You have GREAT taste in music. I would add on any Van Morrison tune for the road trip. HMMM, their all good but how about brown eyed girl. This was a really fun hub and I voted too.

    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 

      8 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      Man this was great. Some of my favorite songs are on this list. A few songs i might added would be: Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue, Stone Temple Pilots Interstate Love Song, and Boston's Fore Play/ Long Time

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay

      oh, nice hub! you have some great choices. I love Ramblin On and I'm also thinking of Break On Through by the Doors, Hotel California/Eagles, maybe some Lenny Kravitz, Prince's Purple Rain, Little Red Corvette.. even some Norah Jones for more relaxing sounds.. :} I could go on and on.

    • a.l. laurice profile imageAUTHOR

      a.l. laurice 

      8 years ago from United States

      Hi epigramman :) RADAR LOVE: amazing driving song! I'm surprised at myself for forgetting it.CAREFREE HIGHWAY is a new one to me I think, I'll have to give that one a listen for sure. Thanks...and rock on.

    • epigramman profile image


      8 years ago

      great choices - all - but what about RADAR LOVE by Golden Earring - or - CAREFREE HIGHWAY by Gordon Lightfoot!

      Best reading for hub space: a.l. laurice

    • a.l. laurice profile imageAUTHOR

      a.l. laurice 

      8 years ago from United States

      Hello justom :) Eagles, that's a great choice. I especially like to hear "life in the fast lane" when I drive. I will definitely have to check out your hubs, and thanks for stopping by!

    • justom profile image


      8 years ago from 41042

      All good choices. There are many, many good road trip bands but one of the ones that always seem to hit me is Eagles. If you really like music take a minute to visit my hubs, I've been listening to music and going to concerts for 45 years. Nice hub, Peace!!

    • a.l. laurice profile imageAUTHOR

      a.l. laurice 

      8 years ago from United States

      Hello prasetio! I guess we really take having a car for granted here in America. But anytime is a good time for hearing your favorite song :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Nice to hear the rock song while driving car. I wish I have a car and hear my favorite song. You have nice collection about rock song. Thumbs up.


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