Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Seattle

October 26, 2020Car Driving Tips
Eva Johnson

Digital nomad born in New York but currently living online, Eva knows everything there is to know about packing and moving.

Driving in Seattle, as in every major place, isn’t the recommended way of commuting because of constant traffic. However, it is quite simple when you know what you can expect. If you’re not experienced with Seattle driving, but you want to be, take a look at our guide, and you’ll feel safer right away. It’s all about practice and knowing what you should pay attention to.

You’ve probably heard that driving in Seattle has a very bad reputation. Some list it as the seventh city in the US with the worst conditions for commuting, and some say it’s fourteenth on the list of 31 cities when comparing the traffic conditions. Those are quite disturbing news, and yet, there are still many people on the roads riding solo in their cars. So, how to be smart on the main, steep, or narrow roads of Seattle? We’ll explain it right away, adding some car shipping advice in case you want to get auto transport services.

Do You Need a Car If You Live in Seattle?

The answer is yes, of course, especially if you live outside of the metropolis or in the suburbs. But, if you’re wondering What is the best way to get around Seattle, that certainly isn’t by driving. With this contradiction, you might find yourself puzzled, but the opinions are divided. Some say that there’s no point in driving in Seattle because of the congestions, while others think that you must have a car if you wish to be mobile. Maybe the middle is to have a car but to use it only when you must.

Is It Worth Renting a Car in Seattle? You Might Consider Bicycling or Walking

If you’re planning to have a trip outside of Seattle only because of work or weekend getaways, you can avoid owning a car by renting it. It isn’t the cheapest option, but Seattle isn’t a cheap place. Owning a vehicle is also expensive due to high maintenance costs, gas prices, and parking rates. If you don’t have a specific need for driving in Seattle, Washington, consider skipping on learning how to do it, and just use public transportation such as the metro, streetcars, light rail, taxi, Uber, or any other option. Biking and walking are always good options, especially if you’re planning to live Downtown or in a district nearby. Keep in mind that more and more people are dropping solo car commuting.

Seattle streets
Seattle driving should be your choice only if you have no other options

The Weather Impacts Driving in Seattle

This is something you should pay attention to if you’re used to driving in Los Angeles, for example, where the sun shines most of the year. If you got used to driving in New York City, then you’ll be well aware of what you’ll be dealing with here. Frequent rainfalls due to Pacific Northwest weather slows down commuting immensely. People aren’t used to it even though every day is almost the same. Rain causes heavy congestions and delays, so prepare for that.

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Always Check the Forecast Before Driving in Seattle

One way to be more prepared when driving in Seattle is to always check the weather conditions for the hours when you need to be on the road. That way, you can plan your route and see which one is the fastest. Even though snow isn’t that frequent here, beware of it when it melts. It might freeze again and create a very dangerous situation. The worst thing is that you won’t know where the road froze, so you’ll have to drive slow all the time. If you don’t feel safe commuting on snow or rain, it’s best to use public transportation, and not to risk anything. Even the best cars for city driving can become dangerous then.

Parking Is Almost Impossible to Find on Any Kind of Weather

Regardless of the clouds outside, available parking spots are very hard to find. If you do find one, it’s probably not free. The average price for off-street parking is $7-11 for an hour and $15-30 for the whole day. If you wish to have a monthly spot in Downtown, you can expect to pay from $200 to $350. You can book a spot if you wish to be sure that you have a place to park.

Rainy day in traffic
Don't let the weather catch you unprepared

Prevent the Trouble by Knowing the Rules in the City

This metropolis has unique rules when it comes to commuting, and the sooner you get a hold of them, the sooner you’ll feel like you’re home. Here’s what you need to know if you want to cruise safely on Seattle’s roads:

  • There’s a grid pattern that is very easy to navigate, and it minimizes the chances of getting lost.
  • Most of the streets run east to west, and the avenues run north to south.
  • Holding your phone is prohibited, and you can get a ticket for that. Actually, anything that’s occupying your hands except for the wheel and manual is also prohibited, so no eating, putting on makeup, etc.
  • If you have a red light in front of you, you’re allowed to make a left turn, but only if you’re turning from a one-way street onto another.
  • If the traffic allows, you’re also free to make a right turn on a red light.
  • Try to avoid rush hours – they usually start at 6.30 AM and end around 9 AM. The evening ones are from 5 to 6 PM.
  • The State Route 99 tunnel has been here since January last year, and it helps to commute on the packed roads. It has off and on-ramps that are further north and south than the previous route, so take this into account.
  • Almost every historic district here has narrow two-way streets, which can be hard to navigate because there are parked cars on both sides of the road. If you see a vehicle coming, you should find a place on the side to move, if the other driver doesn’t do that before you.
  • Don’t be surprised when you see drivers switching lanes or merging on highways without any signalization – keep a waking eye all the time.
  • There are HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes and only vehicles with two or more people inside can use them, depending on which highway it is or what is the time of day.

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Help Yourself by Leaving Plenty of Time for the Traffic

The best way to have a peaceful ride is to not be in a hurry. We know that sounds like an impossible scenario, but if you plan on driving in Seattle, go as early as possible to avoid the long lanes: you’ll avoid all the driving stress and road rage that makes commuting uncomfortable and even causes driving anxiety to some. If you can, avoid driving in Seattle on Fridays and weekends, as the congestion tends to be the worst then.

There are Some Useful Apps for Seattle Driving

Check out the city website and see which app could be handy – you’ll have plenty to choose from. There are options for car sharing, calling a Lyft, Curb, or Uber, plenty of parking apps, and other helpful things. You can see what the restricted parking zones are and how to get a permit, take a look at the map for where you can park, and book a spot. Also, you can install a mobile app called Find It, Fix It for potholes, abandoned vehicles, streetlights, or some other problem. Pretty handy, right?

Use Maps to Make the Transit Easier

Another good option is to make a route upfront by using the map. Find one online on your mobile phone or buy a paper map and learn the main streets. That will make your trip a lot easier, and you’ll avoid ending up in one-way streets, which can be tricky to get out of. Missing a turn and going to the wrong street will only add up the time you spent commuting, so learn the map and listen to your GPS system.

A person holding its mobile phone
Get to know the roads before you hit them, Jack

Driving in Seattle, Washington Means Driving on Steep Hills

This place is known for hilly topography, so if you move to a district with steep roads, make sure you know how to handle that, whether it be day, night, sun, or rain. You should maintain an even speed, leave enough roll-back space between you and other people on the street, and hold the clutch and brake evenly. As you wish to start the car, gradually shift your foot from the brake to clutch, and then change the gear (if you have a manual), so you don’t roll back and hit the person behind you. When it comes to parking, always leave your vehicle downhill with your wheels towards the curb. If you do that, you’ll be safe from possible rolling and damage when you’re parked.

Off-road vehicle going uphill
It might not be like this, but it can still be difficult

What Are the Best Cars for Seattle Driving?

Once you’re on Seattle’s roads, you’ll need a reliable four-wheeler to take you to your destination. Check out these models of popular import cars; you don’t need a new one, a used vehicle will also do the work, plus you’ll save some money. Most people opt for the 2015 Honda Civic coupe or for the 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Another option can be a 2015 Honda Civic coupe, and all three of them can cost you less than $15,000. If you’re moving here with family, you might want to get a bigger vehicle like a 2019 Honda Odyssey or 2019 Chevrolet Traverse. You’ll have plenty of space when you go on a trip to some lake or mountain.

four wheeler on the street
Find yourself a safe vehicle for driving in Seattle

Learn What’s the Best Way to Get Car Shipping Services

Do you plan on hiring an auto transport company to relocate your car from another state? If you don’t want to drive to Washington, and you’d like to avoid the cheapest way to ship a car, then the best option is to call a reputable car shipping company and to move the car to another state. They will offer you an open trailer and an enclosed trailer, depending on how much money you plan to spend and what model of a vehicle you have. For exotic auto transport, it is always recommended to have enclosed auto transport due to better protection. Prepare the car for shipping, learn how to register your car in a new state, get a new driver’s license, and brace yourselves – Seattle driving is coming.

usa auto transport truck
It's better to get auto transport from a reputable car shipping company services than to spend money on a new vehicle

Is Driving in Seattle Hard?

When we take all of this into consideration, you can see that there’s no definite answer. One thing is for sure – you have to be an experienced driver to overcome driving in Seattle easily. The main thing will be learning how to drive a car for beginners since you will be a beginner in this place. Always be aware of all the regulations and conditions, and you’re good to go. Also, you’ll have to be mindful of other inexperienced drivers who just came here just like you did, but if you get one of the best car insurance for young drivers, there’s no place for worries.

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