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A new reign has begun. Long live the Queen! Dancing Queen, that is.

Insurance.com commissioned a survey of more than 1,000 drivers to discover the best and worst road trip songs, who’s in charge of those car jams, and what track will be the next road-trip must-have. Insurance.com also learned who’s most likely to be belting a power ballad when you pull up next to them at a stoplight.

ABBA’s eternal-youth anthem Dancing Queen dethroned Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, who won last year’s survey.

The ABBA smash was most popular with respondents aged 45-54, which makes sense since ABBA’s feel-good hit was released 45 years ago. However, can Dancing Queen hang onto the throne for long when not one respondent between 18-24 voted for the Swedish single? It was strong enough in every other age category to narrowly beat Don’t Stop Believin’ and Highway to Hell for this year’s top driving song.

Respondents were allowed to vote for multiple songs this year. Here are the top classic tracks for 2021:

  • ABBA - Dancing Queen – 26%
  • Journey - Don't Stop Believin' – 25%
  • AC/DC - Highway to Hell – 23%
  • Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody – 23%
  • Carrie Underwood - Jesus Take the Wheel – 20%
  • Don McLean - American Pie – 19%
  • John Denver - Country Road – 18%
  • Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline – 17%
  • Michael Jackson - Don't Stop Till You Get Enough – 16%
  • Rascal Flatts - Life is a Highway – 15%
  • Brooks & Dunn - Red Dirt Road – 13%
  • Dre - Let Me Ride – 13%
  • Willie Nelson - On the Road Again – 13%
  • Outkast - Hey ya! – 11%
  • Depeche Mode - Route 66/Behind the Wheel – 9%
  • The Allman Brothers - Ramblin Man – 9%
  • Sammy Hagar - I Can't Drive 55 – 7%
  • The Proclaimers - 500 Miles (I'm Gonna be 500 Miles) – 5%
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Home – 5%
  • Lee Roy Parnell - On the Road – 4%

ABBA managed to move up an impressive four spots from last year. It passed last year’s top lineup of Bohemian Rhapsody, Don’t Stop Believin’, Highway to Hell and Life is a Highway. Which middle-lister do you think has the potential to jump to the top next year?  

 ‘Where my girls at?’

Dancing Queen’s female lead vocals and Carrie Underwood were the only female voices on this year’s list, but we saw strong representation in the write-in choices where Rhianna, Madonna, Beyoncé were popular.

Write-ins also suggested additional record-shattering artists Barbara Streisand, P!nk, and Adele have upcoming driving classics to their credit.

Favorite genres for driving music

Classic rock proves to be a popular genre of music and the genre of choice for 32-44-year olds as well 55-64-year olds. Nearly 20% of male respondents said it was their preferred road trip music as opposed to 11.4% of women – who instead preferred country at 14%.

But classic rock didn’t score as well with younger groups. Christian/gospel music had the highest percentage of preference at 37.5% for ages 18-24. And the largest slice of 25-31-year olds – at 12.3% – preferred hip hop and rap.

Here’s how the genres did overall in our survey:

  • Classic Rock – 15%
  • Country – 12%
  • ’80s music – 11%
  • Christian/Gospel – 8%
  • No one kind, I channel surf and listen to this and that – 6%
  • Alternative – 5%
  • Golden Oldies – 5%
  • Rock – 5%
  • Hip hop/Rap – 5%
  • Top pop – 4%
  • Jazz/Easy Listening – 4%
  • Soul/R&B – 3%
  • I listen to music or playlists on my phone through Bluetooth – 3%
  • Instrumental/Classical – 2%
  • Electronic dance/Techno – 2%
  • Heavy metal – 1%
  • I don’t listen to music in the car – 1%
  • Latin – 1%
  • I’d rather listen to podcast or audiobook than music – 1%
  • K-pop – 1%
  • Indie/Folk – 1%
  • Punk Rock – 0%

Our respondents provided fill-ins if their favorite genres weren’t listed, and popular write-in choices included.

  • Broadway
  • News
  • SiriusXM Love Channel
  • Talk radio
  • Relaxation with nature sounds and no words

The next great classic

As classic rock songs become less popular with a younger generation, Insurance.com is curious to see what could be the next classic rock song. Respondents were allowed to vote for more than one favorite tune.

  • Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk – 34%
  • Taylor Swift - Shake it off – 27%
  • Justin Timberlake - Can't Stop the Feeling – 26%
  • Florida Georgia Line - Cruise – 25%
  • Billie Eilish - Bad guy – 20%
  • Imagine Dragons - Radioactive – 18%
  • Rihanna - Shut Up and Drive – 17%
  • Jay Z and Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind – 15%
  • Greatest Showman - This is me – 15%
  • Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus - Old Town Road – 14%
  • Usher ft. Lil Jon, Ludacris - Yeah – 12%
  • Enrique Iglesias, D. Bueno, G De Zona - Bailando – 11%
  • BTS - Dynamite – 11%
  • Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee - Despacito – 9%
  • Blackpink - Whistle – 9%
  • Panic! at the Disco - High Hope's – 8%
  • Nate Dogg and Warren G's - Regulate – 8%
  • Twenty One Pilots - Stressed out – 6%
  • Tone & I - Dance Monkey – 5%
  • Vance Joy - Riptide – 3%

Uptown Funk won for the second time in a row, with 37% of women and 31% of men agreeing that the beat-driven jam will have your foot hitting the gas with rhythm. Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off proved a popular choice, with 33% of women and 20.5% of men believing in TSwift’s staying power.

We also let people write in their favorites not listed in the survey. Some of our favorites were:

  • Lorde – Green Light
  • Fitz and the Tantrums – Handclap
  • Blake Shelton – God’s Country
  • Shape of You – Ed Sheeran

Don’t touch that dial. I mean it!

If four people are on a road trip, who gets to choose the music? According to our survey, the answer is: There weren’t many road trips happening last year!

Over 54% of respondents said they’re in total control of the music because they are the only person in the car. This was a decent jump up from 49% the previous year, which makes sense since many people likely didn’t do as much driving in groups in 2020.

Fifty-eight percent of male respondents reported that they drive alone compared to 49% of women.

  • Always me because I drive alone – 54%
  • Driver – whoever it is – 33%
  • Mom – if driver or passenger – 8%
  • Kids – because I like to hear what they are listening to – 3%
  • Dad – if driver or passenger – 1%
  • Kids – because I hope it stops them from whining in the car – 1%

When someone else is in the car, there seems to be an unspoken rule that the driver still gets to choose, as the survey result held steady from last year at 33%. Dads seem to lack some musical authority in the car, however, evidenced by a drop from last year’s 3% and kids gaining a percentage point – if only just to keep the peace.

What do those drivers do when they’re stuck in traffic for a stretch? Mostly, keep the good tunes going, but a significant number of respondents employ some clever strategies to keep on their best driving behavior.

  • Same music as usual – 32%
  • Music more mellow to keep me calm – 13%
  • More lively music that is loud or rocking to keep me awake – 11%
  • Talk radio to get my mind off of the traffic – 8%
  • I pull out and listen to my CDs – 7%
  • News/traffic to see what is going on – 7%
  • A podcast – 6%
  • I talk to people in the car with me, not music – 6%
  • An audiobook – 5%
  • I talk to people on my phone to pass the time, not music – 4%

Sing-a-long time

For those who have ever traveled with kids in the car, what happens when the children want to listen to their own music choices? We found that may just the kids decide on the toons.

  • I let them. I like it too and/or it doesn’t bother me – 29%
  • I let them because it’s easier than fighting over it – 17%
  • I compromise and sometimes we listen to what they want, sometimes what I want – 11%
  • Not an issue, they listen on their phones with headphones – 9%
  • I don’t let them, I dislike their musical taste – 5%
  • I don’t let them; I find their music inappropriate – 2%

The Insurance.com team is willing to bet that at 29% (a two-percentage point uptick from last year) that some of those drivers have accidentally listened to their kids’ music without the kids in the car at all. We might know from experience.

All those songs with ‘radio’ in the title just wouldn’t be the same

With all the devices available today, the Insurance.com team was curious how people are getting their music and was surprised to find that the majority are happily relying on the trusty car radio to accompany them where they need to go.

  • Regular radio – 44%
  • Satellite radio – 17%
  • Music downloaded on smartphone – 16%
  • Streaming – 15%
  • CDs – 7%
  • Other – Fill in – 1%

At 51%, female respondents favor their radios more than men who split between radio at 37% and smartphone downloaded tracks at 20%. CDs continue to go the way of the dinosaur coming in last with both men and women.

Guilty pleasure songs: Go ahead. We won’t tell.

At one time or another, we have probably been teased a bit for our musical taste (Hello, Hanson!), so it’s possible you’ve got a soft spot for the occasional tune when it comes on the radio.

Respondents were allowed to pick more than one guilty-pleasure.

  • Britney Spears – 16%
  • Adele – 15%
  • Bon Jovi – 12%
  • Justin Bieber – 12%
  • Celine Dion – 12%
  • Country – 11%
  • Elvis – 11%
  • Katy Perry – 11%
  • Taylor Swift – 11%
  • Other - Fill in – 10%
  • Lady Gaga – 10%
  • Coldplay – 10%
  • Classic rock – 10%
  • John Legend – 9%
  • Drake – 9%
  • Journey – 9%
  • Classical – 8%
  • Light Rock/Easy listening stations – 8%
  • Miley Cyrus – 7%
  • Nickelback – 7%
  • Rap/hip hop – 7%
  • Jonas Brothers – 7%
  • Kelly Clarkson – 6%
  • Heavy Metal – 6%
  • Opera – 5%
  • Christian/Gospel – 5%
  • Broadway tunes – 5%
  • BTS/K-pop – 3%

Britney Spears vaulted up five spots this year to take the top spot from Justin Bieber, dropping down three spots. Bon Jovi and Celine Dion both hitched a ride with the “Oops, I did it again” singer from seventh and eighth to third and fifth, respectively. Adele had the largest jump this year from 10th to second place.

This year, 19.5% of male respondents voted for Britney Spears compared to just 12.4% of women, and 18.5% of men also admitted their love for Adele, as opposed to 12% of women.

Respondents had the opportunity to write in their favorite guilty-pleasure songs, and a few of the secret entries raised some eyebrows:

  • Neil Diamond
  • Bee Gees
  • Air Supply
  • The Commodores
  • Run-D.M.C.
  • Barry Manilow
  • Ariana Grande

But perhaps the most endearing thing about guilty pleasures is that perhaps they aren’t so guilty anymore. We heard from many respondents that they aren’t ashamed of any music they enjoy, and we love that confidence! 

It’s time for your steering wheel solo

Picture it: The sun is shining, and you’re driving in your vehicle with a full tank of gas and a stretch of road ahead. You come to a stoplight, and your favorite song comes on the radio. After saying to no one, “Yeah! This is my jam!” and turning up the radio volume, what comes next?

  • Sing at the top of your lungs – 43%
  • None of the above – 39%
  • Play air drums – 8%
  • Play air guitar – 8%
  • Other - Fill in – 1%

Some respondents chose a calmer approach in their write-in answers:

  • Sing along but at normal tone
  • Nod my head and/or tap fingers on the steering wheel
  • Hum to the music
  • Lip sync to the song

Female respondents seem to be more vocal than male respondents, with 49.3% singing at the top of their lungs compared to 37% of men.

“On the road again”

Many of us spend a lot of time in our cars, and we want to make that time as enjoyable as we can as we go point A to point B – but the songs on the radio don’t mean much if we don’t get there safely. In surprising recent news, it was reported that in the United States, traffic fatalities increased 7.2% despite that most Americans actually drove less due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic fatalities rose in most major categories over 2019:

  • Passenger vehicle occupants: +5% (23,395)
  • Pedestrians: 0% (6,205)
  • Motorcyclists: +9 (5,015)
  • Cyclists: +5% (846)

Having the right type and amount of car insurance coverage for your car and for your health care in the event of an accident can make any car ride a lot less worrisome.

Each year, be sure to review your current coverage levels or shop for new or better coverage with our car insurance coverage calculator. It just takes just one minute to determine if you’ve got sufficient coverage in your geographical area.

After you’ve got a rock-solid car insurance policy in place, you can go back to singing that classic rock power ballad that just came on your favorite station.