How to make a great driving playlist

Get ready for your next road trip with our guide to what makes a great driving playlist and our top tips for tunes that’ll keep everyone moving

Written by Verity Hogan
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Plan ahead

There are few things as frustrating as your perfectly curated driving playlist running out halfway through your journey. Searching for new tracks or flicking through radio stations isn’t safe, especially when you’re motoring down the M6, so prepare in advance by planning a playlist that will run throughout your trip and includes extra tracks to cover any unexpected delays. Even so, you never know when your mood might change so allow for some flexibility by pre-programming your favourite radio stations and packing a back-up CD.

Mix it up

Don’t just go full throttle with your music chores! While rock classics like Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run or AC/DC’s Highway to Hell might get your motor running, make sure you mix it up by including some slower songs and sing-along anthems on your driving playlist. Not only will the variety keep you engaged and alert on long drives, but it’ll also stop you falling into a playlist slump and constantly reaching for the skip button.

Crowd source suggestions

While some people think that the driver should have total control over the music in their car, it could take the pressure off if you crowd source suggestions from all your passengers. This could help you find songs that you’d never have thought of on your own and prevent any in-car arguments as everyone will have something to look forward to on the playlist.

Pick a theme

If you’re struggling to build the perfect driving playlist, picking a theme could help. You could start with a genre, like 90s indie, 80s pop or Motown classics, or choose something more specific such as songs with a car-theme or tracks with a colour in the title. Don’t be afraid to lean into genres that you might not typically choose to listen to outside of the car, you might be surprised by how much a Disney or musical-themed playlist can help the journey go faster (and no-one needs to know that you’re belting out Let It Go for the fifth time!)

Think local

If you’re heading to a new city or driving through a region you’ve never visited before, you can get in the mood by creating a tailored playlist that matches your surroundings. Research local artists and bands, songs that mention the name of the place in the title, or traditional music from the area you’re in. Listening to local music can help you immerse yourself in the culture of your destination and give your trip a whole new dimension.

Consider safety

Safety is the most important thing when you’re behind the wheel and a great driving playlist should enhance your driving rather than distract you. Think about your drive when planning the track list. If you’re going to be navigating heavy traffic or maneovering around unfamiliar city streets with a complex one-way system, you might want to pick quiet or acoustic songs that won’t affect your concentration. In contrast, if you’re going to be spending a long time on the motorway or driving in the dark, choosing upbeat songs could help you stay alert.

Try a podcast or audiobook

If music isn’t your thing or you’ve got a long drive ahead and want some listening variety, then a podcast or audiobook could be a great alternative. You could choose a podcast that reflects your interests or a comedy-based show that’ll keep you laughing even in a traffic jam. If an audiobook is more your speed, think about choosing one with multiple narrators that bring the story to life or a with a voice that you find comforting like Stephen Fry or Michael Sheen.

Trust technology

Sometimes the idea of building the perfect driving playlist can feel overwhelming, especially if you have a full car of passengers to keep entertained. That’s where technology can help. Both Spotify and Apple Music offer ready-made playlists to suit almost any mood or taste and, if you’re a regular listener, they can suggest options that fit in your usual favourites. Sit back and let the algorithm do the hard work for you.

Download for offline or burn a mix CD

The final step in creating a great driving playlist is to make sure you can listen no matter where you are – nobody wants their music to cut out as soon as they enter a tunnel or drive through a more rural area. Be sure to download your playlists for offline listening or choose the retro option and burn a set of mix CDs for the journey.

Verity Hogan

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