Key Takeaways:

  • Thousand Oaks ranks #1 as our best commuter town for Los Angeles.
  • Peninsula suburbs dominate for shortest commute in the Bay Area to San Francisco.
  • Almost one hour per day is commuting, adding up to over 10 days per year.

Commuter towns. Nothing but tail lights, the futile honking of horns, and all the wasted minutes of your life flying by while you sit still. It’s enough to give even the most hardened Californian anxiety. For most, this hellish commute is just the price of admission for a quieter, safer, and more spacious lifestyle away from the hectic, stress-inducing noise of dense urban living, and often more advantageous housing costs, including lower property taxes. But not all commuter towns are created equal.

LA and San Francisco are the poster children for the stereotypical commute. With sprawling cityscapes, many people work in a different area than where they live and spend an average of 29 minutes on a one-way commute. Maybe you prefer the quieter neighborhood that has a yard and a white picket fence, or maybe it’s just too expensive to live near your job. Either way, you’re spending an average of 58 minutes each day traveling to and from work. That’s almost 10 and a half days per year.

We looked at average commuting times for residents that would reasonably be commuting to the downtowns Los Angeles and San Francisco. To make the lists as useful as possible, we’ve weighted the metrics to reflect the importance of commuting time and home affordability with 40% and 30% respectively. The remaining percentage was split between crime and school ratings. Our goal is to identify the best overall commuter towns for those considering a move to or around the region.

Top 10 Commuter Towns in Los Angeles

Thousand Oaks: The Complete Package

Thousand Oaks takes the top spot on our list, with an average commute time of 26 minutes. With the regional median home price of $560,000, Thousand Oaks remains on the high end at $710,000. That’s a pretty penny, but it could be worth it for a safe neighborhood, great schools, and one of the shortest commutes in the region. While the events of November 7th may have brought into question the safety of Thousand Oaks, we believe this act to be an outlier and not representative of the overall safety of this beautiful community.

Located on the 101 west of the San Fernando Valley, Thousand Oaks is close to the city while still offering easy access to nature. The Santa Monica Mountains and Conejo Canyons both offer exceptional hiking and scenery, like Paradise Falls. The Conejo Valley School District also has several National Blue-Ribbon Schools as well as California Lutheran University.

Moorpark: More Affordable Thousand Oaks

Just up the 23 from Thousand Oaks is our number two city for best commuter towns in LA, Moorpark, with a 28-minute commute on average. This small community outside of Simi Valley also posts the lowest crime rate and median sale price on our list, coming in at $440,000. It also ranked high on our list for school rating. Moorpark may be smaller than Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley but it’s close enough to take advantage of their shopping and dining amenities. If you don’t mind the longer drive, Moorpark is a more affordable option than Thousand Oaks. It also provides another commuting option with an Amtrak station.

Orange: Shortest Overall Commute

While Orange has the lowest commute time on our list, with under 26 minutes, it misses the top of the list due to its $700,000 median home price and low school ratings. Still, this largely residential community has a lot to offer in ways of amenities. Just southwest of Anaheim, Orange is perfectly located for the Los Angeles Angels fan with a family, as both Angel Stadium and Disneyland are very close. It also has the Santa Ana’s to the east and is just up the 55 from Huntington and Newport Beach.

Check out the interactive map below to compare all 10 cities on our list. Hover over cities to show details on crime rates, school ratings, and median home prices.


Top 10 Commuter Towns in San Francisco

Ranking San Francisco commuter towns presented more of a challenge for us than LA. Given its geographical constraints, commuting in San Francisco causes drivers to converge through one of three funnels into the city: the 280, the Bay Bridge, or the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sister Cities South of San Francisco

South San Francisco and San Bruno take our first two spots among San Francisco’s top commuter towns with commute times of 27.4 and 27.8 minutes respectively. The cities are right next to each other and share similar statistics regarding crime, education, and home prices. The median home price for the entire Bay Area for 2017 was $850,000. Comparatively, South San Francisco and San Bruno came in right around that at $848,000 and $882,500 respectively, meaning that buyers in these areas might contend with elevated housing costs, including costlier property tax estimates.

These cities share many of the same amenities and attractions due to their close proximity. Located right next to SFO, they’re perfectly positioned to take advantage of everything the entire peninsula has to offer, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean to the Bay. Drivers can take advantage of the 280 and the 101 that run through both, but if you want to avoid San Francisco’s parking issue, the BART runs through both cities.

San Leandro: Affordability Across the Bay

Rounding out our list of best commuter towns in San Francisco is San Leandro at #10 with an average commute time of just over 32 minutes. Located on the east side of the Bay, south of Alameda, San Leandro enters our list as the least expensive with a median home price of $570,000. This may also correlate with the lower quality schools and middling crime statistics though. With few dedicated amenities, the city is centrally located to take advantage of the surrounding amenities to the north and south. San Leandro is also connected to the BART network for easier public transportation around the Bay.

Check out the interactive map below to compare all 10 cities on our list. Hover over cities to show details on crime rates, school ratings, and median home prices.



  • We compared these metrics for all California cities having a population of at least 35,000, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau, within 50 miles of Los Angeles and 20 miles of San Francisco. * excluding San Bernardino county, where we don’t have recent sales.
  • We produced a standardized score for each factor for each city or town. This score evaluated distance from the maximum value and multiplied this number to a weight assigned for each factor, then dividing the result by highest distance value.
  • Weighting was assigned on four statistics based on level of importance for this study: commute time: 40%, median home price: 30%, FBI crime rates: 15%, and GreatSchool rating: 15%.
Patrick McGregor

Patrick McGregor

Patrick McGregor is a senior writer covering the real estate industry and overall economic trends in the United States for several Yardi product publications. He also holds an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Patrick was previously a commercial real estate analyst at Yardi Matrix for five years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Bisnow, GlobeSt, The Real Deal, Business Insider, The Denver Post, The Motley Fool, and more.