There’s nothing like being on the open road…but let’s be real, extended periods behind the wheel only feel like a vacation, not a headache (or backache or buttache), when you have really great music to groove to. Here, a roundup of the very best road trip albums for your listening pleasure, whether you need a soundtrack for solo car travel or are simply trying to tune out a backseat driver in the most enjoyable way possible.
The 13 Best Road Trip Albums for Every Leg of the Journey
1. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac (1977)
- Best for Stormy Weather
There's never a bad time to put on Fleetwood Mac’s best-selling album, but we’re particularly partial to it when stormy weather strikes. Slow your roll (for safety’s sake, of course) and turn up the volume on moody, high drama hits, like “The Chain,” “Gold Dust Woman” and “Oh Daddy.” Then, transition to the peppier tracks and put the pedal to the metal when the sun comes out—because, yes, this album kind of has it all.
2. Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones (1972)
- Best Rock and Roll
This masterpiece from the Stones is arguably the best rock n’ roll album of all time, so it should come as no surprise that it has too-cool-for-school summer vibes to spare. In fact, the album—a clever compilation of blues, country and straight rock songs—captures nearly every aspect of the all-American road trip experience with bonus points for technical brilliance.
3. Ramblin' Man by Hank Williams (1955)
- Best for Night Driving
Hank Williams’ voice is one of a kind: beautiful, haunting and, above all, never boring. If you’re looking for a deeply emotional nighttime listen that’s more badass than weepy and will keep you wide awake without killing the chill vibe, this album—a perfect expression of the influential country singer’s ramblin’ blues—has got you covered.
4. United by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (1967)
- Best for Couples
Listen to soul artists Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s first duet album and you’d never believe the pair were actually just BFFs. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is obvious fodder for a passionate sing-along, but the loving feeling and wholesome upbeat vibes of all the other tracks—including “You Got What It Takes,” “Your Precious Love” and a quirky cover of “Somethin’ Stupid,” to name a few—combine to create a perfect soundtrack for road trip romance.
5. Little Creatures by Talking Heads (1985)
- Best for Kicking Off Your Journey
The poppiest and most approachable of Talking Heads albums, Little Creatures might as well be David Byrne’s answer to the question at hand. Neither too weird, nor too grating, this album is full of positive energy and even features opening and closing tracks (“And She Was” and “Road to Nowhere”) that perfectly illustrate the trajectory of road trip enthusiasm without ever killing the mood.
6. Take Me to Your Leader by King Geedorah (2003)
- Best for Traffic
Got slowdown up ahead? Just queue up this work of genius from King Geedorah AKA MF Doom. You can expect masterfully sampled tracks, lo-fi beats and the lyrical stylings of a true wordsmith, plus an epic storyline that’s infinitely better than any audiobook you can find. In other words, it’s an immersive listening experience that will make you feel so damn cool, you won’t even mind that you’re going nowhere fast.
7. The Writing's on the Wall by Destiny's Child (1999)
- Best Throwback
Take a trip back in time to when Beyoncé was fronting a girl group and frosted tips were still cool with this nostalgic favorite, which features modern classics like “Say My Name” and “Bugaboo.” Trust us, your soul has been asking you for a Destiny’s Child sing-along with friends for at least a decade.
8. The Band by The Band (1969)
- Best for Country Driving
So you made it out of the big city and are ready for some music that matches the country scenery? Try The Band’s self-titled album, an easy-listening (in the best sense of the word) folk-rock gem that features impressive musical talent and plays out like American history come to life—so much so that you’d never guess all but one of the guys responsible is Canadian.
9. Greatest Hits by Tom Petty (1976)
- Best Compilation
We couldn’t pick just one Tom Petty album for the list since every damn one was destined to be the soundtrack for a carefree summer road trip. Fortunately, we didn’t have to since this compilation really does cover all the red-blooded rock and roll hits the legendary artist produced.
10. Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs (2014)
- Best Indie Jam
Understated chord changes and a melancholic tone characterize The War on Drugs’ refreshing reinterpretation of classic rock on Lost in the Dream, which happens to be an ode to restless wandering and is also arguably the most polished album the indie band has put out. Intricate, poignant and just right for a (relatively) low key music moment, this fine-tuned gem is well worth listening to from start to finish.
11. The Journey - Pt. 1 by The Kinks (2023)
- Best to Listen to on Repeat
If you had to listen to only one album for an entire road trip, this might be the one—namely because The Kinks are such an exceptional example of a truly diverse band. Their repertoire includes whiffs of British Invasion pop with “You Really Got Me,” angst-ridden numbers like “Dead End Street” and “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” whimsical ditties like “Lola,” dreamy, romantic songs like “Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worrying ‘Bout That Girl” and even tracks that were tailor made for driving off into the (Waterloo) sunset. And yep, this compilation has ‘em all, so you’re likely to never get bored.
12. Whitney Houston by Whitney Houston
- Best for Road Trip Karaoke
Prepare your pipes, but don’t feel bad if you can’t match Whitney’s vocal range. (They call her The Voice for a reason.) Still, long notes are well-suited to long drives and there’s no better place to rehearse your next knockout karaoke performance than in the privacy of a car with belt-it-out tunes like “Saving All My Love For You” and “How Will I Know.”
13. Sour by Olivia Rodrigo
- Best for a Breakup Trip
A little bit pop, a little bit alternative and a little bit punk make this punchy debut album by the Gen Z singer the perfect accompaniment to a girls’ weekend away with your newly single pal. Sing (or shout) along to breakup anthems like “Drivers License” and “Good 4 U” then chill out to the softer melodies of “Happier” and “Favorite Crime.” Music is the greatest medicine, no?