Ways to Drive from Los Angeles to San FranciscoThe ways to drive between Los Angeles are almost endless, these are the most common:
- Los Angeles to San Francisco on I-5 (green route on the map): The fastest way to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco takes about 6 hours, using I-5 for most of the trip.
- Los Angeles to San Francisco on US Hwy 101 (black route on the map): More scenic and relaxing, the drive on US Hwy 101 takes about 1.5 hours longer. Our readers choose it least often, but unless we're in a rush, we'll take it every time.
Los Angeles to San Francisco on Hwy 1 (blue route that hugs the cost on the map): Taking the coastal route is possible in a 9 to 10 hour day, if you don't stop much. Even though it's long, it's the one that our readers choose most often.
- The Back Way: The most beautiful and interesting way to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco takes 2 full days. It runs east of the other two, but is not color-coded on the map. Leave Los Angeles on I-405 north to CA 14, then connect to US 395 north and follow it up the eastern side of the Sierras to Lee Vining and Mono Lake. When Tioga Pass is open, cross Yosemite National Park and head west to San Francisco.
Cost of Travel Between Los Angeles and San FranciscoIf you're driving on I-5 and get 30 miles per gallon, you'll use about 13 gallons of gasoline driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles. As you go through this guide, you'll find some ticket prices listed, but finding the least expensive way to make the trip isn't as simple as it seems at first.
When an article in VIA magazine compared different ways of making the trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles and concluded that driving was best, professor David Tufte from Southern Utah University offered an economist's analysis in a letter to the editor. He suggested there are more factors to consider: greenhouse gas emissions are about the same in each case, but think about how much someone would have to pay you to be on the road when you'd rather be doing something else. And then there's the risk of a fatal accident. In the end, Tufte came up with a different answer. When all costs are included, driving turns out to be more expensive.
You may not be as detail-oriented as an economist, but we'd suggest you also look into how much time it takes you go get to and from the airport, wear and tear on your vehicle and drop-off charges if you're taking a rental car one way. And of course, two can drive nearly as cheaply as one.