It’s a rite of passage. Becoming a licensed driver.

That time when it didn’t matter where you were going so long as you were going. Because you were driving.

It didn’t matter if you were piloting the nicest car on the road—your parents’, probably!—or a 10-year-old 1986 Buick Regal. It wasn’t really about the car. Or the destination. It was about mobility.

Independence. Freedom.

For all of us with 10, 20, 30 years behind the wheel, those teenage memories play like movies in our minds. Movies with soundtracks. The ones we compiled with our favorite songs we played too loudly with our windows down. Songs that make our heads involuntarily nod up and down. Songs that make our hands involuntarily drum the steering wheel and dashboard. Songs that make our feet involuntarily press down the gas pedal just a little bit harder.

(Image/OnAllCylinders – Lori Sams)

Great songs are great songs, no matter what. But some songs are ready-made for playing too loudly in the car. Here are our favorite driving songs of all time. What are yours?

“I Can’t Drive 55” – Sammy Hagar

It’s a little too obvious and a little too cliché. As if that’s going to stop us from mashing the pedal and blasting Sammy too loud.

“Authority Song” – John Mellencamp

Maybe you’re not an outlaw. Or a criminal. Or a troublemaker. But we all have a little rebel in us. It usually doesn’t work out. But it’s almost always fun.

“Let’s Go” – The Cars

Because, The Cars. We like the nightlife, baby.

“Thunderstruck” – AC/DC

Is this the ultimate pump-you-up song? With apologies to “Eye of the Tiger”—maybe.

“Rusty Cage” – Soundgarden

Yessssss. I’m gonna break my rusty cage. And runnnnnnn.

“Panama” – Van Halen

Step 1 – Play this.

Step 2 – Try to drive slow.

Step 3 – Fail.

Step 4 – Not mind.

“Sabotage” – Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys!?!? Totally. Watch the 2009 version of Star Trek the first time we see an elementary school-aged James T. Kirk commandeer (presumably) his father’s gorgeous red C2 Corvette and drive it off a cliff while running from the cops. Best movie character introduction ever? Maybe. Killer driving track? Definitely.

“Welcome to the Jungle” – Guns ‘n Roses

Right? Right.

“Black Betty” – Ram Jam

We went back and forth on the Ram Jam vs. Spiderbait version. Ultimately, we had to go with the original. But the Spiderbait cover is worth a listen if you’re interested in loud music and fast driving.

“La Grange” – ZZ Top

There are so many great ZZ Top driving songs it’s hard to keep track of them. But La Grange is so rad, it made what would appear a difficult choice not all that difficult.

They gotta lotta nice girls. Then. Jam fest.

Great stuff.

Here are a few bonus songs we wanted to add, but didn’t because people like to arbitrarily stop internet lists at 10 things:

“Cult of Personality” – Living Colour

“Come on Feel the Noise” – Quiet Riot

“Burn” – Nine Inch Nails 

“Little Deuce Coupe” – The Beach Boys

What did we miss? Please share your favorite driving songs in the comments!

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Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.