Commuter towns are becoming more and more popular, as rent and house prices in major cities skyrocket. These locations offer all of the amenities of big city life just a train, bus or car journey away while providing a small-town community feel.
When comparing first-time-buyer mortgages between the UK’s most sought-after cities and nearby towns, it can be much cheaper to live in a smaller, lesser-known location. Living away from the busy city is a much more affordable option, often coming with a stronger community feel and a quieter lifestyle.
However, it can be difficult to choose the right location. There are many things to consider when relocating, from the number of bars and things to do to the average rent price.
If you’re struggling to choose the ideal commuter location, the mortgage experts at Money.co.uk have weighed up all the options. Our team have ranked the best commuter towns near the UK’s biggest cities to find the best spots for Gen Z and Millennials.
If you want to experience a thriving city with a buzzing job market then relocating to London makes sense. However, the lavish London lifestyle comes with a price tag to match. If you’re looking for somewhere a little more affordable and quieter, with a community feel, then moving to a commuter town is the perfect choice.
Considering 10 of the most popular commuter locations near London, the research found that Luton is the best for Gen Z and Millennial commuters. The commute to London is only 26 minutes via public transport, making it easy to get to work, experience nightlife or go shopping. Luton is home to 4.68 things to do per 10,000 people, including visiting the historic manor house at Wrest Park. There are also the gardens at Stockwood Discovery Centre which offer insight into history, archaeology, and geology. The average rent in Luton is £1,142 a month, making it a more affordable option than living in the heart of London.
The research also revealed that Reading is one of the top commuter towns, situated just a 23-minute journey by public transport to England’s capital. Reading offers 9.41 activities and 1.97 nightlife venues per 10,000 people, making it ideal for those who prefer a lively town environment. The average monthly rent in Reading is £1,500 a month, a cheaper alternative to London life.
Greater Manchester consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the UK, popular among travellers, Gen Z and Millennial commuters. As more people move to the area, many choose to relocate to a more peaceful nearby town. Living in a commuter town is ideal for those wanting to build roots and settle down or escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
The best commuter town near Manchester is Stockport, home to 16.57 things to do per 10,000 people. Commuters living in Stockport can visit the Air Raid Shelters, the Avro Heritage Museum and the many parks the town has to offer. There are also 4.36 nightlife venues per 10,000 people in the area, including The Heatons Comedy Evening and Grapevine Bar. Living in Stockport means you can expect to pay around £940 a month in rent.
In second place, Rochdale is a great location for commuters looking to live near Manchester. Just 15 minutes from Manchester on public transport, Rochdale is an ideal location for commuters working in the city. Rochdale has 7.16 things to do and 2.1 nightlife venues per 10,000 people. Those living in the town can visit Hollingworth Lake and the Healey Dell Nature Reserve to see all the natural scenery Rochdale has to offer. Rent prices in Rochdale are cheaper than in most commuter towns near Manchester, at £863 per month.
Edinburgh has a rich history and culture that draws in visitors from all over the world. It stands out thanks to its ancient architecture and unique charm. Undeniably popular among Gen Z and Millennials, Edinburgh has the amenities of city life alongside plenty of parks and natural spaces.
Musselburgh ranks in first place as the best commuter town for Gen Z and Millennials near Edinburgh. Ideal for commuters working in the city, those living in Musselburgh are just a six-minute public transport ride away from Edinburgh. The town is home to 14.19 things to do and 0.98 nightlife venues per 10,000 people. The famous Musselburgh Racecourse is located within the coastal town while the Jump In Trampoline Park is great for families with children.
Other towns near Edinburgh that commuters should consider are Dunfermline and Linlithgow.
Liverpool is one of the best cities in the world for culture and music, attracting people from all over the world. Liverpool is famous for its friendly locals and lively nightlife scene, making it ideal for Gen Z and Millennials.
The best commuter town near the city of Liverpool is St Helens, with a population of 105,454. St Helens is only 28 minutes by car and 31 minutes by public transport from Liverpool. The town offers 11.85 things to do and 3.6 nightlife venues per 10,000 people, including Carr Mill Dam. Cheaper than city living, the average monthly rent in St Helens is £673.
Birkenhead and Wigan are also good choices for commuters wanting to live near Liverpool. With 13.65 activities and 5.20 things to do in Wigan per 10,000 people, it’s a perfect location to experience a lively town. Birkenhead is home to 7.88 activities per 10,000 people including the Lady Lever Art Gallery and the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum..
The city of canals and Peaky Blinders, Birmingham is one of England’s biggest and best-connected cities. With a thriving job market and diverse population, it’s easy to see why many want to live near Birmingham.
The best commuter town in the area is Walsall, a short 22-minute public transport ride from Birmingham. The town offers 14.65 activities per 10,000 people like visiting the Walsall Arboretum or one of the many museums in the area. Walsall is also home to 4.48 nightlife venues per 10,000 people, making it perfect for Gen Z and Millennial commuters. The average property costs around £759 a month to rent in Walsall, which could be a cheaper alternative to living in Birmingham.
Wolverhampton and West Bromwich also ranked highly among the top commuter towns to live in near Birmingham.
Bristol is a world-famous hub of art and culture, popular among tourists and commuters. It’s no surprise that many are choosing to live in nearby towns instead of moving to the busy city.
In first place out of all the towns that were considered, Weston-super-Mare is the best. The town has a population of just 88,244 people but offers plenty of options for activities and nightlife. Weston-super-Mare is home to 12.24 activities and 3.17 bars and clubs per 10,000 people, leaving no shortage of things to do. The average monthly rent is £945 in Weston-super-Mare - one of the cheapest out of all the commuter towns near Bristol.
Newport and Bath also ranked among the best commuter towns near Bristol. However, both are a more expensive rent option at £1,012 and £2,096 a month on average respectively.
Cardiff is a vibrant and diverse city that appeals to many thanks to its coastal location and rich history. The Welsh capital offers a perfect location for Gen Z and Millennials wanting to experience an exciting city.
Newport is the best commuter town near Cardiff, famous for its natural scenery and beautiful countryside. Newport is 12 minutes from Cardiff on public transport, making for a short morning commute. There are 10.26 activities and 2.31 nightlife venues per 10,000 residents in Newport. Gen Z and Millennial commuters can enjoy visiting Tredegar House or spending the day at the Wentwood Forest. The average monthly rent in Newport is £1,012, which could be a more affordable option to living in Cardiff.
Pontypridd and Penarth also rank highly among the best commuter towns for those wanting to live near Cardiff.
The popularity of commuter towns has surged recently due to inflation and rising house prices in large cities. According to government statistics, the median monthly rent in London is £1,450, and living in a smaller town can be more affordable.
Commuter towns often offer lower rent and house prices, while most are less than 20 minutes away from a large city by public transport.
For example, according to government data, the median rent in London is £1,750. The average monthly rent of all the commuter towns near London in the study is £1,446 - that’s a £304 saving each month.
A terraced house in London costs around £804,432 according to Rightmove, while a house in a commuter town costs £400,903 on average. Gen Z and Millennial commuters could save £403,529 on average when buying a house if they choose to relocate to a commuter town.
Commuter towns are often ideal for families with young children looking to settle down. Families with children might prefer a commuter town with plenty of things to do for activities with the kids. Living in a commuter town can also help families budget and save money for days out.
Southend-on-Sea and Luton are the most affordable commuter towns outside of London for renters. The average monthly rent in each city is £1,109 and £1,142. Luton and Basildon are the cheapest towns for those looking to buy a house. House prices in the towns are around £300,532 and £321,082 respectively.
Money.co.uk identified the 10 biggest towns that are within a 20-mile radius (40 miles for London) from each of England’s five biggest cities, (London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Manchester), as well as the capital cities of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, using City Population to source population figures (figures are for ONS Built-Up Areas which may not align to political boundaries and are all 2020 estimates, except for the age breakdowns for Scotland, which are from 2016) and Google Maps to estimate journey times by car, train and bus.
Some towns appear in more than one list due to being within 20 miles of more than one city (for example Warrington and Wigan are both within 20 miles of Liverpool and Manchester).
Each was then ranked on the following factors, giving each a normalised score out of 10, before taking an average of these scores.
House prices: The average house price according to Zoopla (sourced October 6th, 2022).
Commute time: The travel time between major transport terminuses in each town and corresponding city according to Google Maps. For public transport, whichever was quicker out of train and bus was used. Sourced October 6th, looking at journeys to be made arriving at the city at 9am on October 9th. Note that in some cases, a combination of a bus & train was the fastest option, so this was used.
Bars & pubs: The number of bars and pubs per 10,000 people according to Tripadvisor (sourced October 11th, 2022).
Things to do: The number of attractions per 10,000 people according to Tripadvisor (sourced October 6th, 2022).
Rent: The average monthly rent according to Zoopla (sourced October 10th).
Population: The percentage of the population aged between 20 and 39 according to City Population.