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Motorway vs. Freeway: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 11, 2023
A motorway is a high-capacity road with multiple lanes, typically with tolls in some countries, while a freeway is a high-speed road with no tolls and limited access.

Key Differences

Motorways are high-capacity, multiple-lane roads designed for fast traffic, often found in the UK and Europe. Freeways, similar in design and purpose, are prevalent in the US and offer unrestricted access with no tolls.
Motorways may include tolls for usage in some countries, providing funding for maintenance and infrastructure. Freeways, by definition, are free of charge to users, financed by public funds.
The term "motorway" is more commonly used in the UK and other European countries, denoting major roads intended for rapid travel. In contrast, "freeway" is a term used primarily in North America, emphasizing the absence of tolls and intersections.
On motorways, services like emergency telephones, rest areas, and service stations are provided at intervals. Freeways also offer similar amenities, with rest stops and service areas for travelers' convenience.
Both motorways and freeways restrict certain types of vehicles, like bicycles and pedestrians, to ensure safety and maintain traffic flow. However, the specific regulations and design standards can vary between motorways and freeways.

Comparison Chart

Toll Collection

May include tolls in some countries.
Free of charge, with no tolls.

Geographic Usage

Common term in the UK and Europe.
Primarily used in North America.


Funded through tolls and public funds.
Funded by public funds.

Services Provided

Emergency telephones, rest areas, service stations.
Rest stops, service areas, no intersections.

Vehicle Restrictions

Restrictions on slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians.
Similar vehicle restrictions for safety.

Motorway and Freeway Definitions


A motorway is a multi-lane, high-speed road, often with tolls, designed for long-distance travel.
They took the motorway to avoid the city traffic.


In the US, freeways are part of the interstate highway system.
Interstate 10 is a major east-west freeway in the United States.


Motorways are major roads connecting cities and regions, with limited access points.
The new motorway reduced travel time between the two cities significantly.


Freeways have controlled access, with entry and exit through ramps.
The traffic flowed smoothly on the freeway with its well-designed on-ramps.


In many countries, motorways are part of a national highway system.
The M1 is a major motorway in the UK.


Freeways do not have intersections or traffic signals.
The absence of traffic lights made the freeway an ideal route.


Motorways often have service areas for fuel and rest.
They stopped at a service station on the motorway for a break.


A freeway is a high-speed road with multiple lanes, free of tolls, and designed for efficient travel.
The freeway connects the city to the suburbs.


Motorways are designed for high-speed vehicular traffic, with emergency lanes for safety.
Emergency vehicles use the dedicated lanes on the motorway for rapid response.


Freeways are designed to support high volumes of traffic at high speeds.
The six-lane freeway accommodated the heavy commuter traffic efficiently.


An expressway.


See expressway.


(In Europe, New Zealand and parts of Australia) A highway with grade-separated crossings (rather than level crossings) and designed (and only permitted) for high-speed motor-traffic (in Europe motor vehicles with a higher speed limit than 40 km/h) running in two directions on one separate carriageway each


A highway without tolls.


(Chiefly in the U.S.) A racetrack venue designated especially for the sport of auto racing.


(In parts of Canada, the U.S. and Australia) A highway with grade-separated crossings (rather than level crossings) and designed (and only permitted) for high-speed motor-traffic running in two directions on one separate carriageway each


A broad highway designed for high-speed traffic


A toll-free highway.


A broad highway designed for high-speed traffic


Are motorways toll roads?

Some motorways are toll roads, but many are free to use.

Where are motorways commonly found?

Motorways are common in the UK, Europe, and many Commonwealth countries.

What is a motorway?

A motorway is a high-speed road designed exclusively for vehicular traffic, without intersections or property access.

Is there a speed limit on motorways?

Yes, motorways typically have a speed limit, which varies by country.

How do motorways differ from other roads?

Motorways have higher speed limits, no intersections, and limited access compared to other roads.

Do motorways have multiple lanes?

Yes, motorways usually have multiple lanes in each direction.

Are motorways safe?

Motorways are designed for safety, but safety also depends on drivers following rules and regulations.

Can you stop on a motorway?

Stopping is generally allowed only in emergencies or designated areas.

What is a freeway?

A freeway is a controlled-access highway designed for high-speed vehicular traffic, with no tolls.

Can bicycles use freeways?

Bicycles are typically not allowed on freeways.

Are there rest areas on motorways?

Yes, motorways often have rest areas or service stations.

Can all vehicles use motorways?

Generally, motorways are for motorized vehicles only. Pedestrians, cyclists, and certain slow vehicles are prohibited.

Where are freeways most common?

Freeways are prevalent in the United States and parts of Canada.

Do freeways have intersections?

No, freeways have interchanges instead of direct intersections.

Is there a universal speed limit on freeways?

No, speed limits on freeways vary by state or region.

Can pedestrians use freeways?

Pedestrians are prohibited on freeways.

How many lanes do freeways typically have?

Freeways usually have multiple lanes, often three or more in each direction.

Are freeways the same as expressways?

Not exactly, expressways may have at-grade intersections, unlike freeways.

Do freeways have tolls?

Freeways are generally free of tolls, but there are exceptions.

What is the difference between a freeway and a highway?

Highways can have intersections and lower speed limits, while freeways are designed for uninterrupted high-speed travel.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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