The Best and Worst Cities in America for Driving

Garden State Parkway


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Garden State Parkway

Driving Patterns

For some people, COVID-19 means working remotely and driving less, but for others it means driving more out of fear of public transportation or taking a car service — and now 20% of people without cars are suddenly considering buying one, WalletHub finds. Owning a car can be a major hassle and expense, but some cities make it easier than others. WalletHub ranked 100 major metropolitan areas based on 31 indicators of "driver-friendliness" such as average gas prices, annual hours spent in traffic congestion per commuter, and number of auto repair shops per capita. Here are its 10 best and worst cities for drivers, with a breakdown of rankings on some key measures. (The lower the rank, the worse the situation.)

Related: 16 Ways Driving Has Changed in the Past 50 Years

Downtown Seattle in a Rain Storm and Fog

10th Worst: Seattle

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 86th 
Traffic infrastructure: 84th 
Safety: 60th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 50th
Don't like driving in the rain? Seattle had the most days with precipitation (along with Pittsburgh; Cleveland; Buffalo, New York; and nearby Portland, Oregon). Seattle also had one of the five highest average auto maintenance costs.

Related: 32 Lies Your Mechanic Has Told You

Driscoll Bridge across Raritan River on Garden State Parkway

9th Worst: Newark, New Jersey

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 75th 
Traffic infrastructure: 98th 
Safety: 78th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 17th
Keep your eyes open driving the 173-mile Garden State Parkway. According to the state's Turnpike Authority, it had the most crashes last year of any highway in the state: 10,363, or 28 a day. And 22 were fatal.

San Bernardino, California

8th Worst: San Bernardino, California

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 93rd 
Traffic infrastructure: 71st
Safety: 70th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 72nd
Eighth-worst is bad, but at least San Bernardino is in the top five for most auto repair shops per capita — though also for the most car thefts.

Related: 20 Cheap Ways to Protect Yourself From Thieves

Chicago traffic

7th Worst: Chicago

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 79th 
Traffic infrastructure: 99th 
Safety: 54th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 33rd
Chicago is in the top five for most hours spent in traffic per commuter, and it has among the fewest auto repair shops if anything goes wrong on the road.

Related: 12 Ways to Stop Wasting Money on Your Car

Los Angeles highway

6th Worst: Los Angeles

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 99th 
Traffic infrastructure: 89th 
Safety: 44th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 26th
Drivers are more likely to get in an accident compared with the national average in Los Angeles than in almost any city in the country. And when you try to get your car fixed? Los Angeles is also in the top five for fewest auto repair shops.

Related: Save Money With Simple DIY Car Repairs

New York traffic

5th Worst: New York

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 90th 
Traffic infrastructure: 100th 
Safety: 14th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 51st
New York, New York — in the top five for time spent in traffic per commuter, fewest auto repair shops per capita, highest auto maintenance costs, and highest parking rates: around $40.07 for every two hours!

Related: 30 Most Congested Cities in America

snow in downtown Detroit

4th Worst: Detroit

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 77th 
Traffic infrastructure: 93rd 
Safety: 98th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 53rd
Michigan in general is considered the most dangerous state in the nation for winter driving, Detroit's ABC affiliate reported, keeping in mind 2013's record 42-car pileup on Detroit's Interstate 75. Meanwhile, auto accident attorney Steven Gursten cites a 36% increase in hit-and-run incidents between 2014 to 2018, and notes that Detroit has the most uninsured drivers in the state, "with some estimates as high as 50% of all cars on the road uninsured."

Related: 21 Things to Keep in Your Car for Safe Winter Driving

San Francisco traffic

3rd Worst: San Francisco

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 97th 
Traffic infrastructure: 95th 
Safety: 62nd 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 66th
San Francisco had the highest average gas prices at the time of writing: $3.35 per gallon. (San Antonio, Texas, had the lowest, at $1.75 per gallon, which is almost 50% less than San Francisco.)

Related: 12 Ways to Fill Up for Less at the Gas Station

Philadelphia traffic

2nd Worst: Philadelphia

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 85th 
Traffic infrastructure: 97th 
Safety: 82nd 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 77th
Driving in Philadelphia looks miserable, especially given the city's top-five rankings for highest parking rates and most traffic congestion.

Oakland, California

Worst: Oakland, California

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 98th 
Traffic infrastructure: 92nd 
Safety: 85th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 44th
These statistics make you want to sell your car and live car-free, relying on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, bus lines, and commuter rail. Oakland is in WalletHub's top five for likelihood of accidents and also for gas prices. In fact, the entire top of the list of highest gas prices is composed of California cities: San Francisco, Fremont, San Jose, Chula Vista, and San Diego.

Related: 18 Cities Where You Can Live Car-Free

Omaha Nebraska
Matt Bills/istockphoto

10th Best: Omaha, Nebraska

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 15th 
Traffic infrastructure: 26th 
Safety: 45th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 48th
True, Nebraska's traffic deaths in 2019 were the highest in 12 years, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation. And the site Car Insurance 101 found it has the fourth-most-dangerous teen drivers in the country (a list topped by Montana, Arkansas, and Louisiana). But the state saw almost 3,300 fewer crashes last year even though it also added 350,000 licensed drivers in 30 years, for more miles traveled, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Orlando, Florida

9th Best: Orlando, Florida

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 29th 
Traffic infrastructure: 1st 
Safety: 93rd 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 2nd
Drivers enjoy especially low auto maintenance costs in Orlando, and they're also especially concerned about their car finishes, considering all the sun, pollen, and ocean salt: Orlando is in the top five for most car washes per capita, along with Tampa and Miami. (Rounding out the top five are Las Vegas and San Diego.)

Related: 18 Car Expenses That Are Really Worth the Money

Nashville, Tennessee

8th Best: Nashville, Tennessee

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 5th 
Traffic infrastructure: 16th 
Safety: 76th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 41st
Well, 2020 is looking better for Nashville drivers than 2019, when a year-over-year 8.2% increase in traffic deaths meant more than 1,100 people died on Tennessee roads — and Nashville's Davidson County saw a 27% jump, for 102 traffic deaths, according to Metro Nashville's Police Department. Of those, 26 were pedestrians.

Related: 20 Most Dangerous Places in America for Pedestrians

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

7th Best: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 1st 
Traffic infrastructure: 30th 
Safety: 36th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 91st
This ranking is good news for Winston-Salem, considering that last year it topped a list of "drunkest-driving cities in America," beating out Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; and Boise, Idaho.

Related: Don't Believe These 19 Myths About Alcohol

Plano, Texas

6th Best: Plano, Texas

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 16th 
Traffic infrastructure: 49th 
Safety: 9th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 37th
Plano is big — 72 square miles with an estimated 287,677 people — and its high overall ranking for drivers from WalletHub doesn't mean it's totally safe: Averaging traffic statistics from 2013 to last year, lawyer Michael Grossman found that the city sees around 5,669 crashes annually, with 2,333 injuries and 11 deaths.

Related: The 20 Safest Big Cities in America


5th Best: Boise, Idaho

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 39th 
Traffic infrastructure: 4th 
Safety: 3rd 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 85th
You can feel pretty safe in Boise despite the city's appearance on that list of "drunkest-driving cities in America." It's still managed to be in the top five cities in WalletHub's ranking for rate of accidents compared with the national average (along with Laredo, Texas; Madison, Wisconsin; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Scottsdale, Arizona).

Related: 10 College Towns That Retirees Love, Too

Greensboro, North Carolina

4th Best: Greensboro, North Carolina

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 2nd 
Traffic infrastructure: 38th 
Safety: 30th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 39th
Greensboro doesn't just promise some of the fewest hours spent in traffic. It also has some of the lowest auto maintenance costs in the country.

Corpus Christi, Texas

3rd Best: Corpus Christi, Texas

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 11th 
Traffic infrastructure: 7th 
Safety: 21st 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 79th
Corpus Christi (in a tie with Reno, Nevada) has the lowest average parking rate, at $1 for every two hours (compare that with New York's record-setting average of about $40).

Raleigh, North Carolina
Lincoln, Nebraska

Best: Lincoln, Nebraska

Cost of ownership and maintenance: 4th 
Traffic infrastructure: 13th 
Safety: 5th 
Access to vehicles and maintenance: 83rd
Lincoln is best overall for drivers, according to WalletHub, and a standout in terms of how little time they spend in traffic.

Related: The Most Beautiful Main Streets in Every State