The 10 Best Cities to Drive in May Surprise You, but the 10 Worst Cities Won’t

Americans spend an average of 360 hours driving on the road each year, which adds up to about 15 days. That’s a lot of time to spend behind the wheel, which can be a hassle day-to-day, thanks to the poor road quality in many cities and the cost of maintaining a car. These attributes can determine whether or not a city is good to drive in.

WalletHub recently released a study showing the 100 best and worst cities to drive in based on a set of criteria. The best cities may surprise you; however, the worst cities may not.

The 10 worst cities to drive in

Driving range in cold weather
A highway sign warns of dangerous winter driving conditions | Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

When thinking about the worst U.S. cities to drive in, it’s easy to think, “My city is definitely the worst! There are bad drivers everywhere.” However, those drivers aren’t the only factors that contribute to a city being “bad” to drive in. It goes a little deeper than that, so WalletHub came up with four different categories in which to rate each city.

Those categories are:

  • Cost of ownership and maintenance
  • Traffic and infrastructure
  • Safety
  • Access to vehicles and maintenance

WalletHub gathered all of the data from 100 cities across the U.S. and ranked them accordingly. The 10 worst cities on that grand list were:

  • LA, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Washington D.C
  • New York, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Oakland, CA
  • Detroit, MI
  • Philadelphia, PA

Are you surprised at this list? Probably not, considering cities like L.A. and San Francisco are expensive places to own and drive a car. Precipitation and traffic congestion were factors as well.

The 10 best cities in the U.S. to drive in

The results may surprise you when it comes to the 10 best U.S. cities to drive in. Here is what WalletHub found:

  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Plano, TX
  • Corpus Christi, TX
  • Greensboro, NC
  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • Lincoln, NE
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Arlington, TX
  • Garland, TX
  • Orlando, FL

Now, are you surprised? Maybe, considering a few of the top cities may not be what you originally pictured. However, it’s important to take into account that these top 10 cities are smaller and less populated than the worse cities to drive in.

How was each category weighted?

Vehicles in traffic, all with different gas mileage
Cars with various gas mileage | Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Let’s take a closer look at how WalletHub scored each city. Wallethub assigned a point value to each metric on a 100-point scale. Here are the metrics for each category:

Cost of car maintenance and ownership (30 points)

  • Cost of a new car
  • Average gas prices
  • Average monthly car insurance premium
  • Auto maintenance costs
  • Total extra vehicle operating costs per driver

Traffic and infrastructure (30 points)

  • Annual hours spent in congestion per auto commuter
  • Number of days with precipitation
  • Number of cold days
  • Average commute time per car
  • Number of alternative-fuel stations per capita
  • Quality of roads
  • Quality of bridges
  • Roadway miles per 1,000 persons
  • Waze driver satisfaction rating

Safety (30 points)

  • Rate of car thefts
  • Accident likelihood in a city vs. the national average
  • Traffic fatality rate
  • Number of hard-braking events per 1,000 miles
  • Share of uninsured drivers
  • Rate of larceny
  • The strictness of DUI punishment
  • Punitiveness of high-risk driver’s insurance

Access to vehicles and maintenance (10 points)

  • Car dealerships per capita
  • Auto-repair shops per capita
  • Car washes per capita
  • Gas stations per capita
  • Parking lots and garages per capita

The scores for each city were averaged out

After collecting all the data from each city, WalletHub determined the scores for each city and averaged them out. To check out how the best and worst cities stacked up, check out the tables below:

A list of the 10 best cities to drive in.
A list of the 10 best cities to drive in. | WalletHub
A list of the 10 worst cites to drive in.
A list of the 10 worst cities to drive in. | WalletHub

As we can see, determining the best and worst cities to drive in across the U.S. relies on more than just how well the streets are paved. A lot of it depends on how much it costs to buy a car, maintain it, fuel it, and keep it safe. In that case, you may be better off moving to a smaller city to get the best driving experience possible.

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