What You Can Do if You Live in a Bad State for Drivers?

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News

Bankrate has released the latest study ranking states according to how good they are for drivers.  Using the number of fatal crashes, the number of car thefts, how much repairs cost, gasoline spending, insurance premiums, and commute times, a score for each state was calculated, and all 50 states were ranked.

Iowa came out on top, which probably isn’t particularly surprising; but the state that came in dead last was Louisiana. In general, the trend that emerged is rural states being better for drivers and more densely populated states are the ones you don’t want to drive in. As a fairly rural state, though, Louisiana doesn’t exactly fit that trend.

When I chatted with Bankrate analyst Chris Kahn about the results, he echoed the same sentiment.

“Louisiana continues to be kind of an anomaly. I kind of scratch my head over Louisiana,” he said.

Despite not fitting the pattern of other bad driving states, the state’s relatively high crime rate, repair costs, insurance premiums, and number of fatal accidents paint a pretty grim picture. Commute times and gasoline costs may be fairly low, but that clearly isn’t enough to save the state of Louisiana from last place in this comparison.

If you happen to live in one of these states with a low ranking, it would help to move to a better state, but that’s not really an option for most people who are currently employed. Picking up everything you own and moving to Iowa will probably cut down on your commute time and save you money on repairs, but if your friends, family, and job are all in New York City, that’s not really a practical solution.

So what are you supposed to do if you’re stuck driving in a terrible state to own a car in? I chatted with Kahn about that, as well, and he had a few suggestions.

Win McNamee/Getty Images News
Win McNamee/Getty Images News

First, he highly recommended talking with your insurance company. A state like New Jersey has average insurance rates nearly double that of Wisconsin, meaning that even if you don’t change anything else, reducing your insurance rate can have a significant impact on how much money you’re spending in total.

He suggests calling your insurance agent and asking, “What are ways I, personally, can change my premium?” In some cases, you may be stuck, but depending on the state and how it calculates premiums, you may be able to save a good bit of money. Sometimes, you can even lower your rate by making a small change you didn’t originally think about.

If you have a garage you’re using for storage and park your car in your driveway, it may be worth cleaning out that garage. According to Kahn, “insurance premiums will go down if you have covered parking for your car.” It’s a small thing, but it’s also something you’ll never benefit from if you don’t talk to your insurance agent.

Commuting is also incredibly rough on cars, so Kahn recommends finding ways to cut down on how much driving you’re doing. That could mean carpooling with a coworker, but it could also mean looking at alternative ways of getting to work. If you have a reliable public transportation system at your disposal, riding that to work might be a better option.

Another idea is to ride your bike to work. It’s probably not feasible if you have a 20-mile commute, but in a crowded city where your commute is only a mile or two, you may even be able to beat the train to work.

What Kahn was most passionate about, though, is the idea of eliminating your commute all together.

“People ask me, ‘What can I do as an individual to improve my commuting experience?’ I think that employers are increasingly allowing people to work from home. If you can do your job on your laptop – if you can show that you’re just as productive at home – that cuts down on everything.” 

Obviously not all employers are on board with tele-commuting, but if you have the option, taking advantage of it could mean a huge improvement not just in your driving costs but in your quality of life, as well. You’ll reduce the wear and tear on your car, spend less on maintenance, be at less risk of getting into an accident, spend less on gas, and probably save on your car insurance.

As someone who works remotely, I wholeheartedly endorse what Kahn said. Having to commute to work isn’t enjoyable, and it’s even worse if you’re stuck driving for over an hour each way. If you can eliminate or reduce your commute, definitely give it a shot.

Even better, it will free you to only drive when you want to, making it much more enjoyable. If you don’t have to make the slog to the office five days a week, you can also justify buying something much less practical and reliable. That used Porsche Cayman is calling your name, my friends. Go for it.

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