What's the Best, Worst City for Drivers?


Recent studies have confirmed the conventional wisdom that commute times and costs are most onerous in the nation’s big cities, and that California is the undisputed king of car theft. But what if there were a place that experienced these problems to the smallest possible degree, where a person could feel joy when pulling out of the driveway in the morning instead of tension? A motorist’s utopia, if you will. A new study by personal-finance website sought to find just that.

Related: Commuters ‘Sentence’ Gets Longer, Costlier

Generally speaking, the 2015 Best & Worst Cities to Be a Driver study determined that the more rural/less populous a place is, the better life is behind the wheel. The three best cities in which to be a driver, according to the study, are Lubbock, Texas; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Lincoln, Neb. Meanwhile, the worst are densely populated metropolises New York, Washington, D.C, and Philadelphia.

But there’s much more to it than just the number of cars on the road. WalletHub ranked the 100 most populated U.S. cities according to the costs of car ownership and commuting, as well as the environment for leisure drivers. It took into account nearly two-dozen factors, including average gas prices, average annual traffic delays, and rates of car theft and accidents.

“Add up the costs of wasted time and fuel due to traffic congestion on U.S. roads, and we arrive at a collective total of about $124 billion annually, or about $1,700 per household,” WalletHub said in a statement. “However, that figure doesn’t include the extra $515 tab for maintenance and repairs, costs induced by the poor quality of America’s roads, which currently rank at No. 16 in the world and receive a grade of D from the American Society of Civil Engineers.”

The cities with the lowest average annual hours of traffic delays were Bakersfield, Calif.; Stockton, Calif.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; and Boise City, Idaho. Those with the worst delays were Los Angeles; San Francisco; Long Beach, Calif.; Oakland, Calif.; and Washington, D.C.

Lowest average gas prices were found in Tucson, Ariz.; Lubbock, Texas; Houston; San Antonio; and Birmingham, Ala. The highest prices were in San Francisco; San Diego; Chula Vista, Calif.; Los Angeles; and Long Beach, Calif.

Car theft was least frequent in Irvine, Calif.; Gilbert, Ariz.; New York; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Plano, Texas. Meanwhile, St. Louis; Cleveland; San Bernardino, Calif.; Oakland, Calif.; and Detroit posted the highest rates of car theft.

The likelihood of being in a crash was lowest in Boise City, Idaho; Kansas City, Mo.; Laredo, Texas; Madison, Wis.; and Colorado Springs, Colo. The greatest likelihood of an accident was in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

Below are the top 10 best and worst cities for drivers. Find out if your hometown makes the cut — for better or worse:


1. Lubbock, Texas

2. Corpus Christi, Texas

3. Lincoln, Neb.

4. Greensboro, N.C.

5. Tucson, Ariz.

6. Reno, Nev.

7. Durham, N.C.

8. Colorado Springs, Colo.

9. Winston-Salem, N.C.

10. Raleigh, N.C.


1. New York

2. Washington, D.C.

3. Philadelphia

4. San Francisco

5. Detroit

6. Newark, N.J.

7. Boston

8. Chicago

9. Baltimore

10. Los Angeles

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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