The Worst And Best Cities To Drive In Throughout America

According to a 2018 Gallop poll, only 44% of Americans enjoy driving even a little bit. If you’re a member of the majority who doesn’t like to drive, you may live in one of the worst areas for motorists. Road quality, traffic frequency, gas prices, and repair cost all significantly impact our driving experience.

In some cities, you can drive effortlessly without worry. Others contribute to the six million automobile accidents every year. Honolulu, Madison, San Diego — can you guess which cities are the best and worse to drive in? These statistics might end up influencing your next road trip.

WORST: Honolulu, Hawaii

A visitor texts before crossing the street in Honolulu, Hawaii.
EUGENE TANNER/AFP/Getty Images
EUGENE TANNER/AFP/Getty Images

The 2019 WalletHub study ranked Honolulu as the worst city to drive in the United States. Along with the city’s crowded streets, few auto repair shops are available for maintenance. Honolulu also has one of the highest gas prices in the nation at $4.17 per gallon.

Because of the high housing cost in Hawaii, parking and automobile costs skyrocket as well. Waze spokesperson Julie Mossler added that “Honolulu was found to have the most road hazards (e.g., accidents and roadkill).” Despite the city’s scenic views, the local government has struggled to care of their roads.

BEST: Dayton, Ohio

Busy street with trolleys in Dayton Ohio
Youtube/University of Dayton
Youtube/University of Dayton

Strolling through Dayton, Ohio will bring you to several scenic roads with brilliant trees and snaking rivers. In 2017, less than 60 car accidents occurred in Dayton. Most rush hour drives, which last from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, only last for 15-20 minutes. Longer commutes often result from accidents and storms.

With most gas prices ranging from $2.44 to $2.54 per gallon, refueling your car will be a lot cheaper there than most other cities. Due to the limited streetlights, however, driving at night can daunt many tourists.

WORST: San Diego, California

The downtown skyline is viewed from a hill overlooking Interstate 5 in San Diego, California.
George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

According to GasBuddy, San Diego houses some of the most aggressive drivers in the country. Drivers in this city have 62% more speeding incidents than the average car owner. The beach city has one of the highest rates for cars stolen in the nation, according to Fact Check.

Most ranking systems agree that San Diego contains more frustrated drivers than Los Angeles. On top of the bumper-to-bumper traffic jams, gas costs average around $4.05 per gallon. Nine highways wrap around central San Diego, which worsens the travel experience for tourists.

BEST: Kansas City, Missouri

Field and city in Kansas City Missouri
Twitter/@MoAgriculture
Twitter/@MoAgriculture

Because of Kansas City’s reasonable housing prices and available job market, more families are moving there than ever before. Even with a population of two million, Kansas City has the traffic problems of a city half its size. Traffic jams hardly ever happen.

Gas prices also exceed the expectations of most city-dwellers, ranging from $1.29 to $2.37 per gallon. With the most freeways per capita, Kansas City offers an effortless driving experience, including fantastic architecture and lakes.

WORST: Washington, DC

Washington DC White House and cityscape
Twitter/@Joes_DC
Twitter/@Joes_DC

The high amount of tourism in Washington, DC results in congested streets and expensive public parking. According to the District Department of Transportation, evening commutes tend to be five times longer than morning drives.

Catch the roads at the wrong time, and your speed could lower to 8 mph on bridges and freeways. Washington, DC also has a lot of one-way streets and traffic lights that delay and confuse your route. As if that weren’t enough, gas prices in DC exceed $4 per gallon in some areas.

BEST: Morrisville, North Carolina

Skyline of Morrisville North Carolina
Twitter/@RLDaniels919
Twitter/@RLDaniels919

Sandwiched in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, Morrisville has one of the lowest traffic accident rates in the country. In 2016, less than six car accidents occurred in that city. Depending on the freeway you embark, you can avoid rush hour traffic. However, traffic can extend over 30 minutes on some trips.

Morrisville has most amenities you need within the city. One challenge may be the airport that puts cars close to the flight path. Even so, Morrisville Town Hall has added new roads since 2011 to alleviate rush hour congestion and winding drives.

WORST: Detroit, Michigan

A general view of the fans as they line up to enter the ballpark prior to the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox
Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Detroit is America’s worst spot for car theft at a rate of 301 per 100,000 residents. On top of that, residents assert that Detroit has its own driving rules. If you stop at a red light, expect to get rear-ended and yelled at.

Rush hours span from 6:00 am to 10:00 am, and 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Detroit’s roads have a lot of potholes and disrepair as well. For a famous city, though, it has surprisingly inexpensive gas prices: $2.55 per gallon on the cheap end.

BEST: Madison, Wisconsin

State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, looking toward the state capitol building.
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Madison, Wisconsin has little to no traffic and few car accidents, although the number of crashes has increased from 2016 to 2017. Compared to the rest of Wisconsin (which has the second worst roads in the US), Madison has decent road quality with a layout that eases travel for drivers.

The most prominent threat to traffic in Madison is the state’s harsh snowstorms, although these delays are rare. Highways 78 and 19 lead to some scenic routes including lakes and countryside with relatively little traffic.

WORST: New York, New York

Traffic moves along 42nd Street at sunset in New York City.
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Everyone who has visited New York City recognizes how bad the traffic is. But WalletHub’s list clarifies even worse facets of New York City. Of all states, New York City has the highest cost for car maintenance. Parking rates also exceed the national average.

Although New York provides the fourth most auto maintenance shops per capita, their high prices make vehicle repair difficult. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave New York bridges a D+ rating. The high amount of potholes and other road damage threaten the livelihood and safety of drivers as well.

BEST: Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“The Horse Capital of the World,” otherwise known as Lexington, Kentucky, provides plenty of scenic drives and locally-owned chains. Visitors have no problem finding a place to park, and the fee is pretty cheap. The KY-4, which wraps around the city, makes navigation relatively easy.

As the second largest city in Kentucky, Lexington can have dense rush hours. Fortunately, many roads have reversible lanes to alleviate congestion. Fortunately, the number of car crashes has decreased 21.4% from 2017 to 2018.

WORST: Portland, Oregon

The downtown skyline and the Broadway Bridge in Portland, Oregon.
George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

In 2018, Intrex Global Traffic reported that Portland has the 10th worst traffic hour in the United States. However, traffic jams aren’t the only factor in determining the worst place to drive. Allstate discerned that when it rains, Portlanders drive more horrendously than most other states. And in Oregon, it rains a lot.

In 2019, gas prices have increased to $3.45 per gallon. Car crashes have also gone up in the past couple of years. From 2011 to 2017, slow traffic has added 15 minutes to a resident’s daily commute.

BEST: Gilbert, Arizona

Gilbert city has some of the safest driving regulations in the U.S.
Reddit/u/ggfergu
Reddit/u/ggfergu

In 2018, WalletHub ranked Gilbert, Arizona the sixth safest place to live in the US. The city’s safe driving campaign, “Speed Down. Eyes Up. Drive Safely,” contributed to its success. From 2016 to 2017, accidents decreased from 57 to 49 within those years.

The city’s streets spread out like a grid, which means that you can take side streets also anywhere. Even if you take the freeway, rush hour commutes only take around 30 minutes.

WORST: Seattle, Washington

City view of Seattle, WA
Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images
Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images

Even without the rain, Seattle is challenging to tour. Depending on the route you take, highway drives could take over 45 minutes. In 2019 alone, gas prices jumped from $3.21 per gallon to $3.99 per gallon.

With over 700,000 drivers weaving through the streets every day, Seattle endures a lot of car accidents. In 2015, an automobile accident happened every 4.5 minutes in Washington state. City leaders have worked hard to decrease the number of crashes throughout the years, but that doesn’t mitigate the traffic situation.

BEST: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Michigan, Grand Rapids, Van Andel Museum, Public Museum and Grand River.
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Unlike other river cities, Grand Rapids keeps its bridges and roads in check. With plenty of artistic spaces and parks to pass, driving through Grand Rapids are both a breeze and a pleasantry. Both gas and auto repair costs are average.

If you visit, park outside of downtown for free, since the main streets can get backed up and expensive. Even so, Grand Rapids rarely experiences traffic jams unless a crash has occurred. Buses and pedicabs lighten up the congestion in downtown as well.

WORST: San Francisco, California

Traffic jam during rush hour commute on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California,
Getty Images
Getty Images

Along with its steep and winding streets, San Francisco sees thousands of drivers enter and leave every day. Hence, traffic is horrendous. During rush hour, cars snail along at 26 mph on freeways. San Francisco also has one of the highest gas prices in the nation at a minimum of $3.50 per gallon.

Despite these factors, people continue to flock to San Francisco Since 2009, over 65,000 residents moved to the city. With more residents and jobs, expect the traffic in this city to increase.

BEST: Macon, Georgia

road to a museum in Macon Georgia
Youtube/Visit The USA
Youtube/Visit The USA

Although Georgia provides plenty of windy, steep highways, Macon does not connect to those roads. The city of Macon consists of smooth drives with little worry of stop-and-go traffic, even on highway I-16.

Most rush hour commutes in Macon only add around 10-20 minutes. Considering that more Macon residents drive solo compared to the rest of the country, these statistics are surprising. On the flip-side, Macon has one of the highest crime rates of all U.S. towns.

WORST: Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville skyline at night.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2017, Waze categorized Jacksonville, Florida as the second worst place to drive in America, even worse than Los Angeles and Portland. A spokesperson for the navigation app said that the ranking has to do with the city’s constant bridge closures, route detours, and frequent construction.

Surprisingly, the JAXUSA Partnership estimates that most commutes in Jacksonville only last around 25 minutes. Expect a lot of accidents in this city, though. Over 900 car crashes interrupted traffic in 2017.

BEST: Corpus Christi, Texas

Harbor Bridge at sunset in Corpus Christi Texas
Reddit/u/MoPPiiN
Reddit/u/MoPPiiN

Corpus Christi has little to no daily traffic delays with most rush hours consisting of only 20-minute drives. The city’s gas only costs around $2.20 per gallon, and it also has some of the cheapest auto repair shops in the nation.

Texas state highways have grown notorious for their heavy traffic. Corpus Christi connects to US 77, one of the least congested freeways in the state. The worst highway in Texas is I-35 because it heads almost everywhere, and as such is hard to avoid.

WORST: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A mural painting is seen on 13th street in the city center of Philadelphia
ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images
ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images

In 2018, WalletHub ranked Philadelphia the fourth worst driving city in the nation. Cost of car maintenance is high, and the complex infrastructure doesn’t help. Gas isn’t the worst, but it isn’t the best, either: $3.00 a gallon in some places. In 2017, over 1,000 people were injured or killed in Philadelphia car accidents.

Despite its reputation, Philadelphia has lowered its DUI arrest by 33% in the past ten years. That doesn’t stop over 230,000 drivers commuting between 7:00 am and 7:30 am every weekday, though.

BEST: Hartford, Connecticut

trees and buildings in Hartford Connecticut
Pinterest/Stephanie Walls
Pinterest/Stephanie Walls

Hartford, Connecticut is ranked Waze’s tenth best city to drive in. The city sees very few accidents and little aggressive driving. In 2008, Hartford residents suffered through over 1,000 car thefts; efforts through 2017 have lowered that number to just over 600.

Although their public transit use remains below the national average, recent efforts have expanded the popularity of buses. If you drive by, you’ll witness brilliant foliage and mountains. Gas has gone up in price, though, elevating to a $2.76 per gallon average in 2019.