The Best and Worst States for Drivers

Natalie Josef
October 18, 2010

Last week, Forbes published an article rating the best and worst states for drivers. Using a number of published studies, which evaluated various elements of the driving experience—gas prices, insurance rates, infrastructure, and legal protection—the article focuses on what matters most to drivers … their wallets.

Gas prices seem to be the biggest concern for drivers, probably because we feel the impact of price changes instantaneously. It’s easy to forget how much you are forking out in insurance costs or oil changes because you only have to do them a couple of times a year. Filling up our tanks, on the other hand, hits the pocketbook immediately and frequently. Gas prices can vary as much as 36 percent between states.

Lowest gas prices: South Carolina and New Jersey
Highest gas prices: Hawaii and Alaska

The average cost of insurance can have an even wider divide—people in some states can pay nearly three times more than people in other states. We see enough commercials of Geico’s gecko to know that insurance rates are a big deal and a major cost consideration for all drivers, and there are dozens of tips out there on how to lower your rates—be a safe driver, buy an old car, use the same insurer for your house, car, etc. Some companies have even started offering discounts to customers who will participate in monitoring programs of teen drivers—yes, that means if you install a camera to spy on your teenager, you can get a better rate on your auto insurance!

Lowest insurance rates: Maine and Vermont
Highest insurance rates: Louisiana and Michigan

For nearly twenty years, the Reason Foundation think tank has published an annual study that assesses the infrastructure of each state’s roads and bridges to determine which states have the worst and best. Better roadways can make for a cheaper and safer driving experience by avoiding gas-wasting delays and accidents.

Best infrastructure/safety: North Dakota and Montana
Worst infrastructure/safety: Rhode Island and Alaska

Speed traps, the legality of radar detectors, and how traffic ticket recipients are treated in court all make up the final category Forbes’ article investigates—legal protections. The National Motorists Association rates the states on seventeen criteria to investigate whether or not police and courts are “exploiting” drivers, thereby costing them even more money.

Best legal protection: Wyoming and Idaho
Worst legal protection: New Jersey and Ohio

The top ten best states for drivers

1. South Carolina
2. Nebraska
3. Missouri
4. North Dakota
5. Mississippi
6. Texas
7. Kansas
8. New Hampshire (tie)
8. Wyoming (tie)
10. Tennessee (tie)
10. Arizona (tie)

The top ten worst states for drivers

1. California
2. Illinois
3. New York
4. Michigan
5. Alaska
6. Maryland
7. Connecticut (tie)
7. Rhode Island (tie)
9. Louisiana
10. Washington


Natalie Josef

About the Author

Natalie Josef is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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