FindByPlate.com has ranked all 50 states plus Washington DC according to driving experience. The study analyzed a comprehensive dataset gathered from industry groups, government organizations, and non-profits to determine the state that offers the best place to drive.
From coast to coast and state to state, there are big differences in driving experience. Due to cost factors like gas prices, auto insurance, and vehicle repairs as well as safety factors like road conditions, motor vehicle thefts, DUIs, and weather, driving in each state is a unique and vastly different experience for drivers.
California ranks in last place, with the worst score for road conditions, gas prices, and rate of auto theft. It's followed by Florida, Washington DC, New York, and Colorado.
Iowa tops the chart, where drivers benefit from cheap insurance and the most affordable gas prices. It's followed by Idaho, Utah, Vermont, and Indiana to complete the top 5.
49. Washington DC
48. New York
As you probably know, various factors affect how much you pay for auto insurance, including your age, driving record, and vehicle type. Another factor that plays a key role in your car insurance premium is where you live, because auto insurance rates vary widely from state to state in the US. One of the reasons for this is that there are different laws in each state, which affect car insurance prices. Insurers also take into account average payouts, DUIs, and other factors when pricing their auto insurance policies in a state.
The national average for car insurance is just over $1,600 for full insurance and around $550 for minimum coverage. Your actual payment can be hundreds of dollars higher or lower than these average figures based on your age and driving history. For example, drivers with a speeding ticket pay a higher premium for car insurance nationwide.
Interestingly, 49 out of 50 states in the US require that drivers have an active car insurance policy. The only state where auto insurance is not a legal requirement is New Hampshire. (You must, however, demonstrate financial responsibility.)
Here’s how we ranked states based on the cost of auto insurance. These average costs are based on a 40-year-old driver with a clean driving history and good credit.
Average cost of minimum-coverage annual car insurance
Less than $500 – 4 points
$500 to $750 – 3 points
$750 to $1,000 – 2 points
More than $1,000 – 1 point
Best state (lowest cost of minimum-coverage auto insurance): Iowa $252
Worst state (highest cost of minimum-coverage auto insurance): New York $1,062
Average cost of full-coverage annual car insurance
Less than $1,000 – 4 points
$1,000 to $1,500 – 3 points
$1,500 to $2,000 – 2 points
More than $2,000 – 1 point
Best state (lowest cost of full-coverage auto insurance): Maine, $965
Worst state (highest cost of full-coverage auto insurance): Louisiana, $2,724
When you budget for the cost of vehicle ownership, you will likely consider your car payments, auto insurance, and the cost of gas. But many people forget to factor in the cost of car maintenance and repairs. Indeed, routine car maintenance is important if you want to maintain the health and longevity of your vehicle and avoid costly repairs down the road.
The AAA estimates that routine car maintenance costs $0.09 per mile on average, which is $900 if you drive 10,000 miles a year (approximately 850 miles a month). Routine maintenance includes oil changes, new batteries, windshield wiper replacements, tire rotations or replacements, and brake pad replacements.
The average cost of car repairs (labor and parts) can vary greatly depending on the car you drive. A small sedan will obviously set you back far less than a pickup truck in terms of repairs and overall cost of ownership.
Another factor that affects repair costs is where you live, because auto repair costs can vary greatly from state to state. To get a sense of where each state stands, we’ve ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to the average annual cost of vehicle repairs.
Average cost of car repairs (parts + labor)
Less than $350 – 4 points
$350 to $375 – 3 points
$375 to $400 – 2 points
More than $400 – 1 point
Best state (lowest cost of auto repairs): Vermont, $342
Worst state (highest cost of auto repairs): California, $414
The demand for petroleum is approximately 20 million barrels per day in the US. Gas prices fluctuate based on the price of crude oil, which in turn is determined by global demand and supply and inventories.
In addition to the price of crude oil (which is the biggest component in gasoline prices), consumers pay additional costs such as the cost of refining, transportation, retail, and excise taxes.
As of February 2022, crude oil is averaging $90 per barrel. At 42 gallons per barrel, this translates to $2.14 per gallon at the pump. Excise taxes add another $0.49 per gallon on average. There are additional costs for refining, transportation, and retail. In February 2022, the national average for gas in the US according to the AAA is $3.44 per gallon. We’ve ranked each state based on gas prices.
Less than $3.50 – 4 points
$3.50 to $3.75 – 3 points
$3.75 to $4.00 – 2 points
More than $4.00 – 1 point
Best state (lowest gas prices): Mississippi, $3.08
Worst state (highest gas prices): California, $4.68
Your overall driving experience is influenced to a very large degree by three variables: road and bridge conditions, traffic fatalities, and congestion delays. Some states have excellent highway performance and cost-effectiveness based on the spending per mile, while others do not fare so well. The top 3 spenders are Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, with spendings of more than $250,000 per mile on their highways. In contrast, the bottom 5 states—North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Missouri, and West Virginia—spend an average of just $30,000 per mile on their highways. Interestingly, some states are unable to improve their highway systems despite spending more.
It's worth noting that different states have different budgets, highway miles, geographies, and traffic circumstances. So any comparison has to take into account the resources available and overall performance. We ranked the relative performance of US states based on efficiency in spending, to see which states offer good road conditions to users and make good use of taxpayers’ money.
Road Conditions and Spending Per Mile
Ranks 1–12 – 4 points
Ranks 13–25 – 3 points
Ranks 26–38 – 2 points
Ranks 38–50 – 1 point
Best state (road conditions and spending): North Dakota (rank 1)
Worst state (road conditions and spending): New Jersey (rank 50)
For the US as a whole, the average time taken for people to get from home to work each day is 26.6 minutes. Of course, commute times can vary greatly within a state, in rural versus urban areas, and in large cities versus smaller towns. In general, studies have shown that longer commutes are associated with decreased job satisfaction. Commute times are also known to affect family dynamics. The more time you spend commuting, the less time you have for other activities.
The Covid-19 pandemic made work-from-home and telecommuting the new normal. However, there are many large and small businesses that cannot function without employees being present physically at the place of business. Among those businesses where technology renders the place of work immaterial, only time will tell how many choose to keep a significant percentage of their workforce at home once the pandemic is over. If the trend of telecommuting continues, then average commute times could show a downward trend in the years to come.
Using data from the US Census Bureau and the American Community Survey, we’ve ranked the 50 US states based on the average time taken to commute to work, including time spent collecting passengers for a car pool, waiting for public transportation, and other activities related to the daily work commute.
Average Commute Time
Less than 15 minutes – 4 points
15–25 minutes – 3 points
25–30 minutes – 2 points
More than 30 minutes – 1 point
Best state (shortest commute time): South Dakota, average commute 17 minutes
Worst state (longest commute time): New York, average commute 33 minutes
Auto insurance is a necessary evil. Having a good auto insurance policy puts your mind at ease when you drive, and it also encourages you to drive safely. Vehicle insurance can be quite expensive in the US compared to globally, but it is required by law in most states.
Auto insurance is also a key metric when assessing road safety in various states in the US, because you can look at payouts made by private passenger auto insurers to gauge safety on the roads. The higher the number of claims made against auto insurance policies, the higher the risk profile of drivers in the state.
Indeed, your auto insurance premium is influenced by your history of accidents and by the state where you live. If you live in a state where claims are historically higher, you will likely have to pay a higher premium to obtain auto insurance coverage. On the other hand, insurers like to reward safe driving behavior, so you may be able to get deductibles on claims and discounts on your premium if you have a safe driving record and live in an area where claims are historically low.
Payouts by Private Passenger Auto Insurers
Less than $1.5 million – 4 points
$1.5 to 2.5 million – 3 points
$2.5 to 3.5 million – 2 points
More than $3.5 million – 1 point
Best state (lowest payouts by auto insurers): Vermont, $220,000
Worst state (highest payouts by auto insurers): California, $19.8 million
Even small amounts of alcohol can lead to impaired judgment, loss of muscle control, poor muscle coordination, poor eye focusing, and deterioration in reaction time, all of which can prove catastrophic for the driver, their passengers, and others on the road.
Compared to the 1980s, drunk driving and DUI arrests are down by nearly 50%. Harsher penalties and greater awareness spearheaded by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have made America’s roads safer. Yet drunk driving still causes more than 10,000 deaths every year—that’s 28 people every day, and one person every 52 minutes. Driving under the influence also costs the US over $44 billion in damages and deaths.
Around one-third of all fatalities from motor vehicle crashes in the US involve drunk drivers. But how do the individual states fare? To give you a clearer picture, we compared the numbers to find out the states with the worst DUI problems. To account for differences in population, we ranked the states by the number of DUI arrests per 100K population.
DUI Arrest Rate per 100,000 Population
Less than 250 – 4 points
250–300 – 3 points
300–400 – 2 points
More than 400 – 1 point
Best state (lowest DUI arrests): Delaware, 44 DUI arrests per 100K population
Worst state (highest DUI arrests): South Dakota, 721 DUI arrests per 100K population
More than 38,000 people die each year as a result of car crashes on US roads. Another 4.4 million receive serious injuries. Traffic fatalities are the leading cause of death in young people under the age of 55. Road crashes cost US citizens nearly $900 billion, with close to $400 million in direct medical costs.
The statistics are staggering, and the US lags behind other high-income places like Australia, Canada, Japan, and Western Europe when it comes to road safety. Several factors contribute to motor vehicle crashes and resultant deaths, mainly poor road infrastructure, non-roadworthy vehicles, poor compliance with or lack of enforcement of traffic laws, and unsafe driver behaviors. Given these diverse causes, improving road safety and reducing traffic fatalities is a shared responsibility between various parties, including the government and the people.
Traffic fatalities can vary greatly by US state. We’ve compared the number of fatal car crashes per 100,000 population to rank the states. The average for the whole of the US is 11 deaths per 100K population.
Traffic Fatalities Per 100,000 Population
Less than 7 – 4 points
7–12 – 3 points
12–16 – 2 points
More than 16 – 1 point
Best state (lowest traffic fatalities): District of Columbia (Washington DC), 3.3 deaths per 100K population
Worst state (highest traffic fatalities): Wyoming, 25.4 deaths per 100K population
The 3-point seat belt that we are all so familiar with today was designed by a Volvo engineer in the 1950s. The use of seat belts is one of the easiest and most effective road safety measures ever implemented. The fact that seat belts save lives is now well known. This increase in awareness has led to higher rates of compliance in the US, currently around 90% compared to less than 15% in the mid-1980s. When used correctly, seat belts reduce the risk of death in a motor vehicle crash by over 60%. Seat belts are particularly effective in protecting the wearer in rollovers, frontal collisions, and low-speed crashes.
Since 1968, it is required by law to buckle up in 49 out of 50 US states. The only exception is New Hampshire, where seat belt use is mandatory only for the driver and people under 18 years of age.
When it comes to seat belt usage, the national average for the US is 90.7%. We ranked the various states based on seat belt use to see how they fare in this vital road safety habit.
Seat Belt Use
Over 95% – 4 points
90%–95% – 3 points
85%–90% – 2 points
Less than 85% – 1 point
Best state (highest seat belt use): California, 96%
Worst state (lowest seat belt use): New Hampshire, 70.7%
Auto theft has been trending down since peaking in the early 1990s, mainly due to more robust law enforcement efforts and antitheft technology. Yet it continues to be a considerable problem in the US. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), some 810,000 vehicles are reported stolen in the US each year. The FBI estimates that auto theft costs Americans nearly $7.5 billion annually. On average, each auto theft is a loss of $9,000.
The average auto theft rate for the US is 246 vehicles stolen per 100,000 population. But the motor vehicle theft rate varies greatly from state to state. We’ve ranked the states on this metric to try to identify the states where you are at greatest risk of having your car stolen, and where your car is relatively safe.
Auto Theft Rate per 100,000 population
Less than 100 – 4 points
100–250 – 3 points
250–400 – 2 points
More than 400 – 1 point
Best state (lowest rate of auto theft): Vermont, 42 per 100K inhabitants
Worst state (highest rate of auto theft): Colorado, 524 per 100K inhabitants
Weather can have a huge impact on driving safety and crash risk through visibility impairment, effects on driver capability, vehicle performance (stability and maneuverability), condition of roadway infrastructure, and traffic flow. According to expert estimates, around 1 in 5 motor vehicle crashes occur due to adverse weather (rain, sleet, snow, fog, sand, or severe crosswinds).
Two of the most common weather conditions that affect driving are fog and precipitation. The vast majority of weather-related car crashes occur during rainfall, and to a lesser extent during snowy or icy conditions.
To this end, we’ve compared annual precipitation in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in our ranking of the best and worst states in the US for drivers. Of course, the weather can vary greatly within a state. The average amount of annual moisture (rainfall or snow) for the entire United States excluding Alaska and Hawaii is 30.2 inches.
Weather (average total inches of yearly precipitation: rainfall and snow)
Less than 20 – 4 points
20–35 – 3 points
35–50 – 2 points
More than 50 – 1 point
Best state (lowest yearly precipitation): Nevada, 9.5 inches
Worst state (highest yearly precipitation): Hawaii, 63.7 inches