Time is money and Americans blew through $88 billion last year while spending an average of 99 hours sitting in traffic.
This happened despite the fact that U.S. motorists drove 380 billion miles cumulatively through October 2020, which is a drop of 13.9% — due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report released by WalletHub.com titled 2021’s Best and Worst States to Drive in.
And if you’re enraged by the idea of watching the cash in your bank account burn because someone can’t figure out how to merge properly in a construction zone causing gridlock on the freeway you happen to be driving on, move to Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, Vermont or Wyoming. They all tied for first in states with the lowest percentage of rush-hour traffic congestion.
Unsurprisingly, to figure out which state finished dead last in that category one only needs to think about which state is most famous for massive traffic jams and delays. Yup. It’s California, which is then followed by Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts and Florida.
The website culled together a variety of information – traffic congestion being just part of the 31 criteria – to determine which states were the best and worst places to drive for 2021. Factors included road quality and maintenance, gas prices, theft rates and others.
The best place to drive was Texas. The Lone Star State didn’t top any particular category, its best result being second in the “Access to Vehicles & Maintenance,” but it was consistently in the upper half of all categories. The rest of the top 10 included: Indiana, North Carolina, Iowa, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maine, Idaho, South Dakota and Ohio.
This leads to the burning question: What state was last? Well, the laggard was well behind the rest: Hawaii. The Aloha state was well behind the next worst state, California, consistently placing the bottom 10 in a variety of categories, including having the highest auto maintenance costs, highest average gas prices, fewest auto-repair shops per capita. It also finished second worst most days with precipitations and 48th in highest car theft rate.
The rest of the bottom 10, in order: California, Washington, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Colorado and Missouri. California was an interesting case as it tended to finish very high in categories, such as placing first in fewest days with precipitation, most auto-repair shops and most car washes per capita or at or near the bottom, such as highest average gas prices, cost of ownership and maintenance and rush-hour traffic congestion.
Other bests included:
- West Virginia has one of the lowest shares of rush-hour traffic congestion, 5%, which is 17.2 times lower than in California, the state with the highest at 86 percent.
- Mississippi has the lowest average regular gas price, $1.86 per gallon, which is 1.8 times lower than in Hawaii, the state with the highest at $3.28 per gallon.
- Vermont has the fewest car thefts (per 1,000 residents), 0.48, which is 8.9 times fewer than in New Mexico, the state with the most at 4.27.
- California has the most auto-repair shops (per square root of the population), 1.523536, which is 7.4 times more than in Hawaii, the state with the fewest at 0.205448.
- Maine has the lowest average car insurance rate, $912, which is 3.2 times lower than in Michigan, the state with the highest at $2,878.
One last note about driving in the U.S. While most drivers would probably concede that their home state has some problems, they’d likely assume that the overall experience here is among the best in the world. With countries like Germany and the autobahn, putting plenty of financial resources into infrastructure, the U.S. was 17th out of 141 countries ranked by the World Economic Forum.