Off the top of my head, I can think of a few cities that have horrible reputations when it comes to traffic and driving. I’m thinking of Atlanta, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Detroit. These cities are known for god awful traffic and in some cases potholes big enough to swallow a car, but this is mostly anecdotal.
On the flip side, we never really hear about the best cities for driving. The metropolitan areas that do it best don’t get the credit they deserve. And that’s why WalletHub decided to pull the data together and quantify the best and worst driving cities in America.
They ranked the top 100 cities and Raleigh, North Carolina came in at #1 as the best driving city in our country. Orlando, Florida was ranked number two which is a bit surprising since anytime I have to fly out of the Orlando airport I usually need to budget an extra hour for traffic jams if my flight time is anywhere around commuting hours.
At the bottom of the list is Detroit, Michigan which was ranked as the worst driving city in America. Just behind Detroit is Oakland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Newark, Washington D.C., Seattle, and Los Angeles. These are all the cities you might expect to see on this list but somehow Atlanta was ranked as the 15th BEST overall. This makes no sense to anyone who has driven in Atlanta at any point over the past century.
Here’s a look at the 10 best cities for driving and the 10 worst. Let’s start with the 10 best via Wallethub‘s study.
1. Raleigh NC — #1 ranked Cost of Ownership and Maintenance, #8 Safety
2. Orlando, FL — #4 ranked Traffic
3. Lincoln, NE — #4 ranked Safety
4. Tampa, FL– #6 ranked Access to Vehicles + Maintenance
5. Winston-Salem, NC, — #3 ranked Cost of Ownership
6. Birmingham, AL — #1 ranked Traffic, #2 ranked Cost of Ownership
7. Corpus Christi, TX — #7 ranked Traffic
8. Boise, ID — #9 ranked Traffic
9. Charlotte, NC — #4 ranked Cost of Ownership
10. Greensboro, NC — #6 ranked Cost of Ownership
I’m a little shocked to see two Florida cities near the top of the list but I guess my experiences driving in those cities is all anecdotal and not based on any concreted data. Anyway, here’s a look at the 10 worst:
100. Detroit, MI — Last ranked in ‘Safety’
99. Oakland, CA
98, Philadelphia, PA
97. San Francisco, CA
96. Newark, NJ
95. Washington D.C. — #86 in Safety
94. Seattle, WA
93. Los Angeles, CA
92. New York, NY — Worst ranked in Traffic + Infrastructure
91. Honolulu, HI
90. San Bernardino, CA
Here’s a further look at some of their findings, including the cities with the most and least time spent stuck in traffic, the most and least days with rainy roads, car theft rates, and more:
These cities were all ranked on (1) Cost of Ownership and Maintenance, (2) Traffic and Infrastructure, (3) Safety, (4) Access to Vehicles and Maintenance. Those metrics are made up of statistics like the cost of a new car, average gas prices, the cost of car insurance, road quality, the number of wet and cold days, bridge quality, Waze driver satisfaction, etc. The list goes on and on. You can find their methodology here.
I personally love city driving when it’s not just bumper to bumper traffic. Hauling ass down the FDR drive in Manhattan from where I used to park my car at that Target shopping plaza in Harlem down to my apartment in SoHo was some of the most fun driving. But then I’d get off the FDR at Houston and inevitably get stuck for 30-minutes trying to cross the city.
New York City is a GREAT place to drive when it’s 5am and nobody’s on the road. But if you’re ever unfortunate enough to get stuck trying to leave the city on the Friday of a holiday weekend and the President happens to be eating lunch on your block then you’re completely fucked. This happened to me when (then) President Obama was eating at Carbone just a block and a half from my apartment. It took me nearly 3 hours just to get uptown and over the bridge, a drive that would take 25 minutes without traffic.
That incident aside, I think ‘best and worst’ is fairly subjective when you’re talking about city driving because some people (like myself) enjoy city driving while others are terrified of driving in cities and avoid it at all costs.