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Best and worst states for drivers: How each state measures up

Various vehicles in highway traffic © iStock

When we set out to build a ranking for American drivers, our primary interest was to rate the overall experience for motorists in each state.

There are a number of ways to do this, of course. For our ranking, we favored states where gasoline, repairs and other costs were kept in check. We also gave points for safety. Finally, we considered how long people were spending in their cars to commute to work. The shorter, we figured, the better.

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Here's what we used to rank the states:

  • Number of fatal crashes.
  • Number of car thefts.
  • Car repair costs.
  • Gasoline spending.
  • Insurance premiums.
  • Commute times.

The statistics were gathered from the following sources: the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the FBI, CarMD, the Oil Price Information Service, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Bankrate analyzed the statistics and built a standardized ranking that gave each category equal weight.

Best and worst states for drivers

StateOverall rankCommute Each way (in minutes)Insurance premium (5-year average)Gasoline spending (annual)Repairs (cost per job)Car thefts (per 100K people) Fatal crashes (per 100M miles driven) 
National average 24.4$911$949$390220.71.1
        
Alabama3823.7$787$1,263$389218.71.3
Alaska1118.3$1,066$751$362230.61.1
Arizona3923.9$940$893$396263.21.4
Arkansas3621.2$821$1,066$427191.91.5
California4926.4$894$961$438431.20.9
Colorado2824.0$846$903$415237.91.0
Connecticut3524.1$1,062$950$437173.00.9
Delaware4525.1$1,121$992$451143.91.1
Florida3225.5$1,138$563$412178.61.3
Georgia4426.3$920$964$431268.51.1
Hawaii4225.4$884$1,347$390262.41.0
Idaho119.5$656$733$379 95.31.3
Illinois1626.2$805$1,060$369162.51.0
Indiana1223.1$712$815$393216.21.0
Iowa718.7$637$1,170$385137.41.0
Kansas1518.7$771$978$412229.51.2
Kentucky2922.2$855$1,053$416137.21.3
Louisiana5024.7$1,279$1,017$426198.01.5
Maine623.1$673$1,049$372 68.81.0
Maryland4730.3$1,036$1,071$411226.30.8
Massachusetts2027.1$982$981$398136.30.6
Michigan2123.7$1,088$858$354248.31.0
Minnesota522.5$782$927$377147.00.7
Mississippi2623.0$898$984$378146.71.6
Missouri3322.7$787$1,202$390270.11.1
Montana1717.6$821$1,119$333182.22.0
Nebraska817.8$719$1,165$340238.91.1
Nevada4022.2$1,057$1,083$372358.31.1
New Hampshire1026.6$757$880$373 71.01.1
New Jersey4627.7$1,266$941$447154.50.7
New Mexico3120.7$887$800$431283.21.2
New York4325.5$1,215$1,335$410 78.80.9
North Carolina1323.3$712$643$431148.31.2
North Dakota2317.1$673$1,080$424195.71.6
Ohio1822.8$700$1,433$375168.80.9
Oklahoma2521.1$859$920$374291.21.4
Oregon3021.5$809$1,335$389250.90.9
Pennsylvania2425.0$908$881$418107.81.2
Rhode Island2223.6$1,142$799$391212.40.8
South Carolina3423.7$860$688$410263.51.6
South Dakota916.6$660$1,024$401111.01.5
Tennessee2724.0$766$1,022$392182.11.4
Texas4824.9$1,014$1,037$412248.61.4
Utah1420.0$811$914$410257.30.8
Vermont222.8$722$973$356 53.31.0
Virginia1926.5$764$1,088$402103.30.9
Washington4124.2$903$1,058$413407.40.8
West Virginia3725.2$981$1,061$367103.31.8
Wisconsin421.8$663$1,034$359128.61.0
Wyoming315.9$796$1,614$309 99.20.9

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the FBI, CarMD, Oil Price Information Service, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, U.S. Census Bureau

Takeaways

In general, states with a large number of rural communities did better than others. And this makes a certain amount of sense: Communities with lower population densities tend to have cheaper costs of living. Also, commute times can be shorter in smaller cities.

The worst states for drivers tended to be states with high gasoline prices. They also included states with a number of tightly packed urban areas, and places where the crime rate is relatively high.

Don't fret if you're in a low-ranking state

If you live in a state that made our 10-worst list, it's important to remember that individual motorists have a lot of control over gasoline prices, repair costs and many other measurements that went into our ranking.

You can save on gasoline by carpooling, for example, or by condensing shopping trips or upgrading to a more fuel-efficient vehicle. If you live in an unsafe area, you may want to rent a space in a parking garage or invest in a car alarm. And check with your insurance carrier for ways to lower your premium.

We discuss a few more tips in our 10 worst states for drivers and 10 best states for drivers slideshows.

Happy motoring!

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