10 Cities Where Owning A Car Is The Most Difficult

In a recent study, NerdWallet looked at the hassles of urban driving — specifically, the worst cities to own and drive a car in the United States. Taking into consideration things like high gas prices, expensive car insurance premiums, bad weather and long traffic delays, the site ranked the top 10 (or more appropriately, the bottom 10). Before sharing those, however, the company laid out its exact methodology, looking at several factors.


The Expense Of Owning A Car

NerdWallet’s John Kuo said the site “considered gas prices and insurance premiums, which vary widely from city to city.”

“Gas prices are greatly affected by local taxes. Crime, local laws and population density are just some of the factors that affect car insurance premiums,” he added.



The idea here being that any city that deals with overcrowding is likely to experience more difficulties for getting around (poorer gas mileage) and more road hazards (traffic accidents due to obstacles or caused by other drivers). “Additionally, when a city has a higher population density, it also means the roadways wear down at a faster rate,” Kuo said. “We assessed this factor through the number of people per square mile.”


Traffic Times

To calculate traffic times, the site incorporated the length of traffic delay, which was calculated by the amount of time drivers spend in traffic exceeding their regular commuting time. As with overcrowding, this can add to the danger, difficulties and cost of getting around.



A lot of people just aren’t any good at driving in poor weather conditions. Those up north can suffer from overconfidence during the winter months, for instance, while those in the South are so unaccustomed to mega snowstorms that when one occurs, they’re not adequately prepared to navigate. “Precipitation can be dangerous and unpleasant for drivers, decreasing visibility and making the roads slippery,” Kuo stated. “We assessed the cities by including the number of days with precipitation as a factor.”

With those factors in the open, here’s what the site found from 10 to 1.


10. Oakland, California

Oakland drivers spend 61 hours a year in traffic, the study reveals, and have to pay a significant amount of money for parking. “Both San Francisco and Oakland were rated as some of the worst cities in the United States for parking,” Kuo noted.


9. Honolulu, Hawaii

“Besides having the highest gas prices in the country,” the study states, “Honolulu drivers also have to deal with Hawaii’s expensive car registration fees. Hawaii is 1 of 13 states that collect registration taxes based on vehicle weight, which means that drivers with trucks or vans end up paying far higher fees than drivers with sports cars.”


8. Miami, Florida

Miami is notorious for its rainy weather conditions, averaging 126 days of precipitation per year. Drivers here also have to deal with high car insurance prices, paying around $1,750.10 for car insurance each year.


7. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston drivers spend more than two full days a year in extra traffic delays (53 hours, to be exact). They also deal with an average of 120 days of rain and/or snow annually. Plus, those who receive points on their driving records from moving violations will probably experience insurance bumps for up to six years, costing thousands of dollars extra.


6. Seattle, Washington

Massive amounts of rain along with the resulting slick roads and poor visibility, make Seattle a tough weather town. Traffic is also rather difficult, and that leads many Seattle residents to ride bikes instead – “4.1% of Seattle residents commute to work by bike, much more than the 1.16% national average,” the study notes.


5. Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital boasts the longest traffic delays each year, Washington, D.C., averaging 67 hours stopped in traffic in addition to regular commutes. NerdWallet also notes that it’s one of the “least courteous” cities for drivers. In other words, you’re going to be waiting a while if you’re hoping that someone will let you pull out.


4. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago — expensive parking, bad weather, high gas prices — drivers in Chi-Town have it pretty rough, averaging 119 days with rain or snow per year and routine gas prices in excess of $4 per gallon.


3. San Francisco, California

San Francisco has a huge congestion problem with close to 10,000 registered cars per square mile. Additionally, residents have to deal with high car costs, and a current gas average of $4.23 per gallon, which is almost $0.60 more per gallon than the national average.


2. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit — known as the car manufacturing capital of the country — doesn’t make car ownership very easy. According to the study, drivers in Detroit “pay the most for car insurance – nearly $5,000 per year for the average driver” and complicated car insurance laws and a high rate of motor vehicle theft “make car insurance premiums in the city the most expensive in the U.S.”


1. New York City, New York

The Big Apple has more than 27,000 people per square mile, making it the most densely populated city in the country. The average New York driver pays $1,614.71 per year for car insurance, and the parking situation is such a hassle that “55% of New Yorkers take public transportation to work.”


In Summary

If you live in one of these cities, you’re probably nodding your head in agreement or thinking, “Why wasn’t my city ranked higher?” While NerdWallet’s list is hardly exhaustive, it does make a good case for its top 10. Do you agree or disagree? Sound off in our comments section.

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