Study: There’s a Worse Place for Drivers Than New York and L.A.

Traffic moves along a street February 24, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

All the data pointed to Detroit as the worst place for drivers. | J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

If you thought New York was the worst place in the country for traffic, you were right. A July 10 study from WalletHub ranked the Big Apple last in that department among America’s 100 largest cities in 2018.

That’s how New Yorkers ended up with the nation’s longest morning and evening commutes in recent years.

However, it wasn’t the worst place in the U.S. overall for people who drive on a daily basis. That dishonor went to The Motor City.

Citing Detroit’s unsafe driving conditions, heavy traffic, and high cost of car ownership, the study named the city the worst place of all for drivers.

When DUIs, stolen cars, and heavy traffic collide

To rank each city, WalletHub experts assigned a score based on four parameters: cost of ownership, traffic, safety, and access to repair shops.

The only one Detroit scored decently was access to repair and the cars themselves. (Not surprisingly, there are folks who will sell you cars all over town.) When it came to cost of ownership (86th) or traffic (94th), Detroit was among the very worst.

However, when it came to safety, only St. Louis ranked worse than the capital of America’s auto industry. WalletHub’s “safety” category included not only the speed of other drivers; it also included how lenient DUI penalties are and how often cars get stolen or wrecked.

Given Detroit was tied for worst for thefts and Michigan doesn’t exactly ruin drivers who get busted for a DUI, that ranking makes perfect sense.

L.A. and San Francisco weren’t far behind.

Heavy traffic clogs the 101 Freeway

Not even L.A. could match the worst city for driving in America. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

You can’t talk about rough places for drivers without getting into California’s largest cities, and they were well-represented in the WalletHub study.

For example, the data showed San Francisco as the most expensive place to own a car and second-worst overall (99th place) for drivers. Oakland, its neighbor across the bay, came in right behind it at 98th place.

Los Angeles, which ranked among the 10 worst cities for traffic and cost of vehicle ownership, placed 92nd out of the 100 cities. (L.A. offers residents places to buy cars and get them fixed.)

Other East Coast cities checking in

While New York (94th) is a dismal place for car owners (especially on the traffic front), Philadelphia (97th) and Boston (95th) actually ranked a little worse in the study.

Philadelphia was terrible for safety with its frightening accident rate, but it was nearly as bad for traffic and the cost of keeping a car. Boston scored poorly because of its horrendous traffic and minimal access to vehicle dealerships and repair shops.

What is the answer for cities that landed in the top 10? If you asked people in New York, many have pointed to congestion pricing plans as a possible solution.

That would slap a fee ranging from $2 to $25 for vehicles entering Manhattan between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sounds like something that would discourage people who don’t need to drive from taking their cars, right?

So far, New Yorkers are safe from the fee. Another unproductive session in Albany left the congestion pricing plan on the table for the foreseeable future.

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