Utah is the best state for driving in 2021 thanks to its below-average auto insurance premiums, low crash-related fatality rates and better than average road conditions.

The Beehive State edged out Minnesota. This is the second straight report in which Utah and Minnesota finished first and second and Minnesota won the top spot in 2018.

Utah beat Minnesota again because more than half of Minnesota's roads are considered poor or mediocre. That's compared to only about one-quarter of Utah roads.

At the other end of this year’s findings is California. The Golden State came in last for the second consecutive time. California has the highest average gas prices. It also has high repair costs, poor road conditions and traffic congestion issues.

Each state was scored on the following factors:

  • Insurance costs: Percentage of annual income spent on car insurance
  • Traffic fatalities: Deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled
  • Extra costs associated with road conditions: Annual extra vehicle repairs/operating costs due to driving on roads in need of fixing per motorist
  • Traffic congestion: Public road mileage and the number of registered vehicles
  • Gas: Average regular gas prices
  • Roads: Percentage of roads in poor/mediocre condition
  • Uninsured drivers: Percentage of uninsured motorists
  • Car repair costs: The average cost of car repairs (both parts and labor)

What we found was that no one state aced or failed every metric. Instead, states may perform well in one category and come near the bottom in another.

Best states for drivers 2021

Here are the states that ranked best in this year’s report:

1. Utah

2. Minnesota

3. Maine

4. North Dakota

5. Massachusetts

6. Nebraska

7. Ohio

8. Wyoming

9. Wisconsin

10. Virginia

Most of the states in this year’s list were also part of our last Top 10 in 2019, which was our last report on the topic. There are two exceptions:

  • Wyoming jumped from 17th place
  • Wisconsin improved from 16th place

Worst states for drivers 2021

Here are the states that ranked the worst for drivers this year:

51. California

50. Louisiana

49. Mississippi

48. New Jersey

47. Arizona

46. Colorado

45. West Virginia

44. Pennsylvania

43. Oklahoma

42. Nevada

California and Louisiana were also the bottom two states in the last report and Louisiana ranked lowest in the 2018 report.

We already went over California’s issues, but why did Louisiana perform poorly? The state has one of the highest auto insurance rates and crash-related fatalities. On the plus side, Louisiana also has one of the lowest average regular gas prices.

Best and worst states for driving

More goes into car ownership than the price of gas. Your insurance costs, driver safety, road conditions, repair costs, congestion and uninsured drivers all play a role in driving.

Here is the information for each state and category. You can search the state by entering the name in the box, you can scroll through all the states and you’re able to hit the arrows to see each category’s rankings.

State Ranking Insurance Traffic Deaths Gas Price Uninsured Drivers Repair Cost Roads Extra Costs Traffic Congestion
North Dakota42.47%1.07$2.406.8%$357.0544%$23712.12
North Carolina162.65%1.19$2.356.5%$402.8645%$24175.89
New Hampshire211.45%1.07$2.439.9%$365.7154%$25981.73
South Dakota222.92%1.34$2.457.7%$376.5361%$32415.23
New Mexico243.40%1.43$2.4020.8%$380.1744%$29125.19
District of Columbia282.25%0.84$2.6615.6%$410.16----229.60
New York333.30%0.76$2.596.1%$376.0860%$40394.93
South Carolina343.16%1.83$2.269.4%$393.4040%$25557.75
Rhode Island363.17%0.74$2.4615.2%$387.6170%$467144.36
West Virginia453.75%1.51$2.5310.1%$377.3147%$27343.62
New Jersey482.44%0.73$2.6614.9%$403.4366%$601155.06

Now that we’ve listed all the results let’s dive into each category.

Percentage of Annual Income Spent on Car Insurance

To figure out this metric, we took the average costs of car insurance by state and the yearly median income. With that data, we figured out the percentage of annual income spent on car insurance.

Using income data is important. It allows you to see how much of a person’s income is going toward insurance. Someone making $100,000 annually will have an easier time paying a $1,500 car insurance rate than a person making $30,000.

The states where people pay on average the highest percentage of their income on car insurance are:

  • Michigan
  • Louisiana
  • Kentucky
  • Nevada

Drivers in all four states spend an average of more than 4% of their income on auto insurance.

The states with the lowest percentage of income going to car insurance are:

  • New Hampshire
  • Virginia
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • Hawaii

Those states pay on average less than 2% of their income on auto insurance.

Don’t fret if you live in a state with high car insurance costs, though. There are still ways to reduce your premiums. One option is to shop around for car insurance to make sure you get the best deal. Each insurer uses unique formulas to figure out rates, so get quotes from multiple companies to see which deal is best for you.

Deaths Per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled

Safety on the roads is a critical component in our study. We weighed insurance costs and deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled the highest out of the metrics.

The lowest rates of deaths per 100 million vehicles miles traveled are:

  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • New York

The worst numbers in this category are:

  • South Carolina
  • Mississippi
  • Arizona
  • Louisiana
  • West Virginia

Percentage of Roads in Poor/Mediocre Condition

U.S. Department of Transportation offers a percentage of roads in poor and mediocre condition by state.

You might not be surprised that the states with the highest percentage of roads in poor or mediocre condition are all places with rough winters.

Connecticut and Illinois topped the list with 73% of roads in poor or mediocre condition. Wisconsin, Colorado, Oklahoma and Rhode Island are all also above 70%.

On the other end are Indiana (17%), Georgia and Nevada.

Annual extra vehicle repairs/operating costs per motorist due to driving on bad roads

We collected U.S. Department of Transportation data to see how much bad roads are costing drivers on average for each state.

New Jersey tops the list with drivers averaging $601 in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs. California and Hawaii round out the three most expensive.

The cheapest are Georgia (only $60), Florida and Alabama.

Traffic Congestion

Gauging a state's traffic congestion is an inexact science. Reports that explore traffic and congestion usually focus on cities or metro areas.

Instead, we used states' public road mileage and the number of registered vehicles to figure out registered vehicles by road miles.

The state with the most registered cars per public road mileage may surprise you -- Hawaii. The Aloha State is followed by the District of Columbia, California, New Jersey and Delaware.

The states with the lowest number of registered cars per public road mileage are North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas.

Average Gas Prices

Gas prices play an important part in the cost of owning a vehicle. A state’s gas taxes and even its location play roles in the average cost of gas.

We used AAA data to find the average gas price for a gallon of regular gasoline. The average was $2.58 when we pulled the numbers on Feb. 12, 2021. The average gallon of gas has gone down about 50 cents per gallon since April 2019, when we last pulled the numbers.

Mississippi has the lowest gas prices at $2.16 per gallon on average. Mississippi is followed by Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansans, South Carolina, Missouri and Tennessee. All of those states average less than $2.30 per gallon.

California has the highest gas -- $3.47 per gallon. Hawaii also charges more than $3 a gallon on average.

Percentage of Uninsured Motorists

You probably don't think about uninsured motorists when you're driving, but they're there. Thirteen percent of American drivers are uninsured. One state has double that amount. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if an uninsured driver hits you.

The states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers are Florida (26.7%), Mississippi and New Mexico.

Places with the fewest uninsured drivers are Maine (4.5%), New York and Massachusetts.

The average cost of car repairs

The average cost of car repairs doesn't vary as widely as car insurance costs, but it's still good to see the differences.

Vermont, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan are the cheapest states to get your car fixed this year, according to figures from CarMD. California, the District of Columbia and Georgia are the most expensive states for car repairs.

Driving: Best and Worst States Mapped Out

States Ranked in
top third for being best for driving
middle third for being best for driving
bottom third for being best for driving
*Please select/enter valid state
  • Alaska (AK)
  • Alabama (AL)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • Arkansas (AR)
  • California (CA)
  • Colorado (CO)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • Washington D.C. (DC)
  • Delaware (DE)
  • Florida (FL)
  • Georgia (GA)
  • Hawaii (HI)
  • Idaho (ID)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Indiana (IN)
  • Iowa (IA)
  • Kansas (KS)
  • Kentucky (KY)
  • Louisiana (LA)
  • Maine (ME)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • Minnesota (MN)
  • Mississippi (MS)
  • Missouri (MO)
  • Montana (MT)
  • Nebraska (NE)
  • Nevada (NV)
  • New Hampshire (NH)
  • New Mexico (NM)
  • New York (NY)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • North Carolina (NC)
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • Ohio (OH)
  • Oklahoma (OK)
  • Oregon (OR)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • Rhode Island (RI)
  • South Carolina (SC)
  • South Dakota (SD)
  • Tennessee (TN)
  • Texas (TX)
  • Utah (UT)
  • Vermont (VT)
  • Virginia (VA)
  • Washington (WA)
  • West Virginia (WV)
  • Wisconsin (WI)
  • Wyoming (WY)

Regardless of your experience on the road, you can still save on car insurance by comparing car insurance rates, says Penny Gusner, CarInsurance.com senior consumer analyst. Each insurance company assesses risk differently. Pricing varies significantly for the same coverage among insurers. See average car insurance rates for your ZIP code, as well as the highest and lowest rate fielded from up to six insurers. That way, you know what you can expect to pay and don't overspend when buying a policy.

Weighted rankings were calculated based on the following:

  • Percentage of annual income spent on car insurance -- 20%
  • Deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled -- 20%
  • Annual extra vehicle repairs/operating costs due to driving on roads in need of fixing per motorist -- 15%
  • Traffic congestion -- 15%
  • Average regular gas prices -- 10%
  • Percentage of roads in poor/mediocre condition -- 10%
  • Percentage of uninsured motorists -- 5%
  • The average cost of car repairs -- 5%

Average Annual Cost of Insurance

Carinsurance.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services in 2020 to calculate auto insurance rates for full coverage, including comprehensive and collision and higher than state minimums for liability coverage. Quadrant provided the averages by Zip code and we crunched the numbers to find the averages for each state.

Median Household Income

2019 U.S. Census data

Deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2018

Traffic Congestion

Federal Highway Administration 2017 data for the number of registered vehicles and 2015 data for public road mileage (published in 2016)

Gas Prices

American Automobile Association, Feb. 12, 2021

Percent of Roads in Poor/Mediocre Condition

Estimated cost per motorist in the state to repair roads and bridges

U.S. Department of Transportation, 2016

Uninsured Motorists

Insurance Information Institute, 2015 (posted in 2017)

Repair Costs

CarMD, 2020

Note: Some of these data points didn’t include the District of Columbia. In those cases, we gave the district the median rating in the weighted average.