Best and worst states for motorists

If you're planning to take a road trip this summer -- and about half of Americans are -- you may want to steer clear of the Golden State. Two recent studies have singled out California for a litany of car-related ills, from high gasoline and repair prices to roads that are in such bad shape that they'll jostle you right onto a mechanic's waiting hydraulic lift.

Indeed, California scored dead last in CarInsurance.com's ranking of best and worst states for driving, which rated motor-friendliness on an eight-point scale that included road hazards, traffic, gas and insurance prices.

The Department of Transportation rates two-thirds of the state's roads as "poor or mediocre," which results in an average of $586 in repair costs due to road damage, the study says. The only state where drivers spend more to repair their cars because of damage caused from driving on bad roads is New Jersey, where the average driver spends $601 annually fixing road-related damages.

At the same time, CarMD says if your "check engine" light goes on while in California, you'll pay more to fix it than if you had an identical problem in another state. CarMD's data reflects averages for a variety of ills because the check engine light measures mechanical transgressions on 80 percent of automotive systems, from the trivial, such as a loose gas cap, to devastatingly costly problems with a car's catalytic converter.

Still, CarMD found that a check engine light will cost an average of $435 to repair in California, the most costly state, vs. $354 to repair in Michigan, where the costs are the lowest.

California drivers also pay the highest average gas prices in the nation and waste the most time in traffic, according to CarInsurance.com.

So, where should you take a that road trip? The best state for drivers is Utah, according to CarInsurance.com. Its roads are in relatively good shape, gas prices are reasonable at $2.07 a gallon vs. California's $2.78 average, the cost of repairs and insurance is lower and you're far less likely to be hit by an uninsured motorist.

Other states in the top five for drivers are:

  • 2) Minnesota, where gas prices are low, and traffic fatalities are relatively rare
  • 3) New Hampshire, where you're rarely held up by a traffic jam
  • 4) Virginia, where both insurance and gasoline prices are low
  • 5) Vermont, a scenic state with a nice combination of reasonable prices for everything from gas, insurance and repairs to reasonably maintained roads.

Where else besides California shouldn't you drive? Oklahoma, ranked 49th out of 50, largely due to rotten roads, a high percentage of uninsured motorists and a high accident fatality rate.

Louisiana came in 48th, thanks to high insurance rates and high per-capita accident fatalities.

Wisconsin, 47, got its poor ranking mainly due to 71 percent of its roads being in poor to mediocre shape.

Mississippi rounded out the bottom five with a combination of ills ranging from a high fatality rate to high insurance costs and a large number of uninsured motorists.

Curious about where you state ranks? You can check out CarInsurance.com's 50-state ranking.