The Cheapest Cities to Own a Car

The Cheapest Cities to Own a Car

Photo: Micheal Duva | Stone | Getty Images

Those who don’t rely on public transportation in cities face challenges that don’t come up as much when driving in the suburbs, like restricted and costly parking, congestion, and pricier gas.

So which cities are the least expensive per year for car owners? Sperling’s Best Placescompiled a top ten by figuring the cost of insurance and the cost of driving, based on local gas prices and daily miles driven, plus congestion. They also put a price on time wasted in traffic, by applying an hourly cost based on each place’s household income. 
As for the most costly cities to own a car out of the 50 cities analyzed, California gets the grand prize for appearing five times (the Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco metro areas), and the other most expensive cities and metro areas to own a car are Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, and Washington, DC.

Click ahead to see the ones that fared the best, including three cities from one state.

By Colleen Kane
Posted 10 Feb 2011

Las Vegas – Paradise, Nevada

Photo: Jerry Driendl | Getty Images

Total cost: $3,789
Contributing factors: Gas prices are toward the lower end of the scale in Vegas, at $3.10 per gallon (compared to $3.39 in the Los Angeles metro area), and daily commutes average 30 miles per day. Sin City has the dubious distinction of having the most car thefts per year of the cities on this list, at 746.6 per 100K.

Memphis, Tennessee

Photo: Wikipedia

Total cost: $3,702
Contributing factors: Memphis has the cheapest gas of the cities in this top ten, averaging  $2.92 per gallon of regular. However, a longer commute (35.8 miles daily) results in a high annual fuel cost ($1969, compared to $1,327 in the New Orleans metro area, which has 23.7 miles of daily commute).

Portland – Vancouver –  Beaverton, Oregon/Washington

Photo: Daniel Deitschel | Getty Images

Total cost: $3,692
Contributing factors: The average daily commute in the Portland metropolitan area in Oregon and Washington is 27 miles, which is not too shabby compared to the 37.3 mile daily trek in the San Francisco metro area. However, it’s the traffic that’ll get to drivers in that part of the Pacific Northwest—the area has 5 hours a day of congestion, which means 36 wasted hours yearly, working out to an average of $651 in lost wages.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Photo: Glowimages | Getty Images

Total cost: $3,686
Contributing factors: Honolulu has the shortest average commute of all the cities on this list, at 22.5 miles daily, and it also fares well in the annual fuel cost at $1,594. Think of how low that cost would be if the gas weren’t $3.65 per gallon of regular. That rate results in a steep $95 wasted annually negotiating Honolulu’s daily 4.3 hours of congestion.

Rochester, New York

Photo: Wikipedia

Total cost: $3,473
Contributing factors: Rochester has one of the shorter average commute lengths on this list, at 26.3 miles daily (compared to 39 miles in the Indianapolis metro area), less time wasted in congestion (2.5 hours of daily congestion in the area and just 12 hours spent per person annually), working out to $198 in wages lost while in traffic, and $37 in fuel annually. Gas and insurance aren’t so hot, though, at $3.35 per gallon and $1,625 respectively.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Photo: Panoramic Images | Getty Images

Total cost: $3,473

Contributing factors: Salt Lake City has a lower average cost per gallon for gas ($2.96) and annual gas total ($1,583) and also has a low amount of daily traffic congestion at 2.5 hours. However, car theft is more of a concern than in most other cities in the top ten, with 472.5 thefts per 100K population.

Columbus, Ohio

Photo: Derek Jensen

Total cost: $3,401
Contributing factors: Columbus has a lot going for it in terms of owning a car: cheap insurance ($1,117 annually), and because of the relatively low number of hours spent in congestion annually, 17, drivers lose less in wages and waste less fuel while in congestion ($294 and $47, respectively).

Cincinnati – Middletown, Ohio

Photo: Gary Knapp | Getty Images

Total cost: $3,341
Contributing factors: The Cincinnati metropolitan area has a low auto-theft rate of 180.3 per 100K population. Also working in the city’s favor is the cost of fuel wasted in congestion annually, a mere $47 compared to $901 in the Minneapolis metro area and $1,355 in the Chicago metro area.

Milwaukee - Waukesha – West Allis, Wisconsin

Photo: Wikipedia

Total cost: $3,311
Contributing factors: As will be seen with the no.1 spot holder in this list, the Milwaukee metropolitan area has a low annual insurance cost going in its favor, at $1,127. About $65 in wages are lost annually while stuck in congestion, compared to $176 in the Chicago metro area.

Cleveland – Elyria - Mentor, Ohio

Photo: Sam Bobko

Total cost: $3,154

Contributing factors: An outstanding element in favor of the Cleveland metropolitan area for owning a car is also one of the biggest annual costs of ownership: the insurance rate. In the case of Cleveland, it averages $1,121. Compare that to Chicago, where it’s $1,979, or the Detroit metro area where it’s $2,350, and Cleveland’s $3.13 gallon of regular might not seem so bad.