As the trend toward replacing gas-fueled cars with electric vehicles continues, some people wonder if we even need to use cars at all anymore. Some simple benefits come with owning your own vehicle, like saving money on expensive rideshare services and having the freedom to plan trips or outings with just a moment’s notice.
But for some, the area where they live demands that their residents own a car for simple logistical and practical reasons. Let’s look at the 20 worst cities to live without a car in the US.
What Are the Top 20 Cities You Need a Car in the United States?
Some cities in America aren’t designed for quick bike rides or easy pedestrian paths to get from one place to another. Public transportation may not be widely available, and other options are just too expensive. Let’s look at some of those cities.
20. Charlotte, NC
Situated less than two hours from Raleigh, this is the city that the NASCAR Hall of Fame calls home. This fact alone brings all kinds of car lovers to the area, and some never leave.
This city also has a decent commute for many to get to work, but it’s worth it. It has a booming job market and a more scattered population. A car is the only way to enjoy this family-friendly, NASCAR-loving city.
19. Des Moines, IA
Set right in the middle of wide, open spaces, you’ll need a car to explore the undeveloped fields surrounding the city! You’ll find that the traffic is light, and any congestion during a daily commute is almost nonexistent.
While the open fields and wildlife are enough to tempt anyone to buy a car, there’s another reason to consider vehicles in Des Moines. They have Iowa’s oldest drive-in theater called Valley Drive. While it’s possible to walk into a drive-in, a car gives you a truly authentic and enjoyable experience.
18. Colorado Springs, CO
While this city may be one of the larger ones in Colorado, its population is scattered across wide spaces or up in the mountains. The changing seasons alone will have you scrambling to get your own car. From the snow melting and creating breathtaking waterfalls to the wildflowers and high-altitude views, a vehicle is a must.
Many of the residents already have multiple vehicles, motorcycles, or four-wheelers. Cars are pretty much expected in this city.
17. Salt Lake City, UT
When you’re the city that hosts the Salt Lake City, UT International Auto Expo, you should expect cars to be a large part of the region’s culture. This event brings the latest in cars and trucks, including both economical and luxury vehicles.
The scenery around Salt Lake City demands every resident has a car. In fact, some households have anywhere from two to five vehicles! A car allows everyone to take in the mountains, sandstone buttes, and the Arches National Park.
16. Cleveland, OH
Cleveland is a city that is family-friendly and keeps car costs reasonable. In addition, the city has a history that includes automobile manufacturing, which is still present on a smaller scale today.
The surrounding areas of the city are packed with families who need to commute, so a car is a must for them. For recreation, Lake Erie and the Cleveland Browns stadium are just a short car ride away for most residents.
15. Dayton, OH
Only a few people know that the original battery-operated car ignition came from Dayton. The city also has the honor of being the first place a speeding ticket was ever issued in the US!
Dayton has regular car expos throughout the year, bringing the latest and greatest in vehicles for residents to check out. You can also check out the British Transportation Museum to see over 40 British cars throughout history.
As a college town, Dayton has several residents with daily commutes. Good thing that the gas and maintenance prices are lower here than in other areas.
14. Denver, CO
Colorado has a theme on this list, indicating that not only do you need to have a car to live almost anywhere in the state, but that it’s part of the region’s way of life. Of course, a car is a must to get you to and from work, but it’s also essential for running errands, getting to appointments, and other daily activities.
Colorado has some of the lowest taxes on car purchases, and their gas prices are competitive. This helps the job market to stay strong while giving car owners the flexibility and freedom to enjoy the incredible sights and scenery of the area.
13. Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee brings city vibes to an area that isn’t as densely populated as others with lots to do. Unfortunately, this means it’s not recommended or even possible to walk or catch other transportation to events, work, or everyday tasks.
The city also boasts inexpensive car repairs compared to other cities of its size, and it has less expensive car insurance. However, with the harsh winter weather, it’s essential to have a smooth-running, reliable car to keep you safe and warm. So, invest in a vehicle built to handle the slick and snowy weather.
12. St. Louis, MO
You haven’t had a true Missouri sightseeing experience unless you’ve enjoyed a drive along the Mississippi River. The river is beautiful, and you can also see the cargo ships coming to port.
People living in the city limits still need to own cars to get back and forth to work. However, the area is one of the more affordable in the country to own and repair automobiles. This allows the city to thrive and grow while its residents can enjoy the natural beauty and history surrounding them.
11. Kansas City, MO
To live in Kansas City requires reliable transportation. It’s also the home of Ford’s truck assembly plant just outside the city limits. Insurance is a little more expensive than in some of the comparable cities on this list, but low gas prices help make the difference.
Commutes are expected for many residents, but that’s not the only reason to need a car here. This city holds some pretty incredible history within its limits. This area was where three expansion trails crossed each other when horse-drawn wagons were the primary mode of transportation.
10. Raleigh, NC
The main reason you don’t want to live in this city without a car is that owning one is so affordable. The gas and insurance rates are lower than most of the rest of the region. If you buy your car in Raleigh, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that the taxes on that sale are much more reasonable than most other cities.
Raleigh is a small, lower-population city, so anyone living or moving there should expect to have some sort of commute. You’ll be able to drive through one of the US News’s Best Places to Live as you’re driving, too.
9. Oklahoma City, OK
Oklahoma City is big enough to where you’ll want to have a car for your commute, attend sports events, and do daily activities. So unless you’re visiting and staying in a hotel near your ultimate destination or live on one side or the other of the city, a car will be an excellent option to have.
No matter where you live around the city, your car will give you a fast, smooth commute. Of course, many people need transportation to get to their jobs, but the area is still spacious enough to make any drive in your car a pleasant one.
8. Richmond, VA
Richmond fits the bill for a location that’s gentle on a car’s undercarriage and paint job. It’s free of the salt and sand some cities use for snow and ice, and road surfaces are typically smooth to drive on. These conditions make it an excellent place for anyone who loves and owns antique cars to live.
A daily commute is a part of life for residents, and it’s much smoother than in other cities. The state is also a treasure trove of historical locations, so you’ll need your car to take in the history and sights.
Don’t forget that Virginia has its own beach. Is there anyone who wouldn’t love driving their car to head to the beach now and then?
7. Cincinnati, OH
The best reasons to drive a car in Cincinnati are the prices for general maintenance. Repairs are reported to be some of the lowest costing in the state. You can also see some of the most reasonable car insurance rates that tend to come in lower than the national average.
Unless you live right smack dab in the middle of the city, you’re probably commuting from a suburban or rural area. You’ll need reliable wheels for your short commute if you work in the city.
6. Pembroke Pines, FL
Outdoor living and events make cars important for residents and visitors of Pembroke Pines. Flea markets, golf events, and more pepper the area making a vehicle more of a necessity than a luxury.
While it is possible to take the bus to different areas of the city, you may spend more time on the bus than at your final destination. You’re also limited to specific times to catch your bus to and from your location. A car saves you time and gives you the flexibility to leave and go where you want when you want.
5. Jackson, MS
Jackson seems like it was planned to need cars to get around. The highways and roads have been designed to get you where you want to go without taking slow, confusing streets.
You also have easy access to other cities like New Orleans and Memphis. Imagine having these amazing cities close by but having no way to travel the short distance to them.
Having a car when you live in Jackson gives you the freedom you want when traveling locally or out of town. Don’t forget to utilize the highways no matter where you’re heading, as they were built to get you there with ease.
4. Miramar, FL
For those who want quick access to Miami without the crowded city feel, Miramar is a great option. You’ll definitely need a car to get around, especially if you have a family.
The city mindfully schedules events for families to enjoy throughout the year. You can drive your family to and from these events without waiting for a bus or rideshare when you have your own car.
This city is also a great place to live if you work in Miami. The larger city is only 15 miles away, so you can enjoy Miramar’s quieter, more suburban pace while having access to Miami with your own car.
3. Shreveport, LA
Shreveport is another sprawling location where having a car to get you to one area or another will save you tons of time. The area has many educational institutions, technical colleges, libraries, and shopping centers.
The city also has some popular local events which you won’t be able to get transportation to unless you’re willing to shell out a hefty amount for a rideshare. It’s hard to enjoy the vibrant life in this city if you can’t drive yourself around.
2. Franklin, TN
Just a short drive from Nashville, Franklin has kept its small city feel while preserving its past. The city has many incredible places to visit, like a Civil War battlefield, mansions, museums, and shopping. Who wouldn’t want a car in this city with this many fabulous places to check out?
If you work in Franklin, a car is the best bet to get you there without a problem and on time. You’ll also enjoy the freedom to shop at one of the many stores and eat at several great restaurants without walking or waiting for a ride.
1. Birmingham, AL
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama, but that doesn’t mean you should live there without a car. The city’s trains are mainly dedicated to the steel and iron manufacturing done there, so they aren’t going to help anyone with their daily commute. You’ll likely need a car to get around here.
This city doesn’t have many residents packed inside its limits, so getting around on foot or by bike could take significant time. However, Alabama makes car ownership a little easier on folks with low gas prices and low taxes on your purchase of a car.
Know the 20 Worst Cities to Live Without a Car in the US
Ultimately, having a car in any city is convenient and preferred as opposed to public transportation or ridesharing. And some cities are better enjoyed while owning your own vehicle. Enjoy your freedom with a car to go anywhere at any time to get the most out of your city and your vehicle.
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Written by Dana Hanson
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