The Worst Cities for Driving in America
Explore America’s worst cities for driving. We analyzed traffic, fuel costs, and safety data to discover the best and worst places to be a delivery driver.
An exploration of 80 US cities reveals the challenges of navigating their streets — delivery drivers beware.
There’s a rhythm to life in a bustling city that begins as the sun rises and the streets awaken with activity. But as rush hour dawns, this buzzing energy often becomes aggravation as drivers deal with traffic bottlenecks, honking horns, and frustrating delays.
And it’s just the start of a long and demanding day for delivery drivers.
We explored the congested streets of 80 US cities, gathering data from various sources to find where it’s the most challenging for drivers. So buckle up and join us on a ride through the worst cities for driving in America.
- The worst cities for driving are New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston.
- New York and Honolulu are the worst cities to be a delivery driver.
- Drivers in New York spend the most time in rush hour traffic at 236 hours per year.
- Honolulu drivers spend the most money on gas due to traffic congestion at $126 per year.
- Delivery drivers earn the highest salaries in San Jose, California at $49,260.
We created a list of the worst cities for driving based on a ranking system that spans 80 cities and includes the following five key factors:
- Time spent in rush hour per year
- Time spent in traffic congestion per year
- Money spent on fuel due to congestion per year
- Last mile speed
- Number of fatal car accidents
The hours and money spent on rush hour and traffic congestion are for a one-way 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) drive, while last mile speed is how fast a driver can expect to travel one mile into the central business district during peak hours.
Let’s see who landed at the top of our rankings as the worst city.
Similar to last year’s findings, New York City clinched the title of worst city for driving, scoring 89.61 out of 100 points. It ranked first (meaning worst) for the most time spent in rush hour and congestion and was the second-most expensive city for fuel costs blamed on traffic.
Chicago was runner-up, with its high congestion and fuel prices landing it in second place for the second year in a row. New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia tied for the slowest last-mile speed.
While it placed fifth last year, Los Angeles ranked as the third worst city for driving this year. Despite its infamous reputation for traffic, the California hot spot ranked sixth for time spent in rush hour and had a faster last-mile speed than 30 other cities.
Boston traffic also got worse, with the East Coast city moving from sixth place to fourth place. Meanwhile, two of last year’s top five worst cities for driving found ways to clear the roads: Miami dropped to 11th place, and Austin fell all the way to 20th.
Key takeaway: New York and Chicago again ranked as the top two worst cities for driving.
Challenging cities for delivery drivers
While the cities above are a pain for all drivers, we added the following new data points to hone in on cities with extra challenges for delivery drivers:
- Number of “delivery driver” job postings on Indeed
- Delivery driver employment rates per 1,000 jobs
- Average annual delivery driver salaries
Remember that a city ranked number one is the worst for delivery drivers; the higher the number, the better a city scored in that category.
New York City did not fare well this year, earning the title of worst city for driving and worst city for delivery drivers. Even though the Big Apple landed in the middle for the number of job postings on Indeed and employment rates, intense traffic congestion, time spent in rush hour, and slow last-mile speeds still made it the worst of all 80 cities.
Honolulu, Hawaii, was the second worst city for delivery drivers, with fewer available jobs and lower average annual salaries than New York.
The Windy City of Chicago rounded out the top three. Despite having many delivery driver job postings on Indeed, it ranked poorly for last-mile speed, congestion, fuel costs, and fatal crashes.
Surprisingly, Los Angeles scored better in this ranking, likely due to its number of delivery driver openings and higher salaries. However, La-La Land had the second-highest number of fatal crashes, so delivery drivers beware.
Key takeaway: New York City and Honolulu are the worst cities for delivery drivers.
Worst (and best) cities by category
Let’s take a closer look at the worst cities for every variable and highlight those that are more driver-friendly.
Based on a one-way 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) commute, New York City drivers spent a whopping 236 hours last year in rush hour, making it the worst in this category. Washington, D.C., followed at 196 hours and San Francisco at 184.
Syracuse, NY; Detroit, MI; and Oklahoma City, OK, fared much better, with drivers spending just over 70 hours per year in rush hour.
New Yorkers also spent the most time dealing with traffic congestion, costing drivers an extra $115 in gas yearly. However, gas prices in Hawaii were the highest, with Honolulu cashing in at $126 extra per year due to congestion.
In contrast, Tucson, AZ, and the North Carolina cities of Raleigh and Greensboro were the most affordable. Fuel costs due to congestion only amounted to just $5, $9, and $11, respectively.
As for safety on the road, delivery drivers would do well to steer clear of Houston and Los Angeles. According to the latest available data, both cities had over 300 fatal car accidents in 2021 — the highest among all 80 cities we analyzed.
The safest cities for drivers were Oxnard, CA; Allentown, PA; and Boise, ID, as they had considerably fewer fatal accidents.
Delivery driver job opportunities and salaries
Thousands of delivery driver jobs are available nationwide, so our study pinpointed the best and worst opportunities among 80 cities.
The bustling cities of Boston, Dallas, and Los Angeles had the highest demand for delivery drivers. Meanwhile, drivers in Bakersfield, CA, and the Texas cities of McAllen and El Paso might need help finding work, as these cities had the fewest job openings.
As for take-home pay, drivers in San Jose, San Francisco, and Seattle raked it in with the highest average annual salaries. On the flip side, delivery drivers in Winston-Salem, NC; Columbia, SC; and Greenville, SC, had the lowest average annual salaries — sometimes earning less than half that of drivers in the top-ranked cities.
In addition, Akron, OH; Dayton, OH; and Colorado Springs, CO, employed the most delivery drivers.
Key takeaway: New York City leads in rush hour delays, Honolulu sees the highest fuel costs due to congestion, and Houston witnesses the most fatal car accidents among cities analyzed.
Where do delivery drivers stop the most?
Consistent driving rhythm is a luxury, particularly for delivery professionals juggling tight timelines. With this in mind, we identified the cities where delivery routes have the most frequent stops.
Among the cities we analyzed, Portland, OR, stood out as a hub of delivery activity. With less congestion compared to other metro areas, drivers in Portland made an astounding 73 stops on average every day.
Despite its urban challenges, Detroit wasn’t too far behind, with drivers navigating through 68 stops daily, on average.
Whether due to increased traffic or lighter loads, drivers in cities farther down the list had far fewer deliveries. In the middle of the pack, Seattle and Sacramento drivers made an average of 43 daily stops, while drivers in New Haven, CT, had the least busy schedules, with only 35 daily deliveries.
Key takeaway: Portland and Detroit have the busiest delivery routes, while New Haven, CT, offers a more leisurely pace for its drivers.
Navigating the road ahead
Delivery drivers have a lot of demands on their time, and bad traffic only makes things worse. Knowing how much time you might spend in traffic (and the cost of all that idling fuel) can help you better estimate how many deliveries you can make and how much you can expect to earn each year.
The good news is many apps and tools are available to help delivery drivers plan their routes more efficiently and avoid the most congested areas in a city to improve their delivery times and earnings. With a little preparation and the right tools, delivery drivers can succeed even in the most notorious city traffic.
We collected data from the TomTom 2022 Traffic Index, INRIX 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard, and the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System to determine the worst cities for driving. We analyzed 80 cities and used the following variables:
- 2022 time spent in rush hour per year* (20%)
- 2022 time spent in traffic congestion per year* (20%)
- 2022 money spent on fuel due to congestion per year* (20%)
- 2022 last mile speed (The speed at which a driver can expect to travel one mile into the central business district during peak hours.) (20%)
- 2021 fatal car accidents (20%)
*For a one-way, 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) commute
We also collected 2022 salary and employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for Driver/Sales Workers, as well as the number of delivery driver job postings for each city on Indeed. We combined the initial variables with delivery driver-specific variables to determine the worst cities for delivery drivers.
- Delivery driver employment per 1,000 jobs (16.667%)
- Number of delivery driver job postings on Indeed (16.667%)
- Average salary (16.667%)
- 2022 time spent in rush hour per year* (10%)
- 2022 time spent in traffic congestion per year*(10%)
- 2022 money spent on fuel due to congestion per year*(10%)
- 2022 last mile speed (10%)
- 2021 fatal car accidents (10%)
We also obtained internal data on the average number of stops per route from 2022-2023.
About Circuit for Teams
Circuit for Teams routing software optimizes routes for multiple drivers, keeps customers up-to-date while their items are in transit, and gets proof of delivery once they arrive.
Fair use statement
If you dread the traffic hustle and found this study useful, feel free to spread the word. You can share this article for any non-commercial purposes; we ask that you credit our research with a link back to this page.