Looking for Cheap, Low-stress Car Ownership? Head to the Cornfields

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

If it wasn’t for the blissful autonomy and convenience that comes with car ownership, how many people would want to shoulder the ever-growing cost? Insurers lie in wait to squeeze you, law enforcement waits to punish you, environmental groups demonize your lifestyle, and governments at all levels salivate at the thought of making it more expensive to own a personal vehicle.

Meanwhile, you dance to the tune set by oil companies and geopolitics, weathering financial blows when pump prices rise. If only there was a place where those worries fell away — where the act of owning and driving a car wasn’t as stressful.

As it turns out, this place exists. And it’s just west of the Mississippi.

According to a study by Bankrate.com, the easiest place to own a car sits smack in the center of the union. Frustrated drivers, get thee to the Hawkeye State.

The financial services company has declared Iowa as the least-expensive, least-dangerous state in which to own a vehicle, based on average insurance premiums, gas prices, commute times, car repair costs, vehicle theft rate, and road fatalities. It’s like heaven for vehicles, only with miles and miles of corn.

To make its ranking, Bankrate tapped data from the census, FBI, CarMD, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. By a not-too-small degree, Iowa won. Out of a possible 60 points, the state landed a score of 48, far above the national average of 34.6.

Drivers in Iowa commute an average of 19 minutes, and spend a low $648 each year on insurance coverage. An average repair sets an Iowan back $358. While several states spend less on gas and have lower theft rates — as well as slightly lower roadway deaths — it all averaged out in the state’s favor. That sound you hear is contentment emanating from Davenport to Des Moines.

Rounding out the top five states are Ohio, Maine, Wisconsin and Vermont. Naturally, California ranks dead last at 21 points, but few residents would trade the higher average costs and longer commutes for the weather “enjoyed” by the top-ranked states. New Mexico came in second last, while Nevada, Louisiana and Wyoming filled out the bottom five.

It’s true that the study’s methodology paints an inaccurate for many car owners. With its higher median income and greater proportion of luxury vehicles, an average repair in California would naturally ring in higher than one a less populous, less prosperous state. As well, we all know that Californian cities are magnets for car thieves. With a carefully chosen lifestyle and some luck, a driver can escape much of the pain that comes from living in a low-ranked state. (But not the weather.)

[Image: Don Graham/ Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0)]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Dec 14, 2016

    When I moved from Iowa to California the first couple quotes I got for the Cobra replica was $2100 per 6 months and I was not in a major city. I was paying 308 per year in Iowa for similar coverage. Finally talked Wawanesa into covering it. They were pretty good. Now I am back in the midwest. Ubermensch, you also have U of I hospitals. They have helped our daughter a great deal. Worth the drive from across the river.

  • Ericb91 Ericb91 on Dec 15, 2016

    Yep, it's cheap. I live in rural NW Illinois, 40 mins from the Quad Cities (two of which are in Iowa, two in Illinois). My commute is 2.6 miles round-trip. Nothin' quite like these agricultural small towns!

  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
  • GregLocock Car companies can only really sell cars that people who are new car buyers will pay a profitable price for. As it turns out fewer and fewer new car buyers want sedans. Large sedans can be nice to drive, certainly, but the number of new car buyers (the only ones that matter in this discussion) are prepared to sacrifice steering and handling for more obvious things like passenger and cargo space, or even some attempt at off roading. We know US new car buyers don't really care about handling because they fell for FWD in large cars.
  • Slavuta Why is everybody sweating? Like sedans? - go buy one. Better - 2. Let CRV/RAV rust on the dealer lot. I have 3 sedans on the driveway. My neighbor - 2. Neighbors on each of our other side - 8 SUVs.
  • Theflyersfan With sedans, especially, I wonder how many of those sales are to rental fleets. With the exception of the Civic and Accord, there are still rows of sedans mixed in with the RAV4s at every airport rental lot. I doubt the breakdown in sales is publicly published, so who knows... GM isn't out of the sedan business - Cadillac exists and I can't believe I'm typing this but they are actually decent - and I think they are making a huge mistake, especially if there's an extended oil price hike (cough...Iran...cough) and people want smaller and hybrids. But if one is only tied to the quarterly shareholder reports and not trends and the big picture, bad decisions like this get made.
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