Best and Worst States for Road Trips, by the Numbers

·Associate Travel Editor

California didn’t get much love in the road-trip rankings, but three other western states cracked the top 5. (Image: Courtesy WalletHub)

Chances are if you have one road trip to make this summer, it’s in California. But one new report that weighs the pros and cons of driving to each state for vacation suggests you’re better off going elsewhere.  

The financial site WalletHub ranked the best states for road trips from 1 to 50, based in equal parts on three main factors: driving and lodging costs; road conditions and safety; and fun and scenic attractions. While the Golden State ranks second among all states for its attractions, it ranked 48 for costs, giving it a middling overall rank of 20.

The big winners? Two of California’s next-door neighbors: Oregon is ranked No. 1, followed by Nevada at No. 2. As for the worst states, these are the bottom five (starting from the worst): Connecticut, North Dakota, Delaware, Mississippi, and South Dakota.  

California, with iconic road-trip options including the Pacific Coast Highway and Yosemite National Park, is the most-traveled state for road trips. The planning app Roadtrippers found California to be the No. 1 state among auto travelers this year, with the nation’s top 2 road trips within its borders: San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Mississippi ranked in the bottom 5 despite having cheap gas and camping. (Image: Courtesy WalletHub)

So why would California rank below a less glamorous state such as, for example, Nebraska, which came in 15th?

“California ranked second worst for driving and lodging costs, whereas Nebraska ranks ninth best,” WalletHub’s Jill Gonzalez told Yahoo Travel. “California has the highest gas price in the nation at $3.59/gallon on average. Regarding the lodging costs, California is near the bottom with camping prices at $55.40/night, while Nebraska ranks sixth best with a much lower nightly rate of $32. 

“For road conditions and safety, both states actually rank slightly below average. But, California stands out as having the worst quality of roads (over 50%) and Nebraska conversely ranks first for this metric. The number of car thefts per 100,000 residents is the highest in the nation in California.”

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On the other hand, WalletHub says California has the most scenic byways in the country, 22 times more than Connecticut. So as long as you don’t get your car stolen and don’t go broke, there’s lots to fun driving to do.

Oregon got a boost from its No. 3 ranking for fun and scenic attractions, which include Highway 101 along the Pacific coast. There you can explore Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Cape Perpetua, and the Sea Lion Caves.

Minnesota, ranked third overall by Wallet Hub, got the highest marks for road conditions and safety. No. 4 Washington State was deemed the most fun state of all for attractions.

For scenic byways, don’t visit Connecticut or Delaware. (Image: Courtesy WalletHub)

Here are some other notable findings in the report:

  • The price of camping in Connecticut is double the price in Nevada, which was found to be the cheapest state for camping while ranking 49th for fewest national park units per square mile.

  • The price of a three-star hotel room in Hawaii is three times more expensive than in Arizona.

  • Mississippi ranked 47th overall for road trips even though it was third best for driving and lodging costs.

  • Massachusetts has three times more fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled than Montana

  • Nevada has six times more nightlife options per 100,000 residents than New Jersey (sorry, Atlantic City).

All in all, Wallet Hub says 85 percent of Americans are planning a summer vacation this year – a 13 percent increase over last year – and 90 percent of those will take to the road.

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As for where they’re going, Roadtrippers says they’ll be western bound – 80 percent of the most popular points of interest for 2015 are in the West. Here are the 10 states getting the most road-trip visitors:

1. California
2. Arizona
3. San Diego
4. Wyoming
5. Utah
6. Tennessee
7. Colorado
8. Texas
9. New Mexico
10. Oregon

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