There’s nothing quite like the freedom of owning a car. The machines are literally tailor-made to take you wherever you want to go—and in a country as beautiful as America, those possibilities are nearly endless.
Still, with every freedom comes responsibility. And if you want access to the open road, you’ll have to pay for it.
After homes, vehicles are likely the most expensive purchase a person can make. On top of the actual sticker price, a number of other costly considerations come into play, including auto insurance, standard maintenance, unexpected repairs, and state fees like titling and registration. But not all price tags are created equal.
When it comes to the cost of owning a car over time, some cities offer quite a bargain.
A number of geographic factors come into play to determine the true cost of owning a car, including average gas prices in the area, how much car insurance costs in the region, typical rates for local mechanics and repair shops, and how much a new vehicle will run you on average.
Number-crunching website NerdWallet weighed out those issues and tabulated the top cities for car owners looking to save some bucks. (And just like the best cities overall for automobiles, the general idea is to head south.)
Keep reading below to find out the top 5 cheapest cities for car owners, and why they rank that way on the scale.
Texas in general isn’t exactly cost-friendly for car owners. According to one 2016 analysis, the average annual price of having a vehicle there tops out at $11,673, placing it far in the middle of the pack.
But where the Lone Star State really outshines the rest is gas prices: residents there have long paid less at the pump. Laredo in particular has some killer deals, with customers paying up to 40 cents less per gallon on average than anywhere else in the country.
Add to that the state’s well-known penchant for building sleek roads and sensible highways, and you’ve got a pretty smooth ride for car owners.
The coastal city represents another oasis for cheap car ownership in an otherwise expensive state.
According to the same 2016 study, Florida, in general, ranked the 47th most expensive place for car ownership. Residents pay an annual average of $13,211, thanks in part to pricey insurance premiums and average vehicle prices.
But Jacksonville reaps major benefits from its pristine infrastructure—rated 11th best in the country by NerdWallet—and its wide availability of vehicle maintenance facilities, which helps keep the price of otherwise costly repairs down.
The Volunteer State is relatively friendly for car owners, despite an above-average sales tax on vehicles. Cheap registration, titling, and license plate fees created deeper savings in other areas, allowing the average 2016 price for ownership to top out at $10,690.
Memphis drivers also benefit from relatively low traffic congestion in the city, which makes for quicker commutes, reduced fuel consumption, less likelihood of getting involved in an accident, and fewer hours spent in a car—and therefore less general upkeep costs.
With all that going for it, the Home of the Blues doesn’t have too much to cry about.
2—El Paso, Texas
The border city may share the common pitfalls of average expenses in Texas, but it also benefits from the same cheap gas prices. El Paso residents pay, on average, up to 30 cents less per gallon than the rest of the country.
The city is also distinct for its roadway safety, ranking 6th best in the country, according to NerdWallet. Leading to the high placement is fewer car thefts and accidents in the area—which translate to less money spent on repairs and cheaper insurance. It seems no one messes with Texas.
Portland is unabashedly weird, and the city keeps up its odd reputation as the only non-southern haunt on this list.
There’s nothing strange about its designation at the top spot, though.
Oregon has long been tagged as one of the cheapest states in the nation to own a car, thanks in no small part to its lack of vehicle sales tax. All a purchaser has to worry about, aside from sticker price, is the cost of titling and registration—and even there, Oregon is among the country’s lowest.
But Portland’s place on top of the list may also be a sleight of numbers: owning a car in the city at all may be considered a bit peculiar. In 2016, the average household there had fewer than 2 cars, and 13.7% of Portlanders had no car at all.
Still, the lack of competition on the road has likely led to smoother infrastructure and less traffic, which can add dividends to the annual cost of car ownership—proving once again that just because something is weird, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.