Driving

10 worst places for your car to break down

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Whether you're driving to work or exploring a new city during a road trip, having your car break down is a huge hassle. In some places, however, it can be even more frustrating than others, especially when repairs take a long time and add up to a major expense. The Zebra set out to find the worst places for your car to break down. We looked at the 50 most populated cities and used the following three criteria:

  • Accessibility via public transportation: We wanted to know how tough it is to get around while waiting for your car to be fixed. For reference, the highest ranking city, New York City, has a score of 9.6. 
  • Mechanics per capita: The fewer mechanics there are compared to the rest of the population, the more likely you are to have a longer wait. 
  • Auto repair labor rates (by state): This stat is a major indicator of how much people will pay for car repair in one state compared to another. Here we've gathered the average cost for a "check engine light" mechanic visit.

Wondering if your city made our top 10 worst places for a car break down? Keep reading to find out.

#1: Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas snags our top spot as the worst place for your car to break down. At just under $150, the average auto repair labor for a check engine light is the second highest in the country. The ratio of mechanics compared to the rest of the population is also low at 0.78, so there may be a wait when your car is in the shop. To top it off, Las Vegas public transportation is subpar compared to other cities on our list, with an AllTransit score of 5.1 (remember the best city in the U.S. public-transit-wise, NYC, has a score of 9.6).

Las Vegas by the numbers

#2: Austin, Texas (tied)

Austin ties as the second worst city for broken down cars. The biggest issue is the low ratio of mechanics compared to the number of people living in the city. In fact, it's the fifth-lowest rate out of all the cities we looked at. Public transportation is also well below average, and auto repair rates for a check engine light are just over $146.

Austin by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 5.2
  • Mechanics per capita: 0.77
  • Auto repair labor rates: $146.64

#2: New Orleans, Louisiana (tied)

Public transportation accessibility is actually quite average in New Orleans, but the Big Easy doesn't make it cheap to get your car fixed. At $149.87, the city has the most expensive auto repair labor rate. Plus, the ratio of mechanics is among the lowest in the country, so you might be waiting a while. 

New Orleans by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 7.4
  • Mechanics per capita: 0.75
  • Auto repair labor rates: $149.87

#4: Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville secures spot four on our list of worst places to break down. The major contributing factor is that the city's public transportation system ranks poorly; out of all the cities we looked at, Louisville was second worst. Repair labor rates are also among the highest in the U.S. at just over $148.

Louisville by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 2.9
  • Mechanics per capita: 1.06
  • Auto repair labor rates: $148.15

#5: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (tied)

Out of all 50 cities we evaluated, Oklahoma City had the worst public transit score, which could result in a major inconvenience (or hefty rental car expense) if you have to get around without a car for a few days. Luckily, the wait might not be too long because Oklahoma City actually has an above average concentration of mechanics — although repair labor rates are also above average.

Oklahoma City by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 2.6
  • Mechanics per capita: 1.13
  • Auto repair labor rates: $149.38

#5: Kansas City, Missouri (tied)

Tied for fifth, Kansas City has slightly lower labor rates as Oklahoma City, along with a slightly lower ratio of mechanics. Public transportation is also quite a hassle, with a score of 4.8. That makes it the seventh worst city for that category compared to the other 49 places we evaluated.

Kansas City by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 4.8
  • Mechanics per capita: 1.08
  • Auto repair labor rates: $148.35

#5: Houston, Texas (tied)

Houston shares the fifth spot with Kansas City. Although there's no standout factor that makes the city particularly bad for car repairs, most factors are middling. Its transit score of 5.9 ranks 16th on our list, while auto repair labor rates are still well above average. On top of that, the number of mechanics is fairly low.

Houston by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 5.9
  • Mechanics per capita: 0.9
  • Auto repair labor rates: $146.64

#8: Jacksonville, Florida

The number of mechanics in Jacksonville is pretty high compared to other cities, especially when viewed in relation to its population. They are expensive, though — the average check engine light visit costs over $148 for labor alone. Plus, getting around without a car is tricky, with Jacksonville having the fifth worst public transit score on our list.

Jacksonville by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 3.8
  • Mechanics per capita: 1.12
  • Auto repair labor rates: $148.35

#10: Nashville, Tennessee (tied)

Like Jacksonville, Nashville has a decent number of mechanics. Labor costs are slightly lower, hovering just over $147. However, Nashville isn't incredibly convenient to navigate without a car, earning a public transit score of just 3.7.

Nashville by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 3.7
  • Mechanics per capita: 1.12
  • Auto repair labor rates: $147.43

#10: Dallas, Texas (tied)

Tied for last with Nashville, Dallas has a below-average number of mechanics compared to the rest of the population — not surprising considering the area has one of the highest population growth rates in the country. Public transportation is better than other cities on our list, with a fairly average score of 6.8. Repair labor rates, however, are still high at nearly $147.

Dallas by the numbers

  • AllTransit public transportation score: 6.8
  • Mechanics per capita: 0.82
  • Auto repair labor rates: $146.64

Methodology

The Zebra pulled three data points to analyze the top 50 MSAs (by population) in the U.S. related to auto repair and transportation:

  1. Overall transit score (AllTransit)

  2. Number of mechanics per capita (BLS)

  3. Average auto repair labor rates by state (Vehicle Service Pros)

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