Auto Insurance

The Worst Universities To Bring Your Car To

The Worst Universities To Bring Your Car To

We evaluated schools based on how well they performed in terms of safety, cost and convenience to find out which among them is the worst for car owners. Universities in California consistently ranked among the worst universities in the U.S.—due to the high cost of car ownership, high theft rate and congested roads.
Cool girl driving and wearing sunglasses
Cool girl driving and wearing sunglasses Source: Getty Images

The Worst Large Universities to Bring Your Car To

1. UC Berkeley

Berkeley, California

UC Berkeley — also known simply as Cal — was found to be the worst school for drivers. The biggest contributing factors to this poor rating are the Bay Area's clogged highway systems, which make it difficult to get around, and the high cost of on-campus parking, which is $385 per semester.

2. UC Riverside

Riverside, California

In 2016, there were 19 reported on-campus car thefts from UC Riverside — 9 more than at UCLA, which has nearly twice the enrollment. On top of that, insurance costs in the Riverside area are among the highest of those included in our study. According to our research, UCR students' car insurance rates are 80% higher than average across the institutions we surveyed.

3. San Francisco State University

San Francisco

With high gas prices and some of the busiest roads in the U.S., San Francisco State University ranks as one of the worst colleges in the country for car owners. Costing an average of $3.82 per gallon (22% over the average), the price of gas for SFSU students is the highest amongst the large universities we surveyed.

4. UC San Diego

San Diego

Despite San Diego having relatively clear roadways when compared to San Francisco and Los Angeles, UCSD is still one of the worst universities for drivers. UC San Diego students can expect to pay $780 per year for a parking permit, which is over two times greater than the $351 average for the schools we surveyed.

5. Cal State San Bernardino

San Bernardino, California

CSUSB's car-owning students are faced with the high insurance costs associated with being located in the greater Los Angeles area. Furthermore, we found there to be 8.7 cases of auto theft per 10,000 registered students each year at Cal State San Bernardino — 24% higher than Cal State Fresno's theft rate.

6. University of New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Located in Albuquerque, which has ranked as the city with the highest rate of auto theft, the University of New Mexico is one of the few schools outside of California to rank among the worst for drivers. At 32.2 vehicle thefts per 10,000 students each year, UNM has the highest rate of car theft of any large university we surveyed. In 2016 alone, there were 140 vehicles stolen from the UNM campus, the most of any college campus in the country that year.

7. University of Nevada

Las Vegas

UNLV scored well for both the cost and convenience of owning a car as a student, due to the relatively open roads of Las Vegas, as well as cheap auto insurance, on-campus parking and gas. However, UNLV also has one of the highest rates of auto theft in the country, at 10.8 vehicle thefts per 10,000 students per year, which was enough to make it rank among the worst large universities in the country for student drivers.

8. University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland

As a result of being located in the greater Washington, D.C., area, UM car owners contend with some of the busiest roadways in the country. Furthermore, University of Maryland students pay $607 per year for a parking permit — 73% more than the $351 per year average across the schools we surveyed.

9. San Diego State University

San Diego

SDSU — at 7.8 vehicle thefts per 10,000 registered students each year — has the 14th highest rate of vehicle theft of any large university in the country. Additionally, it is expensive to own a car at San Diego State: A student parking permit is $542 per year. However, SDSU students can take some solace in the fact that they pay $238 less per year for parking than their counterparts at UCSD.

10. Cal Poly Pomona

Pomona, California

Cal Poly Pomona ranked as one of the most expensive large universities for car owners. Car owners at this university are faced with the highest auto insurance rates and the sixth-highest gas costs of the institutions we surveyed.

Worst Schools for Drivers by Number of Students

Above, we listed the worst large universities (those with more than 20,000 students) for drivers; however, our full analysis included rankings for 75 colleges and universities. For the sake of making apples-to-apples comparisons, we chose to break down rankings by school size: large, mid-size and small. Below are the worst colleges and universities for each size designation.

List of the top 10 worst schools for drivers by number of students

Universities with the Highest Parking Permit Costs

Of the schools included in our study, the one with the most expensive parking costs was the University of Pennsylvania, by a large margin. For two semesters of 24-hour parking at UPenn, students pay $2,121, which is over 500% more expensive than what we found to be the average cost of parking: $351 per academic year. Parking permits at nearby Drexel University cost $1,329 less per year than at UPenn.


Cost of Parking (One Academic Year)
1University of PennsylvaniaLarge$2,121
2UC San FranciscoSmall$1,864
3UC Hastings College of LawSmall$1,680
4University of ChicagoMedium$840
5Washington University in St LouisMedium$795

On average, medium-sized schools had the highest parking costs. Student car owners who attend these schools pay $409 per year for the privilege to park on campus, which is 17% more than the $351 average across all of the schools we surveyed. At the other end of the spectrum, small schools had relatively low parking costs: $238 per year (32% less than the average). Additionally, 28% of the small schools we surveyed had free parking for students.

Comparing the cost of parking by school size

Universities with the Highest Gas Prices

Our study found that drivers who attend San Francisco-area schools were generally subjected to the highest gas prices. At the University of San Francisco, gas costs were $1.31 per gallon more expensive than at the cheapest school, LSU Health New Orleans. Assuming you drive 5,000 miles while you're at school, this variance in fuel costs amounts to a $265 per year cost difference between these two schools.


Gas Price (Per Gallon)
Estimated Annual Fuel Costs
1University of San FranciscoSan Francisco$3.83$775
2San Francisco State UniversitySan Francisco$3.82$773
3UC Hastings College of LawSan Francisco$3.80$769
4UC San FranciscoSan Francisco$3.80$769
5University of HawaiiHilo, Hawaii$3.78$765

Estimated annual fuel costs are calculated assuming a vehicle that gets 24.7 mpg is driven 5,000 miles per academic year

Universities with the Highest Vehicle Theft Rate

Four of the five worst schools for vehicle thefts were located in California. Loma Linda University — which is located in Loma Linda, California — had 94 reported vehicle thefts from 2014 to 2016, which is the most of any small school. It also had more vehicle thefts than the University of Maryland, which had 90 vehicle thefts in 2016 and has nearly nine times as many students.

Total Vehicle Thefts (2014-2016)
Thefts Per 10,000 Registered Students
1UC Hastings College of LawCalif.2376.1
2Loma Linda UniversityCalif.9470.5
3Pomona CollegeCalif.3064.0
4UC San FranciscoCalif.4951.9
5Rush UniversityIll.3850.6

Schools with the Worst Traffic

D.C.-area schools dealt with the most congested roads, as evidenced by the high average commute time of this region. Drivers who attend the three schools in this area that were included in our study — Gallaudet University, Howard University and the University of Maryland — can expect traffic near campus that is 25% worse than what we found to be the average.

# of Schools in Our Study
Average Commute Time (min)
1Washington, D.C., Metro Area334.9
2San Francisco Metro Area534.4
3Stockton, Calif., Metro Area133.5
4Riverside, Calif., Metro Area932.7
5Chicago Metro Area231.8

Universities with the Highest Insurance Costs

We found that drivers who attend Los Angeles schools have the highest insurance costs, with an average rate of $267 per month. This is 72% greater than the $148 per month average we found across all of the institutions we surveyed.


# of Schools in Our Study
Average Cost of Insurance
1Los Angeles12$267
2New Orleans1$241
4Saint Petersburg, Fla.1$188

Full List of Colleges and Universities

Each school was then given a score out of 100 points — with a higher score indicating that a school is worse for drivers. We considered three factors: safety (40 points), cost (40 points) and convenience (20 points).

Safety Score
Cost Score
Convenience Score
Total Score
1University of California, Hastings - College of LawSmall100909193
2University of California, San FranciscoSmall88879188
3University of San FranciscoMedium88859187
4University of California, BerkeleyLarge83829184
5Pomona CollegeSmall92758180
6University of California, RiversideLarge75808179
7University of RedlandsMedium100658178
8Loma Linda UniversitySmall96648176
9Stanford UniversityMedium83726373
10San Francisco State UniversityLarge54739172
11Rush UniversitySmall83627771
12University of Maryland, BaltimoreMedium75657469
Show All Rows

Safety scores were determined by comparing schools of the same size.


For the purposes of this study, we broke down schools into three separate distinctions. We considered large universities to be those with more than 20,000 students, mid-size (or medium) schools to have between 5,000 and 20,000 students, and small schools to have between 1,000 and 5,000 students. We only considered the four-year institutions with the top 25 highest rates of auto theft within each size designation.

Scores were determined by considering a variety of factors:

  • Safety: For safety scores, we compared the average number of vehicle thefts per 10,000 students per year from 2014 to 2016. Data was gathered from the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Cost: To determine the relative cost scores of the schools in our study, we looked at three different factors:
  • Convenience: As a proxy for road congestion, we looked at the average commute times of the metropolitan statistical area in which an institution was contained, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.