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By Paul A. Eisenstein

With gas prices suddenly surging at some pumps to more than $5 a gallon, it’s no surprise that a new study calls Los Angeles one of the worst cities in the country to be a driver. On the other hand, Lubbock, down in the heart of the Texas oil patch, was rated the best city to be a driver, followed by another Lone Star community, Corpus Christi.

Fuel costs are clearly a major headache for American motorists, but they’re not the only factor considered by finance website WalletHub when it pulled together its 2015 Best & Worst Cities to Be a Driver study. The study compared 100 of the nation’s most populous metros using 21 metrics, including gas prices, traffic delays, car thefts, the availability of car club and repair shops and the price of parking.

“Some cities are more haven-like for drivers, especially those who find pleasure behind the wheel,” noted the WalletHub study’s summary. But in other cities, it added, motorists may be jarred by bad roads, locked in endless traffic jams and hammered by the high cost of driving.

San Francisco surpassed Los Angeles to claim the unwanted title of worst driving city in the West, according to the financial website WalletHub's ranking.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

With its endless traffic and highest-in-the-nation fuel costs, it’s probably no surprise that Los Angeles is among the 10 worst cities, but at 91st on the list of 100, it actually fares pretty well compared to some other major metropolises. The absolute worst is New York, followed by Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. In fact, Big East Coast cities account for six of the bottom 10, with the Midwest’s Chicago and Detroit added in. From a West Coast perspective, San Francisco scores even worse than L.A., at 97th.

Smaller cities in the South and Southwest, on the other hand, are much more driver friendly, according to WalletHub. Along with Lubbock and Corpus Christi, that Top 10 list includes four cities in North Carolina, fourth-ranked Greensboro, as well as Durham, Winston-Salem and Raleigh, in seventh, ninth and 10th.

Not surprisingly, the study puts heavy weight on fuel cost, which puts Tucson, Lubbock and Houston in the top three spots and Long Beach and Los Angeles at the bottom.

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But traffic is another serious consideration for drivers, according to the study. On the whole, it notes, the average American will spend 200 hours each year on the road, including “more than 40 hours stuck in traffic. “In working-class terms, a total of 240 hours is the equivalent of a six-week vacation,” it noted.

While four California cities have some of the country’s worst traffic problems – L.A., San Francisco, Long Beach and Oakland tied for 87th place – three other California locales have some of the least serious commuting issues, including Fresno in fourth.

The bill for wasted time and fuel due to traffic, incidentally, comes to about $124 billion a year, according to researchers, or $1,700 a person. And, adds the study overview, “that figure doesn’t include the extra $515 tab for maintenance and repairs, costs induced by the poor quality of America’s roads, which currently rank at No. 16 in the world and receive a grade of ‘D’ from the American Society of Civil Engineers.”

In terms of the likelihood of having a crash, WalletHub’s study pointed to Boston as the worst city in the U.S., with Irvine, California, the best. Surprisingly, Boston also has the fewest repair shops per capita, while Orlando has the most. Meanwhile, Birmingham, Alabama has the lowest annual auto maintenance costs, while New York City and Jersey City are tied at the bottom.

Not surprisingly, New York drivers also face the highest parking bills, Greensboro, North Carolina, the lowest.

When it comes to car thefts, the Motor City ranks dead last, while Irvine again comes out on top.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the folks in Boston are least likely to wash their cars, according to the study, while those in Orlando are scrubbing away more frequently than anywhere else in the country.

Wallethub.com

For the full WalletHub study, click here.

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