2021’s Best Cities for Living Without a Car

Bustling New York City street scene with people walking down the sidewalk.

In a car-obsessed culture, more Americans than ever prefer to get around on their own two feet. 

Living without wheels, using public transit and walking are increasingly common as Americans’ main means of travel, especially with more of us working from home during the pandemic.

In fact, nearly one in 10 U.S. households didn’t have a vehicle in 2019, and the percentages are many times higher in major cities.

So which city is best equipped to make your carless lifestyle problem-free?

LawnStarter ranked 2021’s Best Cities for Living Without a Car. We compared the 150 biggest U.S. cities across 20 key metrics, from a city’s walkability and transit ridership to its climate. Scroll down for the results, key takeaways, expert insights and more.

After sitting down and reading our study, you just might feel inspired to take a stroll.

Table of Contents

  1. City Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Methodology

City Rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreAccess RankCommuting Methods and Time RankSafety RankClimate Rank
1San Francisco, CA65.6272815
2Portland, OR63.87157831
3Washington, DC62.622111669
4Boston, MA59.902033884
5New York, NY59.1516619118
6Honolulu, HI58.142312673
7Oakland, CA56.228131175
8Providence, RI56.05101523130
9Minneapolis, MN55.5413810149
10Seattle, WA55.4417412247
11Jersey City, NJ55.40181031126
12Salt Lake City, UT54.873179367
13Mesa, AZ53.804591571
14Tucson, AZ53.795268943
15Madison, WI52.3748776120
16Los Angeles, CA52.1815495627
17Irvine, CA52.035247315
18Santa Rosa, CA51.775950161
19Tempe, AZ51.4933184171
20Boise City, ID51.2829342153
21San Jose, CA50.874166344
22Huntington Beach, CA50.78251121715
23Santa Ana, CA50.7650412215
24St. Paul, MN50.6540282849
25Lexington, KY50.639565268
26Chicago, IL50.58191484146
27Oxnard, CA50.396951182
28San Diego, CA50.124260338
29Long Beach, CA49.9927823714
30Buffalo, NY49.90301950110
31Fremont, CA49.47669785
32Newark, NJ49.22312440126
33Philadelphia, PA48.86211113191
34Omaha, NE48.61128854108
35Denver, CO48.34222787105
36Yonkers, NY48.2878256126
37Rochester, NY48.1337227994
38Salem, OR47.8974432728
39Pittsburgh, PA47.88399121131
40Louisville, KY47.3369292124
41Sacramento, CA47.3157387229
42Riverside, CA47.0579573015
43Phoenix, AZ46.58116111371
44Lincoln, NE46.4168443645
45Reno, NV45.9864356351
46Glendale, CA45.83511097115
47Albuquerque, NM45.73286810442
48Austin, TX45.2943526293
49Nashville, TN45.231491100113
50Miami, FL45.15244511086
51Ontario, CA45.11951111315
52Vancouver, WA45.0871794631
53Grand Rapids, MI44.76613174114
54Virginia Beach, VA44.6911099435
55Colorado Springs, CO44.64267610256
56Baltimore, MD44.625323108116
57Santa Clarita, CA44.41134141115
58Rancho Cucamonga, CA44.4099144915
59Las Vegas, NV44.38381169039
60Scottsdale, AZ44.38541232671
61Anaheim, CA44.2667709115
62Lubbock, TX44.18554811812
63Norfolk, VA44.16882110935
64Spokane, WA44.1158468654
65Chula Vista, CA43.95107136208
66New Orleans, LA43.883416134139
67San Bernardino, CA43.79446212415
68El Paso, TX43.49851043534
69Tampa, FL43.4162726563
70Oceanside, CA43.16133138148
71Newport News, VA42.83125553935
72Henderson, NV42.721181371039
73Worcester, MA42.67873657132
74Gilbert, AZ42.50108139271
75Glendale, AZ42.4977675871
76Fontana, CA42.271311282915
77Moreno Valley, CA42.211411172415
78Richmond, VA42.18602013258
79Aurora, IL42.1791987146
80Milwaukee, WI41.95463212792
81Tacoma, WA41.9075659747
82Akron, OH41.61838144115
83Aurora, CO41.588010143105
84Anchorage, AK41.567037107112
85Durham, NC41.27101735157
86Garland, TX41.081121221295
87Laredo, TX40.85111903281
88Amarillo, TX40.82104935352
89Orlando, FL40.69561109685
90Toledo, OH40.6989777089
91Modesto, CA40.66911347733
92Tulsa, OK40.643683115136
93Cleveland, OH40.494529135138
94Columbus, OH40.38937159125
95North Las Vegas, NV40.271131354939
96Greensboro, NC40.211401306013
97Elk Grove, CA40.151301276129
98Raleigh, NC39.91961294865
99St. Louis, MO39.803242137144
100Bakersfield, CA39.631231196446
101St. Petersburg, FL39.61358413663
102Fayetteville, NC39.58148335565
103Dallas, TX39.57728510395
104San Antonio, TX39.37818698107
105Chandler, AZ39.36901058071
106Fresno, CA39.14766412944
107Port St. Lucie, FL38.95150132561
108Fort Wayne, IN38.9312210842121
109Chesapeake, VA38.861441462535
110Arlington, TX38.591241254595
111Houston, TX38.556387106149
112Hialeah, FL38.394913112386
113Corpus Christi, TX38.331151038360
114Oklahoma City, OK38.2211911368109
115Plano, TX38.13861486995
116Stockton, CA38.10848011955
117Fort Worth, TX38.081161207395
118Fort Lauderdale, FL38.08477813886
119Irving, TX37.981021068895
120Atlanta, GA37.92824013382
121Des Moines, IA37.60976311290
122Sioux Falls, SD37.59127899470
123Charlotte, NC37.501371147562
124Wichita, KS37.441091029979
125Detroit, MI37.407330142129
126Baton Rouge, LA37.3810054105148
127Peoria, AZ37.091201338571
128Cape Coral, FL37.0514614511122
129Cincinnati, OH37.056539125150
130Jacksonville, FL36.5012610795117
131Brownsville, TX35.9810611511180
132Knoxville, TN35.3813258120104
133Tallahassee, FL35.2210353128140
134Grand Prairie, TX34.941421428295
135McKinney, TX34.811351506695
136Frisco, TX34.801431494795
137Kansas City, MO34.00129124114133
138Indianapolis, IN33.3310595130142
139Columbus, GA32.541479412659
140Chattanooga, TN32.2012175139135
141Augusta, GA31.099474145137
142Memphis, TN30.359896143141
143Birmingham, AL29.8612869144143
144Overland Park, KS29.65117147141133
145Mobile, AL29.26139143140119
146Winston-Salem, NC28.7614911814811
147Huntsville, AL28.5911414014783
148Little Rock, AR26.96136100149111
149Montgomery, AL26.16145121146145
150Shreveport, LA25.83138126150123
Infographic showing best cities to live without a car by various metrics including number of commuters per 100,000 residents, days of heat and cold, mass transit and commuting options.

Highlights and Lowlights

Walking on the West Coast

Pacific Coast cities dominated our list with four — five if you count Honolulu — of the top 10 cities for living without a car. Cities like Portland, while performing well in all categories, broke through in access metrics such as the number of walking/hiking routes and bike score.

And with milder temperatures, West Coast cities also received high scores on climate metrics.

Commuting Across BosWash

The Northeast Corridor performed equally well in all car-free categories. The region, also known as BosWash — meaning everything between Boston and Washington, D.C. — has a dense population and multiple transit options.

Cities like Washington, D.C., while scoring lower in safety and climate metrics, ranked high on commuting metrics such as the share of residents who walk or bike to work.

Alone in Alabama

The South scored poorly in our study, but Alabama had all four of its large cities ranking in the bottom 10. While places like Mobile and Montgomery have low walk and bike scores, the biggest hits to the Yellowhammer State were in the climate category.

Methodology

We ranked the 150 most populated U.S. cities in descending order based on their individual score totals. The city that scored the highest ranked No. 1, or “best.”

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. Value
Number of Walking/Hiking Routes80238
Walk Score81398
Bike Score82997
Bike-Rental Facilities per 100,000 Residents20.14710.98
Access Category Total26
Share of Residents Who Ride Public Transit to Work80.256
Share of Residents Who Walk to Work80.515.1
Share of Residents Who Bike to Work806
Share of Residents Who Carpool to Work44.516.2
Average Commute Time (in Minutes)216.641.5
Commute Methods and Time Category Total30
Violent Crime Rate (Murder, Non-Negligent Manslaughter, Rape, Robbery and Aggravated Assault)464.231965.32
Property Crime Rate (Burglary, Larceny-Theft, Motor-Vehicle Theft and Arson)406420.66
Sex Offenders per Capita47.982973.05
Hate Crimes per Capita40.2041.97
Pedestrian Fatalities per Capita407.67
Unintentional Gun Shootings per 100,000 Residents401.60
Safety Category Total24
Yearly Average Number of Very Cold Days (Min. Temp. ≤ 32 Degrees F)40192
Yearly Average Number of Very Hot Days (Max. Temp. ≥ 90 Degrees F)42169
Average Monthly Precipitation (in Inches)43.0865.28
Average Percentage of Possible Sunshine4085
Air Quality41558
Climate Category Total20
Overall Total100

Sources: AllTrails, City-Data.com, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Gun Violence Archive, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Transportation, Walk Score and Yelp

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Staff Writer