We all know the sound. That vicious clunk, clunk your car makes whenever it hits a pothole.

Potholes mainly form during winter and early spring when temperatures change frequently. First, snow and ice melt and seep into the pavement. Then, when the temperature drops again, the water refreezes and expands, cracking the road and opening up a pothole.

Even a seemingly small pothole can produce a surprisingly large amount of damage. According to AAA, U.S. drivers spend nearly $3 billion a year fixing damage caused by potholes.

States with the worst potholes

Washington state has the worst potholes in the nation, but Indiana and Michigan aren’t far behind. Our team of analysts looked at Google search statistics going back to 2004. We found that Washington has more searches for pothole-related complaints than any other state. Arkansas, Nevada and Wyoming have the least potholes.

States with the Worst Pothole Problem
Rank State Search index average
1 Washington 66
2 Indiana 65
3 Michigan 54
4 Nebraska 52
5 Ohio 51
6 Massachusetts 50
7 Illinois 48
8 Tennessee 47
9 Pennsylvania 46
10 New York 46
11 New Jersey 44
12 South Carolina 44
13 Vermont 43
14 Rhode Island 40
15 Virginia 39
16 Kentucky 39
17 Maryland 36
18 South Dakota 33
19 California 31
20 Georgia 28
21 Minnesota 28
22 North Dakota 28
23 Missouri 28
24 Hawaii 25
25 Colorado 23
26 Texas 23
27 West Virginia 22
28 Connecticut 22
29 Montana 21
30 Delaware 21
31 Oregon 21
32 Wisconsin 20
33 New Hampshire 19
34 Louisiana 19
35 Florida 19
36 Idaho 19
37 Mississippi 17
38 Alaska 17
39 Kansas 17
40 Oklahoma 17
41 North Carolina 17
42 Iowa 16
43 Maine 16
44 Alabama 15
45 New Mexico 14
46 Arizona 13
47 Utah 12
48 Arkansas 11
49 Nevada 11
50 Wyoming 2
Methodology: QuoteWizard analyzed search data for pothole-related complaints and repairs for each state going back to 2004. The search index average is rounded and represents the number of queries in a particular state/location compared to other states.

Cities with the worst potholes

Certain U.S. cities also seem to have particularly big problems with potholes. Yakima, Washington, has the worst potholes, but two other cities in Washington also make the top five.

Cities with the Worst Pothole Problem
Rank City Search index average
1 Yakima, WA 50
2 Grand Junction, CO 40
3 Spokane, WA 39
4 Lafayette, IN 29
5 Seattle, WA 22
6 Burlington, VT 16
7 Reno, NV 12
8 Springfield, MA 11
9 Indianapolis, IN 10
10 Omaha, NE 9
11 Jackson, MS 7
12 Missoula, MT 7
13 Lansing, MI 6
14 Portland, OR 6
15 Topeka, KS 6
16 Fargo, ND 6
17 Detroit, MI 6
18 Colorado Springs, CO 6
19 Tucson, AZ 5
20 Buffalo, NY 5
21 Bangor, ME 5
22 Minneapolis, MN 5
23 Scranton, PA 5
24 Grand Rapids, MI 5
25 Albany, NY 5
26 Toledo, OH 5
27 Sioux Falls, SD 4
28 South Bend-Elkhart, IN 4
29 Pittsburg, PA 4
30 Duluth MN-Superior, WI 4
31 Greenville, SC 4
32 Champaign, IL 4
33 Philadelphia, PA 4
34 Ft. Wayne, IN 4
35 Cincinnati, OH 4
36 New Orleans, LA 4
37 Denver, CO 4
38 Johnstown, PA 4
39 Boston, MA 4
40 Richmond, VA 4
41 Chicago, IL 4
42 Memphis, TN 4
43 Honolulu, HI 4
44 Lincoln, NE 4
45 Eugene, OR 4
46 Salisbury, MD 4
47 Cleveland, OH 4
48 Hartford, CT 4
49 Youngstown, OH 4
50 Kansas City, MO 4
Methodology: QuoteWizard analyzed search data for pothole-related complaints and repairs for each city going back to 2004. The search index average represents the number of queries in a particular city/location compared to other cities. Numbers presented are rounded to the nearest whole number, which is why many cities appear to have tied.

How potholes hurt your car

How can a hole in the road cause so much financial drama? Consider that a pothole can do everything from damage your tires to ruin your suspension, including:

  • Pop your tire
  • Damage your wheel rims
  • Ruin the engine or exhaust system
  • Throw off your alignment
  • Ruin your car's shocks and struts

Potholes impact some people more (and more often) than others

Watch out if you’re between the ages of 35 and 44. Recent research indicates potholes may be out to get you. Drivers in this age range reported more pothole damage than any other age group, with almost one-third of drivers saying they’ve dealt with pothole damage in the last year.

Potholes also seem to strike twice — or more accurately, thrice. According to AAA, once your car has been damaged by a pothole, it’s likely to happen at least two more times in a five-year span.

Here’s how much you can expect to pay for pothole repairs

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to pothole damage. The bad news is that it’s going to cost you hundreds of dollars. The good news is that according to AAA, it probably won’t cost you much more than that.

  • The average repair bill associated with one of these pothole mishaps is $306
  • In 64% of cases, the repair bill is $250 or less
  • For 30% of people, the related bill is between $250 and $1,000
  • Only 6% of incidents result in a bill that’s over $1,000

Of course, how much you pay to repair pothole damage depends on the make and model of your vehicle as well as a number of other factors. (Just replacing a tire can cost you anywhere from $100 to $500 or more, depending on the vehicle you drive.)

Car insurance and pothole issues

Insurance plays an important role here too. That’s because having the right kind and right amount of car insurance keeps you from having to hand over a lot of your hard-earned cash when it comes time to pay for these repairs.

What’s the right kind of auto insurance in this instance? Collision coverage.

When most people think of collision coverage, they think about protecting themselves if their car gets into an accident. Usually that means hitting another car or another car hitting yours. Collision coverage also steps in, though, if you damage your vehicle by hitting a guardrail, lamp post or — you guessed it — a pothole.

Something to keep in mind here: what you pay for collision coverage depends on your deductible. Go with a higher deductible (what you pay out of pocket if you file a claim), and your rate or premium will be lower. Go with a lower deductible, and your rate will be higher. If you want to learn more about collision and other forms of auto insurance, read our “Car Insurance Basics” article. Check out our article about deductibles too.

Experienced pothole damage? Let us help you find the right coverage!

A few pieces of pothole advice

Finally, here are some ways you can protect your car from potholes:

  • To minimize pothole damage to your vehicle, make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Make sure your tread grooves are deep enough too. If they’re not, buy new tires.
  • If avoiding a pothole isn’t possible, slow down, keep your foot off the brake pedal, and try to straighten the steering wheel before impact.

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