The Most Common Car Problems by State

Bennett Floyd | March 30th, 2018

Car ownership comes with many plusses: utility, the freedom to travel where and when you want, and perhaps the occasional opportunity for a leisurely Sunday drive. But owning an automobile also comes with a number of headaches, maintenance being chief among them.

To help you prepare for automotive troubles that may head your way, we took it upon ourselves to find out what the most common car problem is in your state. To do this, we took a look at Google Trends data from March 2017 through March 2018. With this info, we were able to find out which car maintenance issues residents in each of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) searched for the most online. Here they are:

Why look this info up by state, you ask? Well, as most auto insurance companies can tell you, drivers from similar locations have similar auto-buying and driving habits. As such, the car troubles that residents search for on the web the most in your state are likely to affect you, too, at one point or another.

Which States Have the Most Car Problems?

So, now that we know which car problems each state searched for the most, which states take the cake when it comes to multiple car problems? To find out our nation’s “top ten,” we compiled the data from Google Trends and ranked each state according to their volume of online searches for more than one of the car problems mentioned above.

Here’s what we found:

Note: If the info on this chart looks a little different from the US map above, there’s a reason for that. Unlike the map where we focused solely on which car problem people searched for the most, in this chart we’re looking at which state’s searches for each car problem were in the nation’s top five, according to total search volume. The states that had the most car problems in the nation’s top five ranked highest on this list. The number one most-searched car problem in Utah, for instance, was “car won’t start.” In terms of total search volume, the state wasn’t in the nation’s top five for that specific car problem, but it was for “dents” and “windshield replacement.”

The Most Common Car Problems—A “Breakdown”

Car problems come in many shapes and varieties, affecting virtually anything from the engine to the rear bumper. The most common car maintenance issues, however, are primarily routine in nature, and many of them are relatively simple and inexpensive to fix.

The following “breakdown” features the most common car problems from our US map above. For your convenience, we’ve listed them in order from highest to lowest (according to the number of states where the issue was the number one most-searched).

1. Car Won’t Start

Cars failing to start were the number one problem in 17 states, according to Google Trends search data. Out of all these states, Michigan, District of Columbia, and Delaware searched for this problem more than anyone else, followed closely by Georgia, Hawaii, and Indiana.  

If your car won’t start, there are a number of possible causes, but they pretty much all fall into one of two categories:

a. Your engine doesn’t crank or cranks too slowly  

b. Your engine cranks but will not run

If you need help figuring out why your car won’t start, we recommend you check out this article for some solid troubleshooting advice.

2. Dead Battery

Dead batteries are next in line with a total of 13 states searching for the term more than any other car-related problem. There’s probably a good reason for this. If your car isn’t starting, a dead or near-dead car battery may very well be the culprit.

Four states in particular (Louisiana, Vermont, Nebraska, and Tennessee) seem to suffer from drained batteries more than anyone else, according to their residents’ internet searches. Fortunately, car batteries are easy to replace in most vehicles, and most new ones will last several years with regular driving. Many even come with prorated warranties in the event they don’t last as long as expected.

3. Flat Tire

Almost everyone gets a flat at some point while driving, but Oklahoma, Arizona, and Washington, DC appear to have more trouble with deflated tires than all other states, at least according to what residents in those states search for.

Getting a flat tire is never fun, but if you find yourself stuck on the side of the road, this helpful resource can help get you moving again.

4. Spark Plugs

Spark plugs were the number one car maintenance issue searched in five US states, including (in order) Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, New Mexico, and South Carolina.

Nowadays, it’s rare that old or defective spark plugs will keep your car from starting or running. However, a faulty plug or two may cause other engine problems, such as a misfiring cylinder, rough idling, or significantly lower gas mileage.

The good news is spark plugs are very cheap to replace, especially if you do them yourself. Even if you take your car to the shop, replacing them is generally inexpensive.

5. Fender Bender

Fender benders are next on our list with four states searching for the term more than any other car problem. These states include California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia. This perhaps comes as no surprise, since each of these states has densely populated cities with lots of drivers trying to get from point A to point B.

Hopefully you never get in one, but if you ever find yourself in a fender bender, having reliable car insurance coverage is not only a big help—it’s the law.

6. Transmission Repair

Only two states had “transmission repair” as their top most-searched car problem: Idaho and Missouri. Why? Your guess is as good as ours!

Unfortunately transmission problems can get really expensive really fast. Depending on your vehicle and the work needed, fixing a transmission can be anywhere from roughly $500 to $3,500.

Repairing a transmission can be very dangerous, labor-intensive work. So, unless you really know what you’re doing, we don’t recommend trying to replace one on your own.

7. Windshield Replacement

Tied with transmission repairs was windshield replacement, with only two states (Colorado and Kansas) having it as their number one most-searched auto maintenance issue.  

Replacing or repairing a cracked windshield usually requires specialized labor. But depending on your policy, your auto insurance provider may pay for a new windshield as part of your comprehensive coverage. In most cases, you’ll simply have to pay a deductible, and then insurance will take care of the rest.

Check with your auto insurance company to find out whether windshield replacements are covered under your policy.

8. Oil Change

Only one state, Alabama, had “oil change” as its most frequently searched car maintenance term. Could it be because of relatively recent pipeline spills in the state?

Whatever the reason, regularly changing your car’s motor oil is one of the most important things you can do to keep it running long and strong. Different manufacturers recommend different intervals (the type of oil you use may make a difference, too), but a good rule of thumb is to change your oil once every 3,000–5,000 miles.

Depending on your vehicle, oil changes can be fairly easy to do yourself. If you feel like giving it a try, take a look at this handy resource that takes you through the job step by step.  

9. Dents

Tied in last place with oil changes are dents. Wyoming was the only state that had dents as its most-searched car problem. This is pure speculation on our part, but it may have something to do with the state’s frequent strong winds, snowy winters, and occasional hailstorms.

Once again, we recommend you check your auto insurance policy to see whether dent repairs are covered. However, some dents you may be able to fix yourself for little to no money.

The Method to Our Car Problems Madness

To find all the above info, we did extensive research on a wide range of automobile-related Google search queries from around the country. Because we wanted to make the information relevant to as wide an audience as possible, we intentionally didn’t look for problems that were specific to car make, model, or age. While numerous other queries and terms were used on Google in the last 12 months, the terms explored above had far more search volume across the US than any others.

Drive Safe

Whatever issues your car may face, make sure to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines (as detailed in your owner’s manual) and find reliable auto insurance coverage to help protect your car, yourself, and your loved ones.