The best cities for students to drive in

Ah, our student days; the team here at Car Finance Genie remembers them well. But to adopt a more serious tone for a second, the question of which cities are best for student driving is a very interesting and relevant one.

After all, you may be a teenager in the process right now of deciding on universities to apply for, or someone slightly older, contemplating the challenge of taking on a degree course for what might be the first time in your life. And you might happen to drive, whether because you have to do so, or because you simply wish to make the most of your student days on four wheels.

In many ways, the question of which cities are the best for students to drive in, is the same as the question of what cities are best for anyone to drive in.

Students are like any other group of people in that they might use their cars to fulfil ‘essential’ duties like the weekly shop or heading home to their parents from time to time. Or they might do a fair amount of more ‘recreational’ driving, such as taking inebriated friends to and from the club or embarking on road trips.

Whatever the situation may be for you, if you are a student – whether would-be or current, and regardless of age – you might appreciate some ‘cut out and keep’ advice on which cities are most ideal for those driving during their time at university or college.

It’s a subjective question to attempt to answer, of course. So, we decided to come up with a rundown of relatively ‘student-driver-friendly’ cities, while throwing in titbits of research findings that could be of interest to you.


While – when we ‘oldies’ are put in mind of Birmingham driving – we may immediately think of the likes of the Birmingham Superprix, the Spaghetti Junction, and Nigel Mansell, for today’s students, it’s likely to be the pleasure and convenience of the driving experience that largely defines the city for them.

Yes, that’s right; according to research put together by the car parts firm Mister Auto, and reported on by the i newspaper, Birmingham ranked first in the UK as a city for drivers.

The company devised its rankings of various cities around the world by taking into account such factors as the given city’s driving infrastructure, safety, and the costs of parking, petrol and road tax. Scores were then given for those factors.

With this methodology applied, Birmingham was positioned first in the UK, and 27th in the broader study of 100 shortlisted cities, with an overall score of 90.63 out of a possible 100.

It wasn’t all good news for Birmingham, though, as the same study also found it to be the worst in the UK for pollution. On that score, it will be interesting to see what longer-term impact the Clean Air Zone – introduced last summer – has on efforts to drive down pollution in the city.

The West Midlands city is home to no fewer than five universities – namely the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham, and Newman University. So, whatever you make of Birmingham’s roads, you can be sure of an active and rewarding student life here.


The historic county town of Yorkshire is a fun and enchanting place to be a student on a number of levels. This beautiful city is something of a tourist epicentre in North Yorkshire, thanks in large part to stunning historic architecture and cultural attractions ranging from York Minster and York Castle to York Theatre Royal and York Art Gallery.

But how does it fare specifically as a place for students to drive? The answer is: quite well, actually. Recent statistics have associated the city with much lower parking permit costs than other parts of the UK, as well as relatively cheap average car insurance quotes, and a manageable level of road traffic.

Plus, with this being “God’s Own County” of Yorkshire, you’ve always got the option of taking to the well-developed surrounding road network and exploring the many more distant pleasures of the region.


It’s a part of the UK with a perhaps unwarranted ‘sleepy’ reputation – even if some reports suggest it is quite literally so. But on the subject of the driving experience, it seems that the statistics say almost entirely good things about Bournemouth.

One can easily overlook the coastal resort town’s credentials as a destination for students; both Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth carry its name, although they are both technically located across the border in nearby Poole. Distinguished alumni of the latter include such distinguished arts figures as Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, and the Turner Prize-winning photographer Wolfgang Tillmans.

A host of data suggest that Bournemouth is a pretty decent place for students to drive; it has been found to have a lower average university parking permit cost than a lot of other places in the UK, as well as very few instances of cars being clamped.

And there’s further good news if you are planning to spend some of your time as a Bournemouth-based student learning to drive; the international drivers’ education company Zutobi recently declared the South West England town the second best city in the UK for learner drivers.

The firm reached this conclusion on the basis of a high overall pass rate compared to other areas of the country, as well as the safety of its roads, a mere 50 accidents being recorded per 100,000 people. That makes for a much less scary driving experience as a student than you would likely have in, say, Northampton, which saw 496 accidents per 100,000 people.

Calgary, Canada

Just in case you were tempted to think we were only going to cover UK cities in this rundown, we thought we’d throw in this option you might not have considered! We are including it here on the strength of its remarkable performance in the aforementioned Mister Auto study, it being the only one of the 100 global cities scrutinised in the research to manage a ‘perfect’ 100 score overall.

Presuming you are reading this as someone in the UK, if you do have the luxury of studying abroad, you could do a lot worse than choosing to go to university in this city in the western Canadian province of Alberta.

Not only is Calgary a highly cosmopolitan place with plenty for its students to do both at and away from campus, but its universities – including the likes of the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University – are internationally noted for their excellence. Oh, and the city also has a thriving and varied economy, with plenty of corporate head offices situated around the Calgary Metropolitan Region, so you might even fancy your chances of enjoying a rewarding career here after graduation.

But what about the driving experience, specifically? Well, Calgary racked up some seriously formidable scores out of 100 in the Mister Auto research, including a ‘daily average congestion score’ of 98.78, a ‘cost of parking by affordability score’ of 97.17, and a perfect 100 ‘city speed sample score’. The latter refers to the average speed motorists reach while driving in the city centre, expressed as a score.


Heading back to the UK, we just had to work in a Scottish city somewhere in this article, and we can’t think of a more suitable choice than Glasgow.

With the city situated on the River Clyde in the Scottish Lowlands being the most populous city in Scotland and indeed, one of the most populous in the entire United Kingdom, it should be no great surprise that Glasgow boasts a stunning complement of university-level institutions.

The likes of the University of Glasgow, the University of Strathclyde, and the Glasgow School of Art are all to be found here. But as this UCAS guide sets out, if you do become a student here, it’s probable that you will also become an aficionado of Irn-Bru, or caught up in the passion of the legendary ‘Old Firm’ footballing rivalry of Celtic vs Rangers.

Our greatest motivation for having Glasgow in our rundown, however, was probably its strong showing in the Mister Auto study we have already mentioned a few times in this blog post. With its overall score of 89.67 out of 100, Glasgow ranked 30th in the list of 100 shortlisted global cities competing to be considered the best ones to drive in, which was enough to make it the second best in the UK (behind Birmingham).

Glasgow fared well in the study for such aspects as congestion levels, the speeds that people drive at in the city centre, and the affordability of petrol. So, if you intend to do a decent amount of driving during your time as a student in Scotland, choosing to study in this enchanting historical city could be one of the best decisions you make.


Is the North West England city the very best place overall to drive as a student in the UK? The short answer is: probably not. After all, in the Mister Auto study, it did manage ‘only’ sixth place among the UK’s top cities for drivers, and 44th among the 100 shortlisted locations around the world.

So, why are we including it in our list? Well, it seems that a major strength of Manchester as a destination for student motorists is its cheap petrol prices compared to many other parts of the country. Sure enough, Mister Auto gave the city a 95.30 out of 100 ‘cost of petrol by affordability score’, although the research also found that drivers here benefitted from manageable congestion levels and fairly affordable parking.

However, there’s also a much bigger picture to consider with Manchester, including the hugely satisfying all-round student life that could await you if you enrol at one of its well-regarded higher-education institutions such as the University of Manchester or Manchester Metropolitan University.

Manchester is an immensely diverse and welcoming city, with a little something for everyone. It is particularly noted for having one of the most exciting nightlife scenes of any UK city outside London, with Canal Street a renowned focus for LGBT revellers.

The city also boasts one of Europe’s largest Chinatowns, and of course, it is home to Manchesters City and United – two of England’s most successful football clubs. When these factors are considered alongside a highly affordable general cost of living, you can probably see why so many student motorists are ‘driven’ to what Manchester represents.

And while we’re on the subject of affordability, are you finding it tricky to stretch to the cost of a car here? In that case, you might wish to talk to the Car Finance Genie team about the many attractive car finance options in Manchester that we make available, even for those with less-than-immaculate credit histories.

Finally, what are the worst places to drive as a student?

Well, it might not shock you to hear that London doesn’t fare massively strongly in surveys like the ones we have referenced in this article. The Mister Auto study discovered that the city ranked as the country’s worst for congestion, average speed, and parking costs. But on the brighter side, the UK capital fared better for such things as air quality and facilities per capita.

And anyone who has ever tried to drive around Edinburgh – student or not – can probably understand why the data indicates it is the likeliest place in the country for drivers to get involved in a road-rage incident.

Or perhaps it would be a fairer statement to say – in the words of one Tripadvisor forum commenter a few years back – “driving in Edinburgh is not difficult, parking in Edinburgh is difficult”? Regardless, the Scottish capital ranked only 68th out of the 100 shortlisted cities featured in Mister Auto’s research.

We’ll leave you to discuss that one with friends. But in the meantime, you will hopefully have acquired a bit of knowledge from the above that will guide you in your decisions about where in the UK – or even outside of the UK – to study, if you intend to do a decent amount of driving during your time at university.

Stay safe, and be sure to consider Car Finance Genie if you find yourself in need of an affordable car finance deal while you are a student.