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The most popular drive-thru in each state in the USA

The invention of the drive-thru marked a huge change in the way we enjoy food and drinks. With tons of convenience, reasonable prices, and no need to stand up, it’s no surprise that the drive-thru phenomenon has become extremely popular in recent years. This prompted us to wonder which drive-thru was the most popular, and which was the top choice for each state in the USA.

A drive thru sign indicating where to order with two arrows


What's on this page?
Starbucks is the all-time favourite drive thru in the USA
The drive-thrus that have grown in popularity the most in 2021

By using search volumes and trends, we can show you exactly which drive-thrus are the most popular across the USA and which have increased in popularity over the last year. 

Whether you’re road-tripping across the USA to find the best burger in the states or just popping to your local McDonald’s, ensuring you're driving with a car insurance policy in place is essential.

Starbucks is the all-time favourite drive-thru in the USA

Starbucks is one of the largest coffee house companies in the world and is officially crowned the ultimate drive-thru in the USA based on search volume alone. The average number of searches for a Starbucks drive-thru is 33,160 per month across all USA states. It was also the most searched for drive-thru in 48 out of 50 states in the USA. The only two states where Starbucks wasn't a clear winner was in Mississippi and West Virginia where Starbucks tied with McDonald’s for the highest number of searches per month.

Our study also found that out of the 30 most populated cities in the USA, Starbucks came out on top for 28 out of 30 cities. Here, New York tied with McDonald’s and El Paso tied with Subway - clearly emphasising the USA’s love for coffee. 

A drive thru sign indicating where to order with two arrows

The drive-thrus that have grown in popularity the most in 2021

Considering that the first drive-thru was opened in Missouri in 1947 (it was called Red's Giant Hamburg, for the record), it makes sense that the USA has a longstanding love of drive-thru restaurants. But which chains have grown the most in popularity in 2021? Read on to find out…

A graph showing the most popular drive thrus in the USA

Burger King is the USA’s most popular drive-thru in 2021

There’s an abundance of choice of drive-thru options in America, but Burger King takes the top spot. It’s been the favourite drive-thru over the past twelve months in these six states - Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri, North Carolina and Utah. The state where Burger King drive-thrus has trended the most over the last year is Hawaii, with a 600% increase in searches in the last twelve months. 

KFC and White Castle remain a firm favourite drive-thru in five different states 

As one of the world’s most well-known fast food chains, KFC was bound to end up at the top of this list. KFC had the biggest increase in trends over the past year in five states including New Mexico, Maine and Alaska. In particular, the states of South Carolina and Alabama searched for ‘KFC drive-thru’ the most with a 100% increase in demand for the Colonel’s fried chicken in the last 12 months. 

Meanwhile, the 100-year-old family-owned business, White Castle, also remains a beloved drive-thru in the USA. It was the favourite drive-thru option in five different states including California, Nevada, Florida and New Jersey. The hamburger joint is a particular favourite in Indiana where search demands for a White Castle drive-thru increased by 600% over the last year. 

Wendy’s, Subway, McDonald’s and Taco Bell are the joint third most popular drive-thru in the USA.

The Mexican-inspired chain, Taco Bell, has been a firm favorite in the USA since its opening in 1962 in California and has seen the biggest increase in demand in Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Now, with 7,510 searches for its drive-thru a month, it's even more popular than ever. This is especially true in Kansas, where the search trends for ‘Taco Bell drive-thru’ have increased by 200% in 12 months.

Likewise, the demand for Wendy's has soared in Kentucky, Wisconsin and Delaware, which saw searches for Wendy's drive-thru skyrocket by 100% over the past 12 months. Subway increased in popularity in South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia, while McDonald’s has been crowned the most popular drive-thru chain in Minnesota, Wyoming and Virgina.

The drive-thrus that have declined the most in popularity in 2021

Not every restaurant can do as well as our top seven in 2021. These are the top 10 drive-thru restaurants that have decreased the most in search trends in the past twelve months. 

Rank Drive-thru Average trends % over 12 months
Tim Hortons
Boston Market
Shake Shack
Carl's Jr
Steak n Shake

Despite expanding into the USA in 1984, the Canadian-born fast food chain, Tim Hortons, has continually struggled to climb to the top of the food chain in the states. It saw the biggest decline in popularity over the past 12 months at 52%, closely followed by Boston Market with a 43% decline. 

However, most shockingly, Starbucks has the third highest decline in trends out of all fast food restaurants. This could suggest that despite being the most popular drive-thru in the USA, the brand has faced a massive decline in searches over the past twelve months. This could potentially leave room for another drive-thru on the rise to take their crown in the near future. 

How to protect your car as a drive-thru lover

One of the key aspects of enjoying a drive-thru is being in a car. In fact, that’s pretty much the only key aspect. So, if you’re a frequenter of drive-thrus, and want to keep it that way, it’s important to take as good care of your dinnertime vehicle as possible. Luckily, at Confused.com we have a whole host of providers to compare and find the best car insurance policy for you. Don’t let unnecessary car issues stop you from living your best drive-thru life.

Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, comments:


“Everyone loves the experience of a drive-thru, whether it's a late-night dinner stop or an early morning breakfast on the go. 

“Even if it's a quick stop off, like any car journey you need to make sure you’re insured to drive-that car. depending on the law in the country you are driving in. Accidents can happen anywhere, even where you least expect it! 

“Ultimately, car insurance is designed to protect you from any financial costs that may occur when driving on the road. From accident protection to medical expenses, finding the best car insurance for you should allow drivers peace of mind that if anything were to happen, they’d be financially protected and can continue to enjoy all the benefits that driving on the road has to offer.”