Cars

Should You Rent a Car in New York City?

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Given New York City’s traffic, drivers, pedestrians, and shortage of parking, it’s easiest not to drive in the city. If you’re visiting, it generally isn’t worth renting a car. Depending on your circumstances, however,

Rental costs

Renting a car in Manhattan can be expensive, especially at peak times like holidays, when lots of New Yorkers want to rent at the same time. It may be cheaper to rent your car in New Jersey or Connecticut.

Parking

If you have a car, you’ll need to park it, which can be difficult. Parking garages and lots aren’t hard to find, but they are expensive. Parking will cost the most in touristy spots like Times Square. Midtown Manhattan garages may charge between $7 and $20 per hour. In Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, you may luck out and find free street parking.

Metered parking is $1.25 to $7.50 per hour, depending on your location. Rates for Midtown Core and Lower Manhattan are $4.50 for the first hour and $7.50 for the second. The New York City DOT Parking Rate Map shows rates for specific spots. Metered spots are free on Sundays. 

Take the subway

Instead of renting a car, consider public transportation. The subway can usually get you to a destination faster. Both the subway and buses go most places, and trains and ferries extend the reach. The subway and many bus lines run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The cost for a subway or local bus ticket is $2.75, and an express bus is $6.75. You can bring up to three kids with you for free as long as they are 44 inches tall or less. If you expect to ride a lot, you can buy a seven-day unlimited pass for $33. Plus, the Staten Island Ferry is free.

Other ways to travel

There are a number of other transportation options to consider. Rideshare is one many people appreciate. In addition to Uber and Lyft, consider Via and Juno. While you can bring your own car seat, Uber and Lyft have the option to request a car with one included. In New York state, car seats or booster seats are required for kids under age eight.

Taxis are available 24 hours a day. Taxi rates are $2.50 plus 50 cents for each half-mile or 60 seconds when stopped or going less than 12 miles per hour (plus any surcharges, tolls, and tips). While you can install your own car seat in taxis, they don’t provide one. 

If you prefer some exercise, rent a Citi Bike located at 750 stations around Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Jersey City. It’s $3 for one 30-minute ride. Or, they have a day pass, three-day pass, or an annual membership. New York City is also a great place for walking.

When you should rent

There are, of course, circumstances where renting a car makes sense. Having a rental car makes it easier to visit locations outside of New York City. It can also make it easier if you have a lot of stuff to bring with you, multiple kids who use car seats, or a large pet.

Choosing a rental

In addition to rental agencies like Alamo and Enterprise, consider a car share like Zipcar. Enterprise also has a car-sharing option for quick drives. When picking your rental car, make sure you rent a car you’re comfortable parking, especially if you’ll park in a tight parking garage. Generally, smaller cars, like subcompacts and compacts, are easier to park.

If you’ll need to get gas or return the car full, consider a car with good gas mileage. This helps offset the high costs of renting and parking. Some fuel efficient options are the 2019 Honda Insight, 2019 Toyota Prius, and 2019 Hyundai Ioniq. The Prius and 2019 Ford Escape Titanium are both easy to park and have automated parking assistance.

Laws

If you rent a car, you should know the rental laws in New York. Additional insurance options offered by rental companies are optional if you have your own insurance. In addition, your spouse, if licensed and over 18, is automatically allowed to drive the rental car. Other additional drivers may cost $3 per day.

You’re not required to have a credit card to rent a car, although lacking one may add delays to the rental process. There may be a surcharge for drivers between ages 18 and 25. Rental companies can’t discriminate against you on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, religion, disability, or sex.

Also keep in mind you can’t turn right on red in New York City. Since there are toll roads in and around New York, bringing (or renting) an EZ Pass helps.