New York car rental: tips to save money and not go crazy in Manhattan traffic

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Martí Micolau

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If you have landed on this page it is clearly because you have come up with the idea of rent a car in New York. Well, in that case there are a few things you need to know, because what you got might - I say might - not have been a great idea. Here are some frequently asked questions on the subject, to which I will try to answer briefly by giving you some targeted advice and suggestions.


  • Serve l’auto a Manhattan?
  • When is it convenient to hire a car in New York?
  • When and where to collect it?
  • Where to book? Tips for a low cost car rental in New York
  • Is there anything else to know?

Serve l’auto a Manhattan?

The answer pretty much everyone agrees: no, you won't need a rental car in New York, especially if yours is a standard visit, therefore limited to Manhattan and, more rarely, in Brookyln and secondary neighborhoods. The smartest and most strategic way to get around New York is to use the Metro and other public means of transport full-time: the transport network is extremely widespread and allows you to reach practically all areas of interest in the city. Furthermore, one of the most rewarding experiences is walk the streets of Manhattan, which remains the best solution for getting around the neighborhoods and areas of major tourist interest.

In case this motivation does not satisfy you, here are others even more convincing:

  • i prices of car hire in New York they are particularly high compared to other American cities. A minimum of 350 euros is required to rent a low-category car for 7 days. In high season (July-August, December) prices for 7 days can also go up to a minimum of 450-500 euros.
  • if you really want to drive around Manhattan, you'll need to spend a little more for insurance. The risk of damage the vehicle is around the corner.
  • move into the omnipresent Manhattan traffic it can be adelusional experience, not to mention the search for parking lots! Even if you are lucky enough to find one you will have to pay remarkable figures to keep it there, and you'll have to be careful to pay for as long as you hold it: zero tolerance on delays! In case you still decide to take it to do a day excursion or a tour after the visit of the city, you should book a hotel with parking space, which entails a significant additional outlay… plus to keep the car stationary!
  • The streets of New York are teeming with cyclistspedestrians e taxi. The former are used to wandering around the city and expect you to be equally skilled and shrewd; the latter do not always use the predetermined crossings; third parties have a driving style that is not always a textbook ...
  • Great attention should be paid to US signage. There are really many signs in New York:
    • some report the times in which the no left turn at the intersection of some avenues;
    • the famous “No turn on red”, in the presence of which it is forbidden to turn right when the traffic light is red;
    • if you are looking for a parking space and you have found a free space, ask yourself why! Each street has a sign indicating the parking conditions (timetables, particular restrictions).

When is it convenient to hire a car in New York?

While, as we have seen, it is not advisable to use the car to get around Manhattan, there are some reasons so - under certain conditions - it can be instead convenient to do it. When?

  • In case you know New York well and only need to travel to the neighborhoods and in less busy areas (Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx). This can happen because you have found affordable accommodation in the suburbs or because you have to reach non-tourist areas or areas that are not perfectly connected for various reasons. Of course, you will have to try to avoid entering Manhattan in any case.
  • In case you have more time and want to explore the immediate surroundings of New York: a couple of examples? There Hudson Valley (Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain State Park) and Long Island. And what about a Hamptons tour?
  • In case after visiting New York you want to venture into a more demanding on the road: in addition to the classic coast to coast tours, the most common tours are those at Niagara Falls and to the cities of Boston, Washington e Philadelphia. It is also not unusual for a tour of New England or even Florida to depart from New York. In all these cases, the rental car can be a valid option, although some disadvantages remain with regard to movements within the larger cities, especially in the case of day excursions. Below you will find some articles related to the various destinations with i pros and cons of traveling by car and some alternatives.
    • since New York all Niagara Falls
    • and New York at Boston
    • from New York to Philadelphia
    • and New York in Washington

When and where to collect it?

When to withdraw it? If your decision to hire a car in New York is dictated by one of the above reasons, I recommend that you take the car only when leaving town. If your on the road starts immediately after landing and you don't intend to visit the Big Apple, I recommend that you pick it up anyway the next day, sleeping one night in a hotel to recover from the travel and inconvenience of the New York time zone. Below is a list of accommodations near the airport.

All accommodations near JFK Airport

Where to collect it? The most common solution is to collect the car at the airport: not only at the JKF, but alternatively also to La Guardia and Newark. Speaking of the latter, there are those who say that - given that it is located in New Jersey - the branches of the agencies offer cheaper prices. Actually to me it does not appear that the fares are cheaper than the other two airports in New York state: the price is roughly the same and, as we said, it is quite consistent.

The way to save some money would be to look for agency offices in New Jersey (for example North Bergen), but it is not recommended: there is little choice of cars and there is no subway from Manhattan, the which means getting organized by bus and strenuous walking (with all suitcases loaded ...).

Ultimately, I recommend taking the rental car from the airport offices as well specifically to JFK, which benefits from the best connections from Manhattan, as read in our article dedicated to airports in New York. It can be a bit cumbersome to move around with arms and luggage from the hotel to the airport (which is why I recommend a taxi or a private car or shuttle service), but the main advantage is to avoid all the traffic in Manhattan once you have taken the car, being able to immediately set off to the desired destinations.

Where to book? Tips for a low cost car rental in New York

To save a little, I suggest you look for the best quote on the portals listed below, in order to find the car that best suits your needs by getting the best value for money and taking advantage of the various offers available in the various city and airport agencies.

Check prices on AutoEurope

Check prices on RentalCars

Is there anything else to know?

Remember not to be caught unprepared when renting a car! In addition to inviting you to read our tips on renting a car in the USA, I summarize below the things you need to pay attention to:

  • Get a credit card in the driver's name: American car rental agencies keep a figure like security deposit and they are quite inflexible on this rule. If you show up at the counter without a credit card (which does not necessarily have to be the same card you made the booking with) you risk that the car will not be delivered to you.
  • read our article on international driving license to understand if it is appropriate to obtain it: the regulation varies from state to state.
  • if you return the car to an office other than the pick-up office you may have to pay a call fee drop off.
  • if you are planning to go to Canada by rented car in New York, I recommend that you read our article on car rental between Canada and the USA.
  • pay attention to the car insurance policy. The one included in your package has all the covers do you feel you need?
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