North America > United States > New York
See: Why rent a car in New York ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments
(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)
Your key questions for any destination:
Do I need a car in New York ?
Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.
That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!
- The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
- How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
- Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
- Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?
Is it worth hiring a car in New York ?
This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at New York car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.
How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare New York with other destinations locally and around the world.
This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.
Should I rent a car in New York ?
This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in New York , but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.
New York, New York — the city that is so good, they named it twice — but what is it like to get around? New York’s world-famous subway system has more stations than any other in the world, and many of them are actually elevated above the streets, affording a view of the city as you travel around. In New York, yellow is London’s black, and no trip to the Big Apple is complete without a ride in one of the city’s famous taxis, and a lively conversation with the driver is not an optional extra. New York is very much a city on the water, with numerous ferries criss-crossing the Hudson, and the world-famous free Staten Island Ferry offering incredible views of lower Manhattan.
Please note that Carornocar.com is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season.
We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.
New York is in car rental price band: 8/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)
General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in New York ?
No. Car rental is very expensive by global standards.
Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in New York between the peak and the off peak season?
5/10 (0 = stable prices)
Driving score: 1/10
Non car score:9/10
(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)
General comment -
New York has so much to offer within the five boroughs that it’s hardly surprising that so many visitors never really go beyond the city limits, other than to get to and from the airport, if they are flying in via Newark. It is naturally fair enough to say that if your intentions are strictly to stay within this area, then there’s really no point at all in getting a rental car, because traffic doesn’t just move slowly here, it moves very frustratingly slowly, block by block, and particularly in Manhattan at least, on a very restrictive one-way pattern. So even if there’s absolutely no need to rent a car in New York, it is something worth considering if you are considering some longer excursions from the city, especially into Long Island, or north into New England. You may also want to look into a road trip from New York for a week or longer – but the opportunities here are nothing like as impressive as they are in the great American west (see Las Vegas, Denver etc).
Why? Visiting New York using a hire car
Why do you need a car in New York ?
Any plan to get a rental car in New York is almost certainly going to be based on heading substantially out of the city, and this might typically involve heading up through the Hamptons on Long Island, heading north into upstate New York or through into the neighbouring Connecticut and then Rhode Island or even Massachusetts, or potentially heading south through New Jersey, and beyond.
- If you already have a number of places in mind, then the chances are that a rental car for this kind of trip is already going to be sorted.
- If you are looking at visiting a sequence of places, but trying to do so by public transport, then you’ll probably find it quite disappointing. This isn’t to say that public transport outside the city of New York isn’t up to much, but simply that it’s far more geared towards getting commuters in and out of the Big Apple than it is towards travelling from town to town in more rural areas.
- For a group of family travelling together, getting a rental car in New York may be worth it, as Amtrak fares can be quite pricey, especially at busier commuter times. Even in summer when the car rental cost goes up, driving may still be better value if train services are also busy, for example around the weekends.
If you are visiting New York from Europe and this is your first time in the US, and you are also looking at visiting other major cities on the eastern seaboard, then it doesn’t really make much sense to get a rental car for this. See also our car rental guides for Boston in the north and then for Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC. All of these cities can be easily reached from New York by train, or potentially by a short hop internal flight, but the freeways running along this corridor are relatively unspectacular, so there is little enjoyment from driving.
Why not? Visiting New York without a car
Why don't you need a car in New York ?
Getting around New York without a rental car shouldn’t really need a huge amount of self-justification – New York after all, perhaps after London, has some of the most iconic transport services, from the rattling steel subway cars on elevated tracks above Brooklyn through to the yellow cabs, the famously free Staten Island Ferry and of course the world famous Grand Central Station.
- You don’t need a car at all in Manhattan or any of the other five boroughs (unless you are staying right in the edge of the city and driving out).
- New York has some of the most iconic public transit services anywhere in the world – including the subway itself, and especially the elevated sections around Brooklyn.
- Buses in New York are efficient and frequent. Buses within the city are operated by MTA, who also operate the metro. One fare card can be used on all services.
- Compared to other major cities, bus and subway fares in New York are cheap.
- You can also travel easily using New York’s iconic yellow taxis (beware of touts around JFK airport).
- If you are just looking at heading to various other relatively nearby locations as a day trip, then as long as you are pretty much heading out and back in the reverse of what most commuters do, you should be fine. There are also numerous longer distance train and bus services running throughout the Northeast corridor.
- Compared to other continental US cities, car rental in New York is relatively expensive, with sharp rises during the summer.
- North East ‘Acela’ corridor – New York is the largest city in ‘ Boswash’ conurbation, which stretches from Boston in the north-east down to Washington DC to the South West. These cities are both well worth visiting in their own right, and you can either fly there or take the train. Philadelphia and Baltimore also have some points of interest, and these are within easy reach by train too. All of these cities have rich city centres, so there really is not much point in driving there, especially as the freeways do not offer a particularly exciting driving experience — you will see more from the train anyway. This Northeast corridor is served by Amtrak’s flagship Acela high-speed train service, which is very comparable to European services — not quite as quick as France’s TGV, but still faster than intercity services in the UK. Note however, that you can pay a considerable supplement to use the Acela trains, it is usually much better value to take a slightly slower Metroliner services, with New York to Washington DC fares starting from $45 (as of November 2011).
- Fuel in New York is generally expensive relative to other places in the USA, apart from California. It is still cheap by European standards.
If you are looking at visiting Niagara Falls, then although this might well be in upstate New York, it’s a substantial hike by train or bus. You certainly can make something of a scenic drive of it, but it’s also very easy short hop international flight to Buffalo. You could also make a loop around Long Island and then up to Cape Cod before continuing back via Niagara Falls – a road trip of this nature would take around a week, a needless to say, it would be best in the fall. See our Niagara Falls/Buffalo page for more details.
Ratings: How does New York compare?
Is it worth hiring a car in New York ? TBC
This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in New York , and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.
How does this compare if:
You are travelling:
Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc
Does car rental make sense on different budgets?
Do you need to hire a car in New York ? TBC
This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit New York (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".
Should you rent a car in New York ? TBC
This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good.
See global comparisons
Hiring | Driving | Parking
Trains | Buses | Local travel
Car hire basics:
Public transportation basics:
Regular bus services: YES
Coach (inter-city): YES
High Speed Rail:
Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):
As you start ....
Does New York airport have a direct rail link?
(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No
Has our advice for New York car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?
2017 - 2
2019 - 2
2021 - 2
Average score - 2
It should be obvious enough to state that you really really don’t need a car in New York. We think that because New York is one of those cities that has so much more to offer actually within the urban area itself, and because public transport within these five boroughs is extremely strong. When is it worth hiring a car in New York? Generally, the further you want to go away from the city, and the more you are looking at travelling in a loop, rather than going out of New York and back again as day excursions, the better value a rental car may look. So ultimately, should you rent a car in New York? Our overall verdict for the first-time visitor to New York is that there’s still really no need to even think about getting one here, so it’s a strong no.
Do you or don't you need a car in New York ?