New York

By | 16th January 2018

Should you rent a car in New York?

Do you need a car in New York > Should you rent a car in New York USA > New York ( JFK ) Do you need a car in New York? Is it worth hiring a car in New York? Should you rent a car in New York?

New York Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]


  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in New York but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]



  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in New York during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]



  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.

Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 1048 - of which 103 have free parking. [full notes - parking]



  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in New York, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

New York public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.


  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in New York


  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.


  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in New York good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in New York because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around New York. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.


  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in New York, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - New York Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in New York", "is it worth hiring a car in New York", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in New York?

Do you need a car in New York?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  New York " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in New York?

Is it worth hiring a car in New York?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  New York" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in New York?

Should you rent a car in New York?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  New York, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  New York compares with other destinations in  USA or  North America.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in New York?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.


Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.


  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

Is it worth renting a car in New York if I am a solo / budget traveller?

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in New York for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in New York for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in New York if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in New York if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in New York if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to New York, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

Should I hire a car in New York if I prefer not to drive?

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in New York if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in New York if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in New York, or are there good reasons not to?

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.

Do you need a car in New York? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in New York?", this often breaks down to two key questions:
  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in New York? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?
Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in New York as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in New York?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

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 should you rent a car in New York?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip? In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring 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

What is public transport like in New York? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 1?

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.
  • Fuel in New York is generally expensive relative to other places in the USA, apart from California. It is still cheap by European standards.

Niagara Falls

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.


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.


Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


What is our final score for New York on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.


Would you hire a car in New York?

Have you driven in New York? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in New York}? Do you need a car in New York? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

Category: USA

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