As the biggest city in the United States, New York City is home to over eight million people—many of whom choose to commute in and out of the city. With a solid public transportation system and a few tips and tricks for navigating the roads, getting around in the Big Apple doesn’t have to be as bad as people say—but stay clear of the roads during rush hour.
Whether you’re visiting it for its epic food scene, bustling business centers, or sightseeing hotspots, New York City is a must-see on most travelers' bucket lists. It’s the largest city in the United States, meaning that you can expect to encounter busy sidewalks and even busier roads.
Driving in NYC isn’t necessarily recommended, but if you have no choice but to jump behind the wheel of your car, you’ll need to learn the rules of the road and the secrets to affordable parking. That’s what we're
here to do! We’re giving you the scoop on driving in the Big Apple and helping you navigate through the hustle and bustle of daily life in New York City.
What is driving in New York City like?
The bustling scene of New York City is something every tourist wants to experience—an incredible food scene, countless museums, sports, shopping, green spaces, and more. But when it comes to driving, there’s nothing quite as nightmarish as driving through the Big Apple.
Anyone who lives in NYC or frequents it will tell you loud and clear: do not drive in the city. With its traffic-packed roads and fearless pedestrians, even the most confident of drivers are given a run for their money.
Here are some other factors to expect when driving in New York City.
Navigating New York City, whether on foot or behind the wheel of a car, is pretty simple. Most of Manhatten follow a grid pattern, so it’s easy to find your way around; avenues run north-south and streets run east-west.
In between the East and West sides of the city, you’ll find the infamous Fifth Avenue, and diagonally cutting the city, you’ll find Broadway. However, once you get into the boroughs, navigating becomes more challenging, as there is no grid pattern to follow.
It’s also interesting to note that New York City alone has 31 interstate highways—9 main routes and 22 auxiliary routes—that are numbered anywhere from 1 to 899.
If you can familiarize yourself with the major street names and the direction you’re traveling, navigating through the snakepit that is New York City can be manageable!
Parking in New York City is a real hair-puller. If you’re trying to find parking along the street, best of luck to you! The vast majority of NYC is designated as a tow-away zone, which means that if you’re found violating any parking rules, your car could end up in the towing lot.
For streets that do allow parking, they follow alternate side parking regulations stating which side of the street you can park on and when. These areas are indicated by a “Sanitation Broom Symbol” on the street sign. If you’re unsure about what the signs mean, familiarize yourself with
parking regulation signs before you hit the road.
Unlike many smaller cities, street parking isn’t free and varies by location. Passenger vehicle parking rates range from $1.25 to $7.50 per hour, and commercial vehicle parking rates are from $5.00 to $8.00 per hour. The parking display meter will confirm the price, but you can see how
parking rates differ by region in NYC.
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of street parking with exponentially high rates,
municipal parking garages are widely available throughout the five boroughs in New York City. And if you want to guarantee a spot, the parking reservation system provides NYC residents fair access to reserve parking spaces at municipal garages.
This opens five days before the beginning of the new month, and rates for the parking garages can be found on the
NYC Dot website.
Weather in the Big Apple can be unpredictable, but typically, you’re getting classic continental weather—cold winters and hot summers. Here’s what you can expect year-round in New York City:
Summer: Nicer weather with the sun shining means people are out and about, whether in cars, on bikes, or on foot. And it also means an influx of tourists looking to check out the NYC sights, shopping, and nightlife. Watch out for pedestrians and roadwork, and keep an eye on
traffic before you head out so you’re not stuck in gridlock—especially in 90° heat.
Winter: When temperatures plummet and snow and ice form a slick sheet on the road, be sure to keep a safe distance from drivers ahead of you. Snow tires are recommended from October through April to increase grip and safety. Also, make sure your windows are completely clear and your washer fluid is fully stocked. Keeping a
winter emergency car kit in your car could come in handy if you’re involved in an accident or get stuck.
Traffic and transportation options in New York City
One of the beautiful things about getting around New York City is its stellar public transportation system. If sitting in gridlock conditions with angry drivers isn’t your thing, the city’s train and bus system operated by Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) covers the five boroughs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a cheap, environmentally friendly way to get to your destination without having to deal with traffic.
But if you are choosing to drive in New York City, there are some times you’ll want to stay clear of the roads at all costs. Here are the worst times to drive in New York City:
7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.:Most people are trying to get in or out of Manhatten during this morning rush hour.
3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.: Roads can be packed with people going in and out of the city after school or work, so avoid potential accidents by staying off the road or taking public transit.
Gridlock Alert Days: The busiest days on the road in New York City are termed Gridlock Alert Days, so if you’re in a hurry or aren’t keen on getting stuck in major traffic, avoid driving on these days. The schedule for 2022 isn’t yet available, but you can check out the
2021 Gridlock Alert Days for an idea of the worst days to drive.
Because rush hour spans a big chunk of the morning and afternoon, the best times to drive in New York City are off-peak travel times. In general, before 6:00 am and after 8:00 pm should give you a sufficient buffer to get to where you need to go without hitting rush hour. But remember, always leave yourself extra time in the case of road closures or accidents.
Should I rent a car in New York City?
Renting a car in New York City is simple, but one of the biggest challenges of having a vehicle in the city is parking. While there are several options—parking garages, lots, metered street parking, and free street parking—be prepared to pay for the convenience.
New York City has one of the biggest and best transit systems in the country. A MetroCard for access to the subway and buses costs $1.00 for the card and $2.75 per ride. If you want an express bus, it will cost you $6.75. If you frequent the transit system, an unlimited MetroCard allows you to ride as often as you like and runs $33.00 for 7 days or $127 for 30 days.
The other option you have if you’re not interested in driving in NYC is a taxi, although fees can add up quickly when you’re stuck in stand-still traffic.
Local driving laws in New York City
Before you jump behind the wheel of a car in New York City, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with local traffic laws to avoid a run-in with the police. Here are some things you can expect when driving in the Big Apple:
Texting and driving in New York is illegal
when operating a motor vehicle and being caught can land you up to a $200 fine and five points on your driving record.
Be prepared to reduce your speed and be alert when passing through construction zones.
If an emergency vehicle is approaching, you’re required to pull over or reduce your speed until the emergency vehicle has passed—New York law enforcement is a lot stricter with the
move over law than in other states.
Crime rate in New York City
The crime rate in New York is higher than the national average, which means that it’s going to influence your
car insurance premium.
CNN reported that the crime rate in New York City spiked a whopping 61% in 2022 compared to the same month the previous year. Although crime happens in every borough, the highest crime rate is in the Bronx. Motor vehicle thefts run rampant in New York City, and NYPD crime statistics show that vehicle theft has reached its highest rate in over a decade.
How to find car insurance in New York City
In a big city like New York, nothing comes cheap—and when you get behind the wheel of a car, there’s a huge potential for accidents and other road mishaps. Insurance in the Big Apple is notoriously high, but if you have a good driving record, why should your car insurance drain your pocket? The answer—it shouldn’t.
Regardless of where you live,
Jerry helps you find affordable rates on the coverage you need.
Just download the Jerry app, enter your information, and in less than 45 seconds, Jerry finds you the most competitive rates from over 50 of the top insurance providers. There’s no paperwork, no emails, and no hassles. Once you find the right policy, Jerry’s team of experts will finalize the details so you can focus on the road, not whether you have the right car insurance policy.
That’s why Jerry has been rated the #1 insurance app in the App Store, saving users an average of $887 a year on car insurance!
“I was nervous to buy insurance for my first car because I had heard horror stories about the insurance prices in New York. After not even two minutes, I found four quotes from
Jerry under $125/month. By the end of the night, I was on the road safe and insured!” —Reuben R.
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