Car Rental in New York
Cheapest Car Rental Rates
Most Popular Car Rental Deals
Why rent a car in New York?
New York City is the largest city in the United States and also its most important city economically and culturally. It is also one of the most visited cities in the world when it comes to tourism. Three of the most-visited tourist sites in the world are located in the city. The city’s many attractions, restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, and so forth lead many to visit the city time and time again, with something new to take in every time.
Many would never think to rent a car when visiting the city. There is a good reason for this when planning to visit Manhattan, as traffic is hectic and parking inconvenient at best and astronomically priced at worst. However, many do rent a car for traveling in the outer boroughs, Long Island, Upstate New York, and New Jersey. Although a car is not absolutely necessary in the outer boroughs, it is more convenient. For travel to the suburbs and beyond, a car becomes essential.
Rental companies are required rent to any driver that is at least 18 years old, though they are allowed to charge Young Driver fees (and usually do for drivers under 25). That state also has other special rules when it comes to fees and insurance. The New York Attorney General has put together a great Car Rental Tip Sheet.
One-Way Car Rentals in New York
The most popular one-way rental options for pick up in New York and drop off in another city include:
- From New York to Miami - 32 offers from $132.72 per day
- From New York to Los Angeles - 23 offers from $135.60 per day
- From New York to Las Vegas - 27 offers from $135.60 per day
- From New York to Newark - 18 offers from $83.60 per day
- From New York to Orlando - 27 offers from $132.72 per day
Top ways to enter New York
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is the main international gateway to New York City and has the most international arrivals of any airport in North America. Located in the southern part of Queens near the neighborhood of Jamaica, it takes roughly an hour to get from it to Manhattan. Desks of all major rental car companies are located in the baggage claim areas of the terminals and a quick trip with the AirTrain to the Federal Circle Station brings renters to the cars themselves.
LaGuardia Airport (LGA) is the other commercial airport that is located in the city itself. It has limited international flights since it does not have a border control facility. Preclearance takes place in some Canadian and Carribean airports, though, with flights allowed to land at LaGuardia from these locations. Non-stop flights to or from locations that are more than 1,500 miles away are prohibited at the airport, therefore there are no flights to the west coast. Long outdated, the airport is currently under reconstruction planned to be completed in 2021. Rental cars can be picked up at the rental car facility to which rental agencies provide shuttle service from all terminals.
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is the other major international airport serving the city. Even though it is located in neighboring New Jersey, it is much quicker to reach Manhattan from it than from LaGuardia or JFK. The airport has numerous flights to and from all major U.S cities and many destinations around the world. Rental cars are available with each supplier having a separate building near stations P2 and P3 of the AirTrain.
Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP) is located roughly in the middle of Long Island and serves the suburban counties of Nassau and Suffolk. It is also an alternative for those flying to New York City and is now advertised in tourist literature as such. It is about 60 miles west of Manhattan; Queens and Brooklyn are, of course, not quite as far away. Rental Cars are available for pick-up on the grounds of the airport.
Westchester County Airport (HPN) is also an option for reaching the New York Metro Area. It is located about 33 miles north of Midtown Manhattan just outside the suburb of White Plains. Rental cars can be picked up at the airport with six major suppliers having desks in the arrivals hall. The drive into the city can take an hour or more depending on traffic and requires payment of a toll no matter which route you take (all bridges crossing the Harlem River into the city have toll booths).
New York City sits in the center of Amtrak’s most popular routes, that of the high-speed Acela and the Northeast Regional both running from Washington D.C. through Baltimore and Philadelphia to Boston. Trains arrive hourly from these destinations, in addition to less frequently from other locations, at Penn Station underneath Madison Square Garden. While rental cars cannot be picked up in the station itself, many suppliers have offices located in midtown and downtown that can easily be reached by taxi or the subway.
In most cases, it is possible to drive to New York City with a rental car that was picked up in one of the surrounding states. It is impossible to enter the city without paying a toll when crossing one of the bridges or tunnels, though. I-95 (which is the New Jersey Turnpike through New Jersey) connects cities both to the south and northeast of New York City, including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston. I-78 is most convenient for those entering from Allentown, Harrisburg, or other parts of Pennsylvania.
Though unlikely, some may arrive in New York City on one of Cunard’s transatlantic journeys on the Queen Mary 2. The ship docks at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Those making the journey from Southampton are able to schedule their return flights to give them time to spend in the city. While rental cars aren't available at the cruise terminal, some suppliers have offices nearby.
New York City is made up of five boroughs, the most famous of which is Manhattan. The most-populous, however, is Brooklyn. Queens is north of Brooklyn and is the western end of Long Island. The Bronx is north of Manhattan and separated from it by the Harlem River. Finally, Staten Island, which is more suburban than urban, is located off the coast of New Jersey and is the least-populous borough.
The weather in the city is typical of that of the northeast of the U.S. The city experiences four distinct seasons. Winters last from December to March and are cold with occasional cold snaps where temperatures plummet to as low as 0°F. Fall and spring see moderate temperatures with a significant amount of rain in the spring. Summers are generally hot though temperatures rarely reach 100°F. The city is not usually in the path of the hurricanes of the Atlantic being so far up the coast, though an occasional Hurricane reaches the city as Sandy did in 2010.
New York City is home to immigrants from all over the world, both first-generation and other generations. The city is a melting pot of cultures. Queens is the most ethnically diverse borough. If walking through Flushing Meadows Park, expect to hear languages from all over, many you may have never heard before. In addition to making travelers from anywhere feel at home, the city’s different ethnicities provide for excellent ethnic cuisine, from Greek and Italian to the more exotic Ethiopian and Colombian.
Given its importance as the center of the financial industry in the United States along with its global importance, New York City is the economic powerhouse of the country. In fact, it’s economy would be the 12th-largest in the world if it were a separate country. The city is also home to more billionaires than any other location in the world.
New York City is a sports mecca. The city has won more championships in the four major sports leagues than any other city in the country and by a good margin. This is bolstered in large part by the New York Yankees’ 27 World Series Titles. It shouldn’t need to be pointed out that a trip to Yankee Stadium is a must for anyone even vaguely interested in baseball and not from Boston.
New York has a second baseball team based in the Flushing area of Queens. The New York Mets have formed a historical rival with the Yankees though for many seasons they never actually played each other. Since 2007, they have had what is known as the Subway Series every season. Yankees draw their support from Manhattan, the Bronx, and parts of Staten Island while the Mets draw theirs from Brooklyn and Queens.
In the National Football League, the city has two teams, the New York Giants and New York Jets. Both teams call the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey home. The benefit of having two teams sharing the same stadium is that there is an NFL game in the city almost every week of the season.
The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets play in the National Basketball Association. The Knicks are a storied franchise whose heydays were in the 1970s and in the 1990s when they were led by Patrick Ewing. In recent years, though, the team has fallen on extended bad times. The Knicks are the anchor tenant of Madison Square Garden which sits on top of Penn Station and is one of the most famous arenas in the world.
The Brooklyn Nets, formerly located in New Jersey, is the other NBA team in the city. The Nets call the Barclay’ Center on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn home. The franchise is not as famous as the Knicks nor has it seen the same level of historical success, though it did reach the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.
The city has two teams in the National Hockey League with another team located in nearby Newark, New Jersey. The New York Rangers are the most popular of the teams historically. The New York Islanders have a fan base that is primarily based on Long Island as it used to play exclusively there. Currently, the team splits its home games between Long Island and the Barclays Center. The New Jersey Devils are the only sports team to identify with New Jersey and have a long run of success in the past 25 years, though they are obviously less popular in the city.
Finally, with the growth of soccer in America, New York’s soccer teams have become more and more popular. The New York Red Bulls are the city’s original team and play in New Jersey. New York FC started playing in 2015 and hosts home games at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The Major League Soccer season runs from March to October, quite differently than European leagues.
Visitors may find that many small establishments, including cheap restaurants and dollar pizza joints, will not accept credit cards. Some establishments, in particular, quick marts, may only accept cards if a purchase is above a certain value (usually $10).
New York City is famous for its food. From its five three-star Michelin restaurants to the ubiquitous dollar pizza, the city has culinary offerings for everyone. For breakfast, you must have one of the city’s bagels, particularly with cream cheese. For lunch, try New York-style pizza, available quite famously for just $1 a slice in some places. The pizza is usually either cheese pizza or with pepperoni and is a large flat slice with a chewy crust and lots of grease on top.
Another lunch option (or breakfast if you want to avoid the crowds) is deli food. Traditional Jewish delis can be found throughout the city, though Katz’s Deli is the most famous. These delis serve traditional deli meat sandwiches including pastrami, corned beef, roast beef, and turkey. The ordering and payment process at Katz’s may be confusing, but luckily, they have made a video showing how it’s done.
Another culinary item that the city is famous for is its cheesecake. Though New York cheesecake can now be found not just around the country, but around the world, many will want to try it in the city in which it originated.
Finally, when it comes time for dinner, make sure to make reservations if attending one of the city’s immaculate dining establishments, such as one of the city’s five 3 Star Michelin restaurants (though reservations for some of these, like Masa, are extremely difficult to come by). Almost every chain restaurant is also available in the city (many of them located in Times Square), but so is almost every ethnic cuisine in small family-run restaurants that are certainly more of a unique experience.
The American tipping culture is at its apex in New York City. Not only should you remember to tip 18-22% or more in restaurants, but it is also generally expected to give smaller tips to taxi drivers, bellhops, hotel, barkeeps, shuttle drivers, tour guides, and spa and salon workers. If unsure who or how much to tip, TripSavvy has compiled a great guide.
Top destinations and activities
As both a world city and the U.S.’s number one tourist destination, New York City has a plethora of attractions. Many people visit time and time again with new things to see and do every time. If staying in the city for a week, you will not run out of things to do. Some of those destinations and activities can be found below by the borough in which they are located.
Manhattan - When most think of New York City, they think of Manhattan. The majority of the landmarks and activities that the city is famous for are located in Manhattan.
- Statue of Liberty - An icon of not just New York City but the United States as a whole, the Statue of Liberty is often on the top of tourists’ to-do list. Though only about 3.5 million people visit it every year, many more take the Staten Island Ferry just to see it. Tickets to visit both Liberty Island and nearby Ellis Island by ferry are limited and are best purchased in advance. The statute can be ascended by walking up 354 steps to the top where you can look out of the 25 windows of the crown. The aforementioned Staten Island Ferry travels somewhat near the island and provides good views of the statute. Further, it is free to ride. Be sure to find a seat on the starboard side when leaving Manhattan. Once on Staten Island, you must depart the ferry and wait for the next one which should depart soon after.
- Top of the Rock - Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan is home to NBC Studios and the Radio Center Music Hall. Its Christmas tree and ice skating rink are both popular in winter, but the Top of the Rock is the most popular attraction in the complex. It is an observation deck located at the top of the Comcast Building (or 30 Rock). It is built to resemble the deck of a cruise ship. To the south, the deck gives great views to the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center in the distance. To the north, a great view of Central Park is to be had.
- Chinatown - Once home to the largest population of Chinese people outside of China, the neighborhood has been overtaken in this respect by Flushing Chinatown in Queens. It is, however, still the center of Chinese-American culture. The neighborhood which is south of Little Italy, north of the Civic Center, and between the Lower East Side and Tribeca in Lower Manhattan is still popular with tourists. In addition to knock-off designer goods, the neighborhood is home to food markets selling all kinds of Asian delicacies and Chinese restaurants. For a real culinary adventure, find a restaurant that is full of Chinese people instead of tourists and order something off the Chinese menu at random (these will be authentic dishes that the restaurant doesn’t think Americans would like).
- Little Italy - Once home to a bustling population of Italian Americans, Little Italy has been shrinking in size in recent years as rents have risen and its original residents have moved out. There is still plenty of reasons for it to be on tourists’ itineraries, though. Authentic Italian food is the main draw, of course.
- Wall Street - The infamous home to the American finance industry, Wall Street is located in Lower Manhattan. Though once the center of the finance industry, many firms have moved to Midtown or further to the northern suburbs of the city like Stamford, Connecticut. Here you can observe the New York Stock Exchange from the outside as tours are no longer available. Federal Hall, across the street, has a museum that can be visited. Don’t miss the Charging Bull which is a symbol of the stock market and is a couple of blocks away on Broadway.
- Times Square - Though deemed a gaudy tourist trap that is best avoided like the plague by locals, Times Square is still visited by millions of tourists every year. It is located in Midtown Manhattan. It is known for its gigantic bright advertisements. It’s, therefore, best to visit it at night. The area is full of shopping with many large stores of the most popular chains. Chain restaurants, such as Olive Garden, can also be found in Times Square, though when in New York City, it is perhaps best to go elsewhere for more unique cuisine. One Times Square is where the ball is dropped on New Year's Eve, and you can now see the ball all year long.
- Broadway - The longest street in New York City, Broadway cuts across Manhattan. Near Times Square, in which the avenue crosses 7th Avenue between 42th and 47th Streets, is the Broadway Theater District which has become the center of the commercial theater industry in the country and has become a metonym of it. Most visitors plan to see at least one Broadway show while in the city. Tickets for the hottest shows, such as Hamilton, can be incredibly difficult to come by. One popular to get tickets is through TKTS Discount Booths in Times Square, at the South Street Seaport, and at the Lincoln Center. Tickets are sold at a discount for same-day shows. Get there early to avoid the show you want to see selling out.
- Central Park - Perhaps the most famous park in the world, Central Park is a massive outcrop in the middle of the upper part of Manhattan. It stretches from 59th Street in the south to 110th Street in the north between Fifth and Eighth Avenues. The park is popular all year long. Horse carriage rides are popular, though it is perhaps best to seek out the most reputable companies to ensure the horses are treated well. In winter, an ice skating rink is available and is very popular. There is a zoo, a possibility to rent small boats, and many cafes to choose from.
- Ice Skating - A popular activity for tourists and locals alike during winter is ice skating. In addition to indoor rinks, there are several opportunities to skate outdoors in Manhattan. Bryant Park has a free skating rink every winter (though there is a fee for skate rental). It is, therefore, quite crowded. Rockefeller Plaza has an ice skating rink that is also very popular. The skating rink in Central Park is perhaps the most scenic and is also cheaper than Rockefeller Center. Finally, there is the Rink at Brookfield Place near Battery Park. While skating there, you can enjoy views of the Statue of Liberty. It is also cheaper than Rockefeller Center.
- The Guggenheim - Located on the Upper East Side, the Guggenheim is a famous art museum with a collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, early modern, and contemporary art. Even if not interested in the art contained within, the building that houses the museum is a destination in its own right. It was designed by Frank Llyod Wright and is an architectural landmark. On Saturdays two hours before closing entrance is on a pay what you want basis.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The most visited attraction in New York City is not the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building but is instead the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met). Its permanent collection comprises one of the most important and largest collections of art and historical artifacts in the world. Visitors can easily spend hours or an entire day going through it all. Thankfully, tickets are good for three consecutive days so you can take some breaks.
- Museum of Modern Art - MoMA is located in Midtown Manhattan and is one of the world’s largest and most important museums of modern art. Its collections contain artwork by all of the most well-known modern artist, both European and American. Van Gogh's The Starry Night is just one such example. It is extremely popular and lines for tickets can be incredibly long along with the museum being incredibly crowded. It’s best to arrive early.
- American Museum of Natural History - Head to the Upper West Side, specifically 79th Street and Central Park West, for one of the largest natural history museums in the world (New York doesn’t do anything small). Again, it will take an entire day or more to see everything the museum has to offer. In addition to its excellent exhibits on natural history, like its Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, the museum also has exhibits concerning other fields of science. An example of this is the Hayden Planetarium with its shows educating the public about astrophysics.
- Empire State Building - One of the icons of the city, the Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building for almost forty years before the first of the Twin Towers was completed. An engineering and construction science feat when it was completed in 1931, the building is now an architectural landmark. The 86th floor is the location of its outdoor observation deck providing a 360-degree view of the city. Expect extremely long lines to buy tickets and for the elevator. It is best to arrive between 8 AM and 10 AM in the morning. There is also an option of paying significantly more for an Express Pass. to skip the lines.
- World Trade Center - The site of the former Twin Towers is one of the most hallowed grounds to many. It is located in Lower Manhattan, near the Cortlandt and Fulton Street Metro stations. It has now been rebuilt with One World Trade Center being the keystone of the complex. The tower has an observatory that is located between the 100-100nd floors.
- Ellis Island - The gateway to the United States of America for many immigrants in the first half of the 20th century, Ellis Island perfectly compliments the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of freedom. Currently, almost a third of the American population can trace their family roots to someone who immigrated to America through the island’s facilities. Part of the island is now a museum reachable only by ferry on a combined tour with the Statue of Liberty. Like the Empire State Building, a priority pass is available. Next to the tower is the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The two waterfalls and reflecting pools are located at the spot where the former towers were. The names of the victims are inscribed on bronze panels there. The museum part is located underneath the memorial and details the events of that day.
- The Highline - A unique elevated park, the Highline is a 1.45 mile-long stretch of green trail on the west side of Manhattan. It runs from the Meatpacking District through Chelsea to the Hudson Yards along a former elevated railway line. The Highline is perfect for a relaxing walk in the city and has some great views of the city and the Hudson River.
- Grand Central Terminal - The world’s tenth most-visited tourist attraction, Grand Central is located on the eastern side of Midtown, near 42nd Street. It is almost certainly the most famous train station in the United States. More than 20 million visitors enter it just to observe its main concourse every year without actually taking a train. The buildings architecture and interior design are world-famous and have led to it being designated as a National Historic Landmark. When entering the station’s main concourse, make sure to look up! Bryant Park and the Chrysler Building are nearby and great places to head next.
- Harlem - Located on the far northern part of the island of Manhattan, Harlem is a historic neighborhood famous for being a center of African-American culture. Though subject to gentrification as the rest of the city has been, many traces of that history can still be found in the neighborhood. The Apollo Theater is one of them. This is where the careers of many famous African Americans began. It still hosts the Amateur Night at the Apollo every Wednesday.
- Shopping - For many, Manhattan conjures the image of upscale shopping. New York is one of, if not the, fashion capitals of the world. Fifth Avenue is so famous for its designer flagships that it is known well outside the city as one of the most expensive streets in the world. The flagships of many department stores can be found both on 5th and in other parts of Manhattan, mainly Midtown. These include Saks 5th Avenue, Barneys, Bloomingdales, and Macy’s, which takes up an entire city block near Times Square. Many smaller boutique shops can be found on the Upper East Side and in SOHO.
Brooklyn - Long a separate city of its own, Brooklyn would be one of the most populous and famous cities in the country if it still were. It is the most populous of the boroughs and is located across the East River from Manhattan. The famous Brooklyn Bridge along with the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges and the Carey Tunnel connect the borough with Manhattan. Queens lies to the north and east of it.
- Williamsburg - What many think of when they think of modern-day Brooklyn is the hipster scene of Williamsburg. The neighborhood does not have the famous tourist sites of other areas of the city but is where to go for drinks, a large choice of live music, and food. Or you can go just to see hipsters in their natural setting, for which Bedford Avenue is the best location.
- Brooklyn Bridge - Connecting Brooklyn with lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the few bridges in the city that is toll-free. The bridge has a storied history as the first bridge built crossing the east river. While driving across it will give you a story, crossing on the pedestrian path in the center of the bridge will allow you to enjoy it, and the views it provides of the skyline of lower Manhattan, in its full grandeur.
Queens - Located across the East River from Manhattan and virtually surrounding Brooklyn, Queens is the easternmost of the boroughs. It is also where both of the city’s major airports are located. Queens has been historically, and still is, home to many immigrants. It is said to be the most ethnically diverse area in the world.
- Flushing Meadows Park - At the end of the 7 line, Flushing Meadows Park is a large park in Queens and the location of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. Any who have seen Men in Black will recognize the park as the location of shooting the final scenes. The park was home to two World’s Fairs of which some of the remnants are still there. Citi Field, where the Mets play, is located north of the park. The neighborhood of Flushing is very diverse. If you visit the park on a weekend, you are guaranteed to hear many different languages being spoken by the residents.
- Astoria - The most often visited neighborhood in Queens, Astoria is historically home to immigrants, especially Greeks. This can still be felt with its plethora of Greek restaurants. Tourist attractions include the Museum of the Moving Image located in a building that was once a part of Astoria Studios, one of the largest studios during the silent film era. The Noguchi Museum in the former home of the famous Japenese- American artist is also worth a visit. The storied Steinway and Sons factory located in the northern part of Astoria offers tours that show the entire process of crafting their grand pianos, though be sure to book ahead of time. Finally, for those that are thirsty, the Bohemia Beer Hall and Garden serves up authentic Czech cuisine and pours beer from the Czech Republic keeping the spirit alive for the older immigrants.
The Bronx - Across the Harlem River from Manhattan, the Bronx is the only borough of New York City that is not on an island. It is the fourth-most-populous borough in the city. It is also, along with Staten Island, one of the boroughs that tourists visit the least.
- Bronx Zoo - If the Central Park Zoo is not large enough for you and your family, a trip to the Bronx and the famous Bronx Zoo is in order. The zoo is one of the largest in the country and hosts countless animals all while focusing on and supporting wildlife conservation. If in the area, just north of the zoo lies the New York Botanical Garden if you want to see some unique fauna too.
- Yankee Stadium - The most expensive stadium ever built, Yankee Stadium is the current home of the New York Yankee baseball team. It opened in 2009 replacing the former Yankee Stadium. Of course, the best thing to do here is to enjoy an afternoon at a ballgame in the spring or summer. Though even if you can’t make a game or are visiting during baseball’s offseason, tours are available most days around lunchtime.
Staten Island - Located off the coast of New Jersey, Staten Island is the borough that is most unlike any of the other boroughs. It is the least populous borough and the third-largest by land area. It can be reached by the free Staten Island Ferry or by driving across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Brooklyn or the Outer, Bayonne, or Goethals Bridges from New Jersey). Although the North Shore where the ferry arrives is quite urban, most of the rest of the island is suburban or industrial.
- Richmond Town - Located near the center of Staten Island, Historic Richmond Town is an old town and museum complex. The town dates back to the 1690s. It has since been preserved, with old buildings from other parts of the island having been moved to the town. The museum is a great way to see what rural life on Staten Island used to be like.
- Greenbelt - A chain of parks in the center of Staten Island, the Greenbelt is a large area of preserved nature. It includes forest land, wetlands, and meadows and is teeming with wildlife. The Greenbelt has more than 35 miles of hiking trails. It is a great place to obtain some solace and a break from the hustle and bustle of the city without even having to leave it. Expect the parks to be much calmer and less crowded than Central Park.
Traffic and parking
While using a car for trips in the outer boroughs is possible and a car is almost necessary for trips to or within the surrounding suburbs in New Jersey, Long Island, and Upstate New York, it is almost suicidal to think of driving into Manhattan, particularly if you are not experienced and adept with driving on extremely crowded streets. You will also find parking to be extremely inconvenient at best and cost an arm, leg, and your first-born child at worst.
Street parking is available, sometimes for free in the outer boroughs. While street parking is available in Manhattan, it is only free on Sunday, which is also the day you’re most likely to be able to even find a spot. Metered parking is available, though you’re only likely to find a spot in the Upper East and West Sides and near the rivers in Midtown. Be very careful, though, as the rules are very confusing and street cleaning schedules must be adhered to. Most metered parking is also only for an hour, which doesn’t give you much time to see the sites. Also, be careful of fire hydrants when parking at night. The fines and fees if the car is towed are quite large and given the confusing rules, it is best to rely on a parking garage.
Parking garages and outdoor lots with lift systems, which are a site to see themselves, are located throughout the city. Of course, in Times Square and Lower Manhattan, the rates can be astronomical. Finding a cheap lot online and perhaps a coupon may help as would parking on the Upper East Side or in Hell’s Kitchen. Though many may suggest using a park and ride facility, it is possible to find a garage in the city that costs roughly the same as the parking and public transportation ticket would otherwise. Note that in and out privileges may not be given, but if staying in Manhattan, you should be content to leave the car parked for your stay.
Starting in 2021, New York City will implement congestion pricing from Midtown to Lower Manhattan. This means that drivers entering that area will have to pay a fee to enter the busiest part of the city. While the exemptions are set to include those whose residence is within the zone, it is not clear if those staying in hotels will also be exempt or not. Either way, it is probably best to plan to avoid this part of the city in a vehicle, anyway, due to the overwhelming traffic and sky-high cost of parking.
When entering Manhattan from anywhere other than Brooklyn and Queens, drivers must pay a toll. All bridges and tunnels to the city from New Jersey are tolled when entering the city but not when leaving. No tunnels are toll-free and the only bridges that are toll-free are the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Queensborough Bridges. In addition, the New York State Thruway, which connects the northern suburbs to upstate New York is a tolled highway as is the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway in New Jersey, though unlike with entering Manhattan, it is possible to find another slower route that doesn't require toll payment.
All bridges and tunnels accept cash payments except the Outerbridge Crossing and the Bayonne Bridge, both of which connect Staten Island with New Jersey. Tolls are charged when entering New York City but not when entering New Jersey. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn is also cashless.
Most rental car companies offer EZ Tags for making toll payments. This is both convenient for the cashless toll points as well as others due to saving time by not having to stop to pay the toll. Examples of the fees for this service are (as of February 2022):
- Enterprise - $3.95-$4.95 per day (maximum of $30) plus the cost of the tolls incurred
- Alamo - $3.95 per day (maximum of $19.75) plus the cost of the tolls incurred
- Dollar- $11.99 per day for unlimited tolls
- Thrifty - $11.99 per day for unlimited tolls
- National - $3.95-$4.95 per day (maximum of $30) plus the cost of the tolls incurred
Unlike in some other places in the U.S., such as southern Florida, it is possible to pay for the cashless tolls online without using a rental car company’s services (and thus, their added fees). To do so, you must pay online within 48 hours of having passed through a cashless toll point. This can be done at Tolls by Mail.
Ideas for day trips
- Coney Island - Though located in the city itself, visiting Coney Island is the kind of place that makes or spending an entire day in the summer. The neighborhood has a boardwalk that, like many others in the U.S., functions as an amusement park. It is not all one park, though, the rides and activities are separately owned. If hungry, don’t miss the world-famous Nathan’s Hotdogs, which is one of the only places open in the winter. The New York Aquarium is also a reason to venture to the neighborhood on its own. Parking can be found on the street or in garages located very close to the boardwalk. Coney Island USA, a nonprofit arts organization, has more information about the neighborhood. This is not the place to go if you don’t like crowds, though, as it will be crowded in the summertime.
- Long Island - Starting in the west including Brooklyn and Queens, Long Island stretches some 115 miles to the east of New York City. It has long been famous for being the location of lavish summer homes of wealthy Manhattanites in the Hamptons in the far east of the island. The Hamptons and the North Fork are wine regions. There are many tasting rooms and vineyards to visit year round.
Other places, such as Huntington, Fire Island, and Montauk are popular destinations during summertime. Montauk is the very eastern point of the island. If traveling to destinations on Long Island, be sure to use the HOV on the Long Island Expressway if you are traveling with at least one other person in the car (children count as well as adults).
- Atlantic City - This seaside resort in southern New Jersey is, at least in idea, to New York City what Las Vegas is to Los Angeles. Ever since a referendum in the 1970s legalized gambling in the city, Atlantic City has been home to various casinos. Various events have prevented the building of grand resorts as in Las Vegas which has hampered tourism in Atlantic City. While there is much to do in Vegas without gambling, the same is not true for Atlantic City. A day strolling down the boardwalk and experience the Jersey shore (if you didn’t get enough of it from the MTV series) is certainly worth the trip, though. Atlantic City is well connected to NYC by the Garden State Parkway with the trip taking around two hours.
- Fire Island - A long barrier island roughly in the center of Long Island, Fire Island is a popular place for summer getaways. Though the island is closed for vehicular traffic and ferries are a popular way to reach it, there are two causeways leading to the island (one on each end which are separated by an inlet in the middle) each with parking lots from which you must walk to the rest of the island. In addition to the resort sections of the island, a 26-mile stretch of it is protected as a national seashore. Travelers can hike, enjoy the pristine beach, and camp either at a campground or in the backcountry.
- Catskills - A quick two to three-hour drive north of the city lies the Catskill Mountains, a part of the Appalachian Mountains. The are males for a perfect break from the city with numerous hiking trails, waterfalls, and a plethora of activities available. You could also stay longer and camp in both campgrounds or in the wilderness (though be sure to get a permit for the latter). Of course, in winter, snow-shoeing and skiing are extremely popular.
Most suppliers allow renters to take rental cars from New York to other states. In addition, most also allow travel to Canada. Here are where some companies allow their vehicles to be driven (as of February 2022):
- Europcar - All states and Canada
- Alamo - All states and Canada
- Dollar - All states and Canada
- Thrifty - All states and Canada
- Sixt - Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia
Note that Canadian residents are not allowed to take a rental car from the United States to Canada due to customs regulations. Also, remember that a passport is now required for all citizens to enter Canada including U.S. citizens.
- Philadelphia - The City of Brotherly Love is only 100 miles southwest of New York City, just an hour and a half drive along the New Jersey Turnpike. Pretending to be Rocky while running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the number one on everyone’s to-do list as is staring at the cracked Liberty Bell, though an unimpressive site it might be. Of course, there is lots more history, art, fine dining, and more to experience in the city. Don’t forget to head to South Philly for a classic cheesesteak. We won’t delve into the argument of whose is best, perhaps try both Pat’s and Geno’s and decide for yourself.
- Washington, D.C. - For those visiting the northeast U.S., especially those traveling from abroad, the capital of the United States of America is a must-visit on the trip. From New York City, Washington is a short four-hour drive down I-95, though be ready for the New Jersey Turnpike’s toll. The city is, unsurprisingly, steeped in history.
The epicenter for tourists is the national mall with the most famous monuments in the country in addition to many Smithsonian Museums. The Lincoln Memorial sits (the pun is slightly intended) at one end and the United States Capitol at the other. Near the Lincoln Memorial is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Washington Memorial is in the center of the Mall. Be sure to reserve the free entrance ticket in advance to avoid waiting in line in the morning for just the possibility to get an entrance time for later in the day. One can spend days in all of the museums on the Mall, too.
Many other government buildings and historical sites can be toured. The National Zoo is also a popular destination and has free entrance. The Jefferson Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery are both away from the Mall and often visited.
- Boston - The capital city of Massachusetts, Boston is also the only major city in New England. It is visited by millions every year due to the historical role it played in the American Revolution. The main sites in the downtown area are linked by the Freedom Trail, a walking route through history. Two of the most prestigious universities on the planet, Harvard and MIT, are located across the bay in Cambridge. The city’s Back Bay neighborhood is the upscale section of the city in terms of shopping, restaurants, and bars. Though reachable via I-95 from NYC, I-84 is a more direct route. Expect a drive slightly exceeding four hours without stops.
- Connecticut - One of the states that make up New England, Connecticut is northeast of New York City, with parts of the state serving as suburbs of the city. North and East of the cities on the coastline, the state is rural. This is where to go for a quintessential rural New England experience. Many state forests and parks offer stunning scenery. Of particular note is Gillette Castle State Park. Of course, there are lots to do in the suburban regions too. Greenwich and Stamford now serve as a major hub for the finance industry and contain many great restaurants. The state line is less than an hour’s drive from the city, though allow more time to make it further upstate.
- Rhode Island - Further into New England, Rhode Island is the smallest state but is certainly worth a visit. Providence is the capital and largest city and is located in the center of the state. Though it may feel like the rest of the state is just one large suburb, unspoiled coastline can still be found. The beach is the main draw in summer. Of course, New England seafood is also worth it. Calamari is very popular as are lobster sandwiches. But, of course, don’t visit the state without trying New England’s famous clam chowder.
- The Adirondacks - Located far upstate in New York, the Adirondacks are where to go if seeking the complete opposite of the bustling city, which is complete wilderness. With numerous mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and trails, one can hike here for days, weeks, or months. The center of the area is known as High Peaks, where you guessed it, the highest peaks are located. Some of them are reached by short, easy trails, while others require a longer, more difficult trek to reach. Most are not accessible by motor vehicle and are located in a wilderness area. However, Whiteface Mountain is accessible by vehicle and is the perfect place to go if you can’t or don’t want to hike. I-87 leads travelers from NYC to the region, with Highway 73 passing through Lake Placid north of the High Peaks region and Highway 28N south of the region through Long Lake.
- Niagara Falls - Though located in upstate New York, Niagara Falls is actually closer to Ohio and Western Pennsylvania than New York City. In any case, the seven-hour drive is certainly worth making as the falls are one of the tourist hotspots in the U.S. The Falls lie on the border with Canada. You can view the falls for free, including walking across a pedestrian bridge to Goat Island. A number of paid attractions are available too. The Maid of the Mist is amongst the most popular way to experience the falls. The boat ride takes you to the bottom of the falls. Note that you will get wet doing this.
Car Rental Prices in New York
- Large cars - from $125 per day
- Medium cars - from $112 per day
- Vans - from $190 per day
- Premium cars - from $106 per day
- Small cars - from $121 per day
- SUVs - from $117 per day
Top 11 Cities near New York
Buffalo Car Rentals from $63.36 per day483.4 km / 300.4 miles away
Albany Car Rentals from $64.33 per day234.3 km / 145.6 miles away
Rochester Car Rentals from $72.49 per day424.8 km / 264.0 miles away
Westchester Car Rentals from $59.08 per day47.9 km / 29.8 miles away
Syracuse Car Rentals from $62.85 per day335.9 km / 208.7 miles away
Plattsburgh Car Rentals from $72.49 per day446.5 km / 277.4 miles away
Long Island Car Rentals from $72.49 per day59.7 km / 37.1 miles away
507.8 km / 315.5 miles away
Newburgh Car Rentals from $137.16 per day98.9 km / 61.4 miles away
298.2 km / 185.3 miles away
301.7 km / 187.4 miles away
Top 10 Locations near New York
New York International Airport LaGuardia Car Rentals from $50.82 per day14.3 km / 8.9 miles away
New York International Airport Kennedy Car Rentals from $56.25 per day21.3 km / 13.2 miles away
Westchester Airport Car Rentals from $59.10 per day48.1 km / 29.9 miles away
Long Island MacArthur Airport Car Rentals from $72.52 per day77.9 km / 48.4 miles away
Stewart International Airport Car Rentals from $137.20 per day88.2 km / 54.8 miles away
Albany International Airport Car Rentals from $64.35 per day227.7 km / 141.5 miles away
Syracuse Hancock Airport Car Rentals from $62.87 per day318.8 km / 198.1 miles away
Rochester Airport Car Rentals from $72.52 per day405.1 km / 251.7 miles away
Plattsburgh International Airport Car Rentals from $72.52 per day440.8 km / 273.9 miles away
Buffalo Niagara Airport Car Rentals from $63.38 per day462.8 km / 287.5 miles away
Map of Car Rental Locations
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Car Rental Information
|Car rental locations||3|
|Popular suppliers||Ace Rent a car, Dollar, SIXT, Thrifty, Alamo|
|Popular car categories||Large cars, SUVs, Medium cars, Small cars|
|Lowest price||$47 per day|
Most Popular Car Models of Rental Suppliers
|Ace Rent a car||Nissan Versa||4||3||Medium cars|
|Ace Rent a car||Toyota Corolla||4||3||Large cars|
|Ace Rent a car||Nissan Rogue||2||4||SUVs|
|Dollar||Mazda 3||5||3||Large cars|
|SIXT||Toyota Camry||4||2||Large cars|
|Ace Rent a car||Nissan Altima||4||2||Large cars|
|Dollar||Mazda 3||2||2||Large cars|
|Thrifty||Mazda 3||5||3||Large cars|
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