Whether you're planning a weekend getaway or a day trip from New York City, renting a car can be the most convenient and flexible option for your journey. With an array of car rental companies to choose from, finding the right service for your needs can be overwhelming.
So what's the easiest way to rent a car in New York, comparing traditional rental companies and innovative newcomers, as well as some very important notes for all you expats looking to rent a car (like: can you rent a car on a foreign license?)
By the way if you're just looking for an easy way to compare ride-share prices: This is the best. Or if you're looking to buy a car in New York City, here's all the advice you'll need!
Old Favorites: Hertz, Avis, National, Sixt, and Enterprise
The well-established car rental companies such as Hertz, Avis, National, Sixt, and Enterprise are great options and are popular for renting a car in New York. These companies offer a wide range of vehicles, from compact cars to luxury sedans, and have multiple pick-up and drop-off locations throughout the city.
Some companies will have more convenient locations than others (looking at you, Sixt) so it will likely come down to a combination of price, availability, and where you need to pick-up and drop-off that will lead to the best company for you.
To secure the best deal:
- Book in advance: Make your reservation early to avoid last-minute price increases and limited availability. In NYC it's super important you get on top of bookings for bigger holidays as they will book out well in advance.
- Compare rates: Use comparison websites or contact the companies directly to find the best rates and deals.
- Check for promotions: Look for special offers, discounts, or loyalty programs that can save you money. It's worth checking your credit card companies too because many of them offer immediate status with the bigger companies which can help you get a better bang for your buck.
- Arrive early: When you want to go pick up your car, don't forget that you're in a giant city and the space is cramped and limited. Cars need to be retrieved for you and on holidays they will be driving them in from outside the city to cover demand. Leave yourself a LOT of time.
Newcomers: Kyte, ZipCar, and Lyft
In recent years there have also been a few new companies appearing on the scene to , innovative car rental services have emerged, offering alternative options for renting a car in New York. These newcomers include:
Kyte: For drop-off and delivery
A car rental service that delivers the vehicle directly to your doorstep and picks it up when you're done. This is super convenient for those who live in the more built-up areas of the city where there's nowhere to park. The driver arrives, checks your ID, and then hands you the keys (and then repeats the process later).
Use code joshp4 for $50 off when you sign up (and that gets me $50 too – thanks!) With $50 Kyte is the best option going around at the moment.
ZipCar: Rent by the hour
ZipCar has a network of vehicles throughout the city, making it a good option to find a car close-by. Finding a reliable rental can be a bit hit or miss from my experience with ZipCar, so if the rental and timing is critically important – maybe look at other options.
Membership is required, but it can be cost-effective for those who need a car only for short-terms.
Lyft: Ride-share turned rental
Best known for its ridesharing platform, Lyft also offers a car rental service in select cities, including New York. Book through the Lyft app and choose from a variety of vehicles, with insurance and unlimited miles included. It's another competitive one that's popped up following a more conventional model.
Turo: Find something special for the weekend
Turo is often referred to as the “Airbnb of cars,” (remember when everything was an AirBnB of something?) Turo is a peer-to-peer car-sharing platform that allows you to rent vehicles directly from car owners.
With a more diverse range of cars available compared to the others, from budget-friendly options to luxury and classic models, Turo offers a unique and personalized rental experience.
This is a more peer-to-peer experience so relies on you reading reviews of car owners and coordinating more directly with them but can give you something special for a weekend away.
Things to Remember Before Renting a Car as an Expat
For expats planning to rent a car in New York, there are a few extra things you should consider because while you might be able to easily drive away with a car, you might not be doing so legally and when push comes to shove you may not be covered.
- Just because they give you the keys doesn't mean you're compliant: The golden rule. The person behind the desk doesn't know the nuance of international law and state law concerning out-of-country drivers. Do not trust that their letting you sign an agreement makes it legally valid. Read the terms, ask questions, and be careful.
- Valid driver's license: If you've been living in New York State (on a visa or as a permanent resident) for more than 30 days, you must have a New York State license. You cannot legally drive on your foreign license. If you do so, and you have an accident, your insurance company will find out and will not cover you for anything. Be very very careful.
- Credit card: Most car rental companies require a credit card for security purposes. Make sure your card has sufficient funds to cover the deposit and rental fees, and if you're still using a foreign card, know that fees may apply if they charge that card. The insurance that's included when you travel on that card may also not apply if you are living abroad so check that too.
- Insurance: Check if your travel or personal insurance covers car rentals. If not, consider purchasing additional insurance from the rental company to protect against potential damages or liability. In the case of Kyte for example, you want to select to build your own to buy only the essential state insurance if you've got a credit card that covers damage to the car.
- Driving in New York: Take a deep breath. Driving in and out of the city is quite an experience, but just go with the flow and be hyper-alert to bikes and pedestrians. People will honk at you for absolutely no reason so don't worry about it, and feel free to wave your hands in the air to feel more like a local.
Renting a car in New York is a convenient way to explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace. Whether you opt for a traditional rental company or try one of the innovative newcomers, be sure to compare rates, book early, and familiarize yourself with local driving regulations to make the most of your car rental experience.
… and don't drive without a local license.