The Pros and Cons of Owning a Car in NYC: Is it Worth it?

Owning a car in New York City comes with many pros and cons. For many New Yorkers, the high costs and parking challenges often outweigh the conveniences. This guide covers everything you need to know about the realities of car ownership in NYC.

New York City is one of the few places in America where owning a car is considered more of a luxury than a necessity. With an extensive public transportation system, readily available taxis, and rideshare services like Uber, you can easily get around the city without the burden of car payments and parking headaches.

However, owning a car allows for more convenience and freedom to explore outside of the city. It can be the right choice depending on your lifestyle, where you live, and your budget. Here’s an in-depth look at the major pros and cons to weigh when deciding if owning a car in New York City is worth it for you.

How Much Does It Really Cost to Own a Car in NYC?

The high cost of living in New York City extends to owning a car. When you tally up monthly car payments, insurance, gas, parking and maintenance, the overall cost is staggering compared to other cities.

On average, owning a car in NYC costs around $9,000-$10,000 per year. That factors in costs like:

  • Car Payment: For a new car, expect $300-600 per month. For a used car, expect $200-400 per month depending on the age and condition. Leasing is also an option with payments in the $200-$500 range.

  • Insurance: New York has some of the highest car insurance rates in the country, averaging $150-$350 per month depending on your car, age, driving record and other factors.

  • Gas: With NYC gas prices hovering around $3 per gallon, plan on $100-$200 per month in gas depending on mileage.

  • Parking: For a monthly parking garage spot, expect to pay $200-$500 per month depending on the location. Street parking costs can add up to $100-$300 per month.

  • Maintenance and Repairs: Budget $800-$2,000 per year for routine maintenance and repairs.

Finding a Place to Park Your Car in NYC

Finding parking is one of the biggest headaches and expenses when owning a car in the city. Here are your options:

  • Garage Parking: This is the most reliable choice but also the most expensive, ranging from $200-$500+ per month depending on the neighborhood. Prices are highest in Manhattan.

  • Street Parking: You can try your luck finding street parking in your neighborhood. This costs $104-$144 per month for a NYC resident parking permit if you can secure a spot.

  • Driveway Parking: Renting a driveway parking spot from a homeowner is cheaper than a garage at around $150-$300 per month. Availability depends on your neighborhood.

  • Car Storage: Parking the car full-time at a storage facility outside the city is an option to save substantially on parking costs.

No matter where you choose to park, you’ll need to factor the time and inconvenience of having to move your car for street cleaning 1-2 times per week. And finding parking after returning from out of the city trips can be extremely frustrating.

The High Cost of Car Insurance in New York

The average car insurance rate in New York state is $1,539 per year, making it the third-most expensive state for car insurance after Michigan and Louisiana. Rates in New York City are even higher due to factors like:

  • High rate of accidents/claims
  • High car theft rate
  • Density of cars in the city
  • High cost of repairs and medical care

Insurance rates in NYC can vary dramatically based on your borough, driving record, age, type of car, and other factors. On average, you can expect to pay between $150-$350 per month for car insurance if owning a car in New York City. Shopping around for the best rates is important to save on car insurance costs.

Is Owning a Car in Manhattan Worth It?

Owning a car in Manhattan comes with the highest parking and insurance costs in the city. Monthly parking often exceeds $500 per month, and insurance will be at the higher end as well. The costs of owning a car in Manhattan can easily approach $1,500 per month when you add in the car payment, gas, repairs and other expenses.

However, some Manhattan residents choose to own cars for the convenience, status or ability to leave the city on weekends. If you can afford the higher costs and are ready to take on the challenges of parking, owning a car in Manhattan can be worthwhile for the right person. Many opt for smaller cars that are easier to park. For most Manhattanites though, relying on the subway, taxis and ride shares is the saner and more affordable option.

Pros of Owning a Car in New York City

Despite the headaches and costs, owning a car in New York City can provide advantages:

  • Convenience – More flexibility in your schedule without relying on public transportation. Easier trips to the grocery store and running errands.

  • Escape the City – Ability to take weekend or day trips outside of the city more easily. Explore Long Island, Upstate New York, New Jersey and beyond.

  • Transport Large Items – Getting bulky items home from the store is much easier with a car. Trying to take large purchases on the subway or in a taxi can be a challenge.

  • Driving for Work – For some jobs like real estate agents, a car may be necessary for transporting clients and accessing properties.

For some NYC residents, the freedom and convenience of having a car outweighs the headaches and costs. But for most, public transportation gets the job done easily for a fraction of the cost.

Cons of Having a Car in New York City

Here are some of the biggest cons of owning a car in the city:

  • High Costs – Between car payments, insurance, gas, repairs and parking, owning a car in New York City involves very high costs compared to other cities.

  • Finding Parking – Finding a parking spot on crowded city streets can be extremely frustrating after a long day at work. Parking tickets are common.

  • Alternate Side Parking – Having to move your car 1-2 times per week for street cleaning is a hassle.

  • Tolls and Tickets – From bridge tolls to parking tickets, you’ll incur various additional costs as a car owner.

  • Car Break-Ins – Unfortunately vehicle break-ins do occur in NYC. Anything visible left in your car may tempt thieves.

  • Subway is Faster – During peak hours, the subway is often faster than driving for trips within the city.

For many New Yorkers, public transportation provides a cheaper and easier way to get around. But car ownership can be worthwhile if you can budget for the costs and value the conveniences.

Key Takeaways – Is Owning a Car in NYC Worth It For You?

Owning a car in New York City comes down to your individual needs, where you live, and whether the expenses fit within your budget:

  • Weigh the high costs of car payments, insurance, parking, gas and repairs against the conveniences
  • Finding reliable parking is difficult and expensive
  • Owning a car provides more freedom to make spontaneous trips outside the city
  • For city-only commutes, public transportation is often cheaper and faster during peak hours
  • Living and parking in the outer boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens can reduce some costs
  • For regular commutes out of the city, a car may be essential
  • Prioritize a smaller, more parking-friendly car if owning in the city

While owning a car in New York City can entail frustrations, it can be the right choice depending on your lifestyle. If you decide the pros outweigh the cons for you, budget accordingly for the higher costs and be strategic in finding parking solutions. For many NYC residents though, not owning a car is the best path forward.