Tips for Driving in New York City – the 2022 Guide

November 5, 2018Car Driving Tips
Jane Davis

Apart from being a freelance writer and moving expert, Jane is also an art and museum lover.

The Big Apple is a city that ranks high in so many categories, from shopping, business, to sightseeing. But when it comes to driving in New York City, there’s not a lot of good things that you’ll hear people say. Whether you are a resident or you are just going there for a short visit, you are probably aware that taking a car is not the fastest solution to go around NY. In fact, many drivers consider cruising around in a four-wheeler in NY a pretty stressful ordeal. But we are going to try and help you by sharing some of the tips for cruising down the streets of the City That Never Sleeps.

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Can You Drive a Car in New York City?

Although this may sound like a silly question, because, of course, you can drive a car in NY, this question might get an entirely different perspective in the course of 2020. Traffic congestions here are a daily problem for millions of New Yorkers and tourists alike, and this could easily be one of the worst US cities for driving. However, the state government is working hard to change that reputation.

The local authorities came up with a plan called Central Business District Tolling that should come into effect during this year. Many drivers get driving anxiety even when just thinking about the congestions in this metropolis, so this plan will hopefully resolve many burning issues.

Once, and if, this plan takes effect, New York will become the first city in the US to charge entrance to its busiest areas. The fee amount is still TBD, but it will probably be applied to vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th street. The idea behind the toll is to reduce traffic jams and increase the speed of cars in the busiest areas. It is assumed that, through these tolls, the city will be able to collect around $1 billion per year that would be injected mainly into the subway and public bus systems.

Electronic tolling devices will be installed, but the fees would vary depending on the time of the day. During the night, the fee should be lower, as well as during the weekend, when the traffic is not so bad. Research by Siena College in 2019 showed that more than half of New Yorkers are in favor of introducing congestion pricing. Just a year ago, this system did not have such strong support from the locals. This shows that the situation is far from bearable and that perhaps something needs to change in our relationship with cars.

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Could this become our reality once the tolling system goes into effect?

5 Tips for Driving in New York City

Do you remember your driving lessons? They try to prepare you for all kinds of scenarios and things that can happen on the road, but nothing can really prepare you for navigating around this concrete jungle. Standing in one place for hours and moving an inch every few minutes would drive even the most patient person on Earth crazy. So make sure that you always have some newspapers or crosswords among things you keep in your car.

The thing is, NY has a long history of congestion – even a  hundred years ago, it was not so pleasant to drive here. Manhattan was, and still is, the most critical point where everything stops. What’s ironic is that slightly over 20% of Manhattan residents actually own a car.

NYC has around 6,000 miles of street roads, so let’s see how we can help you go through them slightly faster. Here are some things you should know and do to become a better driver in the concrete jungle.

#1  Drive Slowly Around NYC

Although you would rarely get a chance to go fast around some of the most popular streets in NYC, the default speed limit is 25 miles per hour. Some find it too low, and others don’t. What is important is that it saves the lives of pedestrians. Also, there are zones where the limit is 20 miles per hour – around schools, for example. The reason behind that is that the streets are not only for cars, buses, and cabs. The roads of this metropolis are full of pedestrians, street vendors, cyclists, traffic lights, so you can’t really go fast anyway, but still, safety comes first.

#2 You Can’t Make a Right Turn on Red

This is something different in comparison to other cities in the US, so pay special attention if you are just visiting for a few days, and you have no clue how things work here. Also, this could be one of the common reasons why police officers will pull you over. In streets where turning right on red is allowed, there will be a sign notifying you about the exception to this peculiar rule. But in all other cases, you have to wait for the green light. Another reason why you must pay attention to signs is that, in some streets, turning left is prohibited during specific hours.

#3 Watch out for Bikes and Pedestrians

NY is brimming with cars, but also with pedestrians. They can pop out of nowhere, jumping out of cabs in the middle of the street when they are done with waiting for the traffic to speed up, crossing streets illegally, etc.

On legal intersections, pedestrians have the right of way. So hold on to your patience and wait for all of them to cross the street. It may last forever. But as we’ve mentioned, people here often don’t stick to legal intersections. When they spot a chance to jaywalk, they will go for it, and you, as the driver, have to keep your eyes open. And yes, driving stress gets on another level here. People on scooters, people who are texting, bikers who are cycling and texting – it is all happening, so you have to be on high alert all the time.

#4 Every Hour Is Rush Hour, Take It or Leave It

If you need advice on when the rush hour is and how to avoid it – we’ll have to let you down a bit, because it’s hard to tell. Generally speaking, the worst situation is between 7 and 9 during the morning hours. In the afternoon, the congestion reaches its peak between 4 and 7.

The worst is always around bridges and tunnels, so if you can somehow avoid a bridge or a tunnel, consider yourself extremely lucky. Saturdays are probably the worst time to drive, especially in the evening hours. You can easily end up in an unpleasant situation, stuck in the middle of an intersection, while everyone is honking. But don’t worry, you will kind of get used to it.

#5 The Number of Parking Spots Is Insufficient

After cruising the streets of the Big Apple for ages, you are finally approaching your ultimate destination – but hold on a little longer. There’s no place to park your vehicle. This is another problem that drivers here are facing daily. Manhattan has a decent amount of free parking spots, but good luck with finding one since they are usually occupied. There are plenty of garages across NY, but make sure to check and compare the rates, because they can differ significantly. You can also use muni meters, which now accept both credit cards and dollar coins. Just don’t forget to place the receipt on your window, because the penalties are high.

usa auto transport city
Be aware of pedestrians. They don't use only legal intersections.

What Else Is There to Know About Driving in NYC

If you are moving to the Big Apple soon and looking for the cheapest way to ship a car, our only advice is to opt for professional door-to-door auto transport. And keep in mind that if the truck is not able to access your exact location, the crew will meet you at the nearest parking lot, which is still good enough. Once you start cruising down the streets, you will quickly find specific beauty in it. Unless you are in a rush.

If you are not in a rush, the Big Apple is a beautiful place, and there are so many things to see, even from your car. Play some good music, listen to a podcast, enjoy people-watching, and don’t stress too much – you will arrive home eventually.

Besides, living without a car is something that is quite doable here. If you still prefer having your vehicle, as most Americans do, it will be tough in the beginning, but once you master all the streets, you’ll be just fine. If you don’t need a car on a daily level, you can always rent one, but keep in mind that renting is cheaper in New Jersey, Brooklyn, or for example Connecticut, than in Manhattan.

Are Smaller Cars Better for Driving and Parking Around NYC?

Some would say that small vehicles are the best cars for women only, but in reality, they might be the best ones to go around NY. We are aware that everyone here strives to have something more, something bigger, extravagant. But sometimes, less is more. Smaller vehicles are comfortable and very convenient for squeezing into some tight park spots or catching the last train for the green light.

YouTube video

Watch a Video So You Know What to Expect

In case you haven’t gotten a chance to experience rush hours in NY, don’t worry. There are plenty of videos like this one that will help you get a better picture. You will also notice that people on motorcycles are a bit more adventurous than those guys you see cycling around the park. Bikes can squeeze in between cars and travel much faster than other vehicles. But be warned that here, they will go for even the smallest gap they spot, even though it may look like a suicide mission.

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It is best to keep your eyes open and pay special attention to cyclists.

Reply to Newcomers’ Questions

If you moved here a long time ago, then you probably know the streets and know how to navigate through the crowded areas. Hence, it would be nice to help your new neighbor or coworker with a few tips from an experienced local. They will appreciate it for sure. A few important things that we would like to mention, as it could ease newcomers’ life here, are:

  • All avenues run north and south, while streets run east and west.
  • As you are going north through Manhattan, the street numbers will get higher.
  • One-way streets that go east to west are not numbered properly.
  • Streets that go from east to west are evenly numbered in the majority of cases.
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Bridges and tunnels are a huge cause of congestion in this city.

The Bottom Line

We hope that these tips helped you get a clearer picture of how it is to drive in the City That Never Sleeps. We didn’t want to fool you and say it’s easy because it is not. But once you get to know all the streets and shortcuts, and with a bit of time management, we are sure you will arrive everywhere on time. If you’re not too scared of driving in this concrete jungle and want to experience it as a newcomer from the inside of your own vehicle, look for reliable New York auto transport services. Whether you opt for an open or enclosed trailer, you and your four-wheeler can continue collecting miles together.

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