What to know before you go the car-sharing route in NY
Having food delivered at 3 a.m., getting an $8 haircut, seeing obscure films: A lot of things that are difficult in other places are easy to do in New York. But some things, like comfortably and efficiently getting from one place to another, are hard to do in a place where public transportation rules. Car-sharing services have popped up to address those challenges, allowing you to rent a car by the hour. New to car sharing? Here's the lowdown on how to navigate this new frontier.
How does car sharing work?
Car sharing combines the best parts of ride-sharing and car rental services. It allows you to rent a car for short periods of time without the hassle of going to a brick-and-mortar rental store.
Car-sharing companies have cars parked all throughout the city. Anyone who wants to rent one can create an account with the company, which requires you to provide information such as a valid driver's license and wait to be approved. Then, you can find an available car using the company's website or app, hop in and go. When you're finished with it, park in an approved location, and your credit card will be charged for the trip. You don't even have to pay for fuel: If filling up is necessary, just use the gas card in the car.
How do I choose a car-sharing service in New York?
Every company works differently, so check out the options before getting started. For instance, Zipcar sends approved users a card that they can use to unlock available cars, while car2go allows users to unlock cars using a phone app. Rules, rates and restrictions vary from company to company, too, so read the fine print before taking your first trip.
The other important thing to note? Not all companies have cars in all locations. car2go, for instance, has cars only in Brooklyn and Queens. You can drive into Manhattan or another borough with these cars, but your trip has to begin and end in the borough where you picked it up. In contrast, Zipcar has vehicles all throughout the New York metro area.
Unlike most cities, turning right on red is not widely permitted in New York. Only turn right on red when posted signs tell you it's allowed.
How does parking work?
Again, every company is different. Car2go, for example, tells users to park in any legal public street parking space within the "Home Area," aka, Brooklyn and Queens. Zipcar's vehicles "live" in designated spots in certain lots, and they have to be returned to designated spots. That can be a hassle, but it also means you won't be held responsible if you accidentally park in an illegal spot or if the car is ticketed or towed for any reason. Enterprise CarShare also requires drivers to return their cars to designated spots.
And as for making stops along your route, well, just follow the same parking restrictions that other drivers follow. While the car is in your possession, treat it as you would treat your own car.
But... I've never driven in New York before!
Successfully navigating New York City streets is like earning a badge of honor. Luckily, you don't have to rely on paper maps to help you find your way. Use a real-time traffic app like Waze to help you get where you're going while avoiding accidents and traffic snags. You can also find several parking apps that will help you find an affordable, legal spot to leave your car while you're making stops.
Avoid areas near bridges and tunnels whenever possible, as they tend to be jammed. And give yourself plenty of time. The average travel speed in Manhattan is just over 8 miles per hour, so no matter where you're going, getting there might take longer than you expect.
Make sure you're not spending more than you need to get around NYC. Signing up with a car-sharing company usually requires joining fees, and there may be a monthly subscription fee as well as the hourly rate that drivers are charged. Even if you're going great distances around the city, it's sometimes cheaper to use a ride-sharing service like Uber instead of a car-sharing service.