Owning a car in NYC is a study in conflicting emotions. Cars are expensive and time-consuming, plus parking in the city is truly a nightmare. But you can’t beat the convenience for grocery shopping, weekend trips, the times when you just can’t deal with getting back on the subway and the one weekend in the year when you’re moving. If you decide to take the plunge, here are a few lifehacks to ensure survival:

  • Make sure you can afford it. Insurance premiums in New York are some of the highest in the country. They start at around $1,300/year and average over $4,000/year. Geico and Allstate both offer affordable options, but every driver’s situation is different so be sure you do your research before signing up for a policy. In addition to insurance, throw in the costs of inevitable service repairs, occasional parking lot rates, and a ticket or two (they are hard to avoid in the city) and you are looking at a constant drain on your finances. Make sure you can handle it.
Don't do this! Parking in front of fire hydrants is a surefire ticket

Don’t do this! Parking in front of fire hydrants is a surefire ticket. (Source: RJT via Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Speaking of tickets….Police officers in New York City are no slouches when it comes to traffic violations. Always drive carefully and make sure to learn the unique rules that come with driving in a city (no right on red!) The majority of tickets, however, come from parking violations, so make sure to pay your meter and read those parking signs carefully. Which brings me to…
  • Become an alternate side of the street master. The rules of alternate side of the street parking are quirky and change from neighborhood to neighborhood, so make sure to become intimately acquainted with yours. Also consider your lifestyle – do you work 9-to-5? Will you find it difficult to be available when your car needs to be moved? If so, car ownership in NYC may not be for you.
  • Learn to parallel park. This is non-negotiable. Even if you have the cash to park your car in a garage the majority of the time, there will be moments when you will park on the street. Master this skill. You can ask a very brave and patient friend to show you the ropes or you can sign up for a refresher course. US One Driving School offers one-hour drive classes for $58. Think of the opportunity cost saved on all those touch ups.
Light traffic on the BQE. Expect worse, NYC drivers.

Light traffic on the BQE. Expect worse, NYC drivers. (Source: Adam Fagen via Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Avoid traffic vortexes. There are certain parts of the city to avoid at all costs, especially during commuting hours and on Friday afternoons in the summer. Canal Street leading into the Holland Tunnel, Varick Street leading into the Holland Tunnel, the BQE eastbound out of Brooklyn, and Times Square (avoid that place always and forever). There’s a great app for checking out traffic jams in real time, and offering a better route: WAZE.
  • Know your local businesses. Be aware of where your closest gas station and flat-fix places are and find a good mechanic nearby. You never know when you’ll need those services desperately, and fast.
Depending on where you live, gas stations can be few and far between. Learn where the closet one to is.

Depending on where you live, gas stations can be few and far between. (Source: m01299 via Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Protect your car. Never leave valuables inside, and consider an anti-theft lock for the steering wheel especially if you park on the street. If you have a nice stereo system, obscure it with a piece of cardboard. Don’t give thieves a reason to look twice at your vehicle. When you park on the street, make sure to turn the side mirrors in – there’s nothing cute about driving around with side mirror hanging on by a thread! To protect bumpers from scratches and dents, many fastidious city drivers use bumper guards like the BumperBully, which sells on Amazon for $39.99. These large rubber guards offer a layer of protection against the dents and dings that come with parking on the street.