image of cars stacked in New York City vertical parking lot.

If you’re going to keep a car here, you’re going to want to save money.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Grace Li, a senior product manager at Esurance. She is responsible for the private passenger auto, property, and motorcycle programs in the East Region, including New York, and has more than 15 years of insurance experience.

Owning a car in New York City can “brake” the bank when you combine gas prices, tolls, fender-bender fix-ups, etc. Parking costs can add up to more than a car payment—parking garages average $430 per month, while renting a space can add up to as much as $1,000 monthly.

And then there’s the cost of car insurance. Generally speaking, insurance rates are based on a number of factors, including driving history, type of car, age of car, estimated distance driven, age, and gender (young men tend to pay more). There are also other variables, like accident and vandalism rates for the area in which you live.

New York state law not only requires drivers to have liability insurance but also mandates them to carry coverage for uninsured motorist bodily injury, property damage, and $50,000 personal injury (or no-fault coverage). That’s important coverage to have, but it all adds up to premiums that make owning a car in New York almost outrageously expensive.

While you can’t control the higher costs that come with car ownership in the city, there are steps you can take as a New Yorker to not only lower your car insurance premiums but also safeguard your ride.

Install Anti-Theft Devices

To offset risks like theft and vandalism, insurers typically increase premiums accordingly. If you live in a neighborhood with higher rates of car theft, you will likely pay costlier premiums. The Meatpacking District, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City are some of the NYC locations reported to have higher carjacking rates, according to, which you can use to check your own neighborhood.

Minimizing the cost of your car insurance premium may not be the first thing on your list when choosing where to live in the city — it’s easier to focus on making your car harder to steal, which can lower insurance costs in a few ways.

Anti-theft devices like car alarms, motion detectors, VIN etching, dash cams, OnStar, and LoJack® can deter thieves and help recover your car if it’s stolen. They may also earn you a discount on your comprehensive coverage. The more of these deterrents you have, the greater the discount.

Likewise, if your car has safety devices such as side airbags, dual front airbags, backup cams, daytime running lights, anti-lock brakes, and automatic seatbelts, you could save as much as 20 percent on your no-fault injury coverage with a safety device discount. Again, the more safety features, the better.

Anti-theft and safety devices promote safe driving, minimizing the likelihood of filing claims and preventing premium increases.

Take a Defensive Driving Course

By completing a DMV-approved driving class, you could save as much as 10 percent on your car insurance — plus remove as many as four points from your driving record. (Of course, the fewer points you have, the lower your premium will tend to be.) In most states, it’s a perk that exclusively applies to drivers over 50 years old, but in the state of New York it’s available to everyone.

Keep in mind that the defensive driver discount generally only lasts for three years. You can, however, complete a course every three years to sustain minimized rates.

Drive Safely

According to 2015 NYPD traffic data, Queens saw the highest rate of motor collisions in New York (around 18,000), while Richmond County experienced the fewest (roughly 3,500).

Nonetheless, no matter where you spend the most time driving, being careful could help you save quite a bit on your car insurance. First, driving safely reduces the risk of at-fault accidents, minimizing potential premium increases. Secondly, if you’re accident-free, you may be rewarded with a claims-free discount, which could mean up to 10 percent off your premium. So while safe driving might sound like a no-brainer, in the long run it can really add up.

Choose Where You Park Carefully

Several helpful websites offer tips for locating the least expensive parking options in the city, including Keep in mind that the location and type of parking garage and the size of your car will likely influence your parking rate.

Shop Around for Coverage

In a densely populated city like New York, it’s essential to have enough coverage to protect you, no matter what happens. It can mean the difference between dusting yourself off and having to fork over thousands of dollars following an accident.

Auto insurance rates vary widely, so it’s to your benefit to compare companies and shop around. Getting quotes online makes it easy to see which companies offer prices and coverages that best align with your needs.

Bear in mind that the cheapest policy often entails the least amount of coverage, thus putting you at a greater financial risk following an accident. For this reason, it’s important to first gauge your budget, driving habits, what kinds of insurance you need, and what you can comfortably pay out of pocket before shopping around. That way you can identify better-suited policies and compare them apples to apples.

Choose Your Coverage and Payment Plan Carefully

  • Select the right amount of coverage for your specific needs. That can be tricky to determine, but a quality insurance company will provide you with the resources needed to make informed decisions. That way you only pay for what you actually need.
  • For instance, if you’re a member of an auto club, have a newer vehicle, or have a backup vehicle, you may not need emergency roadside assistance or rental car coverage. Likewise, if you have kids who drive, your unique circumstances will determine whether it’s less expensive to add them to your policy or purchase a separate one.
  • Before committing to a car insurance company, check their pricing options—whether they offer a paid-in-full plan or monthly installments. You might be able to save a few bucks if you pay your whole premium in one lump sum at the start.
  • Some companies offer discounts simply for switching to them. Just make sure your new policy starts at the same time your old policy ends to avoid a lapse in coverage.
  • Many companies offer a paperless discount if you choose to go digital and forego paper statements.
  • Consider combining your home insurance or renter’s insurance with your car insurance — this can result in a decent multi-policy discount.
  • If your car isn’t worth much, or you have enough out-of-pocket money to fix your car if it gets damaged, consider increasing your deductible.
  • Be sure to choose an insurer who’s known for reputable customer service and who’ll have your back when you need them most — after all, that’s what you’re buying.

It may seem like a lot of work to save a little, but when you’ve applied all of these strategies and resources, you can feel confident that you’re saving as much as you can while enjoying the benefits of car ownership in the Big Apple.

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