In most places in America, owning a car is a requirement. In most New York City neighborhoods, however, owning a car is entirely optional and most residents actually prefer not to have one. Given the expensive parking, constant traffic, and easy access to public transportation, car ownership is more of a luxury than a necessity.
The best reason to keep a car in New York is if you want to get out of the city on a regular basis. Public transportation and taxis are so effective within the city, that you wouldn’t use your own car unless you were leaving the five boroughs. But even then, NJ Transit and Metro North have exceptional train service to the surrounding areas, so first check to make your destination isn’t covered by those lines.
If you're committed to having your car in New York, here is what you need to know: it’s either going to be very expensive or a very big hassle.
Let’s start with expensive. Monthly parking is going to cost a minimum of $250 for spaces in less desirable areas and go all the way up to over $500+ a month in premium areas. In other words, owning a car could mean the difference between a studio apartment and a one-bedroom.
The good news is that for the price, there isn’t a whole lot of hassle. Call a few minutes ahead and the garage will have your car waiting for you, drop if off when you're done and the valet will park it.
Option two is a lot less expensive, but a headache: street parking. Some neighborhoods in the city (mostly as you move away from Midtown Manhattan) will allow you to leave your car on the street without paying a parking meter. However, frequent street cleaning means that you may never be able to leave it in the same spot for more than two or three days. Also, there a whole lot of people looking for parking spaces in New York.
If you decide to go with the street parking option, make sure you are willing to devote up to an hour a day looking for an available space. If you are leaving you car on the street all day, then you'll need to be available to move it during street cleaning periods. In some neighborhoods, this approach just won’t be an option because there are so few unmetered spaces. Walk around your new neighborhood to get a lay of the land before committing to bringing your car.
If you do decide to take the plunge, there are a couple of other points to consider. New York City traffic can be brutal, particularly on nights and weekends, the time you would most want to use your car. Also, be careful about what you leave in your car regardless of where you park it: your fancy sunglasses or laptop might not be there when you return.
So before you decide to roll into the Big Apple with your sweet Volvo wagon, make sure it’s worth the while.