The 12 Cheapest Ways to Rent a Car in NYC

Anyone who intends to explore New York City outside Manhattan should think of renting a car. In this bustling city, public transport serves only people moving around within Manhattan. With car rental prices rising every day, shopping around for the most affordable deals is essential. Better still, you can avoid paying high costs by changing how you rent a car.

On average, the cheapest car rentals in New York City will cost you anything between $25 and $80 per day. That means that even in the budget car rental category, you still have options concerning the price. Usually, the difference happens when choosing between budget and premium car rental companies. But what is the cheapest way to rent a car in NY? This article answers all your questions about the tricks you can employ to get the lowest car rental prices in the Big Apple. Read on for more information.

The 12 Cheapest Ways to Rent a Car in NYC

1. Shop for Affordable Car Rentals Online

Before settling on any particular car rental service, compare prices on different sites. You can then narrow it down to the best possible deal for your budget.

Sometimes, car rental websites offer even cheaper rates for customers who opt to “Pay Now,” helping you enjoy good discounts. Once you find an appropriate car rental service, you should be ready to pay a non-refundable fee in advance.

However, there exist some companies that may refund you any amount paid in advance. After booking from such a website, keep searching for better deals, and when you find one, cancel the existing agreement and pay a lower price.

2. Avoid Airport Car Rentals

While renting a car right from John F. Kennedy International Airport is convenient, it is not always the cheapest. Airport car rental prices include fixed dollar or percentage surcharges that astronomically escalate the cost.

Therefore, it is not surprising if a car rental asks you to pay three-figure rates for a short stay in New York City. Don’t be fooled by cunningly coined terms such as “Customer Facility Charge,” which add no value to your experience.

It will help if you compare car rental prices in the city with those at the airport. If you decide to rent a car in the town, ensure you factor in how much you will pay for a rideshare or taxi to and from the rental location.

3. Choose Economy Cars

If you want the cheapest way to rent a car in NY, you should choose to work with economy cars. Since they are the cheapest, economy cars attract most customers. You will not only pay an affordable price but also enjoy a smooth ride around the city.

So, what’s an economy car? It is the smallest and most affordable for low-budget travel. All you have to do is to reserve an economy car. If you do not find one when you arrive, you will upgrade at the same price.

As a precaution, avoid booking a car that’s too small to accommodate your party. If you do, you may have to suffer the inconvenience of having five people occupy one seat. That would mean forgetting about enjoying your vacation.

4. Take Advantage of Your Memberships

Are you a Costco member? You can take advantage of it to save money when renting a car? Costco is reputable for being more affordable than full-price car rentals using online travel agencies. As a bonus, you can get a driver free of charge.

You can also leverage AAA membership to save money when using Hertz rentals. Apart from the discount, you will enjoy underage driver fees for people between 20 and 24.

Several frequent-flyer programs offer substantial discounts on rental cars. With American Airlines, AAdvantage program members can enjoy up to 35% discount off Avis and Budget car rentals. The only catch is that you have to rent from the airport.

5. Turn to Discount Car Rental Brands

Did you know that there are more rental brands than Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise? Examples include Advantage, Dollar Rental, Payless, and Thrifty. Since these brands are relatively new, they offer lower prices than the more established brands. So, why shouldn’t you hire a car from one of them?

You may end up paying up to $5 less with a car from Advantage, Dollar, and other discount brands compared to the most affordable premium car rental brands. In a big city like New York, the discount could multiply to a substantial amount of money.

6. Use Your Primary Insurance

Do you have insurance cover? You can use it to cover you when using a rental car. If you are a carless millennial, then you can ask your parents to add you to their insurance as a driver. However, to take advantage of this option, you need an excellent driving record. Otherwise, you may have to pay an extra cost on your car rental.

Not everyone has a primary insurance policy. If you have one, then you can use the basic coverage that comes with your credit card. In that case, you need to pay for the car using your credit card. Credit cards with basic insurance coverage may save you up to $30 in car rental fees. In some instances, you might even enjoy comprehensive insurance coverage.

If you have no insurance coverage, you may have to buy one through your primary car insurance or credit card. It would help to keep that in mind as you plan your trip to New York City.

7. Maintain the Same Driver

Is the car rental company offering a driver? Keep it that way unless you intend to pay an extra daily fee. For most premium car rental companies, the cost can be anything between $12 and $13, which can accumulate to a tidy sum of money when paid over several days.

Besides sticking to one driver, there are other ways you can dodge the fee. For example, some car rental companies may waive the price for a domestic partner or spouse if your driver’s license address is the same. Apart from the spouse and domestic partner, other companies may waive the fee for immediate family members in their membership programs.

If you have AAA, AARP, Costco, or USAA membership, you can enjoy an additional driver free of charge. The only catch is that you need to rent a car from a select group of companies.

8. Leverage Government or Military Employee Discounts

Are you a government employee or military officer? Ask your car rental company if it offers discounts for customers like you. The car rental company doesn’t need to have a presence on a military base. It could be anywhere in New York and still accept lower prices from military officers and other government employees.

Most car rentals in this category offer discounts to government employees and military officers on active duty. Serving and retired men and women from the Airforce, Airforce Reserves, Army, Army Reserves, Coast Guard, Coast Guard Reserves, Marine Corps, Marine Corp Reserves, National Guard, Navy, and Navy Reserves are eligible for these discounts.

Depending on the car rental company involved, you can enjoy anything from a 5% discount on the standard price. Apart from paying the discounted price, you will be required to produce a valid driving license, valid ID, and valid credit card.

9. Forgo the Extras

Did you know that you will pay more if you buy into car rental extras such as GPS navigation, satellite radio, and roadside assistance? So, the cheapest way to rent a car in NY is to resist falling into the convenience trap.

Navigation systems like Garmin may cost anything from $15 a day, escalating the cost, making it unaffordable. If you must use navigation, then use one you can conveniently carry in your pocket. Examples include Google Maps and Maze, which are available as mobile apps. You could map out your route in advance and download directions when you connect to a Wi-Fi network.

If you accept using a toll transponder, you will have to pay an extra fee on top of tolls. Since you cannot avoid tolls, avoid paying extra while using a transponder. In New York, the toll rates vary depending on your location. For example, you will pay $6.55 with an E-ZPass or $10.17 by mail when traveling from JFK International Airport.

For a baby car seat, most car rental companies charge at least $10 per day. Of course, the car seat helps protect your child from getting hurt when there’s an accident. However, you don’t have to pay so much money to cover your young one. Why don’t you ask a friend living within the city for one?

10. Price Out Prepaid Gas

Most car rental companies add the price of gas to the final fees paid by renters. Compare the fuel charge to the gas price from nearby stations to know if buying on your own is a better option. You may end up saving a substantial amount of money on the car rental price.

While at it, be sure to factor in the remaining gas at the end of the trip. It makes no sense to struggle to save money, only to leave some gas in the tank. If you are on a short weekend or day trip, it may mean topping off the tank before returning the car. However, if you have a more extended trip, you may save lots of dollars by filling the tank.

11. Rent a Car by the Week

Did you know that you can save a lot of money by renting a car in NY by the week? Luckily most car rental companies have weekly car rental packages. Paying for a leased vehicle every week can cost you way less than doing so daily.

Here is how it works out. Say the price for renting a car for a day is between $25 and $80. When you work out the weekly rate, which ranges from $96 to $308, it can be cheaper by up to 45%. But that would only be beneficial if you are on a long trip. Remember that some car rental companies may charge you for returning the car earlier than a week.

12. Walk or Ride to Your Destination

Do you wish to avoid paying for car rental altogether? Why don’t you entirely skip the rental option? If your destination is in Manhattan and you are coming from the airport, then take a taxi. You can then walk or ride on public transport to your destination.

Apart from being walkable, downtown Manhattan has an extensive public transport network consisting of buses, trains, subways, ferries, tunnels, and bridges. Besides, you may take advantage of ride-sharing apps or taxis, which exist in plenty in Manhattan. Alternatively, you can buy a weekend metro pass to go to multiple locations on the cheap.

Think about it. Opting to walk or ride saves you the hassle of looking and paying for parking. If you insist on renting a car, then you are better off with non-traditional companies operating like Airbnb, helping people rent out their private vehicles. Others might be from car dealerships and other automobile dealers. Some non-conventional car rentals charge on-the-hour prices, allowing you to avoid paying for hours when you aren’t driving the car.

If you are on a short trip, try rideshares. All that matters is that you can move to your destination. If you don’t plan to drive for most of your trip, hire a limo. You will be surprised how cheap the luxurious option turns out to be.


Whether you live or are traveling to New York, renting a car on the cheap is extremely easy. You should avoid renting a car from any airport-based companies since their prices tend to be high. However, the cheapest way to rent a car in NY is to shop around for affordable rates and fees. That will expose you to all the other methods, including choosing economy cars, taking advantage of memberships, discount car rental companies, primary insurance, and using one driver. Finally, you may opt to walk or ride public transport or a taxi to your destination.

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