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Car Rental in New York State: Home of Tall Skyscrapers and High Mountains
While New York City (NYC) is the major destination for so many, the rest of New York State (colloquially called “upstate New York”) is well worth exploring, from the spectacular forests that cover the Adirondacks to Niagara Falls and the towns and cities in between.
New York State has a distinct four seasons, making winter (particularly January and February) very cold and summer (particularly August) very hot. Peak tourist season runs from July to September. If you’re headed to upstate New York, plan to come in the fall (September through November) to see the spectacular trees turn colors.
The de facto national language of the United States is English, though you’re certain to find pockets of ethnic heritage throughout New York State, where immigrants’ mother tongues are still spoken. There are also numerous indigenous languages spoken throughout the state, particularly of the Iroquoian language family.
The currency throughout the United States is the dollar. Credit cards are accepted at the vast majority of businesses and ATMs are also quite frequent. For travel throughout the East Coast, you will want to have some cash on hand for the occasional tollbooth that has not yet been converted to an electronic system.
New York is eminently drivable, though quite large. Albany is two and a half hours north of Manhattan in NYC, and Buffalo is another four and a half hours west of Albany.
Automobile hire is available in virtually every city and town in New York State. The most popular cities in which to pick up a rental car include: New York City and its numerous surrounding airports, particularly LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy; Albany in eastern upstate New York; and Buffalo on the western edge of New York.
38 nationalities can enter the United States as tourists without applying for a visa, though if you are among these nationalities, you are still required to fill out the ESTA in advance. Visit esta.us for more information. Visitors to the United States will be fingerprinted and biometrically photographed upon entry. If your nationality is not included in the visa-waiver program, you will be required to apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa in advance of your arrival.
Driving in New York
While the roads in and around NYC can be riddled with potholes and packed with people, the roads throughout the rest of the state are well maintained and a real joy to drive.
- Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road.
- In cities and towns: 25 to 30 miles per hour (40 to 48 km/h)
- On most state highways: 55 mph (88 km/h)
- On rural expressways: 65 mph (104 km/h)
- Expect traffic jams in and around NYC, on Long Island, and in any other major city during morning and evening rush hours.
- Parking in NYC is a challenge, so take advantage of frequent parking garages despite high prices ($30 a day and more). The farther you travel from NYC, the easier parking becomes.
- You can drive on your domestic driver’s license as a tourist throughout New York State.
- Particularly if you plan on driving to and from New York City, have plenty of cash to pay a significant number of tolls on the expressway, bridges, and tunnels. The New York State Thruway, which intersects the state from east to west, is also a tolled highway.
- While the minimum driving age in New York is 16, you will have to be at least 18 to rent a car. Drivers under 25 are likely to be charged extra, if they are permitted to rent at all.
- If time is not an issue, travel along US Route 20 throughout upstate New York for some local color and beautiful landscapes.
Cheap Car Rental in New York
Automobile hire in New York typically starts at around $48 a day. Here are some of the best deals:
- Chevrolet Spark or similar (economy class) – $48/day
- Nissan Versa or similar (compact class) – $51/day
- Toyota Corolla (intermediate class) – $52/day
- Volkswagen Jetta or similar (standard class) – $55/day
- Chrysler 200 or similar (intermediate class) – $56/day
Note that prices vary depending on the availability of each specific car and the season in which you rent. For the most accurate offers, use the search bar above.
Tips for Renting a Car Inexpensively in New York
The best way to save money on rental cars throughout New York State is by planning ahead. By booking your car six to twelve months in advance of your arrival you can save upwards of $10 a day. Shopping around is also recommended, as rentals are not always cheaper at airports than at downtown locations; you may find that some Manhattan locations are ultimately cheaper than LaGuardia or JFK airports.
Albany and Buffalo, among other New York cities, also often offer prices routinely $5 to $10 cheaper than rental prices in New York City.
Particularly if you’re renting from Thrifty, you can save over $10 a day if you extend your rental period to over a week.