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Rent a Car in New York – Complete guide on how to rent a new car in the USA

Rent a Car in New York – Complete guide on how to rent a new car in the USA 

I will share my personal experience of getting and returning a new car from Alamo and recommendations for those who are just about to rent a car in the US. You will learn about car rental prices in New York, and I will also advise on how to save money and get an upgrade – a car upgrade when you pick it up right in the parking lot.

Rent a car in New York

We booked a car online right at John F. Kennedy Airport. John F. Kennedy Airport, searching for the best option for us at and choosing the right car class – a full-size sedan. It consumes considerably less gasoline than an SUV, keeps on the highway more confident, and inside there is plenty of room for traveling on U.S. roads for two and more comfortably.

How much does it cost to rent a car in New York

Renting a 2018 Toyota Camry in New York cost us $450 for 12 days, plus it took about $300 more for gas and once we paid $15 to drive over a toll bridge. Not too expensive, considering that we drove this car for over 6,000 miles, and it never once let us down!

Our experience renting a car in New York and tips

As soon as we bought tickets to America, the first thing (about a month and a half before our trip to New York) we started to prepare for the trip to the U.S. and choose where best to book a car online.

We found out that there are quite a few car rental companies in New York. So customers have a lot of choice, and that’s a good thing for us. There are offices of world-famous car rental companies and smaller local agencies. For example, at John F. Kennedy Airport, you can rent a car. John F. Kennedy Airport you can rent a car from Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless and Thrifty.

In order not to explore all the official sites of car rental companies, and not to waste time, we decided to look at the best deals and bargain prices in the aggregator. It’s convenient to compare car rental options from major companies, which are usually already calculated with all the current promotions and discounts, and the price also includes insurance, taxes, and additional fees. In general, the final cost of car rental will not change later.

We also decided to see New York on the way back, after renting the car. Booked a very nice and conveniently located hotel very close to the center, which we now recommend to all independent travelers – the Howard Johnson.

What you need to know about renting a car in the USA

  • Any tourist at least 21 years old with at least 1 year of driving experience can rent a car in the U.S.. It is not necessary to have an international driver’s license, but only a national license and a bank card with enough money to pay the rent (the money will be deducted from the card at the end of the rental term).
  • Young drivers (21 to 24 years old) will have to pay an additional fee of about $25 per day (the amount differs from one rental company to another in the United States).
  • In New York, you are allowed to rent a car from age 18, but there is an additional fee for young drivers (18 to 20 years old – $57 per day, and 21 to 24 years old – $20.50 per day). There are no additional fees for drivers over the age of 25. Among other things, premium cars can only be rented by experienced drivers whose experience exceeds 3 years.
  • New York City does not have very large rental car lots (compared to Los Angeles and Las Vegas), but it still has a large selection of cars.
  • All cars for rent in the States have automatic transmissions.
  • Usually it is written in the contract for renting a car in the USA that there is no limit on the mileage per day (Unlimited Mileage), and it also says the maximum time and address for returning the car. It also includes all the details regarding the specifics of insurance and the use of the rental car.

Important to know: Driving in perpetually hurried New York City is quite difficult (especially in Manhattan). Finding a free parking space where you can put your car in the narrow streets downtown during the day is very difficult and time-consuming. You need to watch road signs carefully, pay for parking on time, and do not exceed the maximum allowed parking time so that your car will not be towed or have a wheel blocker put on it. Fines for improper parking in New York City are high and go up to $300.

Prices for car rentals in New York City

  • The price of rental cars in all companies varies from about $ 35 per day (the cost depends on the class of the car, the age of the driver, the insurance option and the term of the lease). The tariff for 1 day is the highest, and to take the car for the weekend is more expensive than on weekdays. If you plan to rent a car in one place and give in another, you would have to pay extra charge for one way (from 150 dollars).
  • One day of renting a small or medium car in New York (Compact, Standard, Mid-Size, SUV) will cost $50-100. On our last visit to New York, we were lucky enough to get a Chrysler 200 at the airport for 1 day for $55. For a large SUV (Large SUV), minivan (Van) or premium car (Convertible, Premium Elite, Luxury) will have to shell out $80-150 per day or $500 to $1,000 per week.
  • With a long term of rent (beginning from 7 days) the price for a day noticeably decreases. Renting an inexpensive car in New York for 1 week will cost $300 including all fees and taxes and minimum insurance.
  • If you want to rent a car for 4 weeks or more, there are special monthly rates that are much lower than the weekly rates. In this case you have to pay not as usual but monthly with your bank card.
  • In our experience, it is best to book a car in New York online a month and a half or two months in advance.

Car rental classes in the USA

Buying their first car together. High angle view of young car salesman standing at the dealership telling about the features of the car to the customers

Cars in the U.S. on average are much larger in size than in Europe. What we consider an executive sedan, in the U.S. will be a car of the middle class. It’s the same with SUVs and parkettes. The SUVs we are accustomed to are considered small cars in the U.S.

Here are the classes of cars in the U.S:

  • Economy – compact class Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, Kia Soul, Hyundai Accent, Mazda 2, Toyota Yaris
  • Midsize, Intermediate – middle class Chevy Cruze and Malibu, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Versa, Mazda 3, Chrysler 200
  • Fullsize – full-size sedans Toyota Camry, Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord
  • Compact SUV – Jeep Compass, Nissan Horn
  • Midsize SUV and Standard SUV – medium-sized crossovers Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer and Escape, Toyota RAV-4, BMW X3, Audi Q3, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Passfinder
  • Fullsize SUV and Premium SUV – Chevrolet Suburban, Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, Cadillac Escalade, Nissan Armada
  • Passenger Minivan – Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Flex, Nissan Quest
  • Pickup – Nissan Frontier, Toyota Highlux, Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra, Dodge Ram
  • Passenger Van – large vans for 6-12 passengers Ford Transit, Chevrolet Express
  • Convertible, Muscle Car – convertibles and muscle cars Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Mustang GT
  • Sporty – Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Challenger, Porsche Cayman
  • Luxury Perfomance Sport – Audi R8, Porsche 911
  • Luxury – Expensive Lexus, Infiniti, Cadillac or Audi
  • Luxary Sedan – Mercedes S450, Audi A8, Maserati Gilby
  • Electric – Tesla electric cars, Nissan Leaf.

To choose a car class, we advise you first make a route of your trip to the U.S. and determine whether you need a car with off-road performance, or suitable economic urban passenger car. Next, you should take into account the number of passengers in the car, how long trips will be, and how many bags and other things you will have with you. Taking all of this into account, you can choose a car that suits your needs and is comfortable for traveling on American roads.

It is useful to know: In the USA, it is common to choose a car on the rental company’s parking lot after you sign a rental agreement. If your car is not available at the rental company’s parking lot, or you don’t like it, you can ask for a higher car, and it will be free of charge. As a rule, the client is always going to meet you halfway and offer you a better car. So we got a new 2018 Toyota Camry with all the trimmings and mileage only 5,000 miles instead of the Nissan Altima in the initial configuration.

Car rental at the New York airport

So, for our trip across the U.S. from New York to Miami, we picked a car class – a full-size sedan – in advance, booked it online and printed out a voucher with Alamo’s reservation number. And when we flew into New York, it took us literally 40 minutes to rent a great new car from Alamo right at JFK airport. It was the most convenient option for us and didn’t take much time, then we immediately drove it to the neighboring state of New Jersey.

Why is it convenient to rent a car at New York Airport?

  • The United States is a country for motorists. When arriving in America, it is most convenient to immediately rent a car at JFK airport and travel around the country in it.
  • The offices of rental companies are located near JFK airport, and you can get there with bags very quickly and absolutely free on Air Train. In our opinion it is much more convenient than taking the shuttle at the Los Angeles airport.
  • Lifehack 1: If you rent a car at the New York airport, you don’t have to pay to leave its territory on the Air Train ($5 per person). This is especially advantageous when a group of several people come to NY for 1 day (transit or just not much time) and want to see the city quickly. In this case you can put all the suitcases in the car as in the locker, leave the airport and put it in the free parking, and then go to the city center by subway. Then return to the airport by car.
  • The U.S. has the best selection of new cars of all makes. You can rent one of the novelties of the world car industry, which is not yet in Europe, not only to drive it, but also to look closely and think about buying in the future.
  • As we noticed, car prices at the airport in New York are lower than in the city. So even in spite of the airport fee, renting a car here is the cheapest.
  • Lifehack 2: A rental car is the cheapest way to spend a night in New York City.
  • Unlike car rentals at the Los Angeles airport, at the New York airport there was no line for cars at all at Alamo, and it only took 2 minutes to sign a contract.
  • An employee of Alamo briefly told about insurance options and toll roads, without imposing any additional options.
  • You decide which of the cars in the class you will take from the parking lot.
  • If you want, you can upgrade right on the spot and choose a higher class car for a fee.

When it is not a good idea to rent a car in New York City:

  • If you’re going to live in downtown New York and sightsee in Manhattan. Find a convenient parking space for the car there is quite difficult, and it will cost a lot.
  • If you don’t know the city well, don’t know English or don’t like to use a navigator, it is better to use public transport – subways, buses and cabs.
  • If you don’t have much driving experience, driving in busy New York City will be very challenging.
  • Below I will talk about our car rental experience in New York City in more detail.

Air Train from JFK Airport

We flew into New York on Swiss Airlines with a connection in Switzerland. We quickly filled out the customs declaration at a special terminal and went through passport control, only telling the officer about the length of time we were in the US. Getting our luggage didn’t take long, it took no more than 20 minutes.

Following the signs, we immediately went with the suitcases to the Air Train, which travels through JFK airport along all the terminals, and then goes to the offices of car rental companies. The trains run 24 hours a day and fairly frequently, and there aren’t many passengers on them. It took about 5 minutes to get to the Federal Circle station, right next to which is the Alamo office with three car rental agreement desks.

Good to know: The Alamo office at JFK airport is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also rent a car in New York City at any time of the day or night at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) or during the day at one of the 4 offices in Manhattan.

Car Rental Agreement

At the office, the first thing we did was to be politely greeted by a representative of the company and invited to a free counter to sign the rental agreement. Then he asked for my name so he could find the reservation in the database. We gave him the documents and the printed confirmation (also called a voucher), which came by e-mail after booking the car on the Internet site just in case.

There are only three documents needed to sign a car rental agreement at the airport in New York City:

  • Driver’s license – a national driver’s license;
  • Bank card – both credit and debit cards are acceptable, as long as it has the necessary amount to pay for the car rental;
  • Passport – may be required, but I have never been asked for it.
  • The Alamo employee immediately scanned my driver’s license and made a slip of my bank card. Asked us if we needed any additional options, and then printed out a model rental agreement, which I carefully read and signed, as I have done many times before.

Important to know: When you make a rental agreement for a car, you can put in a second driver (Additional Driver). This option is subject to a fee and usually costs $7-10 per day, but some companies offer this option as a bonus. The second driver must also show their driver’s license and bank card.


In the U.S., all drivers should drive only if they have insurance that covers damages in the event of an accident. North Americans usually have an annual insurance policy that covers car rentals. If you are a tourist, you must pay extra for insurance if you rent a car.

  • Collision Damage (CDW) – basic insurance, which covers all drivers named in the rental agreement. If you buy it from a rental company, the deductible in this case is zero dollars. In other words, if the rented car gets damaged, and you do not break the rental agreement, you should not worry about any payments for repairs from your side. The insurance company will cover all losses in case of an insured event. However, this insurance does not cover third-party damage to the car and any type of theft.
  • In addition to CDW, check that your insurance includes third-party liability – Liability Insurance (LI). Keep in mind that it does not cover damage to your health and the health of your passengers in the event of an accident. This insurance is not mandatory, but it costs a lot of money. So, it is up to you to decide whether it is worth it.
  • Other types of insurance are also optional, and they vary from one renter to another. You can take out additional insurance, such as Extended Protection in case of a puncture or “Roadside Assistance”, which will act, for example, if you suddenly run out of gas on the highway. There is also insurance in case your personal belongings are stolen from the car or damaged in an accident. We did not use this insurance in our travels in America.

Useful tip: The cost of car insurance in the U.S. can be a significant part of the rental car. For example, a car can cost $30 per day and you would have to pay another $15 for insurance. Therefore, from our experience, we advise to look at the total price with all insurance included at the most popular website-aggregator Rentalcars, rather than to book at official sites of rental companies (even taking into account their special offers) and then pay in addition, not to mention the rental car at the last moment – at the counter at the rental company.

Additional options

While renting a car, you can use the additional paid options that you want to install in the car. The most common ones are:

  • Navigator
  • Child seat
  • Transponder – a special transmitter for automatic fare payment on Toll Road
  • There are other paid options, depending on the class of the car. There is a daily fee for all selected options.

We decided not to take the transponder in New York, as we did not plan to drive on the toll roads and bridges, and used the free alternate routes. We didn’t need a child seat either, and we didn’t need a toll GPS, since we brought our phone with us with maps of the States ( and iGo).

In the end, we did not pay any additional fees other than those listed at the time of booking.

Paying for a rental car

There are 2 payment options for renting a car in the US:

  • Prepayment of the rental (full and partial), and which includes basic or extended insurance. This amount is deducted from your credit card when you book a car on the site. Usually prepayment of rent allows you to save money, because the earlier you pay, the cheaper it is.
  • Payment for the rental at the end of its term. It turns out that you take the car as if on credit, and the cost of renting it will be written off at the time of returning the car.

Here is another important thing to know:

  • You can only pay for your rental car with a bank card. Cash deposit may be taken only in special cases, which are stipulated in the rental agreement.
  • All parking fees and fines, as well as toll roads and bridges, must be paid by the person who rented the car. It is better to do it yourself online, before returning the car. Otherwise, the renter will write off all these amounts from your bank card some time after the rental period is over, plus a fee for processing each transaction.
  • In some cases, car rentals in the U.S. can ask for a deposit for the car – an amount specified in the contract (from $100 to $1000), which will be blocked on your credit card until you return the car, and will be returned if nothing has happened to the car. For example, smoking and transportation of pets is forbidden in rented cars. In all cases the customer pays for dry-cleaning of the salon.
  • After signing a contract, we did not pay any deposit, but quietly chose a car and traveled around America in it without any problems. And the money for the rental car was deducted from my card only after we returned the car to the renter at the airport in New York.

Choosing a car

After signing the rental agreement, we went to pick our own car. The parking lot at the Alamo in New York airport is conveniently divided into zones according to car classes. The choice of cars was not very big, but they were all practically new. Customers themselves walk around the parking lot between the open cars (the key is inside) and choose the right one. If you do not like anything that is in the parking lot, you can wait a little while until they bring up the other cars.

We went to look at cars of the Standard class, where we were immediately recommended to get a Nissan Altima. But we didn’t really like the interior of this car, and then they brought us a white Toyota Camry with an 8-speed gearbox with steering wheel controls, leather interior, rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, comfortable interior with good soundproofing and a big trunk for our numerous items right from the car wash. We didn’t have to wait at all, and we quickly got the exact car we wanted, which we drove last time through the most interesting national parks in California.

We immediately took the key and put our suitcases in the trunk, and then took pictures of the car from all sides. This was important to do because the snow white body had a couple of small scratches visible, and we had to fix that before we started the rental. We didn’t find any other defects on visual inspection, so we got into the car where it wasn’t hot thanks to the air conditioning.

Inside, I first adjusted the seat and mirrors, then sorted out the climate control, reset the odometer to zero, turned on the GPS on my phone, and we were off to the checkout, as we still had almost 300 miles to go today. Thus began our route from New York to Miami.

Tips for renting a car and driving around New York City:

  • To avoid driving far for a car, you can book it online and provide a pickup address. You will have it delivered directly to your hotel at the specified time. You must show your Driver’s License and your credit card to sign a rental agreement.
  • It is always a good idea to use a car navigator while driving in New York City to avoid confusing yourself at intersections and missing an intersection.
  • To find parking lots in New York City (and other U.S. cities), the website is suitable

Returning a car at the New York airport

In our 2018 Toyota Camry, which we picked up at the New York airport, we drove about 4,000 miles across the U.S. in two weeks on a pre-determined route. Along the way, we visited national parks and beautiful American cities, relaxed on beaches and visited many attractions in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Drove from New York to Miami and back in a rental car in 2 weeks

The car was very convenient for us and with it we were able to have many of the most enjoyable experiences of the trip. But the car rental contract was coming to an end and it was time to return it to the Alamo parking lot at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

Useful information for those traveling around the U.S. in a rental car:

  • Before returning the car, remember to stop at a gas station and fill up with a full tank of gas. Otherwise you will have to pay the rental company a high rate for not having enough gas. We filled the car up to a full tank about 50 kilometers before returning, and the arrow was still at maximum when we returned.
  • By the way, you can always return the car early or ask to have it changed in case of any malfunction (such as a punctured tire) or the need for maintenance (oil change).
  • But if you return the car later than specified in the contract, you’ll have to pay extra for every full hour and every day of delay.
  • In addition, if you return the car in such a dirty condition that serious cleaning and special washing will be needed, you will also have to pay for it. Therefore, it is best not to litter heavily in the car and do not drive it in the mud, so that you do not have to incur additional costs for cleaning it later.

Because of the constant traffic jams in New York, we arrived at JFK about 45 minutes later than the contract stated. But we were not charged any extra for this. Since we didn’t have any problems with the car during the rental period, we didn’t use insurance or contact the company, the entire procedure to return the car at the Alamo parking lot took us no more than a minute. The receiver quickly gave us a visual inspection of the car, checked the interior to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything, and wrote down the mileage, then printed us a final receipt and wished us well.

After we turned the car in, we immediately boarded the Air Train and took it to Jamaica station. There we took the subway and in about 40 minutes we were in midtown Manhattan.

Useful tip: We always check different car rental options here to choose the best one. For example, if you need a car for 6 days, it’s better to rent it for a week and rent it out a day earlier, since the weekly rate is lower than paying for each day.

Our review of car rentals in New York

Our experience renting a car in NYC added to our collection of car trips around the world. This was the second time we rented a car at JFK airport and each time we were pleased with the fact that we got the newest examples. On the downside, I would say the price of car rentals is higher than on the U.S. West Coast, as well as the airport fee.

However, in our opinion, if you are going straight from New York to travel by car, it is best to rent a car at the airport immediately after arrival and drive it out of the city.

We read a lot of reviews online about car rentals on the East Coast and planning our route from New York to Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. Many independent travelers rent cars not in New York, but in Washington, D.C., where they happen to be cheaper. But we still decided not to do that, and now I’ll explain why.

After comparing prices on the car search site we decided not to save $50 and safely book a car in New York, despite the toll bridges (which we avoided) and city traffic jams. We arrived in the U.S. at night and didn’t want to spend time and money on a hotel, pay for an extra flight to the U.S. capital or drive from the airport to the bus station and then another 5 hours on the bus. And it was more convenient for us to take the things in the car, not to go in the subway with suitcases at rush hour, and the money was better in the end, since the exit from the airport by train also costs a lot.

As for the experience of driving on the roads of America, they are somewhat different for me on the West Coast and the East Coast. Still, the roads of the Wild West are more scenic and less congested, and it was more pleasant to drive on them. But the traffic and infrastructure in the U.S. is so well organized that I found it easy to drive in New York and the surrounding states, especially compared to Bangkok. The traffic jams are only in the big cities. And when you go out of town, you can enjoy a perfectly flat road and beautiful views.

Conclusions: We were again thrilled with our dream trip across the U.S. in our new 2018 Toyota Camry rental. Alamo, where we rented a car for the fourth time, provided the opportunity to take the best car for us and drive around the East Coast of America in comfort. So again there is a desire to go back to New York and rent a car there to travel in it to places new to us or to enjoy repeating our experience again!

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