As a member of the non-car owning class in this city for almost a decade now, I have had to find some creative ways to get my “wheels on” while at the same time dealing with the omnipresent problem of exorbitant car rental rates in NYC. What follows is not by any means exhaustive, but it kind of works for me, at least for the mean time.
Back in 2004, Charlie Suisman of MUG laid out a few car rental strategies which are still worth looking at I suppose. If you don’t want read the old MUG post, in a nutshell, Charlie’s ideas included: renting your car in Meriden, CT, renting your car from a car dealer (Queensborough Toyota), and renting from an independent agency (AAMCAR).
Cheap But Not So Convenient
While Charlie’s strategies are novel, for one reason or another, I never really found any of them suitable for me. Back when I used to live in Manhattan and wanted to save some bucks, I used to rent from Newark, NJ. Newark is far closer than Meriden, CT and the rates are amongst the cheapest you will find anywhere in and around NYC. Specifically, Enterprise has the absolute cheapest rates I could find amongst the major rental agencies, and currently the weekend day rate is $27.06/day (before tax). That rate was from the airport location, which sometimes presents its own set of problems, such as: 1) getting to Newark Airport, and 2) having the agency ask for a valid airline ticket when you get there (hence, I usually stay away from Airport locations). Have no fear though, Enterprise actually has an even closer location which is right across from Newark Penn Station (1 Raymond Plaza), and the rates there are only a fractionally more expensive ($28.99/day before tax) than the Airport. The hidden catch to the Newark Penn location is that it is not open on Sundays, so any weekend rental reservation you make would have to be something like Saturday-Monday or Friday-Saturday. Another caveat here, I have made a reservation at Newark Penn and arrived only to have them tell me that they are “out of cars.” One other convenient Newark rental location is 180 Washington St, and though it is not really walkable from Newark Penn, they will actually pick you up at the train station and drive you to the rental office (at least they used to), so it’s not much more of a hassle then the Newark Penn Station location. Rates here were slightly more expensive $35.99 USD/day (before tax) but still less than anything you’ll find in the city. Like the Penn Station location, they are also closed on Sundays.
Continued after the jump…
Convenient But Not So Cheap
For convenience, you really can’t beat Zipcar, the only thing is, what once was a moderately priced service (it was $8/hr on weekends when I joined) has now become one of the more expensive car rental alternatives in NYC ($13/hr or $100/day on weekends). Zipcar’s off-peak (Mon-Fri) rates bottom out at $11/hr and $77 day on the pay as you go plan. If you just need a car for an hour or two, Zipcar is a good bet, and like I said, it’s quite convenient and they cover the price of gas as well.
One other Zipcar-like service is Mint Car, they too rent cars by the hour, but they only operate in Manhattan (which made them a non-option for me as I am Brooklyn based). Compared to Zipcar, Mint Car is slightly cheaper, weekend economy rates start at $11.00/hr and $99/day on the pay as you go plan (gas is covered as well). Like Zipcar, they also offer variable pricing which bottoms out a ridiculously low $2.00/hr from 8AM – 5PM, Monday through Thursday. I’m not a member, so I can’t really comment on the quality of the Mint Car service, but if you are interested in finding out more, you can go here.
If you’re thinking of joining Zipcar, let me know and I’ll send you a referral for some free driving credit.
The Best Combination of Cheap and Convenient (if you ask me)
If you want to rent a car, and do something crazy like return it on a Sunday, while at the same time not checking your watch every 15 minutes to make sure you haven’t exceeded your allotted minutes, then you may want to try your friendly neighborhood Avis. That’s right, there is a little trick to renting from the most expensive car rental agency in the city. If you punch your local neighborhood branch at Avis.com and then use one of the following AWD codes: D005297, D005150, J868801, A674600, D087633, B021615 (Walmart), B021600 (Rand McNally Atlas), you’ll be able rent an economy car for a weekend day rate of $68.00 (last time I checked). While it’s still more than twice the price of Newark, NJ, it’s a good $30 less than Zipcar, and most city branches have the added convenience of being open on Sunday. (As a Brooklynite, I use the Avis branch at Court and Atlantic.) If you’d like to play some “coupon code roulette”, you can check out this thread on Flyertalk.com and see if you can find a better AWD (I haven’t been able to yet). One final caveat, some of these codes may be associated with various corporations and they may ask you for ID, it’s never happened to me, but I just thought you should know.
PS Avis also gives away free song downloads from eMusic each time you rent.