Driving in a crowded city isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. For a good reason, city driving means congestion, aggressive drivers, difficult traffic patterns, one-way streets, and many accidents.
Whether you’re moving into a city for the first time or planning a vacation, city driving is intimidating. If you’re a new city resident, you will find yourself dealing with city driving on a daily basis. If you’re a tourist, you might try to avoid city driving. However, many major cities’ entertainment options will likely mean you will have to deal with city driving at some point.
For anyone without experience navigating crowded city streets, it can all get a little overwhelming. That is why I’ve put together this city car driving guide, which will provide you with a guide to picking the right car for city driving as well as a few helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re driving in the city.
Picking the Right Car for the Job
If you’ve lived your whole life outside of a major metropolitan area, chances are you have minimal experience driving in the city. The first thing you will learn as a new city driver is that not all cars are manageable in the city and getting the right car for the job is very important. This city car driving guide should help make picking the right car for your city and your needs easier.
Find a Car that Fits
If you’ve loved your whole driving life in suburbia or in the country, you might have grown used to the luxury of having extra space in your car. Large SUVs trucks and vans are great when you’re hauling the kid’s hockey equipment around, but when you’re trying to parallel park in gridlock traffic, not so much.
Taking careful consideration of which car you will make your life a lot easier. City streets are small and crowded, and big cars often don’t have the necessary maneuverability for a major city. Your ability to find parking will likely be determined by the size of your car, and the bigger it is, the lower your chances are of finding a spot.
Look at MPGs
City driving is less efficient on your gas tank, and if you’re not careful, that can be detrimental on your wallet. When you’re looking at what car you want for the city, take MPGs into careful consideration. Fortunately, most smaller cars have better gas mileage, so you should already be on the right track
New vs. Used
Next in our city car driving guide comes the issue of new vs. used. New cars are great, they have better features, they’re more comfortable, and they last longer. However, if you’re new to city driving, I would highly recommend looking taking a look at used cars as well.
If you’ve got money to burn, great! Go new. However, if you’re worried about taking on auto loans or whether you can afford a fresh paint job on your dinged-up bumpers or doors, think used. Used cars are cheaper to repair. Considering that you are very likely to have at least a minor collision or scratch occur in the city, that is something to consider.
Manual or Automatic
This tip might have been more relevant for a city car driving guide from 25 years ago. However, there are still some die-hard manual users out there, most of whom don’t live in the city. So, if you’re looking down the barrel of a city driving adventure, its important to remember just how annoying driving stick is in stop-and-go traffic.
Driving manual transmission in the city can be done, and if you really love driving stick, then you’ll probably be fine. But if you have any apprehension about manual in the city, probably stick to automatic.
Now that you’ve got the right car for the job, let’s move onto the next section of our city car driving guide.
Tips for the Drive
Know your Route
Even if you live in a city like New York where navigation is relatively easy, you will save yourself a lot of stress and potentially a lot of time by planning your route before you depart. Using navigational aids like Waze or Google Maps that give you real-time traffic and time estimates will help tremendously.
On top of knowing where you’re going and how bad the traffic might be, you will also want to just get in the habit of leaving extra time for the unknown. Maybe you miss your exit, or there’s commercial paving going on that changes your route last minute, no matter what surprises that cost you extra time. Knowing your route may prove to be one of the best stress savers in this city car driving guide
Leave Ample Space
Tailgating is not only annoying to other drivers; it’s is dangerous and potentially very costly to those who wish to practice it. Did you know that if someone rear-ends you -pushing you into the car in front of you- that you are liable for the damage to the car you hit? Simply put, tailgating, even at a standstill, is a habit that might cost you thousands of dollars. It’s not your fault that someone rear-ended you. However, it is your fault that you were too close to the person in front of you.
Tailgating aside, at the end of the day, if you drive in the city long enough, you’re going to have some sort of collision. You must have the number of a reputable car accidents attorney in case you find yourself in a bind.
Know Your Vehicle
No matter what size car you drive, you must understand how wide and long it is. Old cities like New York and Boston typically have narrow roads that weren’t designed to manage heavy traffic patterns. So, when you’re navigating the narrow roadways of a city, you have to know the size of your car very well to safely maneuver through the roadways.
Look, Look, and Look Again
This might, in fact, be the most important tip in this city car driving guide. If you’re new to city driving, you will quickly realize that cars aren’t the only thing you have to worry about on the road. There are pedestrians and cyclists absolutely everywhere! Not to mention motorcyclists weaving in and out of lanes trying to save that extra five minutes.
The high volume of people in the roadway who aren’t in a car will induce stress if you’re not careful. Take your time, leave pedestrians, and cyclists extra room and look twice before you do anything.
Stay in Your Lane!
Changing lanes every block doesn’t save as much time as you think it will. And it leaves you open to a higher risk of collision. It’s simply just not worth it to save the 20 seconds.
Observe Posted Speed Limits
I will be the first to admit it, sticking to the speed limit isn’t very much fun, but it will save you from a lot of potential accidents in a city setting.
Use All Available Signaling
Using your turn signals seems like a no-brainer; however, it still must be mentioned in the city car driving guide.
If you are ever going to change lanes in a crowded city, you must signal early and make your intentions known to another driver on the road. Not using your turn signal, or signaling late will leave you at a higher risk for collision and open yourself up for stressful situations.
Take your time, and if you aren’t an aggressive driver, stick to the right lane. Staying in the right lane will most likely mean slower travel speeds. However, it may also save you loads of stress.
Take a few deep breaths and realize that you will eventually get to your destination, as long as you stay patient
Avoid Rush Hour
Steering clear of rush hour traffic isn’t always possible. If you work 9-5, you are going to encounter the worst of rush hour. In many cases, it is worth saving yourself the headache and just waiting 45 minutes to start your commute at the end of the day, or leaving half an hour earlier at the beginning of the day.
Know Your Limits
There is a lot to be said for knowing when you’ve had enough. If you are at the end of your patience and simply can’t take any more on-the-road frustration, maybe skip the trip downtown for dinner and opt for something within walking distance. Nothing will put you at a higher risk of a collision than driving angry, frustrated, tired, or distracted.
Covering Your Bases
There’s a lot you can do to stay safe on city roads while dodging annoying complications; however, some things can’t be avoided. When you find yourself in a situation where you need assistance -which you will- keep in mind this section of our city car driving guide.
Important Numbers to Keep on File
Even if you are the safest and smartest city driver in New York, there will be a time when you pull over a curb or run over a nail and find yourself with a flat. If it’s not a flat tire, maybe your engine overheats on a steamy August day. Whatever it is, you will want to keep a fast and reliable towing service in your contacts just in case. The last thing you want is to be broken down on the side of a major throughway, trying to figure out which towing service will give you a fair price and treat you and your vehicle properly.
Once you’ve broken down, you will most likely want to have the tow truck take your vehicle to a reputable auto repair shop. Having a good shop on file is another thing you’ll want to do ahead of time. It will make your life a lot easier.
Having the number for an auto repair shop is a smart thing to have handy. Should you get in an accident and need engine repair, knowing who to call and where to go will ease the stress of it all. Especially if you’re in a hurry to get where you need to be.
Go for the Best Insurance You Can Afford
No matter what kind of driving you do, you need good car insurance. However, having comprehensive car insurance is even more important for people who do a lot of city driving. If you get in an accident without insurance and need steering repair or transmission repair, you will have to pay out of pocket. Not having proper car insurance will cost you big time in the long run.
Make Your Car Difficult to Steal
On top of collision and damage insurance, you may also want to consider theft coverage. It’s no secret that cities are typically more crime heavy than rural areas, so you will want to make sure that you are prepared for a potential break-in.
Even if your insurance covers you in the event of a theft, you will want to make your car as difficult to steal as possible. This might mean only parking in secure garages, or simply making sure that your vehicle is locked at all times.
Whether you’re a city resident or a tourist taking on city travel for the first time, keeping in mind the tips in this city car driving guide will save you a lot of stress. Knowing the best way to navigate a city takes practice, patience, and a little bit of willpower. As intimidating as city driving might seem, take comfort in knowing that it is possible.