A common perception of city renters is that they favor getting around by bike, bus, subway, or train. However, that vision of bike-riding, transit-loving urban dwellers may not be entirely accurate. Bloomberg noted an increased interest in urban car ownership well before the pandemic.

COVID-19 only accelerated this trend. Shopping and dining out ceased, at least for a time. Museums and theaters closed. Sports fans could not attend games. In response, some city residents valued the freedoms associated with car ownership. They felt a desire to “get away” by seeking outdoor experiences taking road trips. In New York alone, car ownership jumped up by nearly 40 percent during the pandemic.

Of course, owning a car in an urban area comes with its own unique challenges. If you’re a first-time car owner or someone contemplating purchasing a car soon, read on to learn some essential tips for owning a car in the city.

Deciding Which Vehicle Purchase or Lease

Before your purchase or lease a car, consider your budget. The monthly payment is only one part of the equation. There’s also the cost of fuel, insurance, parking, and maintenance. Taken together, these can easily exceed the car payment itself. It is also important to budget for unexpected repairs, particularly if you buy a vehicle out of warranty. Finally, buying rather than leasing avoids charges levied for damage at the end of a lease.

Also, consider your needs as a driver. Many city residents choose smaller, more nimble cars as these vehicles better navigate narrow lanes and street parking. A hatchback or subcompact crossover may be ideal for those who need more cargo space for vacations or camping trips but who still prefer a vehicle that can fit in tight street parking spots.

Lastly, be honest with yourself about how you feel about possible nicks and dings—an inevitability for most car owners in the city. Some might feel more comfortable operating a pre-owned vehicle in the city, while others don’t mind dealing with blemishes on a brand-new vehicle should they occur.

Tips for Urban Car Owners

Here are some tips for renters who choose to own and operate personal vehicles in the city.

1. Address your Parking Needs

There’s often keen competition for street parking. However, some confident car owners trust that they’ll consistently find street parking near home, or they’re willing to walk a few blocks when there’s no spot nearby.

There’s also the option of paying for parking at a nearby garage or lot. This can get pricey in some city centers. For example, regular 24/7 parking in Chicago’s Loop is often priced in the $275 to $325 range. That’s equal to a car payment for some car owners.

If you are looking to rent, consider properties offering their own parking. Residents at these properties enjoy the convenience of valet parking and/or self-parking in a garage. However, you should still be sure to measure your parking spot’s length, width, and height. More than a few vehicles go back to dealers when buyers discover they don’t fit in the spaces assigned.

2. Compare Auto Insurers

Insurance companies consider risk when they calculate premiums. They often use zip codes to set rates. In the city, this may mean that rates change from one block to another. In fact, rates may vary by as much as 20 percent or more between adjacent zip codes. Rates also vary among insurers. Some companies focus more on rural drivers. Others specialize in the urban market.

As a city driver, you might not drive the number of miles that suburban commuters do. If this applies to you, consider insurers offering discounts to those who drive less than 10,000 miles per year. In all cases, comparison shopping is a must. If you wish, a multi-line insurance agent can do the work for you. They also have the knowledge to factor in the ratings of different insurers.Looking down the driving lane of an indoor parking garage. A caption reads: "If you are looking to rent, consider properties offering their own parking. Residents at these properties enjoy the convenience of valet parking and/or self-parking in a garage."

3. Plan Ahead for Maintenance and Repair

Some manufacturers include complimentary maintenance for the first two or three years. Whether this applies to you or not, it is ideal to identify a local dealer for your vehicle in advance. Some automotive brands have dealers in or close to city centers, while some do not. Fortunately, certain dealerships offer free pickup and delivery in the city.

It’s wise to shop around for a good auto mechanic before you actually need one. Consider recommendations from family, friends, or co-workers. Determine whether ASE-certified mechanics will work on your vehicle. Consumer Reports suggests that AAA-affiliated shops are good bets.

4. Protect Your Car’s Exterior

Protect both your car’s finish and your vehicle investment. Consider DIY polymer sealants or professionally applied ceramic coatings. Some city drivers even consider the installation of an add-on bumper guard. This might be a good bet if you do a lot of street parking.

5. Plan for the Unexpected

A flat tire is always a possibility. On busy city streets, changing a tire or waiting for a tow truck is often inconvenient. Pack a can of emergency tire sealant. The contents will partially inflate the tire and temporarily seal most leaks, providing you the opportunity to get to a repair shop on your own.

6. Know Your Routes

When you’re traveling in the city you want to avoid traffic tie-ups as much as possible. Take advantage of real-time traffic information. Note accidents and other delays, and alter your route in response. A little automotive planning and preparation pays real dividends. When the weekend arrives, you’ll be free to hit the open road!

Luxury Apartments with Private Parking

Luxury apartment properties often make an extra effort to address residents’ needs. Some offer valet parking, self-parking in a private garage, or both.

If you’re looking for parking amenities along Chicago’s Gold Coast, Draper and Kramer has you covered. At 61 Banks Street, there’s valet parking and self-parking in the private indoor garage. 1350 North Lake Shore Drive also offers 24-hour valet parking in an attached garage.

In the South Loop, Aspire offers private indoor parking for 88 resident-only vehicles. In the Printers Row neighborhood, Burnham Pointe offers the convenience of a multi-level parking garage. Grand Plaza also offers indoor parking in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

Visit Draper and Kramer to learn more about luxury parking amenities or to schedule an apartment tour today.

A woman being handed car keys while she sits in the driver's seat of the car.

Luxury apartment properties often make an extra effort to address residents’ needs. Some offer valet parking, self-parking in a private garage, or both.

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