Avoiding Parking Tickets & Towing In NYC

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Your Parking Fine Is Their Profit

Avoiding parking tickets and towing should be the top priority for anyone driving in New York City. Unfortunately, it’s not. Drivers owe New York City somewhere between $700-$800 million in unpaid fines. Unpaid is the key word. That number does not include all the money that is paid.

When parking in NYC, it’s helpful to remember the city’s legal name: the Corporation of the City of New York. What is rule #1 for corporations? Make a profit.

For a little extra incentive to park carefully and follow the rules, read What to do if you get towed in New York City.

New York Parking Tip #1

Read the sign


  • Read the sign three times.
  • Translate it into plain English for yourself
  • Read it out loud if you have to. It’s New York, no one will notice.
  • Keep in mind parking in NYC is not a game of chance. The rules and consequences are very clear.

Do Not:

  • Glance at the sign.
  • Assume you have seen the same sign before.
  • Use being in a rush as an excuse.

New York Parking Tip #1.5

Read the sign three times with your friends

If  you’re with friends, read the sign together and make sure you agree on what it says.

Image shows a New York City parking violation envelope. It is bright orange.
In New York, the color orange, not red, is associated with anger. Avoiding one of these parking ticket envelopes, or worse, getting towed, is easy when you follow these tips.

New York Parking Tip #2

Check the expiration dates on your registration and insurance stickers

What is the equivalent of stealing candy from a baby for parking enforcement agents?

Answer: expired registration and inspection stickers. Even if you’re parked 100% legally, you will be ticketed for expired registration and insurance stickers.

If you are parked illegally and have an expired sticker you’ll get two parking tickets: one for parking illegally and one for the expired sticker. If you are parked illegally and both your stickers are expired you’ll hit the trifecta: three parking tickets. Use a parking facility whenever you have expired stickers. It costs more in the short-term, but less in the long-term.

New York Parking Tip #3

Park 15 feet from fire hydrants

Always park at least 15 feet (4.5 meters) from fire hydrants. The closer you park to a hydrant, the greater chance of being towed or ticketed. Want to be certain you’re never within 15 feet? Keep a tape measure in the car.

New York Parking Tip #4

Time Yourself

When using Muni-Meters, the city’s pre-paid parking meter system, time how long it takes to walk from your car to your destination and add five minutes. If it takes you 10 minutes, for example, allow yourself 15 minutes to get back to add money to the meter.

Image shows two New York City parking enforcement agents writing a ticket. The car's owner is standing in front of them staring at the time on his cell phone.
“But…but…but…I was only a minute late!” Sorry, pal, it’s over. Whether in midtown Manhattan, an obscure industrial street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn or a quiet, residential street in Staten Island, parking enforcement agents are always watching. These magical beings materialize out of thin air the moment your parking time expires.

New York Parking Tip #5

Don’t park in crosswalks

You drove around forever and finally found a spot on a corner. Most of your car is in the parking space, but part of the bumper is in the crosswalk. I understand. The problem is, traffic agents don’t. If any part of your car in the crosswalk and you think, “Who’s going to notice that?” you’re on the fast track to a parking ticket.

New York Parking Tip #6

Visit the “Parking Regulations” Page

Visit the New York City “Parking Regulations” page. You can see the parking rules for any street in the city.

Just enter:

  • the borough
  • street name
  • and cross streets

Bingo! Instant and accurate information provided by the city’s Department of Transportation.

Need some help using that page? Read our New York parking regulations page tutorial.

New York Parking Tip #7

Make Sure You Don’t Owe NYC Money

Unless you’re a first-time visitor to New York City, you should periodically verify that you don’t owe the city any unpaid parking fines/judgments. Tickets get lost or people forget about them. If you owe more than $350 in unpaid tickets, your vehicle may be towed or booted.

Check this page to see if you owe any NYC parking fines. Click on “Parking” and select “Plate Number.” Then press “Go.”

New York Parking Tip #8

Whatever you do, don’t get towed in NYC, but if you do…

For some motivation to park carefully, check out current fines for New York City’s parking tickets. Click on each “Code” section.

Now take a look at New York City towing fees. Remember, you’ll have to pay the parking ticket(s) plus towing fees.

If you get towed, ALL OF THE FOLLOWING MUST BE TRUE before you can be reunited with your vehicle:

  1. Vehicle registration is current
  2. Vehicle is insured
  3. Your have a valid driving license
  4. You do not owe more than $101 in unpaid parking judgments.

IF ANY OF THESE ARE NOT TRUE, DO NOT GO TO THE TOW POUND. You’ll only waste your time if you do. New York City tow pound workers will not care how much you kick, scream, whine, explain or plead. Save your time and dignity by fixing all issues related to your registration, insurance, license and unpaid parking judgments before going to the tow pound.

For more information, see What to do if you get towed in New York City.

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