6 Tips for keeping your car safe in a big city

Maintaining a nice car in the big city can be equal parts convenience and headache. No matter which big city you’re in, sprawl of the urban jungle tends to be much harder on a car than the suburbs. Want to keep your car looking pretty? Here are six ways to minimize your risk.

Know your parking situation. Dents and dings don’t only happen to cars that are in motion. There are plenty of ways your new car can get scuffed while standing still. Especially in parking lots. You’ll need to have a parking plan. Are you going to park in garages all the time? It can be safer but the cost will add up quickly.

Information is your best ally. Most garages offer an “early bird” rate if you park the car early enough. “Early” can also mean “late” since some early bird rates start at midnight. Find out what the early bird rates are at garages near you.

There are also some parking apps that can help you. The best can create a grid of available on-street parking and show garages near your GPS location along with price info. Some apps even offer coupons, so you can park with a discount all the time, even if you access the coupon only seconds before you park.

Finally, peer-to-peer valet parking services are on the rise. Apps like Valet Anywhere, Luxe and Zirx allow you to wait for a valet parking attendant to come to you. They’ll pick up your car, drive it to a garage and then deliver it back to you whenever you need it, no matter where you happen to be — all for less than the price of an average garage.

Don’t drive every day. Commuting in a big city will add miles to your odometer and increase the number of chances for your car to get hit. Big cities typically have lots of travel options, from public transit to car-pooling or using a ride-sharing service. Enjoy your car, but remember — if you spend less time on the street, you can keep your car nice longer.

Alternately, you can take your car on the road outside the city. I often drive nice cars on my way out of town so that my drive time in the city is limited and road time is maximized. Find a fun weekend destination and go!

Incidentally, you can also make a bit of money while traveling. Search for “on the way delivery” to find people along your route who need something delivered — there are even a couple of apps that offer this service. Pick up the gizmo they need on your way out of town and, voilà! You’ll earn yourself some gas money.

Plan ahead. You might like the look and feel of a huge SUV, but if you already live in a big metropolis, you may want to consider getting something smaller. Having a smaller car can mean more opportunities to find free, on-street parking spots and, of course, more physical space between your car and the car next to you.

Likewise, whether you want a manual or automatic transmission is something to think about. A stick shift will cost less but in stop-and-go city traffic it can be tiring. An automatic transmission with an “auto hold” button is ideal. For those who are unfamiliar, the hold feature will keep your vehicle at a full stop without needing you to apply the brakes, even on a hill. You could also consider a less expensive brand of car in the hope that you won’t be too bothered if you nick the bumper.

A final thing to consider is whether or not to lease. Typically, you need to keep a leased car pristine. You will be charged heavily if the dealership finds any damage at the end of your lease period.

Parking tech. Have you ever nicked the curb or the car behind you while parallel parking? It happens. Thankfully, the car companies got the memo and they’ve been adding more technology to make the parking process easier. Parking radar that beeps when you get too close to the car behind you has just about become standard on new cars. Rear-view cameras are also helpful for avoiding bumps and bruises while parking.

Recently, several big car manufacturers have released models that can parallel park with very little driver input. Some of them can even pull themselves out of a parking space. It’s great for reducing parking stress and eliminating driver error.

Pace yourself. Studies have shown that changing lanes can improve your travel time — but only by a few seconds. It makes more sense to pick a lane and stick with it. The added risk of weaving around other cars dramatically increases your chances of a fender bender.

And slow down. Especially if you’re driving in a new city, where you don’t know all the pitfalls and complicated intersections.

Car alarm. This seems pretty obvious — the more protected your car is, the less people will bother it. Many new cars come with built-in alarm systems, but it’s also prudent not to leave any valuables visible from the outside of the car. If you put your valuables in the trunk, however, be sure not to let others see you.

Having a nice car in the big, bad city need not be a chore. With a bit of planning and foresight, you can enjoy the best of both worlds: the thrill of driving your fancy, new ride and the energy that only a big city can give you. Just watch out for renegade shopping carts at your neighborhood grocery store.