Is It Illegal to Warm Your Car Up in New York If You’re Not Inside?
The weather is getting colder by the day here in New York and winter is quickly approaching. This is the time of year where many New Yorkers, who don't have garages or use street parking, want to warm their cars up before hitting the road. Honestly, who wants to sit in a freezing cold car, waiting for it to warm up? None of us, right? But, in New York State, it's illegal to warm up your car if you're not inside of it. So no, you can't sit in your cozy living room while your car heats up to the perfect 78-degree temperature. Yes, you can get a ticket and be fined for leaving your vehicle unattended while it's running.
Section 1210 of New York's traffic laws state that leaving a vehicle unattended is in fact illegal,
No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the vehicle, and effectively setting the brake thereon and, when standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway, provided, however, the provision for removing the key from the vehicle shall not require the removal of keys hidden from sight about the vehicle for convenience or emergency.
There is an exception. If you have a remote starter in your car, you're OK. That's because the key is not in the ignition and no one can drive away with your vehicle (unless they have the key). If you start the car to warm it up and are standing outside of it cleaning off snow, you may be alright, but it could be up to the discretion of law enforcement.
If you don't have a remote started in your car, you probably won't have a police officer knocking on your door if you're car is warming up in front of your home. But, if you do get caught and an officer is having a bad day, you could be fined. Or worse yet, a thief could steal your car, as New York Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder warns,
“Leaving your key fob in the vehicle or leaving it running while you run into your home or the store are two of the most common factors in vehicle thefts. Don’t make your car an easy target. I urge you to be cautious and always make sure your vehicle is locked and not left running, even for a minute, and never leave your vehicle title or valuables in the car.”
An unattended car warming up in the winter is a prime target for thieves. According to the DMV across NYS, vehicle thefts increased 54 percent from 2019 to 2020.