Travellers are paying hundreds of pounds more for airport parking by driving up on the day, Which? has found.
Which? analysed prices at 16 airport car parks and found eye-watering differences between the prices a traveller could expect to pay for a week’s stay in August on the day versus booking four months in advance. In the most expensive case, Which? found travellers could pay as much as £583 for on the day, week-long bookings.
Overall, the consumer champion has found holidaymakers could stand to save £150 on average with forward planning.The biggest saving was at Manchester Airport’s multi-storey car park, where paying on the day would cost you four times as much (327% more). A week’s stay booked four months in advance was charged at £95, compared with a staggering £406 on the day of departure.
Price differences at Heathrow were similarly eye-watering. While booking four months in advance would cost £190, paying on the day would cost £583 – an increase of 207 per cent.
At Birmingham Airport meanwhile, you’d pay 161 per cent more if booking on the day, taking the price from £150 to £392, and at Gatwick, you could pay 70 per cent more, with the price rising from £106 when booked in advance, to £180.
To get the best possible price, the consumer champion also recommends comparing the cost of on-site and off-park parking.
Being further away and therefore less convenient, off-site parking is often assumed to be the cheapest option. However, when the consumer champion checked prices at 11 airports, it found that on four occasions the on-site option worked out cheaper.
Two car parks at Gatwick’s North and South terminals beat off-site options by £1, and when booked in advance, Luton’s long-stay car park was £3 cheaper than the off-site option. Which? also found examples where on-site parking cost just a few pounds more for the added convenience – for example Stansted’s long stay car park was £77 when booked in advance, compared with £75 at the off-site equivalent.
However, on-site parking does not always have the shortest transfer time. Though Edinburgh’s official ‘Plane Parking’ costs £10 less than the cheapest off-site option, the advertised transfer time is slightly longer than the off-site alternative.
Whatever option you go for, always make sure you do your research before you book. Drivers should look for the Park Mark logo, which is awarded to parking facilities that have been risk assessed and approved by the police. Similarly, if you’re using a meet and greet or valet service, take photos of your vehicle before handing over the keys, as well as of petrol levels and mileage so you can keep tabs on anything amiss. It’s also worth checking if your insurance covers damage to your vehicle at an airport car park, especially if you’re using meet and greet.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“When you’re planning a holiday, sorting out your airport parking can easily slip down your to-list, but our research found leaving it to the last minute can come with a serious financial sting. Take the time to shop around and compare the options on offer – comparison sites can be a great starting point – and book early wherever possible to lock in the best price. It’s also worth comparing off-site and onsite options, as further away doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper.
“It can also be worth considering some more unconventional options like renting someone’s driveway or garage for the duration of your trip – though with less guarantee of your vehicle’s security, this option may not be for everyone.”
Notes to editors:
Research for advance car park dates was carried out between 1-14 April for car park entry dates between 12 -15 August 2023.
Further tips to save on airport parking:
Which? recommends consumers shop around and consider using price comparison sites before booking, particularly as prices can change daily. You’re particularly likely to find deals if you’re willing to be flexible – excluding searches for meet and greet or specific car parks, when Which? carried out spot checks on more than 70 prices across five sites (including booking directly), it found Skypark Secure offered the cheapest prices almost every time.
Use loyalty discounts or sign up to mailing lists
Signing up to mailing lists and loyalty schemes can also yield discounts on airport parking. Gatwick and Manchester Airports for example offer a 10 per cent discount for signing up to their mailing list.
Similarly, travellers can earn loyalty points at Heathrow that can be spent on airport parking. Saving the required points will take time however – after receiving a 100 points as a sign up bonus, you then earn one point for every pound spent. 500 points equals £10 off of parking costs.
Tesco Clubcard also offers £15 off vouchers at airport Parking and Hotels (APH) for every £5 worth of points.
Checking voucher codes websites like myvouchercodes.co.uk is also worthwhile.
Look out for hotel deals
Which? found a week’s parking stay at Heathrow with Blue Circle on the Airparks website for £142, which included a night’s stay in a Premier Inn, and meet and greet services. Blue Circle’s meet and greet service usually costs £130, so you’re getting a night’s hotel stay for just £12.
Just check the Ts&Cs before you book – picking up your car between midnight and 4am levies an extra £50 charge in this specific deal.
– Consider a renting a driveway
Renting a private parking space outside of someone’s home is often cheaper than a conventional car park. You can search for driveway spaces on websites such as JustPark. Which? Researchers found a parking spot for August near Stansted Airport for £28 – a saving of £49 compared with parking on site at the airport.
Renting a private space comes with more risk however, particularly as most driveways won’t offer CCTV or security. You should also consider the practicalities of getting from the parking spot to the airport.
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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