/ Motoring, Travel & Leisure

Airport car parks – what’s the damage?

Colourful cars parked in a row

Convenience, cost or safety – what’s top of your priority list when parking at an airport or using a meet-and-greet service? Are you confident that your car won’t be mistreated or stolen while you’re away?

Leave your car at an airport’s official car park and you may have to fork out more than the cost of the airfare if you pay at the airport. A week’s stay at Heathrow now costs from £120.

You can of course make considerable savings by booking in advance. In Which? Travel’s latest research, we found that on-site airport parking can be three times as cheap if you pre-booked instead of paying at the airport. Birmingham airport’s long-stay parking for seven days cost £28 pre-booked, compared with £85 if you chose to turn up and pay.

Private off-site car parks often – but not always – cost even less, although the distance from the terminal can make this less  convenient.

Extra cost is worth the convenience

Our Conversation on the subject last summer provoked a wide range of comments on the merits and frustrations of using on-site or off-site car parks, as well as meet-and-greet services.

Alan told us he’s tried various parking options at the London airports:

‘I personally find the few extra pounds to park on-site good value for money. I have never had trouble getting to the car in good time which is a bonus, especially after a long and tiresome flight.’

Derek Gough was unhappy with his experiences of both on-site and off-site car parks:

‘One off-site parking company directed me into a field where I got stuck in the mud in my 10 day old car. Another site had my car blocked in on my return and the attendant refused to move the offending car!’

Can you trust the car park operator?

Several of the comments showed that the cost of parking isn’t always the main bugbear. Dave handed his shiny new car over to a parking attendant near East Midlands airport, telling us:

‘On my return the car had gained 15 miles on the clock, all the radio stations had been changed as well as seating position.’

Another commenter, David, found his car had been badly damaged while parked near an airport hotel.

‘The hotel claimed it wasn’t their responsibility, they claimed that it had been hit by the airport transfer coach, a separate company. The airport coach company denied this…I ended up having to claim this on my insurance and pay my own excess.’

We do have some legal rights as all aspects of the service have to be carried out with reasonable care and skill. The important thing to check is the terms and conditions before choosing the operator, just to see what liability they might try to avoid. It’s also worth checking your car insurance policy to see if they would pay out on a claim for damage caused by a car park employee who isn’t a named driver on the policy.

Do you trust off-site car parks or would you rather pay a little more to park closer to the terminal?


Thanks for alerting us to the problem. It is reasonable to expect a car park operator is insured for damage caused after the user has left their car in their care.

It would be interesting to examine the terms and conditions of major operators or to have some feedback from their representatives.

The introduction states that … on-site airport parking can be three times as cheap if you pre-booked …. That’s a horrible way of saying ‘a third of the price’. 🙂

Always check your terms & conditions, if you don’t you might as well park up in a local village street and take a cab!
Many years ago I did some car delivery work, [for extra cash and a chance to test out lots of new high end cars]. This involved a lot of deliveries to and from Airports.
I can only say be very careful with whosoever you choose, as all car park operators are not the same and there only has to be 1 rouge employee working for a few days, to cause mayhem with any operator.

From Gatwick I use Copthall Farm as they seem the best and in 10 years I have only had one slight scrape on one side of the car, [it was a massive Merc Limo and a little T cut & elbow grease put it right] which I didn’t make too much fuss about, as I know just how difficult it is to park that monster.
It is far better, if possible to pay a friend to get you there and arrange for someone to pick you up.

I used Meteor Parking at Stansted, booking on line. When we arrived at the terminal, the driver gave me a receipt for the car (I had to sign his copy) and off we went. While on holiday I read the lengthy Terms & Conditions which said Meteor were not responsible for damage, but if they were, compensation would be limited to £50. This seemed unfair in the event of their driver writing off my car with no other vehicle involved. I emailed Meteor and, after several exchanges of messages, they eventually conceded that in the event of them wrecking my car, I would get the value in compensation. I wrote to Essex County Trading standards (the local authority for Stansted), they passed me on to Norfolk TS and they told me Sussex TS were dealing with this problem nationwide, and they would pass on my complaint. Not too satisfactory an outcome to an Unfair Terms & Conditions issue!

Laura Jackson says:
27 April 2012

Some airport parking companies seem to have improved their processes with regards to recording/acccepting liability for damage on vehicles. We used a company called Stress Free PArking recently and they had did a vehicle once-over with a damage sheet like you get when you hire a car. When we were happy with the sheet, we signed it off and got a copy. When we got the car back it was fine, but the point is that there could be no dispute as to whehter the damage was pre-existing or not if it hadn’t been. Seems sensible and perhaps all parking companies should adopt the same approach?

William says:
27 April 2012

Take a look at Jersey airport, where parking costs a flat 70 p per hour, so £117.60 for a week, and there is no possibility of booking ahead and getting a reduction. You can confirm this on the Jersey airport website.

Carla Firman says:
27 April 2012

I have used Airparks at Luton Airport twice in the last 12 months. Last year was a panic as my daughter was late arriving at my house (in Suffolk) and it was a mad dash to the carpark – as buses only run every 20 minutes, and we had just missed one, I had to pay £20 for an attendant to drive my car to and from the airport and drop us there. There was little else I could do, or we would have missed our flight. However, this year we stayed overnight at a hotel and arrived in plenty of time, to find the site had been smartened up and was extremely efficient. The buses still run every 20 minutes, but if you arrive in good time, you’re ok. The site is 5 miles from the airport, but I would happily use it again.

What really annoys me is having to pay for ‘parking’ while just picking up an arriving passenger.This happens at Manchester airport where you are forced to go into the short stay park at the airport ‘arrivals’- and then pay £2.10 to get out after just a few minutes!

However, it is possible to get round this by picking an arriving passenger up at ‘Departures’ instead, and with the help of your mobile phones this can be done with no waiting- an essential tactic.

Steve says:
27 April 2012

Bournemouth Airport is another example of the sharp practice of airport operators charging to drop-off or collect passengers. £2.50 for the pleasure of accessing the terminal, and no provision made for pedestrian access.

Maggie Whyte says:
27 April 2012

We used Airpark Glasgow for the last time in October 2010. Arrived Glasgow airport 21:35 phoned airpark collected luggage and walked to pick up point. It was raining. Bus arrived. Too many people for bus so had to wait on the next one. Bus arrived and told to wait for any latecomers. Valet driver arrived he had had a row with his manager and wasted no time in telling the bus driver in the foulist language possible. He had to be told to mind his language by a passenger.Bus eventually left airport for airpark having picked up no additional passengers. We left the airpark at 00:02 almost 2 hours after landing. NEVER AGAIN

pgw says:
27 April 2012

Stansted Parking….pre-booked a week in mid-stay (in advance) for £47.50 (BAA.Advance)
Slight change to flights and had to amend the times by one hour, additional charge.£25.75.
and i had to change to the Long-Term-Parking.
BAA. have not answered my emails

David Green says:
1 May 2012

Going back to the comment made by Lauren Jackson above – we’ve used Stress Free Parking a number of times at both Heathrow and Luton and it’s a pretty good service made even better by their car hire style waiver system that prevents any dispute over damages caused to the car whilst in their care. Looking at their website – this company does appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the meet and greet operators at the moment.

Marhouse says:
2 May 2012

I would advice everyone who parks and handle their car key over, to write down your mileage a tell them you did so or even hand it over with your car key.
We parked with Caphall Farm Parking (Gatwick), when returned we found that our van had over hundred miles more on the clock…! Complains were made, but we are still waiting for explanation year later.

John Gardiner says:
6 February 2013

We used Purple Parking at Brent Road Southall recently for our flight from Heathrow,we zeroed the 2 trips ,on our return there was 23.4 miles on the clock .we made a complaint with dated photographic evidence but only received unco-operative , obstructive and unsympathetic replies.This has left us extremely unsatisfied with Purple Parking and would advise anyone NOT TO USE Purple Parking .If you must , make sure you leave a note with the keys of the recorded mileage.

Southampton airport dropoff/pickup goes from bad to worse in September (see quote)

.Are the £20m in investments in its security, arrivals and departure areas making taking and collecting people to/from the airport worse? Perhaps because those passengers linger at the airport least? The investments in the retail area are for passengers who have to wait around more, and spend more money at the airport?

“A number of changes are being made to the parking and pick-up and drop-off facilities at Southampton Airport, as part of a full review of all facilities on offer.
The existing free pick-up and drop-off area at Southampton Airport is moving to the long stay car park and will offer 30 minutes of parking for free. Passengers can catch the airport shuttle bus down to the main terminal which takes around 3-5 minutes and runs every 10-12 minutes. (i.e. allow 20 minutes!)
Passengers looking to be dropped off closer to the main terminal can choose to be dropped off in the Priority pick-up and drop-off area in the short stay car park where there will be a £1 fee for 10 minutes.
Between 2010 and 2015 the airport invested over £20m in redevelopments and in the last year alone, has invested significant amounts in its security, arrivals and departure areas as well as new shuttle buses.
The money raised from these parking changes will be reinvested and support future investment of Southampton Airport as it looks to the future and reaching the 2 million passenger milestone.”

Gary says:
3 March 2018

Airport parking / drop fees need to be regulated.
Until the incident at Glasgow airport there were no charges to drop off and since then airports have taken advantage and charges has rocketed.