/ Motoring, Travel & Leisure

Do you avoid official airport car parks to save money?

Airport parking

Prices for airport parking can be sky-high unless you book in advance. Apart from pre-booking, you can save more cash by leaving your car several miles from the terminal. But is it worth it for a few pounds?

Airport parking prices can vary wildly depending on which car park you choose and when you pay for it. For instance, a week in a long-stay car park at Heathrow could see you paying anything from £59 to £115, or £345 if you were foolish enough to leave it in short-stay!

The key way to save money on parking is to book in advance. In Which? Travel’s latest research, we found that on-site airport parking was often twice as cheap if you pre-booked instead of paying on arrival.

At Manchester airport, parking was three times cheaper – £30 instead of £90 for a week in August – if pre-booked. Then again, this cheaper car park was admittedly further from the terminal than the usual long-stay car park.

On-site versus off-site airport parking

As you’d probably expect, in most of our examples at 13 UK airports, the cheapest deals tended to be at private car parks outside the airport grounds.

But the savings were still fairly minimal. At Gatwick, you’d pay £52 at Cophall Farm Parking, a 10-minute drive away – just £7 less than booking at an official airport car park. And at four of the airports, it was actually cheaper to park on-site. At Stansted, the cheapest on-site deal was £46 – a striking £22 less than the cheapest we found off-site.

In each case though, the on-site deal was more restrictive, with no amendments, refunds or cancellations allowed. Plus, it can take just as long to reach the terminal from the cheapest on-site car parks as from some off-site rivals.

The perils of parking off-site

So is it worth avoiding an airport’s official car parks for the sake of a few pounds?

Many of the private off-site car parks arrange quick transfers to the terminal and have good security measures – but not all do. Security is also likely to be an issue for individuals offering their own driveways as parking spaces, as suggested on websites like ParkatmyHouse.com.

Meet and Greet services can be competitively priced, but I’m not sure I like the thought of a stranger driving away in my pristine car to goodness-knows-where. When we picked up our car last year after using this service, it had gained mud on the driver’s footwell and the car’s rear-wheel arch, along with a mysterious 22 miles on the clock…

Near-airport hotel car park deals can also be cost-effective, if you’re willing to stay the night before your flight. But it’s not necessarily plain-sailing – a friend who recently did this said it was mayhem. When she returned, the car park was rammed, with cars parked on the grass verges due to the lack of space. Let’s just say she had a nightmare getting out.

What are your views and experiences of paying for airport parking? Do you pay a little more to park on-site, or are you willing to leave your car on private driveways that might be miles away from the terminal?


This comment was removed at the request of the user

MBW do state you need to photograph your vehicle prior to Departure on all of their paperwork to be fair. I use them all the time and whilst I was unsure at first, it makes sense. Their staff haven’t seen the car before and can’t be expected to pick up on every single nick and dent. Their vehicle checks are called cursory checks (check for bald tyres, broken lights and such) and it is all made very clear on signing their form. Truth is, if you can’t be bothered to read the paperwork and haven’t read terms when you made the booking, you’ve only yourself to blame.
They are Police and Park Mark Accredited and have a great service with hardworking staff, management has always responded to my concerns and I have no problem recommending MBW’s Heathrow Meet and Greet Service.

Derrickjayson says:
28 September 2016

Thank you so much for sharing your information. We are working on some materials that cover many of these challenges. I’ll be sure to tag you when we get them published. Thank you again for engaging with us. You got this!

Paul R says:
16 February 2018

I am surprised that Which has not done a surevy of airport parking. It is a bit of a minefield and I am sure many members would appreciate your views.