/ 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?


no more of a ripoff than railway station car parks, which used to be free

David says:
1 July 2011

I did a stay and park at a large hotel near Gatwick about a year ago. On return the car had been badly damaged whilst parked. The hotel claimed it wasn’t their responsibility, they claimed that it had been hit by the airport transfer coach, a seperate company. The airport coach company denied this, leaving me as “pig in the middle”. After much correspondance I ended up having to claim this on my insurance and pay my own excess.

Needless to say I won’t be doing anything like this in the future and I would recommend others to be similarly cautious. Security isn’t the only issue, it could be that you return to an undrivable car!

Eric G. Knowles says:
1 July 2011

I have used various systems when leaving my car at an airport. E.g., havng it picked up at the terminal and returned, off site parking, B&B with parking and on-site parking. My favourite now is to park at the airport. If I can book in advance I do so and hence reduce the costs. Having the car brought to the terminal on return invoked a considerable delay. Off-site parking required an additional 3/4 hour for travel between the car park and the terminal. On-site parking means that I am at the car within 15 minutes of leaving the terminal building. That is important to me after a long journey and I just want to get home.

Martin says:
1 July 2011

My understanding is, though I have never been able to verify it, that security from theft and vandalism is better off airport. I believe it should be obligatory for car parks to display police statistics about this so clients can make a judgement.

PETER says:
1 July 2011

I recently had to park in the Short Stay car park at Edinburgh Airport while picking somebody up.
I was in there for 8mins. (from barrier to barrier) the cost was £2.10 ie 26.25p per min.=15.75per hr.
or £126 for 8hrs. Never again!!!

joan ballard says:
1 July 2011

Bournemouth Airport used to have reasonable parking charges, not any more — prices have doubled so we started parking off site very successfully at ‘parkonmydrive’, Now however they charge an astronomical £2.50 just to drop off and the same again to pick up. This mean and unfriendly airport combined with the poor service of Ryanair have forced us to change our regular flights to Spain and we now use Luton or Bristol airports who offer a choice of airlines and cheaper parking.

I often leave my car at Bristol airport for periods of up to 7 weeks. I book in advance. What I cannot understand is that a 6 week period in the summer costs £90 but the same period in the winter is £180. No prices are published of course and being a regular customer means nothing. I have decided to transfer my custom to a local taxi service.

I found that using a on-site hotel’s Park & Fly deal to be well worth the money as far as stress reduction is concerned. No more worrying about motorway blockages or punctures.

I’ve also often found discount codes via the Money saving expert Forums which have given large discounts when parking at Newcastle Airport .

Gwyneth Ward says:
1 August 2012

Can you tell me which money saving forums you have used as I have got a few discount codes from the internet but when I try to use them I always get the same response – not valid

Kevin says:
1 July 2011

A couple of years ago I arranged a Hotel/Car Parking deal at Manchester, I had an early morning flight so I thought this would be a great idea with a good saving combined. I got parked okay but as we arrived at 8pm we noticed that a wedding reception was underway it was already loud in the reception area and was even worse in our room, right above the dance floor! So I asked to be moved to a quieter room but there were none, so I asked the receptionist what time the partying would go on until and she informed me that the music would be turned down at around 11pm then end completely by 12:30-1am. I started complaining about the extreme noise at 12pm but it did no good at all.
The music and noise carried on to almost 01:45am. Then we had to put up with the drunken and loud guests going back to their rooms leaving us a maximum sleep time of two and a half hours but in reality we felt like we had none!
l now always ring the venue before booking to find out what sort of accomodation they are and avoid any potential partying repeats. Its no joke having to put up with that sort of thing when you have to get up for the earlier flights.

Mike says:
1 July 2011

When travelling via Belfast International use KARL CAR PARKING. All hard standing. Park the car yourself and keep the keys whilst away. Best of all by far.

Alan says:
1 July 2011

I have tried almost all the options for parking at Gatwick , Heathrow and Stansted.Each have their merits. However overall I personally find the few extra pounds to park onsite 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.I did park at one off site hotel at Gatwick and like a previous comment. It was a nightmare trying to get out of the carpark which was absolutely jammed with cars left all over the place with neither organisation nor control of any kind. Never again.
Better still – GET THE TRAIN.!!

Carol says:
1 July 2011

I always use Meet & Greet parking at Heathrow & Gatwick. I have done for many years with great success, I have found the staff very polite, always there on time and the joy when returning from an overnight long haul to just climb in the car. If you book it through the RAC site if you are a member you get a great discount and with that and booking in advance it is no more expensive that any other form of parking.

Steve says:
1 July 2011

Never mind parking – Leeds Bradford charge £2.00 for just dropping someone off. Now that is a rip off.

Pat says:
1 July 2011

Used onsite at Birmingham which was great – terminal to car in about 5 mins. At Gatwick we always use APH, an off-airport ‘secured by design’ car park. Stay at hotel night before, then park & go. May look at on airport if costs are quite different, but at least staying overnight means not having to get up at 02:00h for an early flight. Oh, one thing though, no point booking B&B as you’ll be long gone before they even start cooking 🙂

A few years ago I used a holiday parking facility close to the site of East Midlands airport. I handed my keys to the attendant who then shot off like a Boy Racer in my shiny new car spray gravel everywhere as he went. On my return a week later the car had gained 15 miles on the clock, all the radio stations had been changed as well as seating position, mirrors etc etc. It was only the fierce “take me home” look on my partners face that stopped me complaining as otherwise the care (hopefully) seemed fine. I’ve never used parking since where you have to leave your keys. I recently used the pre booked on site long stay facility at Gatwick and was pleased with how easy and convenient it was. I also got a reasonable discount for booking in advance. Even better you get to keep your keys!!! Otherwise I’d rather use public transport to get to the airport but that’s not always cheap or convenient.

Jane says:
2 July 2011

My parents introduced me to Cophall Farm Parking at Gatwick many years ago when it was a small operation. The journey to it and then the airport is by pleasant country lanes and makes a good start to any holiday. The staff are always courteous and helpful, even though they have expanded. It is still family run and they have obviously invested in their business in recent years, installing security barriers and improving the hard standing. On one occasion I was travelling alone and returned in the middle of an icy winter night, to find my car wouldn’t start. I eventually called a breakdown service and one of the family was very kind whilst I waited, supplying me with coffee. On another occasion when I was late due to the M25 being closed, the daughter of the family dropped everything an took me straight away to the airport, and offered me the use of her phone. I am glad they are successful and will continue to use them for their personal service,

This may sound stupid but all options for parking or travelling to the airport when you fly abroad have more minuses than pluses. If you are going for a long weekend all on or offsite parking could be Ok – and -in the case of Bristol Airport if you live in Wales you have to consider 2 x S.S.C. tollls in the equation. When I left my car in the Silver Zone in the airport a couple of winters ago I waited about 20 minutes for the bus walked about half a mile to my car and then took about 20 minutes to defrost it to make it safe for driving. 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 until I semi – threatened him !
You cannot win – do not fly away if you do not want any hassle.

Viv lee says:
5 July 2011

This year we decided to stay overnight in a hotel flying from B’ham as it was the same price to stay for a night and park for a week. It was relatively easy, though were hanging around a bit waiting for the free transfer taxi as our plane arrived back early!!

I have use MBW valet parking at Heathrow each year over about 4 years. They are among the cheapest but have been efficient, reasonably prompt, had friendly drivers, returned the car undamaged and with quite low added milage each time. I intend to use them again this year.

We had to fly from Gatwick in November 2009, living in the west midlands we were faced with an early start or traveling the night before – which won the day. This turned out to be a great option – low stress, a decent night’s sleep and a great deal that included parking for 2 weeks. Since then we now go the night before – even to our local airport, Birmingham, it was cheaper to have an off-airport hotel room with parking, than 2 weeks parking elsewhere – using the Mystery 4 star deal.