/ 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?

Andrew Nicholas says:
6 July 2011

We now always park on-site. Never had any problems with this. The one time we stayed at a Gatwick hotel with free parking the car park was utterly jammed with cars and we managed to find the only space left. The hotel reception staff were rude and the hotel had only one shuttle bus which was too small to accomodate everyone waiting to get to and from the airport. On our return to Gatwick the bus was full and we had to wait an hour for it to return. We believed the driver when he said another would be along soon but, as we found out, there was only one bus. Result – never again.

When flying from Manchester airport, we always use the Shuttle Park. It is some distance from the terminal buildings, but the buses run about every 10 minutes and we have never had to wait long. We always book in advance and have found the prices very reasonable e.g. in January we paid £45.99 for 2 weeks. The only problem we have had is when last September we arrived at the car park only to be told it was full, even though we had pre-booked. We were given directions to a car park at Terminal 2 and told how to avoid any further charges. Fortunately we had allowed plenty of time, but be aware that pre-booking does not guarantee you a spot at your chosen car park.

Jon Lloyd says:
7 July 2011

When flying from Bristol, we’ve been using Goblin Combe Farm parking. Its just down the raod from the airport and the transfer time is abot 5-8 mins. Nerver, ever had a problem, always courteous, always on time for pick-ups – highly recomend!
Also note that Bristol don’t charge for drop-off/pick-ups (I think is 15mins max).

Rod says:
5 August 2011

I parked at Stansted for 28 minutes at the pick-up point on Friday night 29th july from 23.42 till 00.10 Sat 30th july (28 minutes) and was charged £15.00.
The concurrent period being 18 minutes Friday and the first 10 minutes Saturday.
Can this charge be justified?

diana says:
5 September 2011

any one any tips for Luton airport the costs there have rocketed

Flying from Manchester june/july 2 weeks We used JETPARKS 1&2 We parked on 2 found a spot & on the shuttle Bus in &out no trouble quick service ,allow a bit of time for parking £58 all in 2 weeks good

Robert says:
12 September 2011

If anyone is flying from Gatwick I can definitely recommend staying at a hotel the night before that offers parking packages included in the rate, or at least reduced priced parking. We recently flew from Gatwick and used gatwick parking to book our accommodation and parking. We found it a lot easier than driving to the airport on the morning.

Tony Norwell says:
10 October 2011

I was charged (at Gatwick South Terminal) £184 for fifteen days’ parking. I think this is absolutely outrageous and have complained to, among others, my MP. I wonder if anyone knows of a way of legally avoiding paying these extortionate charges?

Enrique says:
13 January 2012

I’ve used a variety of on/off site Airport Parking options and Meet and Greet over the years. For convenience, but not price the Meet and Greet at Terminal 5, Heathrow was the best service as the driver arrived at the alloted time and the car returned to the allocated area in arrival with no damage to the car and no ‘extra miles added’. When travelling through Bristol used the Silver Zone although could do with an upgrade of the parking facilites given the closeness to the airport and the number of users. For Gatwick always use On-site parking and in recent years, Summer Special Car Parking and never had a problem whats-so-ever. Although advertised as for the North Terminal only, when using the South Terminal, just take the shuttle ride back to the North Terminal – simplies!!!

I have found meet and greet cheaper at stansted than parking in the Long Stay. The problem is: Airports are losing revenue through fewing passengers so they are recouping charges by increasing parking charges. They are unsympathic and never, never answer a complaint. They are worse than the newly voted (wooded spoon) Talk talk.

Gwyneth Ward says:
1 August 2012

Trying to get the best price for parking at Newcastle airport – what a nightmare . Every time I go onto a site the price has changed dramatically. Does anybody have any tips i.e. best site to use and any promotional discount codes. Thanks in anticipation

See this discussion with codes:


Unless staying in a hotel for an early flight I have always used the official on-site parking very very convenient and reasonable

Jon Medcalf says:
26 September 2014

Recently parked for 4 days at Leeds Bradford Airport, and was unable to use card on exit which had pre-booked a £28.00 stay. No-one around to help at car-park exit or in airport, so could only use another payment card, which then cost me £111.
The only phone line promises FAQs on the website which aren’t there, is pre-recorded and promises a reply in 5 working days (what if your query is under 5 days ?). it’s a high-tariff line and takes 9 rings before the automated message kicks in, which in turn is a 2min message.
It’s all stacked to milk the customer excessively (when compared to other Northern airports)….

After many years parking at airports I now use a taxi. So much more relaxing for pick-up from home and airport. Also, I am now able to choose a different airport for departure and return making use of more convenient flight times and the most economical fares.

Taximan says:
18 February 2015

Leeds Bradford Airport continues by increasing there charge to drop someone off to £3 pounds, I was there today for no longer than 1 min and it cost me £3 pounds, why do they do it ? Because they can, and if it’s not legislated it will continue to increase, not happy rrrr

I would fully concur with the above with respect to Off Site parking. I delivered a working car to APH at Gatwick. On my return they stated I had a problem with my Starter Motor and they got it working. However a couple of miles down the road my car broke down and from investigations by the RAC, a local garage I was towed to, they found a problem with the main battery lead. Everybody else, with the exception of APH, that includes a main dealer, agreed that the only way the lead was damaged was by incorrect polarity connecting a Jump Start.

I have had several emails between myself and APH but they still bury their head in the sand and do not acknowledge they were at fault.

In future I will use On-site parking where I keep my keys or like I will be using shortly, Gatwick Flyaway with First Great Western where I will let the Train take the strain and it is far cheaper with 4 adults travelling.

sonia says:
1 July 2015

Hi we used a airport parking company called mg15.co.uk airport parking gatwick last weekend that had our car for 3 days and i must what a fantastic service there was no waiting around the driver was there when i arrived he booked the car in and he was so polite then on return our car was returned 10 mins after i phoned and they even washed it free of charge and it was really muddy when i dropped it off , i was that impressed iv already booked with them again next month just a shame they only operate from gatwick

paul says:
7 July 2015

mg15.co.uk airport parking gatwick is a great company i have used them 3 times in the last 6 weeks and each time such a fab service and each time my car as come back extra clean and no waiting around , well done mg15 see you in a few weeks

Claire says:
1 March 2016

Find nearest town with a coach service to airport, park in a council estate with free parking.
Pasty connect, or walk in on road having parked on that abandoned road nearby

pete says:
15 April 2016

I parked at Bristol last Summer, left my keys in the parking drop off office. and got the free bus to the terminal. On return got the free bus back to the car park, collected my keys and was told my car location. When getting to the car it was damaged so went back to the office to make a claim for damage. They took photos and filled in a report. All good, until you register the claim online and by phone, no one to talk to, very unhelpful staff and little response by email. It took from June until October to get agreement for repairing my vehicle and it was only then done as a goodwill gesture rather than owning up to their negligence. Won’t be using on airport parking at Bristol again

Lisa says:
9 June 2016

Avoid MBW Parking.
We suffered damage on both sides of our car which didn’t have a mark on it when we left. I also suspect significant addition of mileage.
I have found MBW to provide a shoddy service and morally corrupt. It was an awful end to a holiday. The damage is still not fixed as we can afford this and our car is now significantly devalued. MBW do not care.