If You Drive, You Have to Park. Watch Out for These Hidden Parking Expenses

The next time you’re budgeting for car expenses, don’t forget to include something that’s easy to overlook.

Parking fees and fines.

A new survey by transportation-analytics service INRIX revealed that Americans spent on average more than $3,000 each on parking-related costs in 2017.

That includes anticipated expenses like buying a parking permit or sticking quarters in a meter.

But the figure also includes what INRIX calls “hidden costs.” That’s when you spend money on parking but get nothing in return.

Here’s an example. Parking space is at a premium here in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, so The Penny Hoarder picks up the tab for passes that allow us to park in nearby garages. (One of our many awesome job perks.)  

One morning the gate at my garage failed to open, so I parked at a nearby pay-as-you-go garage instead.

The fee wasn’t too bad — $5 for the whole day. The trouble is, the garage took only cash.

I never carry cash (except for the two lint-covered nickels in the bottom of my purse), so I skipped over to the ATM to pull out a few bucks to pay my parking tab.

First, I got hit with a $5 withdrawal fee from the ATM because I wasn’t a bank customer. Then my own bank slapped me with a $5 charge for using an out-of-network ATM.

In the end, I paid a 300% markup on my $5 parking charge because of bank fees!

It also cost me a surprise $15 I wasn’t expecting to spend that week.

Now I budget some extra cash in the auto-expenses column on my spreadsheet so I have some wiggle room when my parking plans go sideways.  

But parking fees aren’t the only place hidden parking costs lurk.

“Drivers [also] waste time and fuel searching for that elusive parking spot, and they waste money overpaying for parking (like when a lot has a two-hour rate but you only need 30 minutes),” said Graham Cookson, chief economist and head of research at INRIX.

While you’re searching for hidden car costs, don’t forget about things like vehicle emissions testing fees and specialty tires or premium fuel that your car may need.

You can also keep car ownership costs down by doing your own vehicle repairs and buying the right kind of insurance to fit your needs.

Car expenses are a pain in my neck, but I won’t be able to trade my keys for a bicycle anytime soon. Meanwhile, you’d better believe I keep five bucks on me at all times for emergency parking fees — and emergency ice cream cones.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. #TeamChocolateChip