Parking Tickets Suck — But Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Pay Them

I suppose nearly all of us have battled — or reluctantly paid — a parking ticket.

Most recently, I nabbed one in Denver for parking outside the white parallel parking line — just a few inches, mind you.

I resisted paying because I was moving back to Florida. Who cares if I have an unpaid parking ticket in my soon-to-be former state?

The $25 ticket increased to $50. I know, I know. It was $25, but that’s valuable grocery money for a recent graduate. Then I received another warning to my home address in Florida.

Ugh, I paid.

But what would have happened if I’d simply lived on the edge and not paid? #rebel

What Happens When You Don’t Pay a Parking Ticket?

First things first, always remember: Parking tickets aren’t the same as traffic tickets.

John McCurley, owner of McCurley Law and legal editor of Nolo, explains the main difference: Parking tickets don’t go on your driving record.

“Parking tickets also usually involve lower fines and no possibility of jail time,” McCurley says. “Jail is possible for some traffic violations.”

Whew: I wouldn’t have had to call my dad to come bail me out if I hadn’t paid.

But what about car insurance? McCurley says parking tickets won’t affect that either.

To be certain, I reached out to my car insurance agent, Tom Hendry of Tom Hendry Insurance Agency in St. Petersburg, Florida. He’s been in the biz for 31 years and has never seen a parking ticket affect the price of insurance.

However, the answers get murkier from here. Of course, when it comes to U.S. law, nothing’s easy.

Basically, your consequences will vary by city and state.

McCurley says the usual consequences include the doubling or tripling of fines, boots (not the pretty kind) or your ticket gets sent to collections.

Now that I’m living in St. Petersburg, I got in touch with Keith Glasgow, the city’s parking enforcement coordinator.

From experience, parking tickets here are typically $25. If it’s not paid within 14 days, the fine increases to $40.

From there, parking services sends out reminders at 30, 60 and 90 days. If the city still hasn’t received a payment, your ticket will be sent to a collection agency within 90 to 120 days.

You’ll also get a hold on your license tag, which means you won’t be able to renew it and will probably get pulled over.

Glasgow continues: If you rack up three or more tickets, your car will get booted — and that can’t be undone until you pay.

However, the real issue happens when that ticket goes to collections.

Glasgow says he’s had people call him: “I’m trying to get a house, but I have this parking ticket,” he impersonates. “Can you please take it off?”

I thought, sure, this parking guy is trying to intimidate all of us who are lazy and don’t pay, but sources such as NerdWallet and The Huffington Post confirm these nightmares.

Glasgow’s suggestion to avoid this — and messing with officials like him? Pay the ticket for goodness sake — even if it’s in collections. This can improve your credit score, according to Credit Sesame, though there’s no guarantees.

Anthony Sprauve, senior consumer credit specialist at FICO, told the Chicago Tribune that by paying it off, lenders will see you made good on your debt. However, it won’t just go away. That takes time.

If you’re interested in how your city or state handles tickets, you can probably find that information online. Just search for your city’s transportation department.

How Can I Fight My Parking Ticket?

Yeah, yeah — the parking ticket you got the other day is unfair. But what if it’s actually unfair?

McCurley says another main difference between traffic and parking violations is that you usually fight parking tickets via mail versus going to court. (Thankfully.)

He says usually you need some proof of why you’re not guilty — “things like photos and copies of parking permits,” he says. “Explanations of why you broke the law usually won’t cut it.”

Think: “But I was running late for a job interview!” or “Seriously? I was parked for 5 minutes!”

You can also see if your town has a fancy parking ticket chatbot to fight the battle for you.

As far as my circumstance goes, McCurley says he doesn’t think states have any mechanism for out-of-state parking violators. So, I probably could have gotten away with not paying my ticket.

I’ll just think of that $50 check as a departing present to my favorite city: Denver.

Your Turn: Ever tried to wriggle your way out of a parking ticket?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents. She hates parking tickets almost as much as she hates roaches.