How I'm cutting the cost of parking

14 February 2011

Fortunately for me I don't have to get too hung up on the rising cost of petrol. I do very little long distance driving so a tank lasts me a fair while. But that’s not to say I’m not feeling the pinch of the rising costs of driving. My real bugbear is the cost of parking.

Whether it’s driving into town, the station on my way into work, even one of the supermarkets I use, I regularly have to stump up some cash to park. And I’m not talking spare local train station charges £6.20 for the day and prices everywhere are going up, up and up. According to over the last year car parking prices are up an average 12.5% across the UK.

It’s not just the the amount that infuriates me it’s how difficult car parks make it to pay. Some ticket machines offer the facility to pay by more card, but more often than not they’re faulty. And if I do have to pay cash the machines don’t accept notes or give change so I have to come prepared with the exact amount.

In 2011 I feel ticket machines should be a little more sophisticated, but let’s face it, the companies that run these car parks have no incentive to improve them - as it just means more cash for them. And they claim they’re making life easier for us by offering the chance to pay by card over the phone but there’s always an additional charge for this.

So, my - somewhat belated - news year’s resolution is to cut the amount I spend on the privilege of parking. I’ve made a good start so far by finding a few roads close to the train station where I can park for free. Ok, it does mean a 10 minute walk but I do find it’s a great opportunity to clear my head before work. And it doesn’t add too much to my total journey time because I miss the worst of the traffic and save a minute or two on all that faffing around with the ticket machine.

I’m also trying to use the bus a bit more for going into town. Unfortunately the savings aren’t quite as much as I’d hoped but I have discovered that it saves on hassle - with no more worrying about moving a sleeping toddler from his car seat into his buggy or vice versa. And if I walk in and only get the bus home I can save a bit more and get a bit of much needed exercise.

Another new discovery is the AA’s iphone parking app which, for £1.79, allows you to shop around for the cheapest car parks either by entering an address or based on your current location. You can get directions and in some cases it will tell you whether or not spaces are available.

It will be impossible to cut my parking costs to zero but if I can manage to at least avoid the station car park I can potentially save the best part of £20 a week and that’s certainly a result to be pleased with.