Are you paying too much for airport parking?

Emma Woollacott
B155PA Underground parking garage. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown. parking; garage; car; underground; arrow; architecture;
B155PA Underground parking garage. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown. parking; garage; car; underground; arrow; architecture;

Holiday-makers jetting off to the sun from Luton Airport are paying three times as much for car parking as those that travel from Exeter.

Car insurance firm Admiral checked out on-site parking for a two-week break in the summer holidays, starting on Saturday 22 July, and found huge variations in cost.

The most expensive was Luton Airport, where a two-week stay at the standard on-site car park came in at £191. Meanwhile, the equivalent car parking space at Exeter Airport cost just £65.

And there were even price discrepancies between different terminals at the same airport, with a stay at Gatwick North costing £175 compared to a bill of £167 at Gatwick South.

Similarly, at Heathrow, a stay at Terminals 2, 3 and 4 is priced at £146, but is £10 more at Terminal 5.

"We all know that an overseas holiday in the summer time can be costly but our investigation has revealed that holidaymakers can end up feeling short changed before they've even boarded the plane," says head of service at Admiral Alistair Hargreaves.

"This study demonstrates that airport parking prices are a postcode lottery with extortionate price discrepancies for the same 2.4m-wide car parking space, depending on where you are flying from."

Similar price differences show up with VIP parking and on-site premium valet service. For example, you'll have to pay £629 for two weeks at Gatwick's North Terminal – nine times more than at East Midlands Airport, where you can find the cheapest premium car parking at £68.

See also: The airports where it's cheaper to park a plane than a car

See also: Are airport lounges worth the money?

And even 15-minute drop-offs can be hugely variable in price: £8.50 at London Stansted, while six airports offer a free 15-minute stay.

"By planning ahead and researching other car parking options, such as those off-site and factoring these prices in to the total cost of the holiday before booking anything, consumers can make sure there are no surprises," says Hargreaves.

So how can you keep down the cost?

Consider where to fly from
First, clearly, it makes sense to consider whether you can travel from a different airport, assuming flight prices remain the same. Check the airports' websites to compare official onsite parking prices – you'll need the exact dates and times to get an accurate price.

Even booking just a couple of days in advance can bring the cost down. Prices vary, but at Heathrow, for example, it can cut the cost by half.

Don't assume basic parking is cheaper
At East Midlands Airport, the meet-and-greet premium price was more than £40 cheaper than standard long-stay parking with a 5 to 7-minute walk to the terminal; meanwhile, in Birmingham 'premium' parking cost just £1 extra.

Look off-site
Check out offsite parking options through price comparison sites: they're often less than half the price.

Look for hotels that offer free parking. By staying just one night, you may be able to get free parking for the whole of your trip, at much the same cost as the official airport rate.

Consider getting a taxi instead. Most firms do special airport rates that can be cheaper than leaving the car for a fortnight.

Cost of two weeks' parking in August
1. Luton: £191
2. London City: £181
3. Gatwick North: £175
4. Gatwick South: £167
5. London Stansted: £159
6. Heathrwo T5: £156
7. Heathrow T2, T3, T4: £146
8. Birmingham: £132
9. East Midlands: £110
10. Norwich: £108
11. Edinburgh: £106
12. Bristol: £101
13. Southampton: £93
14=. London Southend: £92
14=. Aberdeen: £92
16. Glasgow: £90
17. Leeds/Bradford: £87
18. Doncaster: £83
19. Belfast City: £81
20. Newcastle: £80
21. Glasgow Prestwick: £78
22=. Humberside: £75
22=. Belfast International: £75
22=. Liverpool: £75
25. Cardiff: £72
26. Bournemouth: £66
27. Exeter: £65