When you get to the airport, you have several options for parking — some that are more expensive and others that are much cheaper.
But have you ever wondered how much cheaper it is to park in one of the convenient terminal parking garages versus the park-and-ride?
We were curious so we analyzed the 35 busiest airports in the US to see what the price difference would be when utilizing an airport terminal parking garage versus an option that required a shuttle or tram.
Check out the results below!
How much cheaper are airport parking garages vs park-and-ride shuttles?
After analyzing the daily parking rates for terminal parking garages and park-and-rides at 35 of the largest airports in the US, we found that utilizing the park-and-ride was 47.6% cheaper on average.
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The average terminal parking garage rate was $29.06 while the average park-and-ride rate was $15.21. So essentially you are paying double the price to park at terminal parking on average.
However, at some airports the price difference was significantly higher.
For example at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), the terminal parking was $24 but park-and-ride options could be as cheap as about $6.47. That’s a 270% increase!
The most expensive terminal parking rates were at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), and LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
At these airports, you can expect to pay about $60 for daily rate parking as a drive-up. However, if you were to pre-pay for your parking you could greatly cut down your expense to around $35 to $39.
And as for the cheapest terminal parking, a couple of airports offered daily terminal parking for only $12.
Is airport terminal parking worth it?
When you consider that you will probably be paying about double for airport terminal parking, it really makes you wonder if it’s worth it or not?
Lots of these airport terminal parking garages are located extremely close to the check in terminal.
Often you just have to take an elevator ride down and then a very short walk to get to where you need to be to check your bags and head through security.
This is a great option for people who constantly run late and are worried about potentially missing a flight.
Sometimes the shuttle buses from the parking lots may not be running on time or you may just miss one and have to wait which can be frustrating and stressful experience for some.
In addition to saving time, it’s nice to be able to not worry about dealing with a shuttle bus.
It could be very uncomfortable getting stuffed into an overly packed shuttle bus and dealing with all of your luggage.
We once were waiting for a shuttle bus and were getting rained on at the same time. They packed up the shuttle bus as tight as they could which meant that it was full of a bunch of wet and miserable passengers making for a very uncomfortable ride.
Then there is the most valuable convenience element of all — being able to quickly get in your vehicle when you land and are completely exhausted from your travels.
While I don’t have hard data on the rates of crime on vehicles parked at park-and-ride lots versus parking garages, having your car in a park-and-ride lot means that your car is more exposed.
This could mean being more exposed to the elements and weather but also to potential criminals who may have easy access to the lot by simply slipping through a gate.
Airport parking garages require you to pass through a gate and to pay to get out which could act as a deterrent for some criminals. They also tend to have more traffic going in and out which makes them a less desirable target.
At the same time, the close quarters of a parking garage and the high volume of traffic could mean increased risk of getting your car dinged up.
If you’re taking a long trip that may be up to a couple of weeks or even longer than the terminal parking rates can start to get a bit crazy. Heck, even the park-and-ride total will be a couple of hundred dollars or more in a lot of cases.
With these type of extended trips, it can be more cost-effective to simply take a rideshare to the airport, even if you live quite a distance away from the airport.
Parking prices for major airports
Terminal parking consisted of parking garage attached to airport facilities. These were the most convenient long-term parking options found at a given airport. If different prices were available for terminal parking, we chose the cheapest option. Also, we did not use daily prices for short term parking since those are typically designed for people parking for only a few hours.
Note that in some cases you could find a cheaper rate if you pre-pay for parking and this could result in some massive savings. Since not all airports offer pre-paid savings, we decided to use the drive-up rates for all parking garages.
Park-and-ride options were parking options that required a shuttle or tram to get to and from the parking lot. Once again, we went with the cheapest option which sometimes was an uncovered option. Most of the park-and-ride options were directly associated with the airport (e.g., bookable on the airport’s website) but on a couple of occasions we had to choose third-party providers. A later analysis will look at other park and ride options such as those offered by hotels and perhaps other third-party providers.
If you plan on taking advantage of the more convenient airport terminal parking versus utilizing a shuttle, you can expect to pay double the price on average.
Whether or not this will be worth it to you will just depend on how much you value your time and the convenience of not having to deal with a shuttle bus or tram. If you do go with airport terminal parking, look into prepaid options because those might be able to save you a good chunk of change.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.