On airport parking versus off airport parking?

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Clearly, the sign posting to the airport will be first class especially for the larger airports that usually sit just off major motorway networks. In the dark hours of the morning an off airport car park can be more difficult to find especially if you are not familiar with the area, although if you have satellite navigation or follow directions given when you make your booking you should not go far wrong.

Travelling around a smaller regional airport to find the car park such as East Midlands is a doodle but when you it comes to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester it is more like navigating through a small town.

The other problem with these larger airports is that cars from all over the country are converging on these airports at the same time and finding your way around them whilst looking out for other drivers, many of whom are in the same boat is no easy task.

If you are travelling to a larger airport the advantage of using an off airport car park is that an experienced driver will take you directly to your terminal removing the hassle of driving around the airport to find the right car park.

Location and distance to the terminal

The transfer from an on airport car park will be far less than an off airport car park whose transfer times can vary from 10 minutes to 30 minutes and perhaps more at rush hour. You must however, take into account that you will have to travel through the same traffic to reach the airport, so there will be very little difference to your overall journey time.

As a rule of thumb, the closer the parking is to the airport the more it will cost. The most expensive form of parking is a “Meet and Greet” service which is also referred to as “Valet Parking”.  When using this service you will be met at the terminal both on arrival and departure avoiding the need for any parking and transfers. Your car is then taken to a secure parking facility while you are away.

Clearly, this hassle free parking is without question the best way to park, but also by far the most expensive. To give you some idea, an off airport car park for two weeks parking at Heathrow in August is currently  around £85 whereas Meet and Greet is anywhere from £185 up to £295 on terminal 3. Some people must be quite happy to pay this, but returning to the real world, for the majority the choice will be between on and off airport parking.

Security for your car

Almost without exception all UK airports have been approved under the Park Mark Safer Parking scheme which is operated by the Chief Police Officers Association to improve and maintain security standards and includes an annual inspection.  This inspection will look at the quality of the fencing, access security, lighting, CCTV and health and safety issues.Most off airport car parks now have approval under this scheme and we would only recommend customers to use car parks who have this certification.

The other issue is the standard of parking, as you can imagine many hundreds of cars are arriving and departing from the airport right from the early morning until late at night. Unfortunately, there is more cars scratched or dented on airport than off, simply because off airport car parks manage their own parking. Also when you arrive at an off airport car park you take your luggage straight to reception rather than through rows of cars.

It only takes one badly parked car at the airport to skew an entire row with the space between the cars diminishing resulting in doors catching other cars if opened too fast and wide.


Off airport car parks only came into being because it made commercial sense to set up in competition and these car parks can be as much as 50% cheaper than the airport turn up price. Another factor to bear in mind is that there is a lot more car parking spaces on airport and once the off airport car parks are full they can charge a premium price.

It would be very rare for an on airport car park to run out of space but you may have to do some searching at busy times before you find a space or even travel to a car park designated for another terminal.


This is all down to preference, I know people who would not dream of using an off airport car park and vice versa. Clearly if it is a cost issue the off airport car parks win, however, if you want to be away in your car as fast as possible upon your return, on airport parking is the one for you.

A new hybrid has recently come onto the market called a return greet where you can experience the best of both worlds.

By David Cook