Parking Lot and Garage Tips and Scams to Avoid in New York City

Parking in New York City can be a big, expensive hassle. It is a good idea for visitors to park outside of New York City and take a train in or commute by bus (or even fly in by plane if you’re coming from far away.) Cars aren’t necessarily needed for getting around in New York City with all the transportation methods available like the subway, buses and taxis. But if you must drive in and park in a parking garage in New York City, there are fortunately more than 2,300 parking facilities to choose from. Parking in a garage is your best bet for avoiding the chance of parking tickets and risk of towing that come with street parking. But where to begin and what do you need to know when selecting the right parking garage? There are many rules of the road in New York City and below we’ve listed parking garage tips on how to plan, what to know about parking garage signs and prices, how not to be duped by hidden fees, and how to protect your vehicle from damage.

Plan Ahead To Avoid Wasting Time Garage Hunting

Depending on the location of where you park in New York City, the parking garage price can greatly differ. Before circling around a neighborhood trying to find the best price based on the signs outside of the parking garage, do your research online first. Also refer to New York City PARKING OFFERS to select a parking garage in advance and for special discount parking rates that allow you to park for less than the advertised price.

Misleading New York City Parking Garage Signs

New York City parking garages are required by law to post rates on signs at its entrance. Don’t be tricked by some misleading NYC parking garage signs. Rates will vary from day to day. These signs often have a lot of print that must be read quickly as you’re driving by and a quick judgment must be made of whether to pull in or not. Chances are the prices will be clearly and largely marked, but there may be fine print below the price that drivers won’t catch, which is how the parking garage may rip you off.

Beware of the “Event Rate in Effect”

Even though New York City parking garages must display their pricing schedule at the entrance of the garage or lot, all bets are off if an “event rate” sign is posted. An event rate is a flat rate that applies until the end of the event or until midnight, and even if you’re parked for 10 minutes or for 10 hours, it’s still a flat rate of around $30 to $40. Event rates can even be as high as $60, that is, if you want to park directly across the street from the Jacob K. Javits Center. Similarly, there are overnight flat rates that will last from midnight to 8 or 9 a.m. If you’re parking in the Meatpacking District where there are a lot of nightclubs, a club rate may be offered that will allow you to pay a discounted flat rate for four to five hours. Event rates apply when parades, concerts, conventions, or sporting events are taking place near parking garages in New York City. When an event isn’t happening, an hourly rate will apply. Signs at the entrance may not always specify how much it is, but event rates can often double or triple the usual parking garage rate. Expect event rates at parking garages anywhere near event venues like the Javits Center, Lincoln Center, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, and even Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It doesn’t matter how small of an event is taking place; NYC parking garages will still apply the event rate as an opportunity to charge more money in a surreptitious manner.

Inconsistent Parking Garage Prices

Rates at NYC parking garages may start at an inviting low rate for the first half hour or full hour, but then double for the hours that follow. A $10 price tag may seem inviting, but if it’s only for the first 30 minutes before doubling, the price will skyrocket after a short amount of time. Taxes, event rates, or other hidden fees can also come along with the rate, though it won’t always be clearly stated on the NYC parking garage sign. Read below about taxes and avoiding event rates.

Parking Garage Taxes – A Whopping 20%

New York City parking garage taxes are pretty high. Taxes may not always be clearly marked on signs, so the total bill could turn out to be more expensive than anticipated. The full tax rate is comprised of several components. There is a 6 percent New York City sales tax (most all other goods and services have just a 4 percent New York City sales tax), a 4 percent New York State sales tax, and 0.375 percent Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District surcharge. This brings the tax to 10.375 percent. For parking or storing vehicles in Manhattan, the city charges an additional 8 percent surtax, which brings the total tax rate to 18.375 percent.

Avoid the Garage Flag Wavers

New York City parking garages often send out staff members with red flags that stand in the street and direct traffic into their parking garage. Unsuspecting out-of-town motorists often think that this is a traffic diversion or some other “Official” order and are often duped into driving into the parking garage, which is usually very hard to drive out of. It’s a nefarious practice that many parking lots continue to do. Usually this parking garage is more expensive than its peers in the local area, especially since they have to pay their flag wavers.

Tip the Valet/Parking Attendant to Avoid Bumper Damage

Be sure to tip the valet, when you drop off and pick up the car. A few dollars is enough, but none is unacceptable. If you don’t, chances are the valet will not take care of your car as well, and could potentially park it in the back of the lot or smash the bumper into another car or wall. Parking attendants are trying to fit in as many cars as they can into the parking garage. The more cars, the more money, and they won’t care if they have to scratch up your car to do so. Tipping will go a long way if you want to save yourself a trip to the auto repair shop.

Protect Your Vehicle with a Bumper Protector

Parking lot attendants and parking valets will bump cars together and into walls and pillars to maximize the amount of cars that the garage can hold.
To protect your vehicle from dents and scratches, look into purchasing bumper protector products. Bumper and car door guards wrap around the car bumper and act as padded barriers, usually made of heavy-duty foam.

How to Avoid the Most Expensive Parking Lots in NYC

Rates are more expensive near popular landmarks in New York City, such as the Empire State Building, museums, major department stores like Bloomingdale’s, and along Central Park on Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. It may be inconvenient, but parking on the outskirts of Manhattan or in quieter neighborhoods with fewer attractions is going to be your best bet when it comes to saving money.

The Open Parking Lot vs. The Parking Garage

When choosing to park in a open parking lot or parking garage, take a moment to consider the differences and how they will affect your vehicle. When parking in a garage, drivers run a higher risk of bumper damage, dents and scratches, as well as parking attendants taking naps or snacking in your car. Cars in open parking lots, on the other hand, are vulnerable to the weather. Cars can get dusty from wind, snowed on, overheated from the sun, or rained on. The speed at which the parking attendant can retrieve your car from a parking lot is often slower if they have a elevated parking lift system. 

Self Park Parking Lots

Very few self park parking lots exist in New York City as these are an inefficient use of space. Valet parking attendants get can up to 50% more cars into the same space and thus nearly all NYC parking lots and garages use parking valets. They do however work out cheaper than their Valet counterparts as you don’t have to tip anyone

Oversize Vehicles

Driving into New York City in a full size SUV, truck, RV, camper, or anything with a trailer can be a problem. Oversize vehicles are an inconvenience and expensive to park in New York City. NYC parking garages are not very welcoming of these types of vehicles. Fees of about $10 per day are applied for oversize vehicles to park in parking garages. Parking garage attendants want to squeeze as many cars as possible into their lot, so they won’t be very accommodating.