Hidden Parking Costs Rob Drivers of Hundreds of Dollars Each Year

Americans are wasting more than they likely realize every time they search for parking.

Hidden Parking Costs Rob Drivers of Hundreds of Dollars Each Year Photo by Ivanko80 / Shutterstock.com

What would you do with an extra $345 a year?

One smart move would be to invest it. If you managed 7 percent returns over 25 years, you’d have around $23,600 more to enjoy in retirement. But instead, the average American is blowing that money looking for parking.

On average, drivers in the U.S. spend 17 hours a year searching for parking, according to a recent Inrix study. This results in a cost of $345 per driver each year in wasted time, fuel and emissions. Collectively, the cost is $72.7 billion annually.

For the study, Inrix combined data from its parking database and a survey of about 6,000 U.S. drivers. The traffic data company’s chief economist, Graham Cookson, describes the study as “the first ever study to quantify the economic and non-economic costs of parking pain.”

Inrix contends that the economy bears the brunt of our parking problems. Inrix found that U.S. drivers cite lack of parking as a reason that:

  • 39 percent avoided shopping destinations.
  • 27 percent didn’t drive to airports.
  • 26 percent skipped leisure or sports activities.
  • 21 percent avoided commuting to work.
  • 20 percent did not drive to the doctor’s office or hospital.

Parking troubles also cost drivers in other ways:

  • 61 percent felt stressed.
  • 42 percent missed an appointment.
  • 34 percent abandoned a trip.
  • 23 percent experienced road rage.

In some cities, the toll of searching for parking is much higher than average. It is highest in:

  1. New York City: The average driver spends 107 hours per year searching for parking, costing them $2,243 per year.
  2. Los Angeles: 85 hours, $1,785
  3. San Francisco: 83 hours, $1,735
  4. Washington, D.C.: 65 hours, $1,367
  5. Seattle: 58 hours, $1,205
  6. Chicago: 56 hours, $1,174
  7. Boston: 53 hours, $1,111
  8. Atlanta: 50 hours, $1,043
  9. Dallas: 48 hours, $995
  10. Detroit: 35 hours, $731

So the next time you’re about to pass up a parking spot and circle the lot or block once more in hopes of finding a better spot, think about that extra $23,600 you could have in retirement. Settling for the first spot might not seem so bad.

Using a smartphone navigation app is another way to help reduce the amount of time and money you waste searching for parking. Cookson notes that Inrix provides data to Waze, a free traffic and navigation app available for Android and Apple devices.

Google also has a “popular times” graph feature that can show you when a business is most and least busy. For example, if I search for my local warehouse club, I can tell it is generally a zoo between noon and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, so I avoid going during those times.

Do you have any parking search tips to add? Share them below or over on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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