Car parking apps – how to avoid extra charges

4 min Read Published: 23 May 2023

Car Parking Apps - Avoiding sneaky hidden chargesCar parking apps such as RingGo and ParkMobile are an increasingly popular presence across UK car parks, providing a quick and simple pay-by-phone solution for many. Once registered, the apps allow users to pay for their parking via a few simple clicks and can send alerts when their parking is about to expire. One of the draws is that it allows users to top up their parking directly from their phone without the need to return to their car.

It was hoped that the introduction of pay-by-phone parking would bring down the cost of parking since it eliminates a lot of the costs associated with collecting money and maintaining machines, however, costs have steadily risen, thanks in part to the additional fees that parking apps charge.

In this article, we explain how car parking apps work, including the fees they charge and importantly, how to avoid them.

We cover car parking apps in podcast episode 415. Click to listen.

How do car parking apps work?

Car parking apps allow you to pay for your parking via your smartphone. Once downloaded, you'll need to provide login details as well as your car registration and payment details. Once set up, you will be able to pay and manage your car parking session via the app, without the need to visit a machine. However, there are a number of different parking apps and so if you prefer the convenience of managing your parking via an app, it is likely that you'll need to download and register for a number of different car parking apps.

The top parking apps in the UK include:

What fees do car parking apps charge?

While car parking apps are free to download, there are a number of fees that can be charged when you park and these will vary depending on your location and the car parking app you use.

A list of the fees you may be charged is displayed below:

  • Convenience fees
  • Transaction fees
  • Service fees
  • Summary texts
  • Reminder texts
  • Text receipts
  • Email receipts

The most common fees are convenience and/or transaction fees and your parking app will need permission from the relevant authority in order to charge this type of fee. There are many locations throughout the UK where a convenience fee isn't charged, however, it can be difficult to know this in advance as the information isn't easily available.

How much are the car parking app fees?

We decided to take a look at the car parking fees charged by one of the UK's most popular car parking apps, RingGo. The main fee that is charged by RingGo is its convenience fee and this can vary depending on the location. However, additional SMS fees are charged if you choose to receive confirmation messages and reminders and as the fees vary depending on the location, it is not immediately obvious how much you are being charged. In fact, it is only when you view your receipt that you get a full breakdown of the charges.

Below we have compared the price of parking for 1 hour across 15 locations throughout the UK and have separated out the various fees.

RingGo car parking fees compared

1-hour parking fee Convenience Fee Booking confirmed Fee Expiry Reminder Fee Session Stopped Fee Total Fee Fee %
Chelmsford (41591) £1.00 £0.20 £0.15 £0.15 £0.00 £0.50 50%
Norwich (684407) £1.25 £0.20 £0.20 £0.20 £0.00 £0.60 48%
Bromley (5998) £0.90 £0.20 £0.10 £0.10 £0.00 £0.40 44%
Birmingham (38017) £1.60 £0.01 £0.30 £0.30 £0.00 £0.61 38%
Leeds (4867) £0.80 £0.00 £0.15 £0.15 £0.00 £0.30 38%
Liverpool (33620) £1.20 £0.20 £0.10 £0.10 £0.00 £0.40 33%
Manchester (44071) £1.50 £0.20 £0.10 £0.10 £0.10 £0.50 33%
Exeter (16060) £1.90 £0.25 £0.15 £0.15 £0.00 £0.55 29%
Portsmouth (21616) £2.00 £0.20 £0.15 £0.15 £0.00 £0.50 25%
Tunbridge Wells (28507) £2.00 £0.00 £0.20 £0.20 £0.00 £0.40 20%
Swansea (29555) £2.00 £0.20 £0.10 £0.10 £0.00 £0.40 20%
Watford (26766) £1.60 £0.00 £0.15 £0.15 £0.00 £0.30 19%
Glasgow (20553) £2.20 £0.20 £0.10 £0.10 £0.00 £0.40 18%
Oxford (3912) £2.20 £0.00 £0.20 £0.20 £0.00 £0.40 18%
Cardiff (39355) £1.20 £0.00 £0.10 £0.10 £0.00 £0.20 17%

As you can see from the table above, the fees vary wildly, ranging from 17% to 50% of the total cost of parking.

Example of how RingGo fees are displayed

How to avoid fees charged by car parking apps

Some fees charged by car parking apps are unavoidable and it is the cost that you pay as a consumer for the convenience of using the service. These fees are usually displayed as transaction or convenience fees. However, a large proportion of the fees are often as a result of confirmation or reminder messages and these can often be turned off in the settings.

We've selected a section of the terms and conditions of the RingGo app below, which explains how confirmation messages and reminders work.

"You may choose to receive confirmation messages that your parking action is still active or to confirm that your parking session has commenced. In addition, you can elect to receive a reminder advising you when your parking session is due to end. We emphasize that your parking action still remains your responsibility. You acknowledge that receipt of the reminder depends on the availability of your network and can be interrupted/delayed. Any additional costs relating to these reminders will be charged simultaneously with all other charges." 

RingGo feesOne way to find out what fees you will be charged through RingGo is to search for your car park using its Parking Locator tool. Simply search for the location or enter the location code and click on fees for the breakdown. If you decide to switch off confirmation and reminder messages, make sure that you note the time that your parking session ends so you can easily top up your parking if necessary and avoid any unnecessary fines. Other car parking apps should have similar tools that allow you to see the full breakdown of charges and like RingGo, you can go into the settings and turn off text and email confirmations and reminders.

Another way to avoid the fees altogether is to pay at the machine, assuming the car park allows you to do this. Of course, you'll need to weigh up the convenience versus the cost as you will need to return to the car park if you find yourself needing to extend your stay. Also, remember to check the parking session times as many car parks only charge for a set number of hours, meaning you only need to pay up until the end of the chargeable session. Finally, those looking to save money on parking may want to check out Appyparking, an app that can help you find free on-street parking throughout the UK.