Here we look at what park and ride airport parking at the likes of Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester Airport is - how it works and if it is safe for you and your car as terminal drop-off charges make it harder to get to the airport with the help of friends and family. We will help you decide if it's the right service for your vehicle as you head to the terminal to get your holiday in the air.
As an independent website, we can give a balanced view on the safety of airport parking, rather than the parking firms themselves telling you how safe and secure they are - especially with stories of parked cars being taken for a joyrides and one firm even hiding the fact from customers that their cars had been used by an employee filming Top Gear-style reviews for their own YouTube channel.
Start your holiday with stress-free airport parking (Credit: Pexels.com)
What is park and ride airport parking at airport like Manchester and Heathrow?
Park and ride airport parking typically involves driving to a secure car park - either on the airport or beyond its perimeter - where you collect up your luggage and jump on a shuttle bus taking you to the nearby airport terminal - typically around 20 minutes away.
Is it safe to leave my car at an off-airport car park?
We've all heard the horror stories of cars being left unlocked in muddy fields, or parked on public streets with slew of parking tickets waiting to welcome travellers home - but a few simple tips and check will ensure your vehicle is left in safe hands.
First up, ensure you're booking a space at a car park that's covered by the Park Mark Safer Parking scheme. The award is issued by the British Parking Association, a not-for-profit organisation with a membership including legitimate parking professionals from airport parking firms, such as Holiday Extra, to hospitals, railway stations and local authorities.
Check out reviews on social media, rather than some other review sites that can be manipulated, to see what experiences other users have had with the provider. Also check that the operator has a website that has genuine photographs and not just stock images.
You should also ask if the operator is planning to keep your car at its secure parking site - or if it uses less secure off-site parking, such as fields on farms when their own facility is too busy. If in any doubt, simply don't risk it.
How much does park and ride airport parking cost?
Choosing an off-airport park and ride service is likely to the cheapest option available, but expect to pay more if using official services based on, or very close to airports around the UK.
For example, a week at Manchester Airport will see you save around £5 for a week's parking when comparing off-airport park and ride with on-airport drop and go services. (Prices correct at time of writing).
Will off-airport park and ride parking take a long time?
Using off-airport park and ride services might add a little time to the reaching the terminal doors - typically such car parks are around 20 minutes from the airport - but from dropping off your car to jumping on one of the regular bus transfers to the check-in desks, the experience will be hassle-free for most travellers.
However, make sure you check with your provider about how often the shuttle buses run to the airport - and just as importantly how many run at night - the last thing you want is to be hanging around outside an airport in the middle of the night after a long tiring flight.
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How to spot an airport parking firm to avoid
Cowboy parking firms are likely to have professional looking websites, but that doesn't mean the service they offer is equally proficient.
Most cowboys will operate using meet and greet services - where the customer meets the provider at a pre-arranged sport away from the airport, before being driven to the terminal doors in their own vehicle, which is then parked in a supposedly 'secure' car park for the duration of their trip.
Ensure you only book meet and greet parking with Park Mark-approved operators, and don't meet park and ride operators anywhere other than in the car park where they'll be storing your vehicle while away.
Always get the address of where your car will be located before making a booking - and check this out on Google Maps to check it looks legitimate.
Remember, low-price parking really could be too good to be true. But also remember that plenty of 'legitimate' firms have been found to have rogue staff members - so always check reviews and social media sites.
Author: Pete Barden:
Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (thesun.co.uk), New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? (Whatcar.com) Stuff Magazine (Stuff.tv), Fastcar Magazine (Fastcar.co.uk), Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.