As a non-driver, I rarely have to worry about airport parking fees. But occasionally a family member or friend picks me up in a remote city, and I can’t help noticing that getting to put your vehicle near an airport is an expensive exercise.
Recently, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission rounded up airport car parking prices in Australia’s five major cities. The results confirm some obvious trends (the bigger the city, the higher the price) and also show that making the choice between a short-term and long-term car park is fairly important. And they show that airport cark parks are big business, raking in around $244 million in the 2007-2008 financial year.
Parking for an hour typically costs $14 in Sydney, $12 in Melbourne, $10 in Brisbane, $5.20 in Perth and $4 in Adelaide. Park for 24 hours in a short term car park and you’ll pay $46 in Sydney, $45 in Melbourne and Brisbane, $30 in Adelaide and $20 in Perth. Park for a day in a long-term park and Sydney actually loses its top perch: Melbourne and Brisbane each charge $25, Sydney charges $24, Adelaide $20 and Perth $17.
While those prices are high, they have slowed down a bit in recessionary times. “The results showed that both average prices charged and car parking revenue increased significantly during the four years prior to 2007–08,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said. “Price increases slowed however during 2007–08.”
Unfortunately, the ACCC can’t do anything about these prices other than point them out. As it primly notes in its release announcement: “The ACCC’s role does not extend to setting or approving airport car parking prices or conditions of service.” So the only practical option is to vote with your feet.
How can that be done in practice? One obvious option is to ditch the car altogether and use public transport. However, in most Australian capitals the price of an airport bus or train is higher than the cost for an hour’s parking. (That’s not strictly a fair comparison, since you’ll need petrol for the car as well, but most people are too lazy to factor that in.) The one exception I’m aware of is Adelaide, where the main airport buses (J1, J2 and J3) are part of the regular transport system, not a high-priced alternative service. But then again, Adelaide has by far the cheapest regular parking. Taxis face the same challenge — given current airport locations, they’ll almost never be cheaper than the parking option.
The final option — and it’s a popular one based on the calls I see getting made at luggage carousels — is to ring your pick-up when you land so they can swoop past and grab you out front without parking at all. That’s fine if you’re on time, but a nuisance if you’re delayed — and again potentially involves a lot of looping around consuming petrol.
Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.