Avoid Parking Fees By Printing Your Own Tickets

Image: iStock

Parking in the city can cost a lot of money, especially if you’re doing it five days a week. Not all urban centres have great on-street parking, but for those that do, there is a relatively straightforward way to get around those parking fees and you only need a scanner and some image manipulation software.

Making your own parking ticket.

It's Evil Week at Lifehacker, which means we're looking into less-than-seemly methods for getting shit done. We like to think we're shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That's up to you.

This hack really only applies to those who are consistently parking in a ticketed on-street parking spot and not inside a secure parking complex because it relies on making your own ticket. To do so, you’ll need some rudimentary image editing software. I recommend GIMP if you're looking for something free. You’ll also need access to a scanner. It doesn’t have to be a wizz bang super scanner – any cheap printer/scanner combo will work fine.

I used to work unusual hours in a laboratory, routinely doing night shifts, so driving to work was my only option. As a result, I found I was spending upward of $60 a week just to park on the street. For a few weeks I experimented parking further and further away from work and walking the rest of the way but this quickly became a nuisance, considering my penchant for sleeping in and the vagaries of peak hour traffic.

So, I began to park on the same road every day. This particular road had a 10 hour parking limit, from 8am to 6pm, and cost around $12 for the entire day. I noticed that the tickets that the machine spit out had the format:

DAY OF THE WEEK – MONTH – DATE – TIME

So, for instance, a ticket I bought on November 6, for the maximum time limit, would have this text printed on the front:

MON NOV 6 18:00

There was a reflective metallic strip printed at the bottom of the ticket and some numbers in fine print at the edges, but beyond that, the day to day differences where the three letter acronym for the day of the week and the number representing the date.

After an entire week of paid parking, I had a collection that spanned Monday to Friday and contained the numbers 0-9.

Armed with these real tickets, I could go to work making copies.

I scanned each ticket and used GIMP to copy and paste different days and numbers over the top of the images. (Of course, more seasoned Photoshop pros may be able to replicate the ticket and dates off just one ticket saving you the hassle of buying multiple tickets for each day.) Once I had manipulated my faux ticket, I printed it out and cut it to size.

The metallic strip obviously didn’t reflect light, but it was close enough to the real thing that I wondered if an inspector would ever get close enough to check. I experimented the following week with my pre-made tickets.

Somewhat surprisingly, whether by luck or because a parking inspector didn’t check that day, I came back to my car and it didn’t have a parking fine.

When I came back to my car on the Friday, without receiving a ticket for the entire week, I knew that the photoshopped tickets were working. As it so happened, I was making my own tickets for just shy on a year before I got my first fine – a $46 fine for ‘incorrectly displaying a parking ticket’.

I spent the next week buying legitimate tickets, just in case, but experimented a few more times with it over the three months. In the end, I only received that single $46 fine fine - and saved close to $3000 in parking fees.

The major issue was the metallic strip. In my case, the strip was on the bottom of the ticket and I could hide it behind the bezel on my windscreen when I placed the ticket in the dash. Any inspector that walk past usually had a quick glance at the time on the ticket and kept walking. I never sat out and watched them perform the check on my own car, but there were times I saw them stroll past and check the dash for a ticket, never bothering to get close enough to the windscreen to have a really close look.

Whether or not this will work for others is questionable. The first thing you will need to do is weigh up how often you’re going to be using this particular parking spot or road, because you will be spending a little bit of your hard-earneds to ensure this method is up and running smoothly.

If you find that you are using the same long-term parking solution every day, it may be worth the investment. If you’re only occasionally driving and parking your car, the effort that you have to put in might not be worth it.

Parking Lots

Here’s a bonus tip for parking in parking lots – especially those at large shopping centres. Some centres will offer an extra hour of free parking if they have a cinema attached, giving you around three hours of free parking. Yes, you usually have to buy a cinema ticket to get it validated for the extra hour, but I’ve asked to have my parking validated at multiple cinemas in NSW and found that they don’t even bother asking. If you need that extra hour over the Christmas shopping period, it’s worth a shot.

Alternatively, buy a movie ticket and request your money back before the movie begins. Most cinemas will refund your money in exchange for the unused ticket with no questions asked. You now have a proof-of-purchase receipt without having spent any extra money.

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Comments

    Did you even check the legalities before publishing this? You know replicating official government documents is a crime right? People could potentially get in trouble for doing this?

      We like to think we're shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That's up to you.

      They are exploring the science of it, andit should not be replicated at home.
      disabled stickers are much harder due to the holograms in them

      Most municipalities contract parking out.

      I’m not sure a receipt for parking constitutes an ‘official government document’. At best it’s a receipt for services.

      Unless the municipality has a specific ordnance against “stolen, altered, defaced or otherwise tampered with or counterfeited receipts” you are probably risking nothing more than a fine for parking without a ticket.

      In order to prosecute for anything more, a parking enforcement staff member would need to call the police and make a complaint, the police would need to despatch someone to investigate and wait until the parker returns, as until the office has the evidence to determine whether a crime has been committed, breaking into a parked car on a hunch is, in itself, a crime.

      I think most PDs have better things to occupy their time.

    I looked at doing this for places I was not meant to park but the ticket was a bit too complex and since I could not actually get one to scan, there was no way to do it from scratch.

    The only thing illegal here, is the parking fines themselves. They are not "official" OR Government. These fines are imposed by councils who have NO legal right,under our constitution, to impose fines. Other so called 'fines' are imposed by businesses such as Care-park who,again have absolutely NO RIGHT whatsoever to impose fines or what they commonly call "penalties". There's plenty of info about this online.

      Can you provide links? this looks like a good read.

        Its a rubbish claim. Councils operate under State Laws, and under them have the right to impose fines. Each state has a Local Government Act, which points them in the right direction.

        The reason local councils aren't in the Constitution (which doesn't mention the Prime Minister, flag, or National Anthem either) is because the Constitution was established to consolidate the previously independent States under one banner.

        It was never intended to drill down to a third level of Government, only to bring that secondary layer of the States into alignment.

        Specifically on parking fines, read this.

        http://constitutionalfurphies.info/local_government.php

        Each state will have something similar tucked away under the relevant LG Act. To think otherwise is tin foil hat territory.

      I think they dress them up as "infringement notices" to get round the whole "councils can't fine" thing.

    parking fees are so criminally expensive! it is crazy. Its funny i was thinking doing the same thing the other day when i parked in the city the other day for 3 hours. good article. not that anyone is actually gonna do this but it is good to know that there are people thinking on similar lines :)

    Last edited 06/11/17 12:24 pm

    A lot of cinemas have the validation printer where the public can access it, they encourage patrons to simply do it themselves as they’re leaving their session. In these instances no one will stop you if you walk up and use it.

      Yeah, this is very true, but I figured as it *might* not be the case, it was worth the extra hint. Definitely just walk up and get the ticket validated yourself, if you can!

    I just park in underground car parks and drive under the boom gate to leave. They've all got this lovely feeling rubber underneath to avoid scratching your car, thx Wilson. I'm not paying $40 a day to park in your empty car park.

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