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.
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.