Why I Hate Hotel Valet Parking

Hotel Valet Parking is surely one of the ultimate scurges of staying in hotels on business trips. I’d hate it even more if I was on a leisure trip.

Hotel Valet Parking Ticket

Hotel Valet Parking Ticket

So let’s face facts Hotel Valet Parking is an expensive play on service which saps money and at times a will to live. Sold as a luxury it can sometimes come across as the biggest inconvenience to your free movement whilst away from home.



So let’s look at the facts as to why Hotel Valet Parking is so detestable:-

Premium Service at a cost

It is offered as a premium service. “Oh sir we’ll park your car for you”. Oh thanks. I’ve driven all this way and you think I can’t park the car myself now that I’ve stopped?


Okay you’ll park it for me but it’ll cost how much? I said how much? $10-$12 dollars more per night than if I parked the car myself? Ridiculous.



Lack of choice

I’ve often been shocked at the price of valet parking yet I often end up in hotels on business trips where the hotel offers parking, but it is only hotel valet parking! Yeah, nice. Thanks for the choice. Can I just park it myself? Er no, you haven’t got any parking bays visible for me to access. Nice set up you’ve got going there.


I remember arriving at the Toronto Hilton hotel one day after driving from the airport. A nice, plush hotel right in the heart of a great city.


As I pulled up at the lobby I enquired if it was okay to leave the car whilst I unloaded and checked in. The concierge said it was okay but would I like him to park the car for me with the hotel valet parking? I immediately expressed my preference not to and asked about where I could park the car.


He then told me a tale which to be honest was not entirely a lie yet it was certainly misleading and a tactic to scare me. He indicated that the nearby car park was expensive and would charge me each time I went in and out. I also believe he left me with the wrong impression on times of access.


I was tired, very tired in fact with jet lag. I didn’t want to argue or try to solve such a dilemma so hesitantly agreed to his offer. The way he sold it there seemed to be little other option.

Car keys and hotel valet parking tickets

Car keys and hotel valet parking tickets


No option in Washington D.C.

Word of warning for anyone visiting Washington D.C. – you’ll struggle to find parking on a weekend!


Yes I went a few years ago to Washington D.C. for a weekend trip. I spent close to an hour driving around the centre of the city looking for a car park, that was open! They all shut up for the weekend. This was ridiculous.


I only had an overnight bag so I didn’t mind walking a little bit but I couldn’t find anywhere open remotely close to the hotel.


So begrudgingly I arrived at the hotel and took little joy in their overpriced hotel valet parking service which was the only parking available.



Lack of freedom and unreliable hotel valet parking

This is not something new and I’m sick of experiencing it.


With hotel valet parking you can’t just come and go as you choose. You need to plan ahead.


I’m often told to call in advance so they can get the car for me. 10 minutes should be fine.


So I call 30 minutes before I need the car to give them plenty of time.


What happens?


Yes, you’ve guessed it. It is not there. Not a great start when you need to be somewhere, like at work or make a flight.


This happened at the Toronto Hilton hotel to me. The hotel valet attendant apologised saying he forgot. Great! Now I need to wait another 10 minutes whilst a valet guy is free to go and fetch my car.


This also happened to me this morning at my hotel in Melbourne, Australia.


I called 30 minutes in advance, speaking to someone called Lisa on Reception. “It’ll be ready for you sir” she promises.


“Yeah right” I thought.


Sure enough I turn up on time and there is only Lisa on Reception. When I ask for the keys to my car she says “Oh I’m sorry, I need someone to go get it for you. Will you be going for breakfast first?”


“What!” I think to myself. Firstly the car is not ready when I gave you plenty of notice. Second you wonder if I’d like to go for breakfast whilst I wait? Are you crazy? I’ve already had breakfast and I wanted to leave at this time. Now I have to wait 10 minutes because you are not ready for me.



Forget hotel valet parking and do your own thing

So where ever possible I forget hotel valet parking if I can. Do my own thing even if it is a bit of a walk. This is admittedly not great if you have luggage but it saves the stress. It can also save a bit of money too.


You may remember my discussion at the Hilton hotel in Toronto. Well I soon sussed that one out. The car park opposite was not quite as expensive or restrictive as they made out. If I left the garage before a certain time in the morning, say 7 or 8am then I got the cheaper overnight rate.


This worked out fine for me as I was going to work each day. I’d leave early and catch breakfast on the way.


I saved around $12 a night this way; okay it was on company expenses but still it saved my company money.


The hotel even made the mistake of trying to charge me for hotel valet parking for the entire length of my stay. I soon put a stop to that as I explained what happened.


Is hotel valet parking worth it?

In one simple word I think “no”. If you have choices then avoid it and find a car park which is a few yards or a street or two away. I don’t find it to be a luxury and if they ever hang around expecting a tip from me they can get lost.


The worst thing about hotel valet parking

Do you know what the worst thing about hotel valet parking is? Well I’ll tell you.


They’ve never cleaned my car. Not once!


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  1. Ed Ryder says

    Damn you are cheap… Holy cow… I can understand not tipping when getting your car late, but you make it sound like it is your practice not to ever tip a valet worker. I find that despicable. Absolutely despicable.

    You are right. The valet industry has a lot of flaws. Seems like you have been lucky with only delays in service.

    As for valet parking not being right for anybody… you are wrong to encourage people to avoid it.

    Valet parking offers a higher level of personal safety. There are times when it is simply safer to wait for a car at a valet stand or in front of a hotel than to go to a parking garage or lot themselves.

    One example: In Philadelphia, a young woman was shot and killed for her purse, right in front of her mother, while walking to their car. She chose to save a few dollars by parking on a street in a dicey neighborhood. If instead she had just valet parked somewhere, that tragedy probably never would have happened to her.

    • says

      Hi Ed,

      Thanks for your feedback. I can see you represent the valet service.

      My issue reverts around the value for money and the lack of choice from some establishments. For Valet staff to clearly mislead a guest is entirely unethical. I’m sure most of you are not like that and I’m sure that you would be the first to discourage misleading or lying to a customer.

      As customers we should have a choice.

      Staying in hotels can cost $100-$200 or more. Don’t you think that a free parking space should come included in that cost? It does for a lot of hotels I stay in yet is not offered by all. I get a bed for paying over $100s a night and bed sheets thrown in, can I park my car there too?

      As for tipping, well as you probably guessed I’m from the UK not the US. I see tips as something which are optional, discretionary and something earnt. I don’t believe or adopt this culture that a tip is a given. I pay a price already for a service and expect a minimum standard from that service. If the service is of a high quality and I think is worth more than the price than I am more than happy to offer a tip to the respective member of staff. I do tip frequently. I just object to the concept that it is an expectation.

      As for your story in Philadelphia that is very sad. I don’t encourage people to enter unsafe neighbourhoods. To be honest is the issue of wrong doing by the criminal who committed the murder rather than the perception that if you don’t use valet parking you are putting your life at risk?

      As a customer we should have a choice. Valet parking is a premium service which we should be free to choose. Not something we are forced to take.

      I wish you well in your Valet business. There are many exemplary professionals in the service.

      BTW, if you’d like to leave a link back to your commercial website then please feel free to drop me a line about my rates.

      Thanks again for reading.

      • says

        I represent both sides. Consumers and valet workers.

        Since I worked in this field (the valet business), I understand the hardships that go with it. This is a very flawed industry. And it is set up so that the wages are often quite low. I have heard of valet wages as low as $2.13 an hour. And when I did this work, my wage was $3.83.

        It’s so lousy when you get stiffed several times in a row. Especially if it is a slow day, or if the weather is terrible.

        There are many times when the work is simply not equitable.

        And it is one of the primary flaws of the business. When valet workers don’t have reliable income, or when they don’t make enough, they eventually leave. Those experienced people are replaced by rookies. And rookies screw up.

        The way it works out, people who don’t tip contribute to the mediocrity of the valet parking workforce (in the US).


        There are times when using valet parking services is just a smart choice. Not always. But sometimes. You weigh the risks.

        In Las Vegas there was a big poker tournament recently. Players were getting mugged while going to their cars. Criminals knew people were carrying cash. That was another example of why sometimes using valet parking services is wise.

        Other times using the valet service is a mistake, like when a big event is happening, or if you are leaving valuable items in the car.


        Certainly misleading an arriving guest about self-park options is wrong. As a lowly valet worker, I certainly had no incentive to do that, and I imagine it is similar with most others. (But I can see a valet manager greedily selling his valet service that way.)

        As for whether somebody deserves free parking for being a hotel guest, I’m not sure what to say about that. Where I worked, we had no parking facility of our own. Guests could self-park at a nearby garage, or we could valet park it for them and park it in the secure garage parking area that we rented from that garage.

        In Center City, Philadelphia, there is a lot of demand for parking and not much supply, so parking is expensive. In addition, there is a 20% parking tax, which makes it even more expensive.

        And the hotel I worked at chose to make parking a profit center, instead of eat the cost. (The hotel managers have a lot of pressure to drive revenues from their corporate owners.)

        Somebody might try saving some money by parking on the street, if they find a spot. But the signs can be confusing and they can easily get a parking ticket or even towed. The city’s parking authority has no mercy, even for foreign visitors.

        (I always recommended that guests not park on the street due to the risk of tickets and towing.)

        If a hotel is surrounded by ample free parking, but expects their guests to fork over a fee to park in the hotel’s lot, I can certainly see how that could irk people. I would be irked.

        And, like you, my preference would be to park my own car, because I don’t trust valets and I know that many of them can’t handle a manual transmission. However, if I had a rental car, I wouldn’t care as much. When I was in Los Angeles recently doing a valet parking exposé for ABC News, I did valet a rental truck. There was no other easy option. (I got lucky in this spin of valet parking roulette. The service was flawless.)

        Well, it’s not a valet’s fault if their hotel does not offer a self-park option. Gratuities are a thoughtful courtesy that decent, thoughtful people here provide.

        In my opinion, the whole valet industry needs to re-invent itself. The jobs should pay enough to support career professionals. Because we should have professionals handling these cars, not amateurs, which is too often what you get.

        I think it would be better if the tip was factored into the parking fee. But this isn’t happening any time soon.

        • says

          Hi Ed, I love that comment. You make so many valid points.

          Like much of the service industry in the US it is a low wage job and very dependent on tips. I feel this is a reflection of the market forces of the economy in the US. If you go to somewhere like Australia the service workers are well paid and tips are definitely not expected. When in Rome I suppose.

          I also agree that the policy of valet/charge for parking is very much a commercial decision of the hotel. If you are a business traveller then maybe you can absorb the cost, however for personal travellers it is very much down to personal wealth and choice.

  2. says

    Experienced this in San Francisco- it was $30 to park overnight even in the public lots! About to attempt a European road trip, but so far it appears the hotels I’ve booked offer free parking.

    • says

      Yes it can certainly become expensive now in the big cities. Either it is a massive money raiser for the car park owners, the land they use has astronomical rent and rates or the green movement are punishing drivers. To be honest I think it is probably a combination of the first and the second.

  3. says

    I’ve never used valet parking because the price has been shocking and the places where it was an option were pretty safe and had a lot of other options. I think I am in the same train of thought as you and would only use it in very specific circumstances.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Emily. I think we all have our personal values for things and clearly we both find the cost of valet parking too high. Little wonder that in Europe it is perceived by many as a reserve for the wealthy.

    • says

      Hi Ryan, I can understand that. When it is your own car and a pretty nice one too (just like yours) we do become protective towards them.

  4. says

    That does sound egregious … I don’t really have that problem at the moment as I don’t have a ride, but its worth noting for the future!

  5. says

    I think it comes down to personal choice. Sometimes it’s a safety concern especially for women. Sometimes it’s a cost concern. I travel a lot for biz and most every hotel I have stayed at offered free parking. If there was a valet fee it was nominal and worth it for me to avoid a long walk to a garage or parking area dragging luggage. I do notice that some cities are a lot more expensive to park such as Chicago.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Phil. Safety is definitely an issue to be considered which both Ed and yourself raise as a valid point. Nominal fees I can tolerate. I like the choice between doing it myself or the luxury option. If every hotel offered a choice then I think it would be a great situation for all of us.

  6. says

    You nailed it–paying for something I can do myself. My ( similar) peeve is the bellhops giving me looks for insisting on wheeling my own luggage to the room. I don’t need help rolling a carry-on!

    • says

      Michael you and I think very much alike. I can park the car myself and I can pull this little bag on wheels by myself. It is amazing that I’ve dragged it all the way from my home, half way across the world yet now for the final 5 yards you want to pull it and receive $5 for the privilege. The world has gone crazy I tell you 😉


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