Park and taken for a ride – avoid a car park catastrophe!

Parking your car should be easy enough. But with all manner of apps, restrictions, and safety concerns, parking can quickly become a nightmare, so here’s our guide to the latest updates.

Parking your vehicle should be a simple task – but in today’s modern world, it’s turned into quite the palaver. Not only have parking prices been on the rise, so too are the complications of paying for your spot. While some locations still accept cash, many are moving towards a cashless system, and are reliant on card payments or an app. And, it seems like there’s a different app for each car park!

Wherever you park up, there’s just a few things you want for peace of mind; knowing you’ve paid the right tariff for however long you’ll need, that your vehicle will be safe from harm, and that it will be in the same condition you left it in. This is true whether you’re paying a visit to your local high street, hitting the shopping centre ahead of the festive season, or out and about on your travels.

After all, no one wants to see a yellow sticker attached to their windscreen, or worse yet, damage to their vehicle, and having to deal with the headache. That’s why we’re taking a look at all parking potentials; dealing with fines, parking scams, break-in deterrents and what to do if you get dinged!

The ABCs of PCNs

At any shopping centre, retail park, or supermarket, you’ll spot surveillance cameras, pay-and-display machines, and signs warning about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs). Increasingly, these car parks are being operated by private parking companies.

Did you know that 176 private parking companies purchased records from the DVLA, with two firms making more than 800,000 requests combined?

The problem is how much the rules vary from car park to car park. Regulations on grace periods, keying errors and how to pay will all be different, depending on which trade body the car park operator belongs to, either British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Community (IPC).

That’s why it’s crucial you read and understand the T&Cs correctly, and make sure you pay the correct tariff. For added security, you can photograph where you park, and the signage in place. Even when it’s an honest mistake, like entering your car registration details incorrectly, your appeal could be rejected, and leave you stuck with a fine of up to £100.

If you do end up with a fine you feel is unfair, your first step will be to appeal to the operator that issued your PCN, explaining your reasoning. Just remember that doing this may mean you miss out of the chance to pay the discounted rate, usually 40% if paid within a fortnight.

If this appeal is unsuccessful, you can contest the decision via either the IPC or BPA. You’ll need as much evidence as possible to show you weren’t in breach of the rules, or that you did pay. So, it’s worth checking your bank account to see if you did indeed correctly pay for parking.

Despite what you may think, there’s a reasonable chance your appeal would be successful so it’s certainly worth doing. 37% of appeals made to the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA), a car parking appeals body, in 2020 -21 were successful. Half of these weren’t even contested by the parking operator. Additionally, 24% of appeals made to the Independent Appeals Service (IAS), the other car parking appeals body, went in the motorist’s favour.

A word to the wise – beware the scammers!

There are several parking apps in use in car parks across the country; RingGo and JustPark are prime examples. But, if you do end up searching for these to download and pay for your parking space, watch out for rogue websites.

Always check the URL that you’re visiting is actually for the app you need. Sometimes, the top results when you’re searching online for an app are actually ads for other websites! You could end up entering your bank details and paying for another service, leaving you out of pocket and at risk of a parking fine, as you haven’t paid the official parking body for that space!

For more scam advice, and how to spot a phony website, read our blog here.

The safe parking seal of approval

It should be said that most times you leave your vehicle parked, it will be fine. However, there are wrongdoers out there, who will seek opportunities to break into your vehicle, either to steal what’s inside, or even make off with it! It’s also well documented that car and vehicle thefts tend to increase during winter, so now more than ever you should heed these safety tips.

Firstly, consider where you leave your vehicle. There are signs to look out for that indicate a car park is properly surveyed, as part of the Safer Parking scheme. These include the Safe Park Mark, awarded to parking facilities that have met the requirements of a risk assessment conducted by the Police, meaning the operator has put in place measures that deter criminal activity and anti-social behaviour. There’s also Park Mark Plus, which requires passing all the aforementioned requirements, as well as achieving Disabled Parking Accreditation.

Next, remove any and all valuable or attractive items out your car, so they’re not in view. This includes loose change, bank cards, Sat Navs, and any cables or mounting brackets. Then, always double-check your car is properly locked. Thieves can make use of jammers and other technologies to prevent your car from locking.

Bearing the brunt of a fender-bender

More than a third of drivers have had their car dinged while parked, and shockingly, in over 70% of cases, the driver at fault didn’t leave their contact details!

In the same survey, participants were asked where the incident had occurred, with almost half (48%) saying their parked car was hit in a car park. 35% said their vehicle was hit while parked in a residential street, and 10% had their parked car hit on a non-residential street.

If you end up in this unfortunate situation, hopefully you can exchange details with those involved, and get in touch to sort out any repairs needed. But you can’t rely on this, and you can’t always rely on CCTV either. Either cameras aren’t in the area, or the car park operator cannot provide you with the CCTV footage due to GDPR reasons, but they can provide it to the police if requested.

It may be helpful to know that dash cam footage is also recognised by law, and admissible to insurers! If you’re considering a dash cam, check that the model you’re looking to buy records footage while parked as not all of them do.

Talk to us

We hope that your journeys go smoothly, but if you do find yourself in an unfortunate situation, our branch advisors are here to help! Your local team will be by your side, supporting you whether you need to discuss your cover or make a claim. Simply pop in or ring your branch to get started.

Sources: Which?, RAC, AA