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On-street vs. off-street parking: which should you choose?

  • City Parking Tips
  • Renee Martin
  • 6 minutes

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A perennial dilemma most drivers face when they’re in a hurry is whether to choose between a cheap street parking spot right by the curb or a secure garage further away. Fret no more, we’ve broken down on-street vs. off-street parking to help you decide.

Anyone who owns a vehicle knows that driving in a big city can be pretty stressful. There are a dozen things you need to keep an eye on – wayward drivers, traffic signals, following driving etiquette and many other rules! However, finding easy and convenient parking ranks right up there on the list of things that give drivers the most heartburn. Unless you’re someone who frequents establishments with valet parking, it’s safe to say you’ll have to find parking on your own. Before doing so, you need to take a few things into consideration – like how easy it is to find a spot, how far it is from your destination, how safe it is, and whether you’ll have to pay through your nose for it!

We’ve put together this helpful post with everything you may need to know about on-street vs. off-street parking.

What is on-street parking?

Row of cars parked on-street.

Let’s go ahead on the presumption that your destination does not have official parking – in that case, you’ll look for a spot on the street, near the curb. On-street parking is usually cheaper than official parking lots, costing as little as $1-4 per hour. The on-street parking rates vary from city to city, but it is still the cheapest parking option around. This type of parking works when you’re running on a tight budget and would rather save a few dollars on parking than go for expensive lots. On-street parking is usually indicated by parking signboards, which show the timings, time limits, and rates for parking.

How much does on-street parking cost?

The usual rates for street parking range from $1-4 per hour in most cities. However, this can increase to as high as $10 during special events, when street parking is in high demand.

What rules should you know when parking on-street?

The disadvantage of street parking is the numerous rules and regulations, which can sometimes seem pretty unwieldy! Some of the rules you need to consider include:

  • Maximum time limits: This ranges from two hours to two days depending on the city you’re in.
  • Parking timings: Most metered parking is operational only between certain times (eg. between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.), after which those spots can either become no-parking zones or free parking zones. You may have a tough time keeping them in mind when you’re in a hurry.
  • No Parking zones:  Often, areas near government buildings and other sensitive landmarks are designated ‘no parking’ zones, making it harder to find spots nearby.
  • Street Cleaning schedules: These timings are mentioned on the signboards. If you don’t move your car before street cleaning starts, you could get a hefty ticket.
  • Alternate Side Parking: This rule is followed in large cities like New York, where alternate sides of the street need to be cleared of cars before cleaning.

On-street parking: pros and cons


  • Cheap parking rates between $1-4 per hour (when no special events are happening)
  • Convenient (if in a city with plenty of spots)
  • Quick turnaround time
  • Free parking on certain stretches


  • Numerous parking rules (street cleaning, time limits, residential parking permits)
  • Expensive parking tickets for violations (as high as $100)
  • Street parking rates can spiral high during events
  • Unreliable in crowded cities like NYC, Los Angeles – you’ll rarely find vacant spots easily
  • No parking zones, overnight parking rules, etc. can play havoc
  • Risk of vandalism, break-ins, dents and scratches from careless drivers

What is off-street parking?

Off-street parking at an indoor parking garage

If you’re not one to drive around several blocks looking for on-street parking, your best bet it to park off-street at a private garage near your destination. Off-street or off-site parking is available at private parking lots run by independent third-party parking providers. Some examples of off-street parking include:

  • Single-level garages
  • Multilevel garages
  • Underground garages
  • Automated parking decks
  • Outdoor parking lots

The main benefit of off-site parking is two-fold. For one, you get the convenience of a guaranteed parking spot, since most garages are equipped with hundreds of spaces. The second advantage is security – parking at a safe, indoor garage offers you freedom from the many parking rules and other hazards of street parking.

How much does off-street parking cost?

Off-street parking lot rates can range from $10 as high as $60 depending on the city you’re in, the type of parking garage, and the amenities provided. Automated parking decks generally cost more than single or multi-level parking garages because of the technological complexity and amenities provided.

What rules should you follow when parking off-street?

An off-street parking garage

Compared to on-street parking, off-street parking has a very limited set of rules – or at least very few that could cost you money! Parking rules in off-street garages vary depending on the parking provider, but there are some unwritten rules that you must follow, like:

  • Always park between the lines
  • Keep to a maximum speed limit of 15 miles/hour
  • Do not cross-park/take up multiple spaces
  • Avoid tailgating (parking too close to another vehicle and causing it obstruction)
  • Always turn on your signals when driving or turning into a parking garage
  • Always check for pedestrians and other vehicles before backing/moving out of a spot.

Off-street parking: Pros and cons


  • Convenient, contactless parking
  • Easy pre-booking through parking apps
  • CCTC-enabled, well-lit, paved, and secure garages
  • 24-hour parking lot attendants
  • Free shuttles for garages near airports
  • Vouchers and discounts when booking through a parking app
  • Flexible hourly, daily, and monthly parking options – great for regular commuters


  • Higher rates than street parking
  • Spaces could fill up during special events
  • Automated decks may malfunction at times
  • Certain lots may not have shuttles due to low demand
  • Some garages have a height limit – cannot accommodate trucks and larger vehicles

On-street vs. Off-street parking: our verdict on which to choose

When it comes to on-street vs. off-street parking, it all boils down to how well you know your destination. If you’re a resident of the city who knows their way around, you can take a risk and try to wing it with on-street parking. However, if you’re a tourist or new to a city, we recommend not taking any chances – pre-book an off-site parking spot before you head out to minimize your parking woes!

How to find safe and affordable off-street parking near your destination

Not only is off-site parking convenient, it is also more affordable – you can save as much as 25% if you choose the right garage. To get the best deals, simply use a parking app like Way.com. It shows you the top-rated garages near your destination lets you compare prices, and book a spot – all in a few swipes. You can do all this even before you step foot out of home, and zoom straight into a contactless parking spot. You get to save both time and money in exchange for a pleasant walk to your destination!

Find affordable parking using Way.com

Read more blogs on affordable airport parking, the best insurance for your car, and top-rated car washes near you.  

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