Types of Airport Parking: A One-Stop Complete Reference

George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington DC and all other airports in the United States are extremely busy and crowded 24/7. Every day, thousands and thousands of passengers board planes that fly all over the world. How do so many people travel to the airport from their homes? There are so many options available, but many passengers do prefer taking their own car. But where do they park their car for the rest of the trip and how much does it cost?

Read our detailed airport parking reference guide to find out key information that can make the experience convenient and hassle-free.

Types of Airport Parking

Generally, the following types of airport parking are easily available at many US airports.

Airport Owned Parking Spaces

As the name implies, these types of airport parking spaces are owned by the airport and managed by their operations team.


Airport owned parking spaces are within the airport grounds and our closet to the terminal when compared to other types. Sometimes, they may be located at a greater distance, in which case designated shuttle services run throughout the day at scheduled times.


Parking rates are decided by the airport authority or state airport commission, which responsible for overall management and operations. Costs for airport owned parking spaces are higher, simply because of their close proximity to the airport and the fact that they are a convenient airport parking option.

Generally, the rate structure is classified as follows:

  • Hourly rates – usually meant for those who pick up and drop off passengers
  • Short term rates – when the car will be parked at the lot for less than a week
  • Long term rates – applicable if the car will be in the lot for more than a week

Payment is usually accepted through debit or credit cards. Cash is an offered payment mode only when the parking lot isn’t automated and has attendants to serve you.


One of the drawbacks of airport owned parking spaces is that they don’t accept any reservations. Parking is on a first come, first serve basis, which means that if the lot is jammed pack, it may be quite a hassle for you to find a suitable parking spot for your car.  However, many airports do post status updates on their websites regularly, which tell you about saturated or full parking lots.

Generally, availing this kind of airport parking service is quite simple. You drive the car to the entrance of the lot, where you’re handed a ticket. Enter the enclosed area, park your car and then leave for the terminal. Upon leaving, you have to return the ticket and pay the incurred amount. The total costs simply depend on the total number of hours or days your car was parked. Valet parking may be offered at some airport parking lots, but usually a third party manages the service. Premium valet parking is priced much higher than regular parking. However, this is a more convenient option because you drive your car right to the terminal and then hand it off to the personnel on duty.


Generally, airport owned parking spaces are secure areas.  However, if your car is too close to the terminal, a break-in might not be so noticeable because of the crowd and frequent movement.  Still, these spaces are monitored through premium CCTV systems, so there is a very little chance of any security breach.


Airport owed parking spaces only offer a basic shuttle service if they are located at a distance from the departure lounge. In rare cases, electric vehicle charging stations may be available.


  • Airport owned parking spaces are closest to the terminal.
  • Often, hourly parking or short stay service can be availed.
  • Parking shuttles take you to the airport if the distance cannot be traveled on foot.


  • Generally, airport owned parking spaces are busy.
  • Security can be a concern if the area is too big.
  • Costs are higher than for other types of airport parking.
  • Reservations cannot be made in advance.

Privately Owned Airport Parking Lots

Privately owned airport parking lots are managed by third parties and private companies.


Privately owned airport parking lots are located right next to the airport, but not on the airport grounds. Like airport owned parking spaces, their main purpose is to facilitate in-flight passengers.


A third party sets the costs for this type of airport parking spaces, so you’ll definitely come across many variations. Many times, you may have to pay additional taxes. However, since there is no competition, the total cost incurred is still within an affordable range. Compared to airport owned parking spaces, the rates can be as low as 70%, but privately owned airport parking lots aren’t the cheapest option out there.

Generally, a daily payment structure is followed. If you park your car for a few hours only, pricing will be discounted.


Privately owned airport parking lots allow you to reserve space, usually through their online website.  This is of great help during holidays or busy seasons. Like with airport owned parking spaces, you drive to the lot, receive a ticket and then pay when you exit.


Third party lots are situated some distance away from the airport, and hence, they are usually not that crowded. Since foot traffic and activity is limited, security at these lots is more manageable. Moreover, many security controls are deployed such as a single entrance and exit, 24/7 security staff, good lighting and cameras.  High fences are often installed, which prevent unauthorized personnel from access.


Privately owned parking lots offer more quality services than airport managed parking spaces. The shuttle service is instantly available, which takes you to the terminal and assists you with your baggage. Most of the times, you’re directly taken to the check-in counter, which saves significant time.

Other amenities are also offered for a more convenient experience. These services are usually free and include covered and indoor parking, newspaper, bottled water, luggage assistance, charging stations and vehicle cleaning during snowy seasons. If you agree to pay a nominal fee, you can avail other amenities as well such as valet parking, car wash and maintenance.


  • Privately owned airport parking spaces are less crowded, meaning that you can find space more easily than with airport owned parking spaces.
  • Prices are reasonable and affordable
  • Advanced booking can be made for avoiding last minute hassles.


  • Distance from the terminal is longer and can only be covered through a shuttle service.
  • Size of these lots is smaller, so you may not find space if you don’t book well beforehand.

Hotel Airport Parking

Hotel airport parking lots, as the name suggests, are located close to the hotels, within 5 miles from the airport.


The prices of hotel airport parking spaces fall within a wide range because of the competition. Also, since most of the hotels utilize an online parking service, the revenue is often split. Hence, price structure variations can also be observed.

Generally, if you are staying for only a few days, then other options may be more affordable for you. But if your stay is lengthy, then hotel airport parking will be the most affordable choice,


With other types of airport parking, you pay charges after having availed the service. However, if you avail a hotel airport parking service, you pay the full amount in advance at the time of booking. On the day of arrival, you arrive at the hotel and park in your assigned spot. You can then take the shuttle to the airport terminal. There are often wait times. These vary depending on the time of the day and the season of the year. Sometimes, they can be as long as 30 minutes.


Generally, hotel airport parking is the least secure of all available options. The area may be fenced in, but there are usually no cameras.


No amenities are offered as such, other than the shuttle service, which you can use for free.


  • Hotel airport parking is situated farthest from the terminal compared to the other three options, and hence, they are the more affordable.
  • Reservations are allowed.


  • Reservation can only be made through sites that may charge a fee for doing so.
  • During the busy season, shuttle services may be crowded.
  • The offered security levels for hotel airport parking are the lowest.

A Round-Up of Common Types of Airport Parking

Type Location Costs Security
Airport owned parking spaces Close to the airport terminal Expensive Spread over large areas; generally, topnotch security systems are deployed
Privately owned airport parking Right outside the airport’s perimeter Medium price range Compact area; often fenced in
Hotel parking lots Some distance away from the airport Affordable Lower security in case of an open access parking space


Short Term and Long Term Stay

Short term and long term parking spaces are the same at some of the airports. At others, both are available in the same lot, usually separated by levels or some kind of barrier.

Please note that all types of airport parking options discussed above offer both short term and long term stay.

Short Term Airport Parking

Short term airport parking lots are fairly close to the airport terminal, often within walking distance.  Rates are charged by the hour, though your stay can extend to multiple days. Generally, there is no limit on the days for which you can park your car, but the total costs are on the higher side, making this option more expensive than long term airport parking.

Generally, short term airport parking works best when you have to pick up and drop off other passengers or when you are traveling for a day.

Long Term Airport Parking

Long term airport parking allows you to leave your car for the night and follows per day prices. If you have to park your car for a number of days, the overall costs incurred are lower than short stay airport parking. Also, if your stay exceeds a set number of days, then you may be offered lower per day prices.

That being said, do check out operational policies for long term airport parking. Some of these allow you to park your car for 10 days at the most, whereas others permit you to stay for a few weeks.

Airport Cell Phone Parking Spaces

Cell phone airport parking lots are only recommended when you have to pick up passengers. You park your car and then wait at a designated area. When your passengers land and have cleared all formalities, they can ring you on your phone and you can then pick them up from the terminal exit.

Airport cell phone parking lots don’t charge any fee, but generally, your stay is limited to 30 minutes at the most. Flight information is clearly displayed, so you’ll know when your passengers have landed.

When You Don’t Want to Park…

If you prefer leaving your car at home, then you would have to avail a parking service. But commuting to the airport through other means may take more time than if you were driving yourself. Still, you can avail options such as public transportation, car rentals, taxi or Uber. You can even request a family member or a friend to drop you off.

Want more useful information on the types of airport parking services? Follow our blog!

Here are some of the best airport parking options.

  1. MCO parking
  2. SFO parking
  3. JFK parking
  4. PHL parking
  5. LAX parking

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