This article is based on our research for 2022 - you can see an updated version with current 2023 data here.
With the weather starting to improve and the country beginning to lower restrictions on travel, many Brits are looking at where their next holiday destination should be. When looking to save money on your trip, it’s important to consider other factors rather than solely how much the flights themselves cost, in addition to the hotels and other expenses.
One such factor that tends to be overlooked is how much your parking will cost at the airport, and how you can get yourself the cheapest deal. Xcite Car Leasing have taken a look at the top 20 UK airports (in terms of the number of average passengers per year) and created an index to show which is the overall best UK airport to park at.
We considered criteria such as how much it costs for Drop Off, Short Stay, Mid Stay, and Long Stay parking when you turn up on the day, as well as which are the cheapest airports for pre-booking your parking at too.
Plus, the number of Electric Vehicle charging stations at each airport were analysed, showing which are the best to park at if you own an EV, which a growing number of UK drivers do.
Each airport was ranked for each factor, with the scores added up and calculated to then rank the airports in an overall index. The lower the overall score, the higher the better that airport is for parking.
Belfast Named as the Best UK Airport for Parking
Belfast International Airport took the top spot in our index, excelling in several different areas of the study. For example, it was the cheapest overall for their Short Stay and Long Stay parking for turn up and pay, at £5 for an hour and £65 for 7 days, respectively. They were, however, let down by the lack of EV charging points, something which they may look at rectifying in the coming years.
Cardiff was in second place overall, and although they didn’t rank first for any of the scoring criteria, they were in the top 10 for everything, and in the top five for Short Stay, Drop Off, Long Stay, and EV Charging Points.
Glasgow rounded out the top three, scoring particularly well for Weekend Pre-Booking, Mid Stay, and Long Stay parking.
Pre-Book at Edinburgh Airport for the Best Parking Deal
For the study, we got a parking quote for a weekend (starting at 7pm on Friday and ending at 12pm on Monday), as well as for a week-long stay (Wednesday 5pm till Wednesday 5pm). Each pricing quote was for a month in advance of the travel dates, to see which UK airport would give the best deal.
The winner was Edinburgh, which provided the cheapest quote for both the pre-booked weekend (£24.99) and week-long stay (£33.99). When looking at the cheapest pre-booked weekend parking, Belfast (£25.99), Glasgow (£29.99), and Leeds Bradford (£30) all offered cheap deals too.
With the week-long stay, Aberdeen (£34.99) and Belfast (£39.99) were also in the three cheapest places to park, which should be considered when looking for the best overall deal on your next holiday.
Heathrow Has by Far the Most EV Charging Points
If you’re an electric car owner, it’s important to consider whether you will be able to charge your car while you’re at the airport. We looked at each airport’s website, as well as Zap Map, to determine that Heathrow is by far the top of the list for the number of EV charging points, with 38 overall that are available to use by customers. These are located in the multi-storey car parks, with 26 in the Terminal 2 parking area, and four each in T3, T4, and T5’s multi-storey offerings.
Bristol Airport was the next best for EV Charging Points, with 12 overall, while London Luton Airport boasts 10 at the time of writing.
Four airports don’t currently offer EV Charging Points on-site: Stansted, Belfast International, Doncaster Sheffield, and Southend.
How to Get Free Drop Off Parking Time at Each UK Airport
The vast majority of UK airports have the option to drop people off in one of their zones for free, each with a set area and time. Here’s how to get free drop off parking at 19 of the top 20 most populated UK airports, with only London City Airport not offering this particular service.
Free Drop Off Parking Offered?
Belfast International Airport
15 mins: Long Stay
5 mins: Drop Off Zone
10 mins for Electric Vehicles
30 mins: Long Stay
30 mins: Long Stay
Doncaster Sheffield Airport
15 mins: Short Stay
15 mins: Short Stay 2
30 mins: Long Stay
40 mins: Drop Off 2
Leeds Bradford Airport
1 hour: Free Zone
London Luton Airport
15 mins: Mid Stay
1 hour: Long Stay
East Midlands Airport
1 hour: Long Stay 2
20 mins: Drop Off Car Park
2 hours: Long Stay Car Park
1 hour: Waiting Zone
1 hour: Mid Stay
29 mins: Long Stay
15 mins: Long Stay 3
Free Drop Off Area: JetParks 1
London City Airport
No Free Drop Off - 10 mins: £3.80
Manchester airport doesn’t list a time limit on their free drop off area, with Gatwick offering the most time at 2 hours in their Long Stay Car Park. Stansted, Bristol, East Midlands, London Luton, and Leeds Bradford all offer 1 hour free drop off zones, while you can also get 40 minutes at Liverpool Airport.
If you’re not able to get a good deal on your parking, it may be worth looking into if you’re able to get a drop off from a friend or family member, which could save you quite a lot on your trip.
Aberdeen and Southampton are the Cheapest for Mid Stay Parking
If you’re going on a quick trip and will be coming back the next day, then Aberdeen and Southampton offer the cheapest turn-up and park price for one day, at £28 each. They just pipped Newcastle Airport to the post, which offers Mid Stay one-day parking for £29. There were also a few airports that have their Mid Stay pricing set at £30, in the form of Glasgow, London Luton, Southend, and Stansted.
For this study, we looked at the standard turn up and go pricing for Drop Off (15 mins), Short Stay (1 hour), Mid Stay (1 day), and Long Stay (7 days) parking of the top 20 UK airports with the most passengers per year.
We also then got an individual quote for a pre-booked weekend (7pm Fri - 12pm Mon) and a pre-booked week (5pm Wed - 5pm Wed), both for dates a month into the future. The final factor we considered was the number of Electric Vehicle Charging Points that each airport currently has.
We then compared all of these factors and awarded each airport a rank from 1-20 for each category, and added the scores together to create the overall airport parking index. The lower the score, the better the rank, and thus the better that airport is to park at.
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