It happens to the best of us. Park in a spot too long, or stick out just past a No Parking sign, and you get a parking ticket. Sometimes the ticket comes days later in the mail, showing up in an ominous municipal envelope. But most of the time, the ticket is waiting for you, tucked under a windshield wiper, ready to spoil your return. If you’re really unlucky, you may catch the parking attendant in the act, and be forced to stand around waiting for them to finish writing the ticket so you can get on with your day.
The first question most people have is, “How much is this going to cost?” That’s quickly followed by “What does this do to my record?” and, “Should I call that nice lawyer at 1-800-SUING-4-U?” But before you do anything, take a breath, count to 10, and read this post because Car Bibles is here to answer the most common parking ticket questions.
Will Parking Tickets Go on Your Driving Record?
The short answer is no! While parking violations vary by state and local municipality, they don’t end up on your driving record. Here’s why:
Your driving record is based on your driving habits. If you get a ticket for speeding or running a red light, it’s considered a moving violation, which might add points to your driving record, depending where you live. When insurance companies see these points, they may put you in a higher rate category and raise your premiums. To them, the points indicate you are a reckless or bad driver and more likely to cause an accident. Accumulate enough points or commit a serious enough moving violation and your insurance company will cancel your policy. You may also wind up in court, have your license temporarily suspended, or lose it permanently.
In comparison, parking violations are non-moving violations. Because your car is parked when one occurs, it doesn’t indicate you’re a bad driver, just bad at parking cars. That even goes for people who park in handicapped spots without handicap tags — they are guilty of non-moving violations and being jerks. Non-moving violations do not add points to your license and you most likely won’t end up in court.
Are Car Insurance Rates Affected by Parking Tickets?
Again, the answer is most likely no. Because parking tickets are non-moving violations, they do not show up on your driving record. The occasional parking ticket doesn’t reflect on your driving habits, which is what they are concerned about.
However, you could run into trouble if you don’t pay your fine or rack up a lot of parking tickets. Failure to pay your fine increases the severity of the violation. You will incur additional fines or have your car towed and impounded. This leads to additional fees and penalties. Eventually, your license may get suspended, which will get the attention of your insurance company.
Failure to pay your parking tickets can also hurt your credit score. A lower credit score affects your ability to borrow money to buy a car or house, rent an apartment, and get insurance. This is because insurance companies use your credit score as another risk indicator. A low credit score tells them you have trouble paying your bills on time, which means you could have trouble making your insurance payment. This will put you in a higher-risk category, leading to higher insurance rates, or seeing your insurance policy canceled.
Tips for Avoiding Parking Tickets
The best way to avoid a parking ticket is to avoid parking where you could get a ticket. However, that may not be an option unless you have another mode of transportation, like a bike, public transit, or walking. If you have to drive, the best thing you can do is avoid parking illegally. If you’re an experienced driver, you should already know these things, but here are some tips to consider when parking:
- Read every single word on every single sign on the whole street. The signs can often be a bit confusing, so make sure you’re understanding the requirements and limitations of parking on that street.
- Check if the street requires permits. If all of the cars on the street have stickers in the front of their windshields, you probably can’t park there.
- Always take photos of where you park. This record could help if the signs were missing, the paint was faded, or you were a proper distance from the fire hydrant. By taking a picture, you have proof and ammunition if you need to appeal the ticket.
- Always check for fire hydrants. If there’s an open spot on a busy street, and nobody is taking it, that’s likely the reason.
- Use discount apps. There are several apps that can save you the hassle of using parking meters. Grab a spot for a daily rate, and save money while easing stress.
- However, if you are using a meter, set phone alarms to remind you to feed it when your time is up.
- Or download the parking meter app. Then you can refill your time from your seat at the bar.
- Don’t put your hazards on and leave your car unattended. Just because the cop sees your hazards on doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be parked in front of a driveway. If you have to park illegally for a quick moment, make sure somebody stays in the car at all times.
- Don’t cheat into no-parking ones. Even a couple inches of your nose sticking into a crosswalk, a driveway, a fire hydrant zone, or a loading zone could result in a ticket. When it comes to the law, almost absolutely does not count.
- Don’t expect any lenience. Just follow the rules and you won’t get a ticket.
How Can You Tell if You Have Unpaid Parking Tickets?
Most municipalities have websites that allow you to look up and pay unpaid parking tickets online. First, find the website for the municipality you want to search. Then locate the landing page for traffic court or for paying municipal fines. Once you locate that site, you should be able to look up your tickets by name and date of birth, ticket number, or car license plate.
If you’re not able to locate a website, you can call the traffic court or Department of Motor Vehicles. (NOTE: the number for ticket inquiries is NOT 911!) It may take some digging, and your call may get transferred several times, but you will eventually find someone who can help.
Finally, if you feel you shouldn’t have received a parking ticket, or the fine is too high, you can contest it. This will involve more effort on your part but could save you some money. Make sure you understand how to file an appeal for the municipality that issued the ticket. You will also want to collect evidence and present your argument in a way that concisely and truthfully makes your case.
FAQs About Parking Tickets
Car Bibles answers all your burning questions.
Q: Will a private parking company take me to court?
A: Private parking operators could take you to court, but they may choose not to do this, as the amount of money being demanded is usually quite small. Keep the ticket and any other paperwork for evidence.
Q: What happens if a private parking company takes me to court?
A: You can choose not to pay your parking ticket and the parking company will decide if it’s worth taking you to court. If the parking company takes you to court and you lose, you’ll have to pay the fine—which could go up by then—as well as any court costs, which could be expensive.
Q: Is a parking fine a criminal offense?
A: Minor traffic offenses (speeding, parking fines, etc.) do not constitute a criminal conviction.
Q: What are valid reasons to appeal a parking ticket?
A: The top three best reasons are:
- You were parked correctly.
- The parking signs or road markings were unclear.
- There was no way to pay.
Q: How do I write a letter of appeal for a parking ticket?
A: Your formal appeal letter should include the following information:
- Ticket number
- Vehicle make, model, and license plate
- Date the ticket was issued
- Explain why you are appealing e.g. the ticket was wrongly issued or there are mitigating circumstances.
For more information about your specific state, call or look up the local DMV.
Learn More From This Video About How to Appeal a Parking Ticket
Car Bibles’ editors understand that not everyone is a text-based learner. For those kinesthetic people out there, we have your back with a video showing you how to appeal a parking ticket. We pulled it from one of our favorite, and most trusted, sources and it’s a great additional resource.
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