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What is Parking Validation?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 16, 2024
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Parking validation is a co-operative effort between businesses and local parking laws that gives customers the ability to waive parking fees. Garages and parking lots will often offer validation to customers of nearby shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The goal of this system is to promote business by offering free parking, while the businesses return the favor by paying the city a small premium.

Validation is usually offered at city-owned or operated lots. The organization in charge of managing the lots will set prices for available parking and give local merchants the chance to offer their customers free parking as a reward for shopping with them. Some cities or towns charge merchants by the number of times the validation is used, while others impose a monthly fee for the service. Ideally, the merchant will see increased business for a nominal fee, and the city will still be getting paid for the use of its parking facilities.

In many garages and lots, signs are posted stating that participating merchants should be visited for parking validation. Most garages offer a limited amount of free parking with validation, usually between one and four hours. Not all merchants offer it or advertise that they will validate, so customers should be sure to check with the business they are visiting before leaving.

Some merchants require the purchase of goods or services before agreeing to validate a parking ticket. In movie theaters and other entertainment businesses like arcades or skating rinks, typically the price of admission will serve as expense enough for this benefit. At restaurants, it is usually available after finishing a meal.

In some larger malls or shopping centers, self-validation machines are also available. These machines will be in various locations throughout the mall, and often do not require purchase to be used. Since a shopper must be in the mall to be using the machine, he or she is most likely a customer and therefore receives the benefit of free parking in the shopping center’s lots. Systems like this encourage visitor loyalty, as customers may feel relieved or grateful that they don’t have to pay for parking simply because they couldn’t find anything to purchase.

Drivers should be sure to bring their parking tickets with them to receive parking validation. Most businesses use either an automated machine to give free parking or will stamp the parking ticket as proof. If the local businesses use automated systems, customers can often just insert the ticket into the machine in the garage or lot, and the validation will be verified. Stamped or signed tickets will usually need to be checked by a parking attendant at the exit.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for SmartCapitalMind. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon998306 — On May 12, 2017

Wait?! You mean some business will charge you just to leave?

By anon996103 — On Jul 10, 2016

The Harvard Dental School has "validated" parking for patients, but it's only a reduced rate. You still have to pay $12.

By anon968279 — On Sep 02, 2014

Extremely useful for people who didn't grow up with a car. Thanks!

By anon346235 — On Aug 26, 2013

They reference getting parking validated all the time in TV and movies, but I've only ever seen the process done once in downtown Trenton, New Jersey. I was shopping with a friend who got his ticket validated at a shop.

By anon334696 — On May 14, 2013

And here I felt dumb not knowing what it meant to get your parking "validated."

By anon128411 — On Nov 19, 2010

Now I finally get it! For years and years I wondered but today I finally looked it up and Eureka!

By anon95861 — On Jul 13, 2010

i was always wondering what that was. thanks for the info.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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