Driving in Washington, D.C. can be confusing, but parking in DC can downright break the bank if you don’t do a little research before your trip. Cheap and free parking near the DC museums and your hotel is possible, but you have to be careful.
Overnight parking is the hardest to find at a good price: hotels charge a premium fee to self-park or valet your car, and public garages usually aren’t much better. Parking outside of the city can save you a bundle, but you need to know the safest spots to leave your car before you Metro into DC.
Check out our guide below for secrets to finding those perfect Washington, D.C. parking spots.
Also, keep in mind that Washington, D.C. is very walkable and bike-able and has a decent transportation system. Hourly parking can break your budget and is painful to find, even on quiet weekends. Park the car and get used to alternative transport during your vacation.
Free Parking in D.C.
Parking in D.C. is free on Sundays and major holidays, but you can’t always count on traveling during those dates. That meter you just pulled up toon the street might actually work outside the normal schedule too.
DC parking laws are some of the strangest in the land, and this town sure likes to get its money.
Lucky for you, there are a few free parking options, and even more cheap parking in D.C. It’s time to learn your way around the D.C. parking system.
Paid Parking Spots in D.C.
For those just popping in and out of the city, it is fairly easy to find two-hour street parking during the day and extended hours parking at night. Take careful note of the time restriction on your space. Do not exceed that time, or you will get a ticket.
You will see green signs on the street letting you know how long you can park and between find hours. If your time runs out, you will need to move your car and find parking elsewhere.
Worst time of Day to Park in Washington D.C.
Just as traffic is bad during morning and evening rush hour, so too is parking. Travel into the city during off peak (about 10am-2pm ET) for your best chances at a spot.
The exception to this rule is if you want to park all day and take advantage of those Early Bird garage prices. Make sure you are in by 9am (or earlier) if you want those parking rates. Take note of the exit time for the garages too. Some will only give you the early bird rate if you are in by 9am and out by 6pm. Exceed that and you will pay the maximum price.
Avoid Summer and School Holidays in D.C.
The time of year can also effect your chance at a free or cheap parking spot in D.C. Summers and school holidays can be downright painful when it comes to the crowds. Not only can it be harder to find street parking, but it could take you ages just to turn a corner as school groups and tourists cross the street, blocking the intersection.
Whenever possible, park outside of the city and take the Metro in, or leave your car at your hotel. You will see that more cars are not needed March-October in Washington, D.C.
CHEAP D.C. PARKING APPS
Start downloading. These are the DC parking apps you will fall in love with when you want to park your car in a pinch. Parking Panda is our favorite app because we can map out exactly where we want to park based on where we are staying or what museum we are visiting. The others are perfect for overnight visits as well.
- Parking Panda
Don’t forget to grab our FREE Washington DC Apps guide
Book Online and Save on DC Parking Fees
Many parking apps and DC parking garages will give you a discounted rate if you book online. You can even score discounts if you prepay through the app just before you pull into the garage. I’ve done this many times as we figure out where we want to eat on our way into the city.
Overnight Parking at Metro Stations
There are only four metro stops that allow overnight parking at their stations: Greenbelt, Huntington, Franconia-Springfield, and Wiehle-Reston East. Only 15 to 17 spaces are allocated for multi-day use of up to 10 days.
You can not reserve a spot; you simply show up and hope one is there. Regular day rates apply. There is no additional fee for parking overnight, which is a really nice perk.
- Wiehle-Reston East
Long Term Parking in Park and Ride Lots
The Washington DC metro area has over 300 Park & Ride lots, so local residents can carpool, hop in van pools or take the bus to work. You can leave your car in these lots overnight, but it is at your own risk.
Do not leave valuables in your car. Give a good look around the neighborhood. Some are safer than others.
Park NEAR a DC Metro Station and Ride In
While not every metro station allows overnight parking, some parking companies like Colonial Parking and Laz Parking have set up shop close to Metro Stations so you can park for a flat fee and ride the Metro into downtown Washington, DC. Both companies also have garages in the city if you want to try your luck a bit closer to your hotel, but not pay the hotel up charge for valet.
While you won’t want to park at DC’s Union Station, there are several Amtrak stations just outside of downtown Washington, D.C. that offer overnight parking to passengers. Park in an overnight spot at any Amtrak station outside of DC and take the train into town. Fees do apply, but they are often less than a hotel valet charge.
Get to know someone in DC or the DC Suburbs
There are more free two-hour parking spots in and around DC than we can count, unless of course you have a residential permit. That permit gets you unlimited parking within your zone.
So, if you plan to visit DC often, it’s time for you to get to know the DC locals.
Almost every resident can apply for a parking permit, which also comes with a visitor’s pass. Call me crazy, but I love that I can park my car at my house and walk to the metro station five blocks away. All of my friends and family love this perk as well. This is by far the cheapest way to park in Washington DC. Actually, it’s the best free street parking in D.C.