Parking tickets are more than mere annoyances that stack up when you overstay brunch with your friends or sneak into a resident-only zone to volunteer at the library.
In most cities and towns, the price of parking is minimal, and smartphone apps now make it easier to pay for a spot than carrying a pocketful of quarters. Yet sometimes you misread a sign that states a two-hour limit, your car hangs over a crosswalk while you run in a store, or you don't have time to move your car when the city is cleaning the street.
While parking tickets are not the same as moving violations that are recorded on your driving record and reported to your insurance company, resulting in higher annual insurance rates, they carry consequences.
In places where parking is limited, cities can be strict with parking fines and additional fees for not paying tickets promptly. So, what happens if you don't pay for a parking ticket? It can result in severe consequences for your driving privileges and bank account.
What Happens When Parking Tickets Are Left Unpaid?
- Your fine will go up. Many cities slap you with a late fee equal to the original ticket once a 30-day payment period has lapsed. If you wait even longer, the fees escalate in 15-day increments.
- You might end up in court. Failure to pay parking tickets may trigger a cascade of unpleasant results, such as having your vehicle "booted" or impounded. These actions result in additional fees, which you must pay before you may retake possession of the vehicle. Imagine taking a day off work and traveling to a courthouse to explain why you didn't pay a $25 ticket before late fees turned into a $150 fee, court costs, and impoundment costs.
- Your credit score could go down. If your ticket remains unpaid for a specific period, the city will send it to a collection agency. Having even one bill in collections causes damage to your credit score, which can damage your ability to get loans, jobs, and housing.
- Your license can be suspended. Laws may vary from state to state, but some cities force payment of overdue fines by refusing to renew your driver's license when it's due. Since parking tickets are not moving violations, it's unlikely they will reflect on your driving records and adversely impact your credit limit.
- You must deal with debt collectors. Debt collectors call day and night, get your work number, and harass you until you settle your overdue account. Once your debt is reported to a collection agency, it will be reflected on your credit report as an adverse incident. This could discourage banks from approving loans and credit card applications. Similarly, landlords may deny a rental application, and some potential employers may decline to consider you for positions that involve responsibility.
- Your registration renewal will get denied. If you have outstanding unpaid tickets, the city or town will report them to the state department of motor vehicles. This system allows the state to refuse to renew your vehicle registration or driver's license. You may be able to settle the debt when you visit the DMV to renew these documents. Still, it also may result in an officer delivering a warrant to your home that demands payment.
- Your car can be towed. If you've amassed enough unpaid parking tickets, the city or town you owe money to can have your vehicle towed. Then it's up to you to pay the tickets or let them auction your car to collect the fines. You should receive the difference if the auction price exceeds the amount owed in parking fines.
Where Do You Pay for a Parking Ticket?
Read your ticket carefully. All the necessary information is on it, including the due date and what to do, whether you want to pay in person or appeal the ticket. It's common for a city or town to accept online payments for tickets. Check the city's website for the parking office for more information.
What Is the Time Frame to Pay for a Parking Violation?
Parking tickets are generally due within 30 days of receipt. The ticket will have all of the necessary information on it, or you may check the website of the city or town where you parked your vehicle. Pay close attention to the due date because fines may escalate in shorter increments after the due date, and it may take a day or two for the city to approve the payment. For instance, the fine may double 15 days after the original due date.
How Much Do Tickets Cost?
The fine on a parking ticket depends on the city and the type of violation. Check online or call your city's parking division to find the schedule of parking violation fines. Some examples of parking tickets from around the United States include:
- In Boston, parking too close to an intersection is a $40 fine, but parking in a resident-only zone, in a bus stop, blocking a bike lane, or handicapped ramp is $100.
- In Chicago, parking in a fire or bike lane is a $100 fine but illegally using an accessible parking spot is $200.
- In Houston, leaving your car at an expired meter is a $35 fine, but if you wait more than 30 days to pay, the fine grows to $55. Likewise, if you block a fire hydrant in Houston by parking closer than 15 feet, the fine is $105.
Parking Tickets Are Not Just a Nuisance
Parking tickets feel like a mere annoyance, but it's serious business for the town or city that writes them. Some cities collect millions of dollars in parking fines each year. Overdue ticket fees can become a big headache when collection agencies, vehicle impoundment, and suspension of your driving privileges results. The best policy is to find legal spaces for parking and, if you get a ticket, to pay for it promptly.