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Best Apps To Find A Parking Space

By Aaron Crowe

Since the first parking meter was installed in 1935, finding a parking space has been a pain in the neck.

Unlike electronic toll collection and other technological advances in transportation, not much has changed since that first parking meter in Oklahoma City. Drivers have few options when looking for a spot to park: Drive around the block a few times or find a nearby garage to park in.

But that’s changed in recent years, with parking apps for smartphones making it easier to find a parking spot, at least for drivers in metropolitan cities.

Lots of parking apps available

Here are some of the best parking apps, along with a look at what the future of parking may be. Not all are available in every city, so check the app websites to determine which work in your area. It’s not a complete list, since there are so many apps available, but it’s a good start when looking for parking:

ParkMe. The app ParkMe helps find parking spots in 1,800 cities on seven continents, even Antarctica. Like other apps, ParkMe uses color codes of green, yellow and red to show approximate parking spots by block. Green means more than four parking spaces are available.

“If it’s green you have a high probability of finding a parking spot there,” says David Cummins, senior vice president of parking solutions for Xerox, which created the parking space sensors that tell the apps if a spot is open. “If it’s yellow you have less of a chance, and if it’s red don’t go there at all. Don’t even waste your time.”

The sensors are installed under the asphalt of parking spaces, providing real-time data when a car drives in or leaves. Cities buy the technology from Xerox. While the data is in real time, it doesn’t help direct drivers to specific spaces because that could be frustrating for drivers who aren’t quick enough to get to a spot, so the color-coded coverage by block is used, Cummins says.

Parker. Found at Theparkerapp.com and run by the company Streetline Inc., this is another app that uses data from Xerox. It can find parking spaces in cities, college campuses, airports and other places in the United States and abroad. It also finds parking in garages and lots in more than 40 cities, including Los Angeles, Boston, Indianapolis and New York City.

Like most mobile apps, drivers can pay for parking through a separate payment app. A timer can be set to remind you when your meter is about to expire, doing away with the dreaded feeling of possibly getting a parking ticket for an expired meter.

Some parking apps send text messages when a meter is about to expire, allowing time to be added through another app payment.

“It really takes away the pain of going back to feed the meter,” Cummins says.

The downside of Parker is that most parking spaces it finds are on lots, and it lacks information on street parking, says Jordan Perch, who writes about car tech at FutuMoto.com.

“It’s fairly easy to use, providing you with a map that you can use to select a street you wish to park you car on and see if there are any available spots there,” Perch says.

SpotHero. The company launched in 2011after its founders had difficulty finding parking. SpotHero doesn’t find street parking, but focuses on garages and lots. It provides unused inventory of parking companies that users can reserve a day or more in advance, or on the spot.

The discounts it offers can be amazing. In Chicago, for instance, rates can be 60% to 80% less than the list price, says Elise Fox, public relations manager for SpotHero. For a customer who makes a reservation, their spot will be held for them all day, even if the garage is full, Fox says.

BestParking.com. Like many other apps, BestParking allows searches by address, neighborhood, landmark and city, allowing quick searches if you’re not familiar with the area.

It works in 100 cities and 115 airports, saving motorists an average of $15 each time they park, says Benjamin Sann, the company’s founder and CEO. Sann, 25, says he started the business when he was 17 after watching a “Seinfeld” episode where George refuses to pay for a parking space.

Scott Reyns, a voice actor in San Francisco, says he uses it to find parking fast. Reyns says he also uses it when checking out properties to determine if daily or monthly parking is cheaper. He says he’s found some neighborhoods where parking would cost more than $300 per month, and others for less than $225 a month.

It also offers discounted parking and a range of parking, such as the $12 that travel writer Leah Klein has found in Boston instead of $25 for another lot near her destination.

ParkWhiz. It compares price, location and amenities for parking, as many apps do. ParkWhiz also allows users to book a parking spot, instantly giving them an electronic parking pass to print or use on a smartphone.

Parkopedia. With the goal of mapping and listing every parking space in the world, Parkopedia has its work cut out for it. It claims to cover more than 28 million parking spaces in 40 countries around the world, partly from contributions from users. Drivers can easily add a space by uploading a photo of a parking sign or a price list.

VoicePark. Some apps provide directions by voice to open parking spots, but VoicePark is a totally hands-free app that gives turn-by-turn directions by voice to the closest available parking spot. It claims to reduce the average time it takes to park a vehicle in San Francisco from 6.5 minutes to 45 seconds.

In-car technology

As more cars come equipped with in-dash computers connected to mobile broadband networks, drivers will no longer need to squint at their smartphones, but will be able to have the car’s computer system search for a parking spot and pay for it.

Audi has teamed up with ParkMe for an in-car app in more than 100,000 Audi vehicles. Unlike the smartphone app, the in-car app doesn’t accept reservations or payment, though that could change.

Rent or share a parking spot

The sharing economy is another way to find parking, though not for free. Some apps allow people to rent their driveway — such as Park Circa in San Francisco— to a driver who checks in and checks out at certain times so the owner can return to a clear driveway.

While homeowners can already rent out their driveways, they can’t rent out the space in front of their driveway — that area is usually regulated by cities. One idea that may someday become reality is to allow owners to also rent that spot on the street, Cummins says.

Another possibility is for cities to allow sharing of on-street parking spots by small cars. It would need the coordination of drivers of small cars or motorcycles, such as through an app, Cummins says, but it could help take advantage of the extra space that small cars provide.

Sharing, as your kindergarten teacher probably told you, can make life — including parking a lot easier.

Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.