Do Electric Cars Get to Park for Free? Where Public Parking is Free for EV Owners


Perhaps you’ve heard whispers about the perks of owning an electric car. There are the obvious reasons, such as, no more buying gas, fewer emissions, and a much quieter ride. In addition to these perks, you may have also heard that electric cars get to park for free in public lots.

Electric cars are allowed to park for free in some areas. Free public parking varies by location. Some areas, such as the Los Angeles airport, allowed free parking for electric cars. However, this privilege has been revoked, and free parking for electric vehicles remains an issue of contention in many cities.

If you’re interested in why electric cars get to park for free, stick around.  I also share where electric vehicles have been allowed to park for free, why this started in the first place, and reasons why this isn’t more common. Everything you need to know about electric cars parking for free is coming right up. 

Where Can You Park an Electric Vehicle for Free? 

Several areas have instituted free parking for electric vehicles. However, some are more inclusive than others. For instance, some areas will grant free parking to hybrid vehicles, while others will only allow a fully electric car to have free parking. 

Here are a few areas that allow free parking:

  • Cincinnati: The city of Cincinnati will grant free parking to fully electric cars only. This includes several select areas of the city, and you must enroll in the program. They still have some restrictions on overnight parking. And, you must still abide by the time stated by the meter. The rule applies within city limits only. 
  • Sacramento: Sacramento does not allow universal free parking for electric vehicles. However, they have a program you can enroll in to qualify for free monthly parking at specific locations. Cars must be 100% electric. 
  • Hawaii: You may have heard about Honolulu’s free parking for electric vehicles. Well, as of June 2020, it no longer exists. While they tried to offer this service for a while, in the end, there were too many roadblocks. 

In the next section, we will explain why cities have allowed free parking for electric vehicles, and why more places don’t. Times have changed a lot since many of these laws were first put in place. Cities are forced to adapt to the growing presence of electric vehicles on the road. 

Tesla electric car free parking sign

Why Do Some Cities Let Electric Cars Park for Free? 

The goal of free parking for electric vehicles is a simple incentive. Free parking means more people will buy electric cars, which means less harmful emissions and a healthier city and planet. 

Many cities, like Vancouver, would like to move to entirely electric vehicles at some point. This has more advantages than just limiting emissions. 

Electric vehicles are usually smaller, leading to less crowded streets. In large cities, where there are tons of people walking around, this is a huge benefit. Also, electric cars are much quieter than their noisy gas-guzzling friend. The more people who drive these quiet cars around the city, the less hustle and bustle and raucous in the streets. This gives cities a more tranquil, modern vibe. 

These incentives are set up with the best interests of the city in mind. However, there have been several issues in the implementation. 

Related article:

Why Don’t More Cities Allow Free Parking for Electric Cars? 

The reason more states and cities don’t implement more free parking for electric cars has many levels. Though it’s a great idea to have a cleaner, quieter city, and it’s certainly nice to give out free parking, there are issues in the implementation. 

Here’s a list of reasons why more cities don’t allow electric cars to park for free: 

  • Difficult to regulate the time 
  • There are now a lot more electric cars on the road 
  • Other notable groups don’t get the same privileges 
  • They still need to pay for upkeep 

It’s Difficult to Regulate Free Parking Time

If everyone only parked somewhere for half an hour, it would be easy to give out free parking. But people don’t park for just 30 minutes. They sometimes need to park for hours and hours. 

If the space is free, there is no incentive for that person to finally move their vehicle. They might even park at the garage and leave for a 3-month vacation! 

So, cities begin setting limits on the free parking time. If you have an electric car and only get free parking for an hour, then it’s not free if you need two hours. It’s just cheaper. 

Cities still need to keep vehicles moving through parking spots; otherwise, there would hardly be a parking garage open (cities are packed enough!).

There are More Electric Cars on the Road 

Back in 2012, when Hawaii began allowing electric cars to park in their airports for free, there were a lot fewer electric cars on the road. In fact, in 2012, there were only about 100,000 electric cars in use worldwide. That may seem like a significant number, but when you compare it to over four million battery-powered cars on the road in 2020, it’s a small number. 

So, it’s much more challenging to go handing out free parking for electric cars now. In a way, you could say the incentives did their jobs, and the world has become a little cleaner. 

Other Special Groups Don’t Get Free Parking 

It’s not a very good look when a thirty-year-old rich kid drives up to a free parking spot in his new Tesla while a disabled veteran still has to pay for his spot. This is just an example, but it’s one of the situations these cities are trying to avoid. 

They don’t give everyone free parking, so they decide not to give out free parking for anyone. While this may be unfortunate, it is a reality. I’m sure many cities would love to give free parking to all. But with the crowded nature of America’s metropolitan areas, we will probably never see this as a reality. 

But, I guess we should never say never. Maybe the train will make a comeback, and we’ll all ditch our four-wheeled wagons. 

Cities Still Need to Pay For Upkeep 

An electric car still causes wear and tear to a parking garage – just like the gasoline car. Areas can’t justify giving out free parking to electric cars just because they are electric. EVeryone needs to pay their fair share to maintain the garage and keep the city functioning. 

There are a few exceptions, like Cincinnati, but with the increased production of electric vehicles, we are likely to see a continued decline in free parking for battery-powered vehicles. 

Good News for Electric Car Owners and Parking

While you may not get free parking everywhere, there are still many benefits to owning an electric car. Many cities are incorporating free electric charging ports within their parking garages. So if you think about the cost-saving on gas, in a way, you are canceling out your parking fees.

I find the one of the biggest benefits of owning an electric car is having the best parking spots. While Target, for example, offers free parking in their lots, their charging stations are free and located at the front of their parking lots. A lot of businesses do this to encourage electric car owners to shop while getting a charge. Or come to their store, because they have a charging station. 

In the end, having an electric car is still probably worth it. And if you live in Cincinnati, you might be able to find some genuinely free parking locations. However, don’t expect to see this trend continue. Electric cars are becoming more prolific every day as they drive toward mainstream acceptance and ease of use.

Who knows, maybe someday they won’t need to park, they’ll hover up in the sky somewhere, waiting until we need them. 

Related articles:

Jordan Fromholz

I'm an electric car owner, enthusiast, and founder of the Plugin Report. As a Chemical Engineer with over 14-years in the energy industry, I've made my passions be renewable energy, batteries, and electric cars. My family lives on Maui where we drive our 2017 Nissan Leaf and share everything there is to know about electric cars.

Recent Posts