Why throwing your pay & display ticket away after use could cost £100

It’s increasingly common for car parks to have CCTV cameras, and often you’ll find a parking charge arrives in the post instead of being slapped on your windscreen. So if you’ve paid and displayed, it’s crucial to ALWAYS keep hold of the evidence so you can prove it.

This blog post was prompted by one MoneySaver getting in touch after she was hit with a parking charge and found she was unable to prove she’d paid as she’d chucked away her ticket. (Just to avoid any confusion, for the purposes of this blog a parking TICKET is what you get when you pay to park, and a parking CHARGE is the demand for payment if a firm thinks you haven’t paid.)

Of course, if you get a parking charge notice on your windscreen there and then, you’ll know you need your ticket as evidence right away. But in some cases you won’t – instead, your (alleged) parking infringement will be picked up by cameras, and you’ll only be sent a parking charge notice by post much later. If you’ve binned your ticket by then, you may struggle to fight an unfair parking charge.

For full help, see our Private Parking Tickets and Council Parking Tickets guides.

‘I struggled to fight a £100 charge after throwing away my ticket’

A few days after using the Pleasureland car park in Morecambe, Lancashire, retail worker Gillian Bruce received an unexpected letter from parking firm ParkingEye asking her to fork out £100.

Gillian KNEW she had paid for three hours’ parking, but the parking charge notice wasn’t clear why she was being billed. She could see the cameras had snapped her entering the car park at 11:44:51 and leaving at 14:44:52. They weren’t charging her £100 for overstaying by one second, surely?

Well, actually, when we approached ParkingEye on Gillian’s behalf, it turned out no, they weren’t.

ParkingEye told us that it had issued the £100 car parking charge because it had no record of Gillian having paid to park in the first place. The pay and display machine at the car park in question requires drivers to enter their registration number – and no payment for Gillian’s registration number had been made that day.

Gillian was distraught. She hadn’t kept her pay and display ticket, as many drivers don’t – and now she had no way of proving she’d paid.

After we got involved ParkingEye looked at its records and found an almost identical vehicle registration to Gillian’s on its system. Gillian had made an error entering her registration number – and thankfully ParkingEye agreed to cancel the charge.

But Gillian’s story is a clear warning to others who pay in cash at pay and display car parks. OK, she made a mistake – but if MSE hadn’t intervened, Gillian could easily have ended up paying out £100 as a result.

Hang on to your pay and display tickets for AT LEAST two months

The question then is how long you need to keep your ticket for in case you’re caught on camera.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy exact answer, as parking rules can be hideously complicated. But we reckon AT LEAST two months is a good bet.

When we checked the different legal routes parking firms and councils can use to chase you if they think you’ve broken the rules, we found they should usually have contacted you within 15 to 45 days of when you parked. Adding a bit of time for contingency, weekends and so on, two months seems a sensible minimum.

In fact, it could be longer. One of the parking trade bodies, the International Parking Community, gives its members up to six months to apply to track down an owner’s details. And to be absolutely watertight, you’d have to keep tickets for six years, as that’s how long companies have to chase you under the statute of limitations, which sets out time limits within which a court action must take place.

At the end of the day, though, this is about weighing up the risk, and if you park every day, you may not want to be filing six years’ worth of tickets.

But there are ways you can make storing tickets easier – for example:

  • Keep an old envelope in your car to store your stash of old tickets. Then when it’s stuffed, empty it into a drawer, cupboard or anywhere you’ll be able to find ’em.
  • Before you finally get rid of your tickets, snap a photo of them. That way if you’re chased later you do have some proof.

What if I paid by phone or online?

The time lengths will be similar to those above, but the question of evidence is a little trickier. You won’t have a ticket from the machine of course, but with luck there’ll be some proof you paid. Often you’ll be sent a confirmation text or email – if so, make sure you don’t delete these.

If you aren’t sent confirmation – or you’ve lost it – it’s harder to prove you paid. But your credit card or bank statement, while not as specific as a receipt, may still help you argue your case.