Holidaymakers are being charged up to four times more for airport parking if they pay on arrival rather than in advance, according to new research.
Consumer group Which? said its analysis of prices at 16 UK airport car parks revealed the “serious financial sting”.
It compared prices for a week’s stay in mid-August paid for on the day with those paid in advance four months earlier.
The largest price difference was at Manchester airport, where paying on arrival was £406, compared with just £95 if booked in advance.
Other airports charging a significant premium for travellers who pay on the day include Heathrow (£583 compared with £190 in advance), Birmingham (£392 compared with £150 in advance) and Gatwick (£180 compared with £106 in advance).
Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: “When you’re planning a holiday, sorting out your airport parking can easily slip down your to-do list, but our research found leaving it to the last minute can come with a serious financial sting.
“Take the time to shop around and compare the options on offer – comparison sites can be a great starting point – and book early wherever possible to lock in the best price.
“It’s also worth comparing off-site and onsite options, as further away doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper.”
Mr Boland added that holidaymakers should consider “unconventional options” such as renting someone’s driveway or garage, although he acknowledged this “may not be for everyone” due to concerns about vehicle security.
RAC research published last month revealed that drop-off fees for drivers have increased at more than a third of major UK airports in the past year.
The biggest upswing in existing so-called kiss and fly charges – which are typically levied for dropping off someone as close to a terminal as possible – were at Southampton and Belfast International airports.
The former has raised its fee from £4 to £6, while the latter has hiked its price from £1 to £3.
Belfast City Airport previously allowed drivers to drop passengers near its terminal for free, but this now costs £3.
Many airports offer free options for dropping passengers off in mid or long-stay car parks connected to terminals by buses.