San Francisco is simply stunning, with its rolling hills, beautiful water views and colorful street art—but let's face it— it's also the last place that comes to mind when we hear the word "cheap." The City by the Bay regularly tops the list of most expensive cities in America, and finding wallet-friendly parking can be a challenge.
But never fear. It is possible to find relatively cheap parking in San Francisco. Here's how.
San Francisco Street Parking: Know Before You Go
First, a warning: Getting a parking ticket in San Francisco can cost as much as a meal in a nice restaurant, so be sure to read the signs extra carefully about where you can and can't park.
Street parking is one of the cheapest ways to park in San Francisco, and luckily the city has provided a comprehensive map of all the meters in the city. Keep in mind that red and yellow meters are loading zones.
The good news about street parking? San Francisco adjusts its meter prices based on demand, so at quieter times and in outer neighborhoods you may luck out by finding a cheap spot. On the other hand, the reverse is also true: Find a cheap spot in a bustling downtown neighborhood can be next to impossible. For example, a garage may charge $1 per hour during off-peak times or $8 per hour at the busiest times. This system incentivizes drivers to park in less-busy neighborhoods by raising the price in busy areas. The city has a website where you can look up the current prices for metered spaces and city-owned garages.
Most meters are checked between 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and are not checked on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. The majority of meters have a two-hour time limit, though approximately 25 percent of meters have four-hour limit or no limit at all. You can check out other rules here.
San Francisco's parking meters accept several types of payment in addition to coins. You can use a credit card, pay by phone or use a pre-paid parking card available for purchase at locations throughout the city locations throughout the city.
Many San Francisco neighborhoods are subject to resident parking restrictions, which allows locals to park for a longer period of time than visitors. So, if you're in a rental car, you'll have to carefully follow the advised times. Also be aware of any signs that indicate temporary parking restrictions.
The Best Apps for Cheap San Francisco Parking
As a huge tech hub, San Francisco has no shortage of apps for finding cheap parking in garages and spots around the city. A few of the most popular apps include:
SpotAngels is a crowdsourced app that allows drivers to check out the availability of metered parking spots and see costs to locate spots around the city. It even provides need-to-know information such as when the next street cleaning is scheduled. You can also zero in on parking in the most popular tourist neighborhoods, including:
SpotHero offers a handy dynamic map of downtown San Francisco and allows users to reserve parking.
ParkMobile also allows users to see available spots and reserve parking. It says that reserving spots in garages in advance can save up to half on rates.
BestParking also allows drivers to find and reserve spots, and also connects to navigation apps.