You’ll quickly notice when driving in Chicago as a new resident or visitor that parking is often at a premium. A trip downtown usually means navigating some really busy streets, and that’s before you even try to find a space to park your car. Street parking sees tight regulations on timing, and garage parking can often be expensive. When thinking about all the fun stuff to do in Chicago and where your journey will take you, you also need to know where to park and how much you’ll spend.
If you’re concerned about finding convenient parking in Chicago, you really don’t have to be. There’s a secret weapon available for local drivers: parking apps. When you download a parking app, you can see available parking near you and compare prices to find a spot that fits your needs. Which app you choose largely depends on the type of parking you need. For on-street parking, for example, ParkChicago is the lone resource. For other parking, such as garages or lots, we review other apps that will work. It may make sense to download multiple apps to compare prices if you want to ensure you get the best rate.
Because Chicago is one of the nation’s largest cities, its drivers benefit from the services of several highly rated parking apps. The days of scrambling for quarters to pay the meter are over.
As the official app for purchasing metered street parking in Chicago, ParkChicago takes the top spot on our list of indispensable parking apps — and other drivers agree. It has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, making it an obvious choice for Chicago drivers. The app is free to download for iOS and Android users. ParkChicago’s website says it’s the best value for Chicago drivers because it can remotely extend your time, transfer time to other vehicles and find free overnight parking.
The app integrates with the ParkChicago Map app to help you find available street parking. Another benefit is that it integrates with the ParkChicago Pay Boxes scattered throughout the city, so you can pay for parking at the box or through the app. ParkChicago sends notifications when your time is about to expire, so you can extend your time through the app as needed.
One drawback to ParkChicago compared with other apps is that it’s Chicago-centric. Other options on this list serve multiple cities. But if you’re in the market for street parking, it’s the only option in town.
SpotHero earns the top spot on our list of third-party apps because of its clean user interface, easy-to-use desktop features and the convenience of working in multiple cities. With SpotHero, you can reserve and pay for hourly and monthly parking at several garages throughout the city. SpotHero gets extra points for letting you book parking at several different airport lots at both O’Hare and Midway. It’s also one of the highest-ranked apps in the App Store for “parking app,” which makes it a must-download for iPhone owners in Chicago.
ParkWhiz saves you money on parking at hundreds of Chicago lots and garages. As a third-party parking vendor, ParkWhiz allows you to sort by parking garages close to your destination or by the lowest price.
In addition to sorting by proximity and price, you can reserve and prepay to book your space in advance, often at a discounted rate. Because ParkWhiz operates in several cities, you may not have to download a separate app when visiting somewhere else.
ParkMobile works much like ParkWhiz. You can use it to reserve spaces in parking garages and lots and pay in advance. ParkMobile’s pricing is comparable to other apps. In addition to garage lots, ParkMobile offers the ability to purchase parking in specific numbered “zones” that are typically for residents and guests only in highly popular areas. One additional benefit of ParkMobile is that it serves multiple cities. Some cities even use it to operate their street meters, meaning you may not have to download a city-specific app, like ParkChicago, when you travel.
ParkChirp rounds out our list of third-party parking apps in Chicago, focusing on the downtown Loop. Like the others, it allows you to search for, reserve and purchase hourly and monthly parking. Within the app itself, you’ll find designations for accessible parking, lots that are close to public transit and even valet lots. ParkChirp does ask you to pay for parking in advance, but you can change your reservation with minimal hassle.
Finding the best Chicago parking app
Ultimately, the kind of parking app you use in Chicago and other cities largely depends on what you need at the time. For street parking, ParkChicago is the only way to go. For parking lots and garages — including airport lots — each app on our list may offer different benefits.
The best way to determine which app makes sense is to try them all out. Once you find one that meets your needs, you can become a dedicated customer and stress less about driving a car in Chicago.
Of course, one other simple solution for longer-term parking in Chicago — we’re talking 5 days or more — is car sharing through Avail. When you share your vehicle on Avail’s car sharing platform, you won’t have to pay for parking while your vehicle is with us, and you can rent your car out for money in Chicago.
If you aren’t certain about sharing your car full time, that’s okay! We offer a flexible sharing option, which allows you to check out your car while it’s listed, as long as it’s not already booked by a borrower. Or you can share your car when you know you definitely won’t need to drive it, like when you go on vacation. This way, you can get some extra money when you get back from your trip, and save on parking.
Frequently asked questions about parking in Chicago