Parking prices in San Francisco vs. Ann Arbor

Ramit Sethi · April 10th, 2007

[This is part of the IWillTeachYouToBeRich Week of Discontent.]

Here are two different signs at parking garages I photographed in the last couple of weeks.

Ann Arbor parking garage: $0.50/half hour ($1.00/hour)
Parking in Ann Arbor

San Francisco parking garage: $2.50/20 minutes ($10 $7.50/hour)

Parking near my house

Quiz: What is your earning potential? Choose the answer you agree with the most
View Results

Now I’m not complaining since I moved to SF with open eyes and I know Ann Arbor is a college town, but man…that’s a staggering difference. Basically when I was visiting Ann Arbor, I just wanted to park my car and leave it there all day so I could celebrate by handing over 3 crisp $1.00 bills at the end of the day.

Similar: Look at this sign I saw in San Francisco

Do you know your actual earning potential?

Get started with the Earning Potential quiz. Get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.

Start The Quiz

Takes 3 min


  1. What’s even crazier is parking out here in the midwest. The parking garage at the hospital charges $0.25!!!

  2. Pretty basic supply and demand issue. Living in Boston, I know that demand for parking is insanely high, so these places can charge insanely high prices. If there isn’t a lot of demand, the prices are going to be a lot lower.

  3. Brandon

    I don’t have a nice picture but it’s often $6 for the first 1/2 hour here in Chicago.

  4. Enrique


    Sell your car. There is no need to have a car in SF, and You can travel around the Bay Area by BART.– the little train.
    If you need to move around your company will pay for your montly transportation bill.
    Enjoy SF. It is a great but expensive city.

  5. Wallet Rehab - Ways to save money

    Hi Ramit,

    But isn’t $2.50 per 20 minutes about $7.50 an hour?

  6. Welcome to the city Ramit. Thats why I have a scooter. It is only 25 cents/hr! I park all day downtown for $2.50.

  7. Also, $2.50/20 minutes is $7.50/hr, not $10.

  8. You have it so easy. Calgary Alberta Canada. The lot behind me is $8.00/30 minutes, $42/daily. Parking meters are $3.75/30 minutes, not that you ever can find one, and most are 30 minute max. There are also lots with NO daily maximum.

    Of course, those are CDN$, but the exchange rate still puts that $8/hour at over USD$7/hour…

    That’s what happens when the city quadruples in size over 25 years while the city council steadfastly refuses to update the parking and transportation plans for that same time frame.

  9. Those apartments are cheap for NY! I’d buy a 2BR right now!

  10. joewatch

    The highest prices in the country must be around Manhattan

  11. Jonathan

    It’s a pain in the butt to have a car in the city, but it’s also a pain in the butt to go to Costco in a cab. I have been looking for a new place in SF and parking can go higher than $400 per month! That’s how much i used to pay for my rent! And then there is the gas that is creeping up on the $4/gallon mark. I think it’s time to start living out of my car in one of these garages

  12. So… are you discontent with the ‘cost of living’ differences in San Francisco? Not to say that those prices aren’t indeed outrageous. But how does this specifically fit into week of discontent? . I’m not trying to be a smart-ass, but please explain what your feelings are on this, and how it fits into the week of discontent. I’m discontent that stamp prices have gone up, but it’s my choice to continue to by stamps in this age of alternative mailing methods. It doesn’t make the prices of stamps ‘unfair’ or ‘unreasonable’.

  13. Ramit Sethi

    Oops, heh. Thanks for catching the math error. I fixed it in the post.

  14. Michael

    $22 for a whole day? The place next to where I at lunch yesterday was $26 for the first hour (Boston)

  15. Where in Ann Arbor were you? Where I park in Ann Arbor across the street from campus is 40cents/half hour….:-)

  16. Tyler Weaver

    Thats funny because $1 for the first 2 hours discourages me from going downtown. Though some of the places downtown may be WAY closer than their suburban counterparts I typically drive away from downtown as opposed to towards it.

    For reference, I live about 1 mile from downtown Cincinnati.

  17. Zachary

    And don’t even get me started on airport parking! I was at the San Jose airport this morning. I thought I was being clever by bringing rolls of pennies to pay for parking, but the guy at the pay-station made me count out $5.00 in pennies, ten cents at a time!

  18. That’s cause you haven’t seen Manhattan…

  19. There are some rather expensive parking structures here in Ann Arbor… The ‘good ones’ are more than that $1 an hour, but wow I never saw prices as high as $7.5 an hour!

  20. For more on parking pricing policy, check out Donald Shoup – UCLA Urban Planning professor and author of “The High Cost of Free Parking.” He argues (in a tiny nutshell) that parking, in general, is grossly under-priced, which leads to all sorts of problems. He advocates for market-based pricing policies. Even here in NYC much public parking is effectively subsidized by the city govt.

    Here’s a good interview with Dr. Shoup:

  21. andre nosalsky

    From my spambox:

    A businessman walked into a New York City bank and asked for the loan officer. He said he was going to Europe on business for two weeks and needed to borrow $5,000. The loan officer said the bank would need some security for such a loan.

    The business man then handed over the keys to a Rolls Royce that was parked on the street in front of the bank. Everything checked out and the loan officer accepted the car as collateral for the loan. An employee then drove the Rolls into the bank’s underground garage and parked it there.

    Two weeks later the businessman returned, repaid the $5,000 and the interest which came to $15.41.

    The loan officer said, “We do appreciate your business and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a bit puzzled. While you were away we checked and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is why you would bother to borrow $5,000?”

    The business man replied: “Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for fifteen bucks?”

  22. Ramit,

    What am I missing here? If the Ann Arbor parking garage charges $1.00 per hour, wouldn’t 1 day of parking cost $24.00? ($2.00 more than in San Francisco)?

  23. You don’t need to go to Costco in a cab. Try City Car Share, Flexcar, or Zipcar.

  24. kick_push

    i live 30 miles away from SF.. and you are right.. parking prices there are ridiculous

    i paid $30 for parking at at&t park just to watch a 3 hr. game

  25. Jared Goralnick

    I remember taking a business trip to Muskogee Oklahoma and parking at their meters. It was something like $0.25/5 hours.

    Needless to say it’s not so nice here in DC.

  26. Carter Adler

    Don: It’s even worse than that, because the Ann Arbor parking gets more expensive after the first three hours.

    24 hr parking in AA: $26.10
    24 hr parking in SF: $22.00

    Interesting also that the SF parking garage has limited hours (Not open until 8AM!!! How do people go to work?); most AA parking is available round-the-clock.

  27. That is insane. There’s something to say for living in Dallas, where I park for free at work every day.

  28. Edward Vielmetti

    Parking in Ann Arbor goes to NYC scale market prices for football games. Parking across from the stadium this season is $40 on game day, and 5 blocks away it’s $25. I kept a spreadsheet so I can make a map.

    The Ann Arbor downtown structures run by the DDA now have big LED signs showing how many parking spaces are free, which is one quick way of estimating how busy town is at the moment.

    the most awesome Ann Arbor deal is a free bus pass if you work downtown. My commuting budget right now is $0.

  29. » How To Quadruple Your Wealth In A Six Hour Plane Flight

    […] prices of good and services vary wildly depending on your location; heck, just take a look at the difference in parking prices between San Francisco and Ann Arbor! Check out, this cost of living calculator from CNN, which tells […]

  30. Derrick jayson

    Nice Blog! We have read a few of the interesting content on your website now, and we really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep it up the effective work.

    bwi parking

  31. mehul shah

    I kind of feel like I need to go take a shower after reading this article because I don’t have a service or product to sell yet! hire CodeIgniter developers