Today I saw this strange car park sign. What is specifically strange is that it asks you to buy a ticket after finding a space during busy times.

Does this mean that I should buy a ticket before finding a space at other times? This seems a ridiculous notion - I would prefer my car to be in a space unattended, than in the roadway whilst I buy a ticket.

Strange car park sign

  • 3
    I guess they want to make sure that during busy times (when there may not be any space left), people don't drive up to the machine, pay, and then not find anywhere to park. When there's obviously space left, I suppose you could do that (though it of course depends on the layout of things and where the machine is relative to the way in).
    – jcaron
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 12:45
  • Station car park at Eastcote, West London, has a very long car park, with both ticket machines at the entrance. You really don't want to to have to park first and walk the length of the car-park 3 times before you leave.
    – djna
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


It would never have occurred to me to pull over at the machine first, buy a ticket and then drive on to find a parking space. Going by typical European prejudice, that sounds like a very American thing to do. The average European would go find their parking space, park the car and then walk back to the machine to pay (and back to the car to display).

There are parking lots which issue you a ticket when driving in, but those require the ticket back when you leave so they have absolute control of letting people in only when there is space available. Your picture does not look like that type of setting.

I think they really just want to avoid angry stupid people who pay first to find out later that there are no spaces available — which is only an issue during busy times.

Sources: Personal experience from having lived in the UK quite some time ago plus that of other European countries.

  • 7
    As an American, I would also expect to park first and then buy a ticket in a situation like this. Given that you say Europeans would expect this as well, I'm not sure who, exactly, would tend to do it the other way around. (Except, of course, idiots, who can be found in all regions of the world.) Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 13:02
  • 1
    Yeah, thing is that idiots often have time on their hands and can find a lawyer crazy enough to sue you … right? ;)
    – Jan
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 13:03
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    As an American, every parking structure I can think of prints a receipt upon entry(if there are spots left) that you display, then asks for this receipt upon exit and charges accordingly.
    – Cand3r
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 13:37
  • 3
    @Cand3r In the US there are certainly parking facilities (mostly municipal?) that use the pay and display model. New York City has moved to that model over the last decade or two, for example. Also, there is the "pay here in advance" model that's been in use in some places for decades: media.al.com/tuscaloosa/photo/dsc-0525jpg-e11f9af8a7d297d0.jpg
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 14:03
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    @Cand3r: Nashville, TN, up-and-coming Gulch area has pay machines where you pay, key in your licence plate number, no ticket to display, no entry or exit barriers. Put car in a space, walk to machine, walk off. Or in my case, park car, walk to machine, walk back to car to memorise licence number of borrowed car, walk back to the machine again ...
    – djna
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 19:57

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