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How Much Should You Tip Valet?

Elinor Rozenvasser Updated: February 14, 2024 • 6 min read
valet parking

Key Points:

  • Tip valets $2 to $5 as a thank you, but skip it if the service disappoints.

  • A tip acknowledges the valet's effort and long hours on the job.

  • Tip upon car drop-off or pick-up, based on what you prefer.

Navigating a crowded parking lot as time ticks away is a familiar stressor, turning a simple task into a nerve-wracking ordeal. In these moments, valet parking emerges as a saving grace, offering to take the wheel and free you from the parking hunt, easing your arrival at busy destinations. Yet, after handing off your car, the question of tipping looms.

How much should you tip a valet, and is it expected every time? Plus, does tipping before or after service make a difference?

Understanding valet tipping etiquette is crucial for showing gratitude without overstepping or undervaluing the service. Let's explore the essentials of tipping your valet, breaking down the norms and considerations that guide this practice.

When it comes to tipping valet parking attendants, starting with at least $5 is a good rule of thumb.

How Much Should You Tip Valet?

While there isn't a universally accepted standard, the consensus among several online guides and experts leans towards a tip range of $2 to $5. This, however, is just a starting point.

According to Blake Presson, the owner of Box Truck Movers LLC and someone who has spent time working as a valet, the baseline for tipping should be at least $5. Presson explains, "Valet drivers significantly rely on tips for their livelihood. Given that some companies pay as little as $7.50 per hour, tips become an essential part of their income." He emphasizes that if a valet attendant demonstrates exemplary service by handling your vehicle with care, greeting you courteously, and maintaining a high level of professionalism, then tipping becomes a way to acknowledge their effort and dedication.

Echoing this sentiment, Larry Snider, Vice President of Operations at Redwood Vacation Rentals and a regular patron of valet services, advocates for $5 as the minimum tip. "I never tip below $5," Snider asserts, highlighting his approach to recognizing valet service. "But for service that goes above and beyond—quick retrieval of my car, exceptional customer service, or professionalism during busy times—I'm willing to tip up to $10." This perspective underscores the value of rewarding valet attendants who not only meet but exceed expectations, offering an incentive for high-quality service.

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It's important to note, that tipping a valet is not obligatory, especially in instances where the service falls short, such as damage to your vehicle or unreasonable delays. However, in cases where the service is satisfactory or impressive, a cash tip is not just appreciated but serves as a tangible gesture of gratitude. Remember, tipping is at its core a personal choice, reflecting your satisfaction with the service provided. So, next time you're handed back your keys by a smiling valet, consider the effort put into keeping your experience smooth and stress-free and let your tip reflect that appreciation.

What is a Decent Tip for Valet Parking?

When it comes to tipping valet parking attendants, starting with at least $5 is a good rule of thumb. However, the amount you tip can vary based on a few things like how well you were served, how much parking itself costs, and where you are.

In fancier spots or upscale venues, tipping about 10% to 15% of the parking fee is pretty common. And if the valet goes the extra mile by helping you with your bags or doing something else nice, consider bumping up your tip to 20% to 30%. This is a great way to say thanks for any extra effort they put in to make your experience better.

Remember, tipping is a way to show your appreciation for good service. So, if a valet makes your day a little easier by taking good care of your car and helping you out, it's nice to recognize that with a tip that reflects the level of service you received.

Why It's Cool to Tip Valets

Tipping your valet isn't just about saying thanks; it's about recognizing the hard work they put in. Here's why a little extra for your valet is a big deal:

  • Valets are on their feet all day. Imagine standing outside in all kinds of weather — rain, snow, or a scorching sun — and during busy times, like events or holidays, they're zipping around the parking lot non-stop to manage a never-ending stream of cars. A tip is a small way to acknowledge their hustle and the effort they put into making your experience smooth.
  • Valets aren’t exactly rolling in dough. On average, valets earn about $27,475 a year, or around $13 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter in 2023. And that's just the average, meaning plenty of them earn less. Tips are a crucial part of their earnings, helping them make ends meet and afford life's essentials.
  • A little tip goes a long way. Dropping a few extra dollars doesn't just brighten their day; it encourages stellar service. Whether it's getting a hand with your bags, speedy car retrieval, or insider tips on the best spots in town, tipping motivates valets to pull out all the stops for you.
  • Tipping is more than just a nice gesture; it's a way to show you see and appreciate the hard work valets do to keep things running smoothly for everyone. Plus, it's a win-win: they get a token of appreciation, and you get top-notch service.

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When Should You Tip Your Valet? Before or After?

Wondering when's the best time to tip your valet? Well, you're not alone! Some folks like to wait until they've got their car back, keys in hand, before they give their tip. It's like a thank you for a job well done. Others prefer to slip a little something to the valet right as they drop off their car. They think it might just ensure that extra bit of VIP treatment.

Truth be told, there's no hard and fast rule about the best moment to tip. It's really up to you and what feels right. Whether you tip at the beginning or the end of the valet service, it's the gesture that counts.

Extra Valet Parking Manners

  • Drive carefully into the drop-off zone. Take it slow and listen to the valet's directions to make sure you're headed the right way.
  • Tidy up your car beforehand. Before you get to the valet stand, make sure to stash away any personal items you wouldn't want to leave in your car.
  • Share any car tips with your valet. Got a tricky brake or a car alarm that has a mind of its own? Give your valet a heads-up.
  • Practice patience. When swamped during busy times, give your valet enough time to park and bring back your car.
  • A little thanks goes a long way. Don't forget to thank your valet for their help, and a tip is a nice cherry on top. This is especially true if they took great care of your car.
  • Hold onto your claim ticket. Keep your ticket safe to avoid delays in getting your car back. This is especially true when the valet is juggling lots of vehicles.

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The Bottom Line

A good valet parking service adds a layer of convenience and elegance to our outings. It can transform potential parking hassles into seamless experiences. Whether you're dashing to a business meeting or arriving in style at a gala, valets stand ready to take the stress of parking off your shoulders. In return, tipping emerges as a simple yet profound way to express our gratitude for their service. A standard tip of $5 not only acknowledges their effort but also compensates for the challenges they face, from braving adverse weather conditions to managing a flood of vehicles during peak hours.

Moreover, understanding when to tip—either at drop-off for that extra attention or upon retrieval as a thank you—adds a personal touch to the interaction, making each tipping decision a reflection of your appreciation. Beyond tipping, practicing good valet etiquette, like being ready at the drop-off zone and communicating any peculiarities about your vehicle, ensures a smooth experience for everyone involved.

In essence, valet parking is more than just a luxury—it's a service provided by individuals who contribute significantly to our convenience and comfort. Let's remember to show our appreciation not just with our words but also with our actions and tips. As we continue to enjoy the benefits of valet services, let's not forget the hardworking individuals behind the scenes, making our experiences better one parked car at a time.

Elinor Rozenvasser is a content writer and editor with a knack for finance. She holds a Bachelor's in Communications and Business from Reichman University, and has been swimming alongside finance specialists for over a decade. She's not your typical financial writer, though. She's more likely to use witty puns and sarcasm than jargon and technical terms. But don't let that fool you. She's still a whiz when it comes to explaining complex financial concepts in a way that anyone can understand. If there's any writer who can make finance fun and engaging, Elinor is your girl. She's sure to leave you laughing (and learning) long after you've finished reading her work.