In All the Right Spaces

Scott Powell’s apartment in Adams Morgan does not have a parking spot. Rather than pay for a garage, he takes his chances with street parking in the busy neighborhood.

Scott Powell, 28, has a love/hate relationship with driving in D.C.

Loves: the cargo room, the drop-of-a-hat convenience and the air conditioning. Hates: traffic, vandalism and trying to find a parking space in Adams Morgan on the weekend.

“One Saturday night, I had to wait about two hours to find a spot,” says Powell, a current student and former Marine who rents a two-bedroom in Adams Morgan. “If you’re coming here, you better get here while the sun’s still out.” Much like vampires, apparently, parking in AdMo sucks the life out of you after dark.

Compared to some cities (cough, New York), D.C. is fairly drivable, and having a car makes buying groceries or visiting off-the-beaten-path destinations much easier. But for D.C. drivers, one of the biggest hassles, and expenses, of keeping a car in the city is parking.

Since many apartments in the area don’t come with parking, some renters shell out hundreds of additional dollars per month for garages, meters and the inevitable tickets.

Others manage to score a better deal.

You Pay How Much?

How much you’ll pay for parking generally depends on what neighborhood you live in and whether the spot is shielded from the elements.

Some rental buildings offer garage parking. It’s generally the most expensive parking option, with uncovered spots running a little cheaper than covered ones. You could pay about $150 for covered garage parking at The Envoy (2400 16th St. NW, 202-387-2500), a historic property in Adams Morgan, or about $20 less for an uncovered spot.

Add $50 to those prices if you want a garage spot near Dupont Circle.

Garage parking can be a little cheaper outside of the District. A garage spot in Bethesda could cost around $125, while garage spots in Arlington can range from $60 to $90 a month.

Parking in an outside lot may leave your car exposed to bad weather and hooligans, but it is much cheaper than indoor parking. Renters get free outdoor parking at The Aldon of Chevy Chase (4740 Bradley Blvd., 301-656-7626) and Summit Hills (1701 East West Hwy., 888-613-6975).

Or, like Powell, you could take your chances with street parking.

For “free” street parking in the District, you pay the DMV an annual $35 fee for a residential parking permit for your “zone,” plus a few hundred for a reciprocity permit if your car isn’t registered in D.C.

The downside? Powell’s parked car has suffered one busted window and two hit-and-runs.

Parking Tips & Tricks

When Lindsay Donofrio, 29, was looking for a place to stash her car for a few weeks before she got D.C. plates or tags, she decided to park it at Reagan National Airport. Parking in the economy lot costs $12 a day.

“I didn’t know where else to put it,” she says. “The airport was the cheapest place.”

D.C. residents can also get a 15-day permit for guests at their local police station. But guest passes won’t work as a long-term parking strategy. “Eventually they’ll catch you and say ‘you need to register your car,’ ” Donofrio says.

Another option for cheaper temporary parking is Metro parking lots, which offer daily and hourly parking ranging from $3.50 to $ 8.50 per day, though only a few stations offer multiple-day parking. Parking is free at Metro lots on weekends and holidays.

Some Web resources make the D.C. parking experience a little easier. You can find a parking spot to rent in Craigslist’s “Parking & Storage” section. Best Parking allows you to search for private parking near your destination, and it lists rates and hours.

On Parking Panda, a new website serving D.C. and Baltimore, you can search for parking, reserve a spot in advance and pay online. Spots usually cost around $15 a day, less than a regular spot in the typical garage, says Nick Miller, co-founder and CEO of the company. You also can list your own space, or even a driveway, on the site to make some extra cash.

“Parking is always the unknown factor,” says Miller, a former D.C. resident who now lives in Baltimore. “I know firsthand how bad it is.”

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