How Much To Tip A Valet

Here Are The Most Common Rules

That Will Keep You From Looking Like a Cheapskate

by Bill Flitter

It’s date night! You got a babysitter, you’ve made reservations at that amazing restaurant you’ve been dying to try. And you’re all dressed up and ready to go.

You might have even had your car washed and detailed the day before to make everything just right. After all, date night for the working parent set doesn’t happen every day. So you want to make the most of it.

So, here you are, trying to impress your wife or your husband. Heck, maybe it’s your first date in a very long time, and you it want to be perfect. You’ve planned every detail. Almost.

But what about parking?

You do not want to risk ruining your meticulously prepared evening by circling the block frantically searching for a parking spot, stressing out trying to get to the restaurant on time.

Everyone knows how difficult it is finding parking in the immediate vicinity of a popular spot. Whether it’s in San Francisco or your local downtown, a convenient parking space can be next to impossible to find. On an occasion as precious as date night, save yourself the angst and plan to use a valet. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to choose a restaurant because it offers valet service.

So you want to use the valet and you want to do it right, and that includes properly tipping the person who is about to drive off in your car and park it for you. But, how much to tip a valet?

How Much to Tip a Valet and Not Look Cheap

3 General Rules On How Much To Tip A Valet

For most of us, using a valet is a special treat for special occasions. And on a night as rare as date night, the last thing you want to do is embarrass your date, even if you’ve lived together for decades. You want to show some class, which means tipping your valet appropriately. You don’t want to appear stingy by tossing a couple quarters. And, unless you’ve just won the lottery or you’re a Trump, no one expects you to tip a $100 bill.

If you’re not sure how much to tip the valet, here are some guidelines and considerations you might find helpful:

When To Tip A Percent of Sale

Tipping within the restaurant is a much easier calculation; most everyone knows to tip your server 20% or more for excellent service; between 15 and 20% for standard to good service.

In much the same way, you’ll want to tip your valet at least 20% of the price of the valet service. The main difference is you tip a waiter for services already rendered; you tip a valet for services that haven’t happened yet. Your tip tells the valet you appreciate that your vehicle is in their care while it’s out of your sight. The amount you tip indicates the quality of care you expect.

Most online articles on the topic recommend a proper amount of at least $2 to $5, depending on where you are and what you’re driving. The nicer your car, the more you may want to invest in having the valet favorably disposed toward you and your vehicle.

Let’s say valet parking costs $10. Don’t hand the driver your pocket change or a crumpled single dollar bill. That would be viewed as cheap and insulting. A $2 tip would be appropriate in most cases; $5 or more if you’re driving a top-of-the-line Mercedes.

3 General Rules On How Much To Tip A Valet - Flat Rate

Make sure to have the correct change. It might be a little awkward asking for change for a $20 from a guy who has a line of people waiting.

When To Tip a Flat Amount

Let’s say you just pulled up in front of a Michelin 3-star restaurant where you’re about to drop several hundred dollars on a meal. In that case, tipping the valet at least $5 will show that you have class. More than that and some might say you’re trying a bit too hard to impress people, if that’s a concern for you. (It will make the valet happy, that’s for sure.)

3 General Rules On How Much To Tip A Valet - Percent of Sale vs Flat Rate

- Psychology Today

Tipping can incentivize servers to work harder and improve their service for higher tips in theory.

Tipping is Generational

Tipping the valet isn’t always the easiest thing to get straight, especially if you’re not accustomed to doing it. And different generations might view tipping very differently. For example, I asked my dad how much to tip a valet, and he answered, “Oh, I give a buck.” My inclination was to give the valet somewhere between $2 and $5.

Who’s likely to get better service: The one who tipped $1 or the one who tipped $5?

3 General Rules On How Much To Tip A Valet - Tipping is Generational

- The Center for Hospitality Research

Tipping allows big tippers to subsidize, or make up for, the smaller tips of customers who may be more price-sensitive.

Over to You

Whether you’re going out on date night or checking into a hotel, remember to bring some cash with you so you tip properly. Do you have any stories about tipping or not tipping a valet? What’s your rule of thumb on how much to tip a valet?