Who should pay for damage to my car while in a car park?

A reader’s car was dented and scratched while left in a car park overnight. Shouldn’t the parking company pay for the repairs?...

BMW 3 Series in multi-storey car park

I bought my latest car, a beautiful BMW 330e saloon, because it was recommended by What Car? However, my car is no longer as great looking as it should be, because I left it in a car park overnight and it was vandalised. 

I booked a one-night stay in the Hampton by Hilton in Dundee earlier this year, choosing the hotel because its website stated that it had secure car parking facilities. 

However, when I arrived at the hotel, the car park was full and I was directed by the front desk staff to park my car in their overflow facility at Willison Street, which is managed by NCP. I was advised to ignore any signs about payment and leave my car there and the hotel would take care of the parking charge.

When I went to get in my car the following morning, I noticed scratches, dents and footprints on the roof, boot and bonnet. 

BMW 330e damage

I informed the hotel staff immediately and was told that the hotel has a deal in place to protect guest property when parked and that they would retrieve CCTV from NCP. 

However, I later found out that the NCP car park doesn’t have CCTV or other security features. 

I could make a claim on my motor insurance to cover the cost of the repair work, which has been estimated at £5000, but this will mean I’ll lose my no-claims discount and have to pay the excess fee. 

BMW 330e damage

I am reluctant to do this because I believe that, having paid Hampton by Hilton for the parking, they should cover the cost of the damage to my car. I’d be grateful for your opinion on this. 

Kacper Trela

What Car? says…

We agree that it sounds like it should be the hotel’s responsibility to cover the cost of the damage to your car, because it looked after the parking and you paid the hotel for it. 

And the hotel will have public liability insurance that covers the compensation of guests for injury and loss or damage to their property while they are staying there. 

However, it can be difficult to get compensation for damage to cars parked in private car parks. Legally, car park operators are only liable for damage or loss that has been caused by the negligence of the company or its staff, and car owners need to be able to prove this. 

Another issue is that the operators can have restrictive terms and conditions regarding liability.  In this case, both Hampton by Hilton and NCP state in their parking terms and conditions that the liability for damage to vehicles rests with their owners.

How to appeal a parking ticket

Hampton by Hilton told us that its insurer had investigated the case and concluded that it wasn’t liable for the damage caused to the car. 

“The incident in which Mr Trela’s car was damaged took place in an NCP-managed car park that we use as an overflow facility, providing a special, reduced tariff for guests in the event that our own car park is at full capacity," a hotel spokesperson said. “Both our own parking facilities and the NCP site state clearly that vehicles are parked at the owner’s own risk.”

 We also contacted NCP, which said it wasn’t liable. A spokesperson stated: “Our terms and conditions on all our signage state that customers park at their own risk.” 

Unfortunately, the law doesn’t offer much assistance to drivers whose vehicles are damaged in privately owned car parks. 

Where possible, we’d advise drivers to use car parks with security features, such as secure entrances, security guards and CCTV, and check up on the terms and conditions of the car park operator prior to parking on its site. 

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