tipping the valet

Tipping the Valet – A How To Guide for Valet Etiquette

Valet Etiquette

We have all been there.  You’re late to a nice Saturday night dinner in the city and your parking options are limited.  The only choice is the valet in the front.  You approach the busy lot and put your car in park.  You fumble around to get all of your stuff together and organized.   If you are like me, you make sure the radio is set to a masculine station before exiting, to avoid any awkward moments.   You can tell the valet is waiting on you to hurry out of your car, and that the line is building up behind you.  You pass off the keys to a younger man who is obviously annoyed by your time to exit.  You walk in to the restaurant, but in the back of your mind you are worried that he might get back you at for being an inconvenience.  Some other questions start to arise in your mind.  Did I forget to tip?  Am I going to tip once I pick up my car?  How much should I tip?  Is he doing anything to mess with my car?  Oh well you ultimately say, and you enter the restaurant and try your best to put those thoughts behind you.

I recently experienced this exact situation on my way to the Bulls game.  My dad recommended going to Carmichael’s Steakhouse because they offer complimentary valet AND a free shuttle to and from the United Center for all Bulls home games.   Perfect!  The money we were going to spend on parking at the stadium became a full entrée.  The night was enjoyable and we found ourselves back at the restaurant after the game.  I handed my ticket to the valet who had been standing in the frigid Chicago cold for hours.  He brought my vehicle up and I handed him three bucks, to which I got a very emotionless response.  I started thinking, did I short this guy?  What should I have paid him?  Did he remember me as the guy who slowed him down a few hours ago?  This scenario prompted me to do a little research, and I came across some good guidelines to use for the correct valet etiquette.

How much should I have actually tipped?

If you have to pay a service fee to park, most people will pay about $3 additional tip.  As one former valet put it creatively, tip $1 for every $10,000 your car is worth.  In the event there is no service fee, throw in a few extra bucks on top of the tip would normally give.  In the case of my 2008 Honda Civic where I parked with no service fee, my tip should have been $4-$5.  I came to this figure through the following formula:  $2 (valuing my car at a generous 20K) + $2-3 for not having an initial upfront service fee.

What can you do to make your valet experience better?

Tip on the way in.  Have you ever met anyone who was angry at you for handing them cash?  It’s a great way to make a good first impression, and avoid any worry about the safety of your car.

Also, you can follow these steps to make your interaction with the valet go smoothly.   Drive slowly and safely into the loading zone, and wait in your car until the valet meets you at the door.  Once you are assisted, exit safely and cautiously and enjoy your night!

Of course, if you’d rather avoid the whole mess, check out SpotHero’s array of cheap parking options. Check out Navy Pier parking, Wrigley Field parking, Soldier Field parking, Grant Park parking, and more!

2 responses to “Tipping the Valet – A How To Guide for Valet Etiquette”

  1. Barry Avatar

    I did not know this. Does the rule still apply to my 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee? If so, then I will appropriately tip the Valet $0.06 next time I use the service. I am kidding, but I did not know that the tip was related to your car’s worth!

    1. adminspot Avatar


      Glad to hear that 1994 Jeep is still running strong. Talk about a residual value!