Is It Bad To Park Your Car Outside? The Surprising Answer

Mitsubishi Galant white car parked outside in the driveway of a house in a subdivision

Have you ever considered your parking situation? For many, cars are parked for about 23 hours a day. Is it bad to park your car outside, or is it fine? I did some digging and found out the truth, and in this guide, I’ll answer this question.

In general, it’s bad to park your car outside. There are plenty of natural nuisances that can damage your car, hurt the resale value, and consume your time. This can range from tree sap to ice and even a tree falling on your car.

Potential Issues with Parking Your Car Outside

To better answer this question, I’ll start by outlining some potential issues. Not all of these might apply to your situation, but they’re worth mentioning.

Paint Can Fade and Chip

The sun is a car’s biggest enemy. It’s not the sunlight specifically, but it’s the UV rays that come along with the light.

Car paint faded

Over time, UV rays will wreak havoc on your car’s paint. It will chip, fade, and tarnish your car’s paint.

As a result, the resale value of your vehicle will go down. That’s less money in your pocket when you decide to sell your car down the road.

Flying Debris Can Scratch Your Car

Without a protective structure around your car, there’s no protection from the great outdoors. Things like fallen trees, hail, and flying debris will get full access to your car.

The worst part is that auto insurance doesn’t cover a lot of these environmental damages. You might be on the hook for fixing your car after nature does its damage.

If you didn’t know, a single scratch can turn into dangerous rust if it goes untreated for too long.

Higher Potential for Theft

Parking outside means that your car can be in plain sight for any passersby. If anyone feels like stealing a car, there’s nothing physically protecting your car.

Rear passenger side glass of a red car broken due to car theft with the car parked outside on the side of the street

This is an even bigger problem if you have a nice car or there are valuables on display inside your car. Even modern cars can be hotwired, so you’re at risk for theft.

Plus, windows can be broken into. A thief can smash your window, take your valuables and radio, then just walk away.

Pollen and Tree Sap Make Life More Annoying

When allergy season comes around, tons of pollen and tree sap become airborne terrors. These can make you sneeze, but they can also turn your car into a mess.

Washing off tree sap and pollen is much harder than washing off dirt and mud. It tends to cling to your car’s body and requires a lot of extra elbow grease.

Plus, pollen can also lead to rust on your car.

When you’re parked outside, there’s nothing stopping these two contaminants from coating your car.

You Have to Deal with Snow and Ice

On the other end of the spectrum, cold weather is also a problem when it comes to parking outside. More specifically, dealing with ice and snow gets old pretty quickly.

Car Ice Shovel Scraping

If you have a covered garage, you don’t have to worry about upcoming snowstorms. When you park outside, you’ll have to carefully brush off the snow and make sure all the windows are clear.

Ice can freeze your doors shut and not let you get in to idle your car. There are some easy ways to remove ice from your car, but it’s still a waste of time and energy.

Potential Visibility Issues from Fogged Windows

Anyone who has parked outside overnight can relate to dealing with fogged windows. It takes a few minutes to get the HVAC at the right temperature until the windows finally defog.

If you’re in a rush, you might not spend the time you need to in order to defog the windows. As a result, you’ll have worsened visibility while you’re driving, which can lead to an accident. There’s no need to put yourself in an unsafe situation.

You should always fully remove the fog from your windows before you start driving in the morning.

Of course, this issue doesn’t exist for people who park in a garage.

Temperature Changes Hurt Your Tires

It’s sometimes hard to tell if a tire is flat or just needs air. The issue becomes a lot simpler when you’re parked inside of a garage overnight.

Close up of a car tire with low air pressure PSIClose up of a car tire with low air pressure PSI

When you’re outside, the ambient temperature of the air around you will cause the air in your tire to change. The PSI will fluctuate as the temperature changes. On especially cold mornings, your tire pressure can get so low that it becomes dangerous to drive.

Interior Will Fade from Sun Exposure

Another issue with UV rays is that they’ll fade your car’s interior. When you’re parked outside, your windshield will allow UV rays to come into your car uninterrupted.

Over time, you’ll notice your leather seats are duller, the plastic of your dashboard is no longer a crisp black, and details start to fade. All of these issues lead to a lower resale value and also take some of the pride out of owning your car.

If you’re going to park outside, I would highly recommend using a windshield shade cover or car cover. This will keep the UV rays away from the interior of your car.

Rust on the Undercarriage

If you park on gravel or grass, you run the risk of rusting your undercarriage. This happens because those two surfaces contain a lot of moisture. As you probably know, rust is the byproduct of moisture and oxygen coming in contact with untreated metal.

Vehicle on a hydraulic lift with a view of the car's undercarriage with rust visible on the bolts

Almost the entire undercarriage of your vehicle is untreated metal.

You could wind up with a nasty rust problem that you don’t even notice. It might not seem like a big deal until components start failing due to the rust.

Wipers Wear Out Quicker

When it comes to extending the life of your wipers, parking inside is one of the top suggestions. Wipers will wear out if they are heated, exposed to UV rays, get frozen, or go across a pollen-covered windshield.

The bottom line is that parking outside will shorten the life of your wipers. Sure, they’re not very expensive to replace, so why should you care? Well, if you go too long without replacing them, you’ll run into visibility issues. They’ll streak and fail to clear rain from your windshield.

Plus, it’s just another piece of maintenance to worry about. It’s best to extend the life of your wipers so you don’t have to remember to replace them.

HVAC Takes Longer to Work

When your car is parked outside, it takes longer for the HVAC to get to a comfortable temperature. In the middle of a Floridian summer, the car’s AC will start working much slower if you parked outside.

Close up of the car's AC button on the climate control unit of the vehicle

The big reason is that the air temperature inside your car and HVAC system is way higher since the car has been exposed to the elements for the past 16 hours.

From there, you have to either suffer in your car for a few minutes or idle your car for a few minutes. Idling allows the engine to warm up but it can take a while to reach optimal efficiency.

Insurance Price Goes Up

Believe it or not, your car insurance premium depends on where you park. When you get a new quote for insurance, they’ll ask you about the specifics of your car and your commute, but they’ll also determine how your car is parked. If your primary residence doesn’t have a garage or you tell the agent that you park outside, your price goes up.

This means that you’ll be spending more money each year to cover your car. Of course, insurance premiums are calculated based on risk. Parking outside is riskier and there are more issues that can occur. As a result, the insurance company needs to charge you more.

Car Damage – Hit and Run

For people who have to park streetside, you’ll have to worry about someone sideswiping your car. In a neighboring town where I grew up, there was at least one sideswipe hit and run a month. If there aren’t street cameras, then there’s nothing you can do.

Rear bumper of a Toyota Corolla dented from a hit and run in a parking lot

If you can’t prove that someone else was at fault, then your insurance won’t give you any money. This is a scary scenario, but it’s an unavoidable truth for anyone who parks outside on the street.

Is It Bad to Park Your Car Outside?

After reading through my list of potential problems when it comes to parking outside, you probably know what I’m about to say.

Parking outside is not a good idea. I understand that a lot of people don’t have a choice when it comes to parking (especially in big cities). However, I urge anyone who has access to a garage to use it.

A lot of my neighbors use their garage for storage and park their cars outside. In a lot of cases, it’s less expensive to get a storage unit somewhere rather than spend all the extra on car maintenance and repairs due to outdoor parking.

If you have the option to park in a covered garage, you should. It will extend the life and improve the resale value of your vehicle.

Conclusion

As you just learned, it’s not a good idea to park outside. This might be surprising, but it’s due to the fact that you can’t control what goes on outside. If you have the option to park in a covered garage, I would highly suggest that you start doing that.

If you have any more car questions, drop a comment below or explore my website. I also have a list of helpful car products that you can look at.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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