After You Toss the Keys: How Much to Tip Your Valet

You’re going to a fine restaurant or you’ve just arrived at a big event that requires you to valet your car. Ever wondered how much you should really tip the new driver of your car? That’s a common question that doesn’t have a hard-and-fast rule, but there are consequences for being a poor tipper.

Read on to learn four expert tips for helping you decide how much you should tip your valet the next time around:

Tip #1: How the 20 Percent Rule Applies

When tipping at a restaurant, it’s typical to tip between 15 and 25 percent for good service. That’s an expectation that is almost uniformly accepted across the U.S. restaurant industry. But how does it apply to other tipping services? It can be a little fuzzy. The “20 Percent Rule” is certainly one you could start with as a baseline for tipping a car or a bike valet. How does that pan out in actual dollars you’ll need to fork over every time you drive up for valet service? For a $10 an hour valet service, that’s $2 maximum for each hour. For a $20 an hour valet, that’s $4 maximum for each hour. Either way, that’s not a bad draw for a valet, and that’s a price that you can accept for valeting your car. But, there are other things to consider.

Tip #2: Overtip as for Extra Protection

Something we love to do is go ahead and put a $10 bill on the dashboard before you leave the car. It’s a surprise that your valet will appreciate and could potentially be very motivating. You’ll want to talk to the valet to go over the details and to let the valet know where damage is on the car (or where it’s not). Setting expectations for how you want your car returned is really important in this process. The $10 bill on the dash gives the valet a little extra incentive to treat your car well while you are gone. Without any upfront tip, the valet doesn’t know if he will ever see the tip. You may forget to get cash. He may have to split tips with other valets. Give him a little extra to motivate his service.

Tip #3: Can You Overtip Too Much?

Not really. How much you want to give over the standard amount is up to you. If you feel like being more generous, be more generous. But you should reconsider being stingy. We’ve heard one too many stories of valeted cars that come back in worse condition or don’t get immediately returned. That’s not the best scenario for you. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your valet. Have you ever worked for $2 an hour? Bump up that tip before you leave.

Tip #4: How Many Times Should I Tip?

It would be ideal to tip twice. You’ll want to leave some incentive money on the dashboard before you leave the car in the the hands of the valet, but you’ll also want to tip when the valet returns the car. This also isn’t the time to be stingy. You are, after all, valeting your car. It’s important to tip at least 20 percent of the valet cost per hour. Valets remember the good tippers and the bad ones, and you don’t want bad service for you or your car if you happen to return in the future.

Ready to Toss Your Keys?

Valet services are luxury services that you shouldn’t take advantage of unless you are willing to tip properly. Remember, you’re trusting your car with a valet and the more generous you are, the more incentive the valet may have to take care of your car. Remember to talk to the valet ahead of tossing your keys to let him know that you are expecting your car back at the end of the night just as you have left it. A little extra cash always goes a long way.

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