Cash is still the preferred method of paying for parking despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research from the AA. The motoring organisation’s study of more than 14,500 motorists found almost half of respondents said cash was their favourite way to feed the meter.

According to the survey, 46 percent of drivers said cash was their chosen payment method, and that figure rose to more than 55 percent among drivers aged 65 and over. For low-income households, it rocketed to 62 percent.

Chip-and-pin payments were the second-favourite payment method, while contactless payments using a card or smartphone came third. Paying through a smartphone app and paying by phone completed the top five.

Woman using pay and display parking ticket machine

However, among younger drivers, the tables were turned. Half (49 percent) of respondents aged 18-24 said contactless payment was their favoured method of buying a parking ticket, while chip-and-pin payments were second and apps came third.

The research comes after numerous local authorities made card payment easier during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The steps were taken to reduce the chances of cash being handled by multiple members of the public, therefore reducing the chances of spreading the virus.

According to the AA, some councils said the switch to cashless transactions reduced costs thanks to lower maintenance bills and a reduction in theft. However, the motoring organisation is asking councils to “retain pay-by-cash parking machines” to ensure “drivers of all ages and backgrounds can access local shops and facilities”.

Parking attendant checking cars on the street in Edinburgh Scotland

“For now, cash remains king when paying for parking, however, a speedy transition to an increasingly cashless society is paving a way that could threaten to lock older drivers and low income households out of their town centre,” said AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens. “Many households prefer to physically see their budgets and doing so gives them a heightened sense of how far their cash can go. Removing cash parking machines from town centres can have a knock on effect on the local economy as would-be shoppers decide to take their business elsewhere.

“With parking income the equivalent of three quarters of council tax revenue for some authorities, council leaders will not want to lose a valuable source of funding. Considering the low levels of support for pay by phone options, councils could drop this option altogether but won’t, as many add transaction fees to the hourly rate which help boost their coffers.”