Valet Etiquette Questions Answered

Valet parking etiquette, etiquette expert, valet parking tipsValet parking is a welcome service that adds a touch of convenience into a sometimes otherwise hectic day.  Before you find yourself asking, “What should I tip the valet?” or, “Do I stay in my car or get out when I pull up to the curb?” refer to my tips below.   These valet etiquette rules will alleviate any awkward moments for good!

Commonly asked valet etiquette questions:

1. Is a tip mandatory when I am already paying a service fee? Tipping is always a nice gesture. Whether you are paying a standard fee or valet parking is offered on a complimentary basis, tipping is still customary. The going rate is $3-5 per vehicle.

2.Do I tip before or after? Most people tip the valet who retrieves their car when they’re ready to leave. However, tipping when you hand over the keys can lead to better service — maybe a spot in the shade or a primo parking spot that so that your car is quickly retrieved after the show. You may wish to pay $2-3 to the attendant who takes your car and $2-3 to the one who brings it back to you — more if they have it waiting by the curb for you or offer you a bottle of cold water on a hot, humid day.

3. Am I overcautious to clean out my car before leaving it with a valet? Your checkbook, bank statement and personal items should all be tucked away out of sight before you pull into the valet stand. Do this not only for the protection of your articles, but also to protect the valet from being unjustly accused of a missing item.

4.Does it pay to be extra nice for better service? Like anyone, valet attendants are much more responsive to drivers who are respectful and pleasant. Instead of throwing your keys at an attendant and barking a command such as “Watch the paint and don’t change any settings,” try treating the valet with the same respect you would give your best client. You will be amazed at how far a little kindness goes.

5. Do I have to pay an extra tip if I ask the valet to retrieve something in my car? If you ask the valet attendant to retrieve your car because you forgot your cell phone, lipstick, purse or briefcase, this is an extra service that requires an extra tip.

6. Do I stay in my car or get out when I pull up to the curb? Stay with your vehicle until the valet greets you and retrieves your keys. He or she may ask you to move forward or park your car in a different area.

8. Should I give the valet my entire ring of keys or just my “valet” key? The valet should have your car key with the remote control fob. This is extra insurance that the valet will find your car quickly — if necessary they can use the remote to locate your car by flashing the lights or sounding the horn.

9. What if I lose my valet ticket? The retrieval process always moves more quickly when the valets don’t have to search for your car. Another good reason to follow the instructions of #8 – and offer a bigger tip for the inconvenience.

I hope my valet parking tips give you the confidence and ease to enjoy your day (or girls night out) even more!


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. Diane says

    It would be a very nice gesture to arrive early and take care of the valet for your guests. It shows forethought and planning as a good host. Thank you for your question.

  2. says

    I am going to an event where the host is covering the cost for the valet parking. I know I still need to tip. Do I just tell the attendant when I arrive (or leave) that the event is covering the valet cost? How do I say that without sounding awkward? The event is at the Ritz Carlton. I’m only 27 and have had almost no experience with valet! I just don’t want to sound silly or impolite.

  3. Yasmin says

    My husband drives a manual sports car which is his pride and joy. Every time we encounter valet parking, the valet scrapes the gears or has difficulty getting the car into reverse. My husband says he is not letting that happen any more. Is there a polite way to refuse the valet service without sounding precious?

  4. Diane says

    Thank you for your question. It’s not impolite to refuse valet service. Typically, you could find the self-parking and park the vehicle yourself. Many people prefer to self-park rather than valet. Great question! And I hope this helps!



  5. says

    To answer the question “Do valets remove the keys when parked?” The answer is usually, but not always. Every valet parking location is unique. Each has different operational complexities. If keys are being left in the cars, this would normally only be done in a secure parking facility which the public does not have access to. In such a facility the cars may need to be “stacked,” where cars need to moved to get other cars out. Keys are left in the vehicles in order to have the ability to quickly move them around.


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