Parking Ticket 101: Welcome To Chicago!!! A Beginners Guide To Driving In Chicago


Nearly every week, this website gets e-mails from people new to Chicago who have received Mayor Daley’s version of a “Welcome To Chicago” gift–a bright orange parking ticket or tickets for some infraction that someone from a normal place in America, would never think could be a legitimate violation.

These surprised and exasperated drivers then turn to our website with questions.

So The Expired Meter has put together a primer for new Chicago residents whom drive.

Read and heed the advice below and you’ll be a lot happier Chicagoan.

We are basically compressing approximately 12 months of learning the hard and expensive way, into 15 minutes of reading.

You are welcome!

License Plates & Registration


If you move to Chicago from out of state, technically, you must obtain new Illinois registration and license plates from the Illinois Secretary of State within 30 days.

You have 90 days to drive on your former state’s driver’s license before it must be obtain an Illinois driver’s license.

If you move to Chicago from another town, technically, you have 30 days to change your registration address and get a new driver’s license, with the Illinois Secretary of State.

Here’s where you can find your closest Secretary of State Drivers Facility.

For more information on this subject, check out the Secretary of State’s website.

City Sticker


All Chicago residents, technically, with license plates registered to an address within the city limits, must purchase an annual city sticker.

Currently, the city sticker costs $75.

The fine for being a resident and NOT purchasing a city sticker is $120!

New residents are given 30 days from the day they become residents (their move date) to purchase a city sticker. You must go in person to the City Clerk’s office downtown, one of their satellite offices, a Dept. of Revenue substation or at a local currency exchange.

When you make your initial city sticker purchase, you must bring proof of your new residency, ie: a lease or rental agreement.

When you purchase a new vehicle, you also have 30 days to purchase a city sticker and slap it on your windshield.

If you don’t purchase your city sticker within 30 days of your new residency or new vehicle purchase, you’ll be hit with a $40 late fee.

City sticker fees for new residents or for a new vehicle can be pro-rated. The full price of $75 will be in effect until from June 1st to November 30th. But from December 1st to March 31st, it drops to $50 and then drops to $25 from April 1st to May 31st.

You must bring in the proper documentation to prove you qualify for the pro-rated fees with documents which would include your lease, title/mortgage, car dealer bill of sale, vehicle title, or vehicle registration date.

For more information, and locations of payment centers, check out the Chicago City Clerk’s website.

Residential Permit Parking

There are some streets and areas of the city, where drivers are not allowed to park unless they have a residential permit.

Yes, it’s a big bunch of crap as we all know, tax money pays for streets.

But it’s a sad reality in Chicago so here are the facts.

These residential parking zones generally are for very high density areas, but not always.

These zones have different times of enforcement. Some are all the time, 24 hours a day. Others are from 6 PM – 6 AM. It all depends.

The key is to pay attention and not park where these signs are posted. That is unless you are visiting a friend and they have a handy dandy guest pass waiting for you to put on your dashboard.

If you decide to taunt fate and park in a residential parking zone without a sticker, you risk a $60 ticket.

If you move into an area that has zoned parking, you need to change your registration to your new address,  make sure you have a city sticker or when you purchase your city sticker, apply for your residential parking permit.

Check out the website for the City Clerk of Chicago for more residential parking permit info.

B-Truck Plates


Trucks are not allowed to park on the majority of residential streets in Chicago. This means pickup trucks too–at least if you have B-Truck plates.

If you move to Chicago with a B-Truck plate, we strongly suggest you change the registration to a standard passenger plate. Otherwise, prepare to be ticketed.

In addition, vehicles with B-Truck plates are not allowed to legally drive on Lake Shore Drive. If anything, this is an even better reason to not have a B-Truck plate.

Back AND Front Plate Display

In Illinois, you must have both back AND front plates displayed on your vehicle. Other states may allow only the back plate displayed. So if you have out of state plates, Illinois law does not apply.

But, here in Illinois, you need to have both. Ignore the law and you will be ticketed and fined $50.

Winter Parking Restrictions


Every year, from December 1 to April 1, a bunch of seasonal parking restrictions and outright parking bans go into effect.

Overnight Parking Bans

There are some major city arteries where no parking is allowed overnight from 3 AM – 7 AM, no matter the weather. Don’t ignore the signs just because there is no snow.

Snow, ice, dry pavement– park overnight on one of these streets and you’re making a trip to the auto pound the next morning.

Here’s a map of the streets where the overnight parking bans are in effect, a full listing of those streets.

Snow Routes (2″ Snow Ban)

There are other major thoroughfares, otherwise known as snow routes in the city where, when 2″ of snow or more hits the ground, you need to move your vehicle elsewhere, lest you be towed. This means ANYTIME there is 2″ of snow or more, not just overnight. So, if you park on one of these streets, you need to watch the weather carefully.

Here is a map of all snow route streets effected by the 2″ snow parking ban and a listing of all Chicago snow routes.

NOTE: Sometimes the 2″ snow ban and the overnight parking bans apply to the same streets.

Street Cleaning


When winter parking restrictions end, street cleaning season begins.

From April 1 – November 30th, street sweepers putter up and down the streets of Chicago to theoretically clean the pavement and rid the streets of the flotsam and jetsam that urban environments seem to create.

Generally speaking, your street gets swept twice a month. One side gets cleaned on one day and then on the next day, the other side gets cleaned.

Street cleaning enforcement begins at 9 AM and ends at 3 PM. In that time period your vehicle cannot be parked on the side of the street to be cleaned or you risk getting a ticket. And when I say risk, I really mean, it will be ticketed.

Street cleaning violations are $50.00.

Signs announcing street cleaning are either permenantly installed or in most cases, color-coded signs are put up, and again theoretically, 24 hours or more before street cleaning is supposed to occur.

In addition, street cleaning schedules are posted here.

I suggest checking the street cleaning schedules for the streets you park on and then put the dates on your calendar so you have lots of advanced warning.

While enforcement of these violations are already pretty intense, the city has upped the ante and will soon have all street sweepers armed with cameras to make sure it nails everyone who parks illegally on street cleaning days.

Tinted Windows

Not only are tinted windows not allowed by Chicago municipal law, but are illegal by Illinois state law as well.

If you are moving to Chicago from out of town, make sure you have no, zero, none, nada tint on your front windshield and front side windows.

If you have tinted windows, spend the $30-$50 to have the tint removed or you’ll get hit with a $25 ticket now, but it jumps to $250 after January 15, 2009.

Red light Cameras


If you are moving from out of town, you may not be familiar with these things called red light cameras.

These are special cameras, mounted at certain intersections which will photograph your license plate if you blow through a red light there. A few weeks later you will receive a ticket for $100. These are very hard to beat.

We wrote a more extensive post on red light cameras a few months ago that will give you the red light camera lowdown.

Here is a list of all of Chicago’s red light camera locations.

Da’ Boot


Most people scream in horror or frustration when they see it on their car. Other people pace and rant when they realize they’ve been caught. It has been known to make grown men cry and hurt the wallets of many. It’s the boot.

The boot or the Denver boot, is a big, yellow, heavy, metal lock the city will slap onto your car, making it immobile, if you don’t pay your parking tickets.

If you have three or more unpaid parking tickets or red light violations in Final Determination Status, you will be eligible for the boot. This may change soon to two tickets if Mayor Daley gets his way. But in the meantime, make sure you have no more than two unpaid tickets or you risk getting booted.

Getting booted will cost you $60 for the boot removal fee, but you also have to pay ALL unpaid tickets that are in final determination.

If you don’t pay up within 24 hours, while it doesn’t happen every time, the city can and will tow your booted vehicle to the auto pound. This will cost you an additional $160 plus any storage fees the longer you leave your vehicle there.

All newer tickets that are being contested, or are still eligible to be contested or are not in Final Determination status, do not have to be paid to have the boot removed.

271 Responses to Parking Ticket 101: Welcome To Chicago!!! A Beginners Guide To Driving In Chicago

  1. Ramona says:

    There has been a reconverted school bus (now being used as an RV bus)that has been parked on our block since late Friday night. It has moved only once and is now in front of my house (now for the second night in a row). I thought it was illegal to live in an RV/bus while parked on a residential street. There are about 5-6 people living in it, entering & exiting all the time. There is no bathroom, frig, lights inside. Neighbors have called the police, but they have not bothered to respond & come out. Are they there illegally & do we have ANY options?????

  2. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Is this in Chicago?

    If so, take some photos and march down to your alderman’s office.

    In which neighborhood do you reside?

  3. Jeff says:


    Maybe the Partridge Family lost their house and had to move into their tour bus? They probably need someplace for the band to change into their hip polyester pantsuit stage costumes.

  4. Ismael says:

    I have a parking ticket on my new vehicle for failure to have the residential sticker on (its one of the daily temp stickers which fell off and onto the floormat)

    I had just bought the car from out of state and hadn’t gotten to put a plate on it. All it has is the Michigan 2 week temp thing. The ticket only has the VIN of the car, not a plate number. Can they attribute the ticket to me when I register the vehicle in Illinois? should I bother paying it or ignore it?

  5. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    I would fight it…but based on the fact the sticker fell off the windshield.

    Bring in the sticker to prove it was filled out correctly, but explain at your hearing it didn’t have enough adhesive to stick to the windshield. Perhaps, sine it was a new vehicle, the car dealer used some cleaning agent that repels adhesives. Fight it that way and you may/should win.

  6. SS says:

    I am from out of state and I do not have a front plate. I received a ticket last night for no front plate. How do I fight this?

  7. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    The way you fight this is by proving the state you are from does not require a front plate. There’s about 18 states which do not require vehicles to have a plate mounted on the front.

    If your vehicle is registered in one of those states, then bring in proof to your hearing your state doesn’t require it.

    If your state does require it–you’re out of luck–get a front plate on your car ASAP.

  8. Anon says:


    The Geek is correct.

    Back in Jan of 2013, the City Law Department granted the Department of Finance’s request to enforce 9-76-160A for all vehicles registered in states that require 2 plates by legislation.

    Mass is the only state in the Union that has the complicated program of vehicles of a certain age or older only have to have 1 plate and under a certain age must have 2.

    New Jersey doesn’t require a license plate sticker (the Plate Exp is on the NJ D.L) but they require 2 plates including for Apportioned Vehicles.

    Conn is the same as NJ…

    West Virginia uses the complicated formula where the 1st digit or Letter of the License plate Is the Exp Month and they only issue 1 annual year sticker (example: N = November, O = October, D = December, and 1 – 9 for the rest.

    Currently the citizens of the State of Ohio are attempting to get the 2 plate regulation changed to 1 since they are all getting nailed when they come to Chicago in their cars and SUV’s that don’t have a manufacturer installed front plate mount and are too cheep to pay 30 bucks to get one put on on their own dime.

  9. dws says:

    The City of Chicago is a sick place to live. If I was you, I leave now, especially if you do not have a limo driver as most Politicians do. Because of the Democratic mafia type influence on state government, Chicago has twisted the state into violating poorer citizen and forcing Chicago’s traffic laws on out of city drivers. Basically, as I stated, Chicago has grown to a very sick state, where they feed on the poor and disadvantage. Do not be fool by the city propaganda or it’s hype.

  10. Karen says:

    I got a ticket for parking on a residential street. However, there was no sign stating this. There was a sign for the other side, but not where I parked. I contested the ticket. Do I have a chance?

  11. C Easton says:

    Is there a maximum wheel base length for trucks parked on residential streets?

  12. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    C. Easton-

    That’s a good question. I’m not 100% confident, but I don’t think the wheel base is a factor as much as type, size and weight of a truck.

    Trucks that are over a certain weight are not allowed to park on most residential streets (unless they have permits) and RVs, buses, semi-trailers and pickup trucks with B-Plates are not allowed on most residential streets (unless they have permits).

  13. Drew says:

    Slight correction here.

    Vehicles over 8,001 pounds are not allowed to park anywhere in Chicago on the public way for free, period. Metered space or private property if not loading or unloading in an expeditious manner.

    Pickup Trucks and Vand are restricted on Residential streets Period regardless of the type of license plate the vehicle has. For City residents there is a pickup truck/Van Residential Street parking permit that is available for free from your own alderman that is good in all 50 wards (expires annually June 30th). Vehicles that are marked for commercial use (Tiny Tims Tuck pointing, or etc…) are not authorized to have the pickup/Van permit. They are however exempted from the Residential parking ban DURING business hours IF the vehicle displays:
    1. the business name
    2. The business license number
    3. The address of the service call

    Non-city resident pickup trucks, truck played vehicles can be issued the 75$ Residential Truck ticket per the City Clerk and City Law Department legally.

    The wheel base does not matter. It’s the gross curb weight that matters, and in Illinois we know this based upon the type of Truck plate displayed on the vehicle.

    B Truck: 8,000 pounds or lower
    D truck: 8,0001 pounds to 10,000
    F Truck: 10,001 to 16,000
    H Truck: 16,001

  14. Marani says:

    Are school bus drivers allowed to park their bus at their house or residential block???

  15. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    I don’t believe bus drivers can park a bus on a residential street. I believe RV’s, semi trucks, B-plate trucks, trailers and buses are prohibited from parking on residential streets.

  16. Drew says:

    Correct Geek.

    Buses are not allowed to park on any street for free period.

  17. Alex says:

    I was told that you are allowed to park within one residential zone of your own (the next zone over) if you have the sticker (for your zone). Is there any truth to that?

  18. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    No. None. There’s no truth to what you’ve heard about the ability to park in adjacent RPPs.

    Who told you that? That’s crazy talk.

  19. Drew says:


    You need # 1367? Don’t display any other number

  20. Angelica says:

    So live across the school, which at certain times7a-4pm parking is prohibited. When sweeping starts can i park on the school side since the opposite is temporarily prohibited to park from 9-2pm?

  21. The Parking Ticket Geek says:



    Just because there is street sweeping parking restrictions on one side of the street, you can’t just park on the other side of the street that’s also restricted due to the school. You have to find another legal space to park.

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