11 Parking Tips
Parking your car can be one of the most frustrating manoeuvres you do while out on the road, but only if you aren’t aware of the tips and tricks on how to nail it first-time round.
In this guide, we show you 11 parking tips for the three most common types of situations where you need to park your car.
Perpendicular parking is one of the most common ways you’ll park your car, with many bays at supermarkets and shopping centres using these types of spaces at their complexes.
Here’s our step-by-step tips on how to perform the perfect perpendicular park.
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1. Find a suitable space
To risk stating the obvious, the parking space you choose must be big enough for your car to fit in – with bays, this can be a lot easier (guidance) but sometimes you may find yourself having to make that judgement yourself (i.e. when you’re performing a reverse parallel park between two other cars).
Remember: Cars are roughly 50% bigger than they used to be, so gauging the space between two cars can be tricky. Always use mirrors and general awareness of the size of the markings/distance between other two cars (if not in a bay) to determine whether your car will fit in there.
2. Check your mirrors
It’s important to know whether another car or road user is approaching from behind when you’re parking, regardless of whether this is reversing or pulling straight into a spot.
To do this, check your rearview mirror, you’ll then be able to decide whether to let the car go past you or you may find that the driver waits for you to park – but checking allows you to make sure it’s safe to park before performing the manoeuvre.
Also check your wing mirrors and blindspots, particularly the side where you’re going to be parking. While the rearview mirror will tend to cover you for other vehicles behind, a cyclist, pedestrian or motorcycle could still take it upon themselves to overtake you when they see you slowing down.
3. Indicate where you’re parking
Whether it’s a bay on the left or the right, once you’ve found a spot and checked your mirrors, you need to tell those around you the direction that you’re parking in. This will make it less likely that someone will overtake before you pull in, but you should still do a final mirror/blindspot check as a precaution to make sure it’s still safe to turn into a parking space.
4. Position the car in a good angle
A ‘good angle’ for parking straight and within the designated lines/space would be one which allows you to fit in the first time of asking. Granted, some longer cars may need to reverse a little to allow the nose of the car enough room between the other two vehicles.
However, once you can see the bottom of the car’s rear bumper, you’ll then have enough room to steer clear of it and fit into the space.
5. Align your door mirror in the centre of the space but one from where you want to park
This is for bay parking where the space is in front of your car, either to the left or the right.
When we say align your door mirror in the centre of the space, we don’t mean that it has to be directly parallel to the bay in the centre. Essentially, from your driving position the mirror should appear to be in the centre, this gives you enough clearance to manoeuvre into it centrally.
Once you’re happy that your door mirror is in the centre of the space but one from where you want to park, creep forward while turning the wheel a full revolution. Remember to check that your front end steers clear of any cars parked next to the free space before continuing to accelerate. If you’re too close to any car, you’ll need to reverse back to create some more space for you to complete your parking.
Perpendicular back parking
Just like regular perpendicular parking, perpendicular back parking involves slotting your car into a standard 4.8-metre-long, 2.4-metre-wide parking bay*. However, instead of driving into the space front-end first, you reverse in, which makes it a lot easier when it comes to leaving the car park.
This manoeuvre is no more complex or difficult than standard right-angle bay parking, especially when you know to do and use the right reference points. Here’s how.
*While these are the average dimensions of UK parking bays, it’s not a legal requirement for them to be this size, and some may be smaller.
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1. Align your car’s rear for a smooth reverse
For a reverse perpendicular park, you’ll need to go past the parking space you want to pull into to give you enough of an angle to get in the first time of asking.
To do this, perform the first three steps of a normal perpendicular park (find a space, check your rearview mirrors for approaching cars/road users and indicate towards the empty bay). It’s important that you indicate before you pass the parking spot, this way if a car or bike is close behind you they will know to give you enough room to do this or go around you when it’s safe.
To get the best angle for reversing into the bay, align your car’s rear with the second line of the space next to one you want to park in. For your reference, see the diagram below which shows the correct positioning your car should be in before reversing.
2. Check that the front of your car is clear
When you reverse into a parking space, it’s important to check that the front of your car is clear of other parked cars in the bays opposite from where you’re going to park.
To do this, look straight out the front window (after you’ve checked nothing is behind you) as you initially reverse. This way, you can make sure that when the front swings out as you turn the steering wheel, you don’t accidentally hit another parked car.
If you are too close to the other cars, you should reposition yourself further towards the side where you wish to park so that your front-end has enough clearance. You can do this by reversing (checking first that there’s no cars approaching from behind) until you’re level with the free space. You’ll then have enough space to creep forward and steer into a more central position which will help the front of your vehicle keep clear.
Remember: If you are parking between two rows of bays, try to keep an equal distance from both sets of parked cars, this way you’ll avoid hitting the front and back of your car.
Generally considered the most difficult of parking techniques, the parallel park technique is slightly different to perpendicular.
Rather than the space requiring a 90-degree angle turn, with the front or back of the vehicle facing into the road, cars will be parked bumper to bumper, so around 45 degrees is needed to park.
Of course, you won’t have a giant measuring tool to tell you when you’re turning at exactly 45 degrees, this is just a rough guide. Instead, here are some tips you can easily practice out on the road for perfect parallel parking.
1. Leave one door’s width between the cars
A reverse parallel park requires you to pull up alongside another parked car before reversing into a space behind it. To do this successfully, you’ll need to judge the distance between your vehicles so that you can pull in smoothly.
Being too close to the car will mean your front end doesn’t clear the other vehicle. Likewise, being too far away would result in a sharper steering angle being needed to get into the space to avoid the car behind. However, even if you were to avoid both cars, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll hit the kerb.
For this reason, professional driving instructors recommend that you leave a car door’s width (around one metre) between your car and the one parked up. To help you do this, imagine what distance you would need to keep if your passenger door was open while creeping up beside it.
2. Align your door mirror with the front of the other car
Before you start turning your car’s wheel to bring it into the parking space, it’s important that you make sure you’ve already started reversing. This way, you don’t cause unnecessary wear to the steering mechanism and tyres of your vehicle.
To ensure you have ‘wiggle room’ to move back a little before steering, always position your car with its front end in front of the other vehicle parked parallel to you. As a guide to know how much is enough room, it helps to align your passenger-side door mirror with the front of the other car.
Remember: Reverse slowly, preferably at creeping pace where you feather the clutch and accelerator, so that you don’t miss the timing of your steering wheel turn.
3. Start turning when you’re level with the other car
Time your steering once you’re level with the parallel parked car, turning the wheel one whole turn. If the other vehicle is longer than yours, this should be when the backs of both cars are level.
4. Use the car behind/kerb as a reference
A great way of knowing when you’re roughly turning at a 45-degree angle is by checking in your passenger-side door mirror for the registration of the car parked behind you.
Once this appears in the mirror, straighten the steering and begin reversing until the front of your car is past the back of the car in front.
If you aren’t parking between two cars, then you can use the kerb as an alternative reference. To do this, look for when the kerb disappears from your passenger-side door mirror, at which point you should straighten the steering and begin reversing.
After the front of your vehicle is past the bumper of the motor in front, turn the steering wheel one whole turn away from the kerb in order to straighten up and finish the manoeuvre.
Are you looking for more useful tips on how to drive safely? Then head over to our road safety guides page for information on how to be a safer and better driver.
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