Whether you’re learning how to park a car or are freshening up your parking skills, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the many different parking methods out there. On top of that, there are quite a few parking habits that may be mainstream but can get you into trouble. Knowing which ways to park are a-okay and which ones will land you with scratches and dents is key to safe and stress-free parking.
In this Spacer review of the many types of parking scenarios, we can bet that you’ll think differently the next time you put your car in park!
How to park a car legally
There are many different ways of parking a car, but only a few that are legally acceptable. Let’s take a look:
Perpendicular parking, aka 90 degree parking. This is the run-of-the-mill parking method that you’re most likely to see when you park in a parking lot or parking garage. The parking spaces are aligned at a perpendicular angle to a wall or middle line so that cars are able to park right alongside other cars.
How it’s done: First things first, find an available space and turn on your turn signal to indicate to others that you’re about to claim the spot. Then, it’s all about measuring distances. You want to begin the parking process when you’re a car distance away from the parking space. Then, slowly move forward, beginning your turn when the side mirror is in line with the first line of the parking space. Once your hood is in the center of the space, you can start to turn the steering wheel back to center, straightening out your wheels. From there, pull ahead slowly until your front bumper is about a foot away from the wall or car in front of you. This parking method takes a bit of practice, and you may need to get out of the car to check that your car is straight and not sticking out in the back.
Reverse perpendicular parking. For perpendicular parking spaces, some drivers choose to park in reverse so that they can easily drive away from the space. This requires a two-point turn, in which you will drive slightly past the available parking space, while maneuvering the car away from the space. Then, throw the car in reverse, turn the wheel the opposite direction and slowly reverse the car into the spot, checking side mirrors or your car’s video cameras to back into the spot.
Angle parking. There is some debate as to whether angled parking lots are more space-efficient, but pretty much everyone can agree that angled parking is slightly easier. You don’t need as wide of a turn radius, and it necessitates one way traffic for better traffic flow in parking lots.
Here’s how it’s done: Find an available parking space and turn on your signal. Pull forward until your car is about halfway over the first line of the parking space. Then, start turning into the space and straighten out when the center of your hood is in the center of the space. Pull forward to about a foot from the front of the space, keeping in mind that the cars on either side of you are on slightly different planes.
Back-in angle parking. This isn’t one of the more common types of parking that you’ll see out and about but it is becoming increasingly popular. You can find it in cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia, and even small towns are adopting this reversed style of parking. Why? Well, it’s apparently safer! Cities that introduced this parking method saw a drop in car accidents and overall driving speed, and a rise in bicycle use because of increased road safety.
How it’s done: Similar to the two-point turn in reverse perpendicular parking, back-in angled parking is done by first engaging your turn signal and then pulling forward past the available spot, while turning away. Then, back into the spot. Keep in mind that you might be backing towards an area where there is pedestrian traffic, so stay alert and drive very slowly.
Parallel parking. When learning how to park a car, this style will take the most practice. But once you get the hang of it, parallel parking isn’t the intimidating method that you might have expected.
Here’s how to do it: Find a spot that you’re sure will accommodate your car by sizing it up, then turn on your turn signal. Pull forward alongside the car ahead of the space until your rearview mirrors are aligned. You want to maintain a distance of about two feet between the cars. Then, put the car in reverse and start to turn the wheel to the right. This will give you a heavily angled turn that will allow you to back into the parking space without hitting the car in front. When you’re confident that you will clear the car in front, you can straighten the wheel and back up. Then, turn your wheel to the left to bring the car parallel to the curb.
If you’re learning how to park on a hill with this method, don’t forget that once your car is in park, you’ll want to turn the wheel all the way to the right. That way, if your car starts to roll, it won’t get very far.
Learning how to parallel park can take some practice, and don’t feel embarrassed if you find yourself having to pull away from the parking space to try again. The more you parallel park, the more comfortable you’ll become in gauging distances.
In most cases, you’ll know which parking method to use because the parking space orientation and signs will tell you. Remember to check parking time limits and always stay alert when parking. Also if you’re practicing how to park on a hill, remember to engage that emergency brake!
Lessons to learn about how to park a car the wrong way
Knowing the legal ways to park is just part of the equation. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with parking no-no’s so that you can become a safer driver. And steering clear of these parking mishaps will prevent you from being on the receiving end of justified road rage:
Taking up more than your parking space. We’ve all seen it. We’ve all grumbled about it. Don’t be the person who parks outside of the lines.
Parking in the lines but off-kilter. This parking mistake can put your car at risk for fender benders as other drivers try to navigate into the space next to you.
Parking in a space that is too small. Like parking crooked in a space, parking in a space that is just too small for your car is a recipe for disaster.
Double parking. This may be allowed for valet drivers, but you should avoid it in your everyday life. Not only is it illegal and dangerous, but you’ll definitely anger the drivers who are blocked in by your car. Learn more about double parking in our article, Are There Ways to Double Park Successfully?
Not signalling when parking. Especially in situations in which you have to pull ahead of the parking space and back in, using your turn signal is crucial. That way, cars behind you will know to give you enough space for you to turn into the parking space.
Not excited about parking in the wild? Consider renting a parking space.
We get it: parallel parking, fighting for parking spaces in parking lots, and navigating parking garages is stressful. With Spacer, you can rent out a convenient, affordable parking space to avoid the hassle entirely. San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and more are filled with parking spots for rent, and you’ll never have to learn how to park a car parallel on a hill with a line of impatient drivers behind you again!