Our Guide to Parallel Parking

parallel parkingParallel parking is intimidating for many drivers. It’s a required skill on your driving test, so every licensed driver has successfully parallel parked at least once! However, unless you live or work in a place where street parking is the norm, you may not have parallel parked much since your driver’s test.

Even if parallel parking isn’t a part of your everyday life, it’s a useful skill that can come in handy when the need arises. Check out this step-by-step guide to help to refine your technique.

8 Steps to Parallel Parking

  1. Find Your Parking Space: If you’re a novice, it’s best to find a space that has room for your vehicle plus 6 feet extra. When you get more advanced, you will still need a space that’s at least 3 feet longer than your vehicle.
  2. Make Sure it’s a Legal Space: Check the signs and see if there are any parking restrictions for the space. Take note of any posted time limits, and make sure you aren’t parking in front of a fire hydrant, driveway, or other area you cannot block (often, the curb is painted yellow here). Make sure the vehicles in front and behind you don’t have anything sticking out of them, such as trailers or hitches.
  3. Prepare to Back in: Check your rearview mirror to make sure no one is right behind you. Brake, and turn on your turn signal. If a car comes behind you, stay put, and motion for them to go around you if needed.
  4. Line Your Vehicle Up: Pull up next to the vehicle that will be in front of you one you’re parked. In general, the smaller the space, the closer you will need to be to the car. Aim to have your rear bumper lined up with the other car’s rear bumper.
  5. Begin Backing Up: Shift into reverse. Make sure there is no traffic behind you. When the back of your backseat is even with the back of the vehicle beside you, turn your steering wheel sharply, until your vehicle is entering the space at a 45 degree angle.
  6. Finish Backing in: Back up at the 45-degree angle until the back wheel is about 1 foot from the curb. If your tire hits the curb, you’re too far in. But it’s an easy fix! Just shift back into drive, pull forward, and give it another shot.
  7. Straighten as You Finish: Once you’ve completed step 6, turn your wheel back toward the road while slowly moving backward. Look to see that the front of your car is lined up with the rear bumper of the vehicle in front of you. You’re looking to move the rest of the way into the space and straighten your car out at the same time.
  8. Center Your Vehicle: Now, all that’s left to do is make sure you’re squarely in the space. If there’s room behind you, back up until you’re close to touching the car behind you. Then, go into drive and turn slightly toward the curb while pulling forward. If the space is tight, this is more difficult. When that happens, just keep making slight adjustments, pulling forward and backward so you can slowly wiggle into the spot.

Remember, you can always signal, pull forward, and restart the process! Parallel parking is a muscle. As long as you work at it, you’ll get better with time.

Also, when you open your door, keep your eye open for cyclists, since your door will often open into the bicycle lane.