Parking – few parts of the driving experience unite so many people in anxiety and general unease; be it parallel parking, reverse bay parking, or a bit of both, everyone has their pet peeve. Of course, parallel parking is something that few people truly relish, but it can be an invaluable tool to those who intend to nab the best parking spaces in spite of the ever-increasing number of cars on British roads.

The good news is, once you’ve mastered parallel parking, your newly acquired heights of spatial awareness and steering wheel proficiency should allow you to make the most of the tightest of gaps. But first things first – let’s start with the basics.

Illustration of different types of parking

Types of parking

There are three types of legal parking you should be concerned with: parallel parking, bay parking, also known as perpendicular parking, and angle parking. If you aren’t familiar with these already, you’ll want to learn them well, especially if you’re about to take a driving test. Each comes with its own benefits and challenges, which we’re going to discuss in an ascending order of difficulty. 

Bay parking 

Perpendicular parking can be completed going forward and in reverse. Regardless of how you approach it, bay parking involves parking your car in a bay which is generally 2.4 meters wide and 4.8 meters long. Forward bay parking sees you drive into the bay and reverse out, while reverse bay parking involves reversing into a space and driving forward as you exit.

Front and reverse bay parking tips

If you want to bay park well you should have roughly 6 meters of road to work with. Always check your blind spots, and make sure you leave enough space for your turning circle as you enter the space. When driving in, try to approach as far out from the space as possible to allow for a full turn. When reversing into a bay, drive your car past it until your wing mirror is in line with the edge of the second bay away from the one you are aiming for.

Busy car park

Angle parking

Angle parking not only minimises the length of space required for parking, but it also allows for more cars to park in a smaller space thanks to the nature of the angled bays. Generally, the bays are angled to make it easy for oncoming traffic to drive into them. 

Angle parking tips

It is far more advisable to drive in rather than attempting to reverse into an angled bay. If you are unused to angle parking, slow down and steer lightly; it’s easier to adjust understeering as you go than to correct oversteering when you’re halfway into the bay.

Cars parked at angle

Parallel parking

Parallel parking involves parking parallel to the curb. While it is almost as common as bay parking, it remains quite notorious among new drivers due to the difficulty of the manoeuvre. The underlying issue is that many parallel parking spaces are beside or directly on a road, which often deters inexperienced drivers as they become flustered trying to fit their vehicle into the space. The impatient looks from bystanders don’t do much to alleviate the stress, either.

It may not seem likely at first, but it is actually easier to reverse parallel park. This technique allows you to keep the rear of the car in as you adjust the front. 

Parallel parking tips

Before you begin, make sure you are in line with the car positioned in front of the space you intend to enter. Turn your steering wheel all the way to the left and check your blind spots and mirrors. Gently move into the space until the edge bumper of the car behind you is in the middle of your rear windscreen, then turn your wheel to the neutral position. Once the edge of your bumper passes the back of the car in front of you, stop and turn the wheel fully to the right to pull into the space.

Cars parked parallel to curb

What is double parking?

Double parking is one of the many driving faux pas that could land you in hot water – it is reserved to describe the actions of those who choose to park parallel to a car already parked at the curb, but it isn’t the only instance. Another use for the term double parking is to refer to parking across more than one parking space.

No matter how you choose to double park, your actions will most likely be met with visible disapproval from your fellow drivers. More often than not, you will also find a ticket in your windshield, or worse still, you could get your vehicle towed!

Other bad parking practices include:

  • Parking too close to (or on) a corner
  • Parking across a driveway
  • Parking in a loading bay
  • Parking too far from the curb
  • Parking on the pavement

Car parked incorrectly

Much like parking malpractice could land you at odds with other drivers, properly executed parking techniques will do just the opposite. Proficiency commands respect, and what better way to show mastery behind the wheel than an inch-perfect parallel park?