Compared to navigating a parallel parking space, parking your car between two other cars in a standard parking space is relatively simple. There are two types of standard parking spaces. You will likely encounter both straight parking spaces and diagonal parking spaces in your driving career. Here is how to park in a diagonal parking space:
There is a small difference in parking techniques when we deal with straight parking spaces. Before you park your car, you must locate an open parking space. There are several aspects of an ideal parking spot.
How To Find A Parking Space
Make sure that the cars parked on either side of the open parking space are aligned within their own parks and not situated too close to the perimeter of the open space.
If parking in an open parking lot at night, try to find a parking space that is in close proximity to a light for added safety.
If parking in the parking lot of a retail store, try to locate an open parking space that is away from shopping cart collectors or groups of unattended shopping carts. This will help prevent your vehicle from being damaged while parked in a parking lot.
Although convenience is important, parking midway down an aisle of parking spaces is often better than parking in a space close to the beginning of an aisle. Your vehicle will be less likely to be totally surrounded by other vehicles and there will be less traffic when you enter and exit the space.
The following video will also help you choose the safest parking spot available:
After you find the ideal parking space, use the following guidelines to quickly and safely park your vehicle.
How To Park Between Two Cars
Slowly position your vehicle so that it is in the center of the parking aisle. If the aisle is made for only one direction of traffic, position your vehicle as far as you can to the opposite side of the aisle to allow more room for turning.
Stop your vehicle when its front bumper is approximately half of the way past the parking space before the one you plan to park in.
Turn your wheel towards the parking space and slowly begin to drive your car into the space. Check the left and right sides of your vehicle to ensure that there is a reasonable amount of free space on either side.
Keep turning your steering wheel as you pull into the parking space until your car is parallel with the vehicles parked on either side of that space.
Continue to slowly pull forward until your car is completely inside the parking space. Be careful not to park too close to any vehicle that is parked directly in front of you.
Turn off your ignition and exit the vehicle.
To exit a parking space when other vehicles are parked on either side of you, you must first evaluate the proximity of the two vehicles. If you are able to turn to either side when reversing out of the space, turn towards the side on which the closest car is parked. This will give the front of your vehicle more room in which to turn as you exit the parking space.
Visualize the whole procedure using the following video:
Parking in a standard parking space is typically one of the most common maneuvers that experienced drivers make.
Remember that parking lots are often busy with pedestrian traffic. Always look out for people walking to and from their vehicles as you look for a space and park your car.
Picture this scenario.
It’s Friday night and Mr. Suburbia is driving downtown to the big city with Judy on a first date to catch a 7PM off-Broadway performance of Guys and Dolls. He’s running a bit late.
“I hope I can find a parking spot near the theater or else we’ll miss the start of the show,” he thinks to himself.
He drives by the performing arts center desperately scanning for an empty parking space. He spots one next to the curb right in front of the theater. But to Mr. Suburbia’s dismay, it’s nestled between two other cars.
“Oh, sweet baby Frank Sinatra on a stick…I’ll have to parallel park,” Mr. Suburbia thinks.
His palms get sweaty. Mr. Suburbia knows he stinks at parallel parking. It just isn’t something he has to do out in the suburbs with its vast expanses of near-empty parking lots.
Mr. Suburbia has a choice. Attempt to parallel park and risk being the guy that holds up traffic for 20 minutes while trying over and over again to back into the spot, consequently embarrassing Judy, or drive around a few more blocks hoping to find a spot that he can handle pulling into. Either way, he and Judy will be late for the show.
Mr. Suburbia keeps driving.
I’ll admit it. I’m Mr. Suburbia. I suck at parallel parking. I just don’t need to do it here in the Tulsa suburbs. I didn’t even have to do it in order to get my license when I was 16–the Oklahoma DMV removed it as a requirement before I took the test (it was recently brought back).
But it’s quite a useful skill in a pinch. Whenever I head downtown I usually need to parallel park and my lack of practice is quickly made apparent.
After a cringe-worthy attempt at parallel parking the other day, I decided it was time I brush up on this essential driving skill. So I pinged my former driver’s ed teacher, Scott Merkley at Merkley’s Driving School to give me a quick refresher.
How to Parallel Park
Note: The steps below are for parking on the right side of the street. Reverse them for a space on the left.
1. Signal a right turn and drive up next to the car in front of your parking space so that you’re evenly lined up with that car, with 2-4 feet between the cars.
2. Put the car in reverse and slowly drive backwards until your rear bumper passes the rear bumper of the car in front of your space.
3. When you reach this point, turn the steering wheel all the way to the right. Continue slowly rolling in reverse. Aim the rear of your car towards the right rear corner of your space.
4. When your car gets to a 45 degree angle in relation to the car in front of you, turn the steering wheel one revolution to the left to straighten the tires. Continue backing up at this angle until your right front bumper just clears the left rear bumper of the front car.
5. Quickly turn the wheel all the way to left and roll backwards until you are behind the vehicle.
6. Straighten the wheel and center the car. Put the car in park.
7. Don’t forget to pay the parking meter. Do a little jig.
Scott suggests finding parallel parking spaces without any adjacent cars nearby in order to practice. If you can’t find any empty parallel parking spaces, make your own in an empty parking lot.
“With 10 minutes of practice, anybody can master parallel parking,” says Scott. There’s hope for Mr. Suburbia’s everywhere.
Are you a master parallel parker or does having to parallel park make your palms get sweaty? Did you have to parallel park to get your driver’s license? Share your parallel parking stories with us in the comments.
Illustration by Ted Slampyak. Copyright McKay & Slampyak
Last updated: January 22, 2016