Skip advert
Advertisement
Tips and advice

How to parallel park

Even seasoned drivers can struggle with parallel parking. Read on for our guide and tips on how to parallel park successfully and safely in your car

Parallel parking

Whether you’re a learner driver or a full licence holder with many miles under your belt, a parallel-parking manoeuvre isn’t always straightforward. However, it’s an important skill to have, because you will likely need to do it a lot, especially if you only have access to on-street parking.

It’s a key skill, so you will typically be taught how to do this when learning to drive, and your examiner may even ask you to demonstrate a parallel park on your driving test. The best way for novices and veterans alike to get their heads around parallel parking is by putting in lots of practice, but if you’re still struggling to get to grips with it, keep on reading for our tips on how to safely parallel park.

What is parallel parking?

How to appeal a parking ticket

Parallel parking is just that – you park your car in a space that runs parallel to the road. And in the majority of cases you’ll be able to drive into a designated parking spot at the side of the road.

Advertisement - Article continues below

However, there’s a more specific definition of parallel parking when you’re learning to drive or doing your driving test. In this instance, a parallel park refers to you reversing your car into a relatively small space at the side of the road, between two other cars that are also parallel parked.

How to parallel park safely

When you find a spot in which you want to parallel park, turn on your indicator to give other road users a heads-up about your intention. Make sure you’ve also visually sized up the space before you commit to parking in it – you’ll ideally want at least two feet of clearance at both ends to ensure you have enough room to steer your car into and out of the space.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

If the space is big enough for your car, start slowing your car down to a complete stop while keeping your indicator on; always be aware of what traffic around you is doing. Ideally, you will want to be alongside the car parked in front of the empty space, with at least one metre of side-to-side clearance between your car and the other vehicle.

Once you’ve stopped, make sure it’s safe and clear for you to reverse; there’s no way you can reverse parallel park if there’s another car close behind you. Make sure you also check your door mirrors and blind spots, to make sure there aren’t any obstacles or road users that aren’t in your immediate line of sight.

Advertisement - Article continues below

If it’s safe to proceed, engage reverse gear, look over your left shoulder to see out of the rear window and start to reverse. Once your car’s front wheels are roughly parallel with the rear end of the car you want to park behind, check your mirrors and blind spots again for hazards and be prepared to stop if there’s an obstacle in your way. If all is clear, give the steering wheel one full turn (left if the space is on your left, and right if it’s on your right) and slowly keep reversing.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

While doing this, it’s important that you’re still aware of your surroundings, because your car will now be at a 45-degree angle to the pavement, and the front will still be sticking out into the road. Once your car is clear of the car ahead, you can start straightening your car out by turning the steering wheel on to full lock in the opposite direction while still reversing.

Using the nearside door mirror, align your car so it’s parallel with the kerb. Once it is, straighten out your car’s steering so both of your car’s front wheels are pointing straight ahead, as they would when you’re normally going down the road. Bring your car to a stop and, if the car is within its spot, apply the car’s handbrake (if you’re driving an automatic car, also put it in ‘Park’) and turn the car off. 

Will I have to parallel park in my driving test?

There’s a decent chance you’ll be asked to parallel park when taking your driving test, because it’s one of the possible three main manoeuvres you’ll be asked to do (the other ones are bay parking, and pulling up and reversing for two car lengths on the right-hand side of the road). As a result, learning how to parallel park and getting in lots of practice means you’ll be well prepared if this is the task your examiner picks during the driving test.

DS 3 Crossback Top 10 best self-parking cars

If your examiner asks you to demonstrate a parallel-park manoeuvre, you will need to park in a spot on the left-hand side of the road. The size of the space you’ll be asked to park in will vary, depending on factors like how many parked cars there are, although the gap typically won’t be larger than two car lengths.

When you’re parallel parking in your driving test, don’t get flustered if things aren’t going 100% perfectly. Even though the examiner is assessing your parking skills, you shouldn’t be marked down for serious faults if you’re demonstrating strong hazard awareness and can park the car reasonably close to the curb.

However, if you demonstrate poor car control such as scuffing the kerb or having to reposition the car, you will almost certainly be marked down for a minor fault. These on their own won’t cause you to fail your test, but clock up enough minors when parallel parking (or throughout the rest of the test) and you’ll end up failing. You’ll also automatically fail your test for major faults such as mounting the kerb or not being aware of your surroundings. 

First cars made simple...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Speed awareness course: what to expect and who’s eligible?
Police car - open boot
Tips and advice
17 May 2024

Speed awareness course: what to expect and who’s eligible?

Speed limits in the UK: everything you need to know
50 mph limit sign
Tips and advice
8 May 2024

Speed limits in the UK: everything you need to know

‘Show me tell me’ questions: top tips for your driving test
driving test
Tips and advice
3 May 2024

‘Show me tell me’ questions: top tips for your driving test

Beat the Easter weekend traffic: secrets of a stress-free car getaway
traffic jam
Tips and advice
27 Mar 2024

Beat the Easter weekend traffic: secrets of a stress-free car getaway

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers
Carbuyer best new car deals hero
Deals
17 May 2024

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers

New Kia EV6: bigger battery, new styling and fingerprint recognition for 2024
Kia EV6 facelift front quarter
News
14 May 2024

New Kia EV6: bigger battery, new styling and fingerprint recognition for 2024

Cat S and Cat N cars explained: guide to buying an insurance write-off
Cat S and Cat N car
Tips and advice
15 May 2024

Cat S and Cat N cars explained: guide to buying an insurance write-off

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
26 Mar 2024

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Public EV charge point
Tips and advice
11 Jan 2023

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
21 Mar 2024

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
Best electric cars
Best cars
16 May 2024

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024
The best cheap-to-run cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024