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Everything you wanted to know about Parallel Parking

  • City Parking Tips
  • Renee Martin
  • 6 minutes

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It’s the bane of every driver, new or experienced! Parallel parking is less of a skill and more a matter of practice – something you hone through repeated attempts and at least a few failures. However, you can shorten the learning curve by following some standard steps, as we show you in this post.

No matter how experienced a driver you are, you might’ve had numerous awkward instances when parallel parking has put you to the test. And despite practicing it your best while getting your driver’s license… you just can’t seem to get it right! We know – we’ve been there, done that. In fact, no matter how well you parallel park, the next time will never be the same. However, if you’re a driver who’s worth their salt, you should be at least have the basics down right.

A car in the process of parallel parking

What is Parallel Parking?

Parallel parking is the method of parking a vehicle parallel to the curb, in line with other parked vehicles. Ideally, your car should be just a few inches from the curb and should not be jutting out into the road. Parallel parking is most common on streets and roads, because perpendicular or angled parking may take up too much driving space. It is one of the hardest skills for a driver to learn because it involves maneuvering your car to fit perfectly between two already parked vehicles. It needs a delicate touch, presence of mind, and the use of car mirrors. You can’t boast about being a great driver unless you’ve mastered parallel parking!

parallel parking up ahead gif

Where is parallel parking required?

Parallel parking is the standard parking rule on most streets, roads, bylanes, and highways. It offers the least obstruction to oncoming traffic and also allows drivers to resume their journey without inconveniencing other cars around. Almost all the metered and free parking spots on US roads are parallel parking spots.

How big is a parallel parking spot?

The dimensions of a parallel parking space may vary from state to state and even city to city. However, most parallel parking spaces will have a uniform length of 22-26 feet, and a width of between 8-10 feet. Certain cities might earmark spaces for smaller cars – these may be 18-20 feet long and between 6-7 feet in wide.

A parallel parked car with an empty spot behind it

How to parallel park: step-by-step walkthrough

The general rule of parallel parking is – always reverse into a spot. Going head-on into a parallel parking space offers very little maneuverability and can only complicate things. With that out of the way, follow these four steps to

Step 1: Find a spot that fits your car

  • You may be in a hurry, but that’s no excuse to parallel park in the first spot you see. Look for a space that’s roughly one-and-a-half times your vehicle length.
  • Keep this handy acronym in mind: MSMOG. Check your Mirrors, turn on the Signal, check Mirrors again, look Over your right shoulder, and Go when safe.
  • Pull up parallel next to the car you want to park behind, until at least half your car length is in line with its bumper. Ensure you keep a distance of 2-3 feet on the sides.

Before you back in, check your mirrors and turn on the indicators so that oncoming cars know your intention.

Step 2: Put your car in reverse and back in

  • Turn the steering wheel as much as you can, sit up straight in the driver’s seat, and turn your shoulders 90 degrees from the back of your seat.
  • Lock your steering wheel and start backing into the spot.
  • Turn into the spot until your outer rearview mirror is in line with the bumper of the car in front. At this point, your vehicle should be more or less at a 45-degree angle to the curb, with nearly two-thirds of the car in the parking space.

Step 3: Align your car with the curb

  • Now turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction so that the remaining one-third portion of the car can back in easily. Keep an eye on the car at the back through the rearview mirror.
  • When done right, at the end of this step you can see the headlights of the car behind you in your rearview mirror. At this point, your car will be more or less aligned with the curb – if not, there’s always time for one more alignment step.

A GIF demonstrating how to parallel park

Step 4: Straighten and align

  • Usually, the end of step 3 will see you closer to the car at the back, with some space left to cover in front. Turn your steering wheel back into the middle position and align the car in a straight position.
  • Center your car between the other two cars in a way that allows both to exit the spots without trouble. Typically, your car should be between 12 and 18 inches from the curb.
  • Check if your rear right wheel is touching the curb – if it is, you can always put it in drive and move forward until the car is parallel.

Other parallel parking tips

A parallel parked car in a US suburb

The above steps are when you want to parallel park the hard way – but it is a lot easier these days! Today’s cars have enough tools and tips that help you parallel park perfectly in one go.

  • Use your car’s reversing camera (if it has one) to position your car correctly while backing in.
  • If your car does not have sensors or a rearview camera, you can always ask for help from a passer-by or fellow driver. Believe us, kindred spirits will always help you out!
  • If you strike or bump a car in front or behind and the driver is absent, own up and act responsibly. Leave a note with your name, address and insurance information if necessary. Also take a photo of the damage so that you are not taken advantage of later. Don’t forget to report the accident to your insurance provider.

Even the most experienced parallel parkers were novices when they first started out – it’s all a matter of practice! Keep at it until you get a hang of it – it can save you a lot of time when looking for parking.

Speaking of things that save you time, you can always dump the hassle of street parking if you book an off-site parking garage. No parallel parking woes – just zoom in and out of an affordable spot! Use the Way.com parking app to book off-site parking at up to 25% off and smoothen your parking experience.

Find affordable parking using Way.com


Read more blogs on affordable airport parking, the best insurance for your car, and top-rated car washes near you.


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