Learning parallel parking techniques can be confusing. It’s a lot to take in between the numerous steps involved and the number of external factors you need to consider. However, with some practice and helpful parallel parking tips, you can master the skill in no time.
Find the right parking space
Part of what makes parallel parking tricky is that it’s difficult to judge close distances from inside a car. To avoid the unnecessary hassle — and potentially tapping someone’s bumper — set yourself up for success by choosing a parking space that’s the correct size for your vehicle. Make sure it offers ample room for maneuvering your car. At least 24 feet is the recommended parallel parking spot size.
Once you’ve selected a space, check your mirrors to make sure your way is clear of pedestrians and potential traffic problems. Signal to indicate your intention to park.
How to parallel park step by step
Position your vehicle parallel to the vehicle in front of the desired parking space. Your front windows should be in line with theirs. It’s best practice to keep about two feet between the parked car and your own.
Check your surroundings and in your mirrors for pedestrians, cyclists, oncoming traffic, or any other potential obstacles. Once you’ve determined your way is clear, slowly reverse while turning the steering wheel in the direction of the curb. Be careful not to rely on mirrors as they have blind spots. Look over your shoulder to see where you are and what’s going on around you.
Once your front passenger door is passing the other car’s rear bumper, quickly straighten out the steering wheel while reversing. When you’ve cleared the other car’s bumper, cut the wheel sharply to the left while continuing to reverse. Continue until your vehicle is fully inside the spot, being careful to avoid hitting the curb.
At this point, your car should be inside the spot, but it’s likely fairly close to the vehicle in the rear parking space. Straighten out the steering wheel, so the tires are parallel to the curb, then carefully and slowly pull forward. Position yourself in the center of the space to allow you and the cars to your front and back ample room to get out.
If you’re too far from the curb, carefully move forward and then back while simultaneously turning the wheel toward the curb then straightening out again. Before opening the driver’s side door, check for oncoming traffic and cyclists to make sure your way is clear.
Pulling out of the parallel parking space
With your steering wheel straightened, back slowly toward the vehicle behind you. Be vigilant about checking your distance to avoid a collision. Check behind you for traffic and pedestrians.
Initiate your turn signal to indicate you will be pulling into the traveling lane. Recheck your surroundings. It’s important to check regularly as road conditions change quickly.
Look back over your left shoulder to keep an eye on traffic and turn your wheel away from the curb. Carefully pull out into the lane once your way is clear of traffic, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Parallel parking tips
Beyond simply learning to parallel park, there are some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind.
- When parallel parking on a hill, make sure to turn your wheels toward the curb if you’re downhill, or away from the curb if you’re uphill, and engage the parking brake to reduce the chance of your car rolling.
- You generally cannot park in a crosswalk, intersection, on the sidewalk, on railroad tracks, on a bridge, or in a tunnel.
- “Double parking” – i.e., parallel parking to the side of another vehicle – is prohibited.
- Make sure your vehicle is not blocking driveways or sidewalk ramps.
- Your vehicle cannot be parked within 15 feet of a fire hydrant (exact rules vary by state) or 30 feet of a marked pedestrian safety zone (such as a bus stop) or stop sign.
Be sure to check your local driving handbook for further parallel parking regulations, as they can vary by state.