Aside from being a necessary skill for a road test, knowing how to park is a necessary skill for life; for what good is knowing how to drive if you have no idea how to park once you get to your destination?
Be sure you’re familiar with The basics of reversing a car before you attempt any actual parking like this; it will be a nightmare for a new driver otherwise.
Also, make sure you’re familiar with the proper approach to the vehicle / proper way to walk around the vehicle before entering.
Why would we want to reverse into a stall when we could just drive forward into it?
Well, unless you can do the ‘pull-through’ (see below) then either way you will have to do some reversing; you will have to reverse into the spot, or you will have to reverse to get out of the spot. What’s the difference? As it turns out there are some important differences.
- If you reverse into the spot, you can check out the space you’ll be reversing into before you reverse into it. Whereas, if you drive forward into a space and then go shopping at the mall, once you return you will be forced to back out into a space in which things may be constantly changing; you will have no idea if there are cars coming, people about to walk behind you, kids, dogs, or any other vehicle backing about to reverse as well because if you went forward then your visibility is probably going to be poor; if anything it will be a lot worse than it would be if you’d initially backed into the space.
- In addition, if you go forwards into a space, when you come back to your vehicle there could very well be different vehicles parked beside you than were there when you left. This means, larger vehicles than yours could now be totally blocking your view leaving you with zero percent visibility and basically leaving you no choice but to blindly reverse out into the parking area (if you are stuck in this situation then use a spotter if you have one or honk your horn before reversing to alert others). Not to mention, those other vehicles could be parked poorly as in, too close to you, leaving you with difficult or minimal amounts of space to work with.
- The insurance rules may be working against you. Legally, we must not reverse unless it is safe. It sounds obvious, but it means if two vehicles collide in a parking lot and one of them was going forwards and one of them was going backwards, then the fault may very well be placed on the vehicle which was backing, even if the driver was carefully (but blindly) backing out and the driver in the car going forwards was inattentive.
Speed / Duration / Ease
- Say for some reason you need to leave the parking lot very quickly (I will leave it up to your imagination to determine what those reasons might be) This will be much quicker and easier for you if your car is all ready to go, and not needing to be un-parked, especially when it is dark or if you’ve just left the movie theatre or busy shopping mall. Who has the right of way when 5 different vehicles are all trying to reverse into the same space at the same time? Does anyone know? How easy is it to make eye contact or communicate with those other drivers?
Just In Case
- If your car happens to die while parked, and you’ve reversed into the space it will be easier to access your hood to jumpstart your vehicle or have the vehicle accessed by the tow truck perhaps. This actually happened to me once and I was so happy that my car was facing forward.
As for the how-to, well it is like anything else. All you have to do is give it a try & then keep practicing.
Whenever possible, do the pull-thru method so that you never need to reverse whatsoever. Of course, this is not always possible but look for the opportunity because it is probably the all around safest, fastest, and easiest way to park in a parking lot:
Pick a Good Spot
When selecting a spot, don’t just randomly pick the first one that you see. Make sure the spot is big enough for your vehicle, it is well-lit if at night to avoid being a target for thieves, (or near a high-pedestrian area works well too), and check out the space for any obstacles in the space such as a shopping cart, broken glass that you may not want to drive over, and what type of situation you have at the rear of the spot; i.e. is there a wall, a tree, a little cement barrier, another vehicle over the line, etc.
In a Spacious Parking Lot
If you’re in a very spacious parking lot with no other vehicles driving around, then your task is quite easy. You simply need to get the vehicle into the space without smashing into anything. This can be quite easy because no matter what position you start from, you can make it work because you have enough space and no pressure from other drivers.
In a Crowded Parking Lot
However, more often than not we are not faced with such a convenient experience and often find ourselves in crowded places with not much room for maneuvering. In that case, we will have to be more precise with our original positioning in order to make it work with the least amount of stress and the least amount of reversing.
In other words, pull up relatively close to the spot that you intend to park in. This way, other people will be able to tell what you’re doing and you will be minimizing the amount of reversing you’ll be doing, which is important in crowded places for obvious reasons. Signal early and stop (or slow) so that you can easily check out the space.
From here, drive forward and onto an angle which points the rear of the car towards the centre of the space. Like parallel parking this is not an exact science and even if you do not quite get it the first time, you will still be able to get the car between the lines eventually, so do not panic. Remember you are just parking a car; you are not jumping off the Empire State building without a bungee cord.
As you’re slowly backing, check your side-view mirrors for the clearance between your vehicle and the one beside you; it should be a very obvious YES or NO you have the clearance. (This is another advantage of reversing into the spot, you can easily tell if you’re going to hit stuff before you hit it. If you go forwards into a tight space, you can not see your front bumper while you are driving and you may make contact with other vehicles because of this fact.) If there is no space between the vehicles (you’re too close) then simply pull forward and readjust it to give yourself more room.
When to Stop
If you’re not sure when to stop, try to line up your wheels with the wheels of the vehicle beside you as a rough guideline. You could also line up your side-view mirror with the vehicle next to you if the vehicle next to you is parked correctly and has also reversed into the space and is about the same size as yours. Otherwise, put your car in park and get out and take a look. This is the only way to tell for sure and it is a lot better than accidentally bashing into something.
If it’s not quite perfect, it’s no big deal. You can simply pull forward and re-adjust it. Backing in a straight line is pretty easy so if you can fix it first and then reverse in a straight line, that might be good; but you can also go forward in a straight line and then wiggle yourself backwards and into the correct spot:
Check before opening door
Remember, before you open your door and become a pedestrian, check your mirror and shoulder check for people who may be walking beside your vehicle.