Parallel Parking

Parallel Parking for Dummies: Tips and Step-by-Step Instructions

Updated April 19, 2019

Despite being one of the most dreaded driving maneuvers, parallel parking can be surprisingly easy – when you know how it works. There is no denying that parallel parking is harder than both angle parking and perpendicular parking, though like all things, it can be mastered with practice.

Don’t be one of those drivers who would sooner waste an hour searching for a space than attempt to parallel park. Use the guidance outlined here and you can be a parallel parking pro! Most state driving handbooks do not explain parallel parking in detail, so we have broken down the maneuver into an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide.

Parallel parking step-by-step

Keep in mind that the instructions provided here are generally applicable. You may need to adjust reference points based on the size of your vehicle, how it handles and the specific parallel parking situation.

ALWAYS practice parallel parking in an empty parking lot before attempting it on the road between real vehicles. Cones or flags can be set up 25 feet apart to show where other cars would sit. When you can parallel park in an empty lot without hitting these markers, you are ready to try it for real.

  1. 1

    Look for an appropriate space.  Make sure youchoose a spacethat your vehicle can fit in. Keep in mind that you will need extra maneuvering room when first attempting to parallel park. Check that there are no “NO PARKING” signs which would make parking in your chosen spotillegal.

  2. 2

    Signal your intention to turn.  Use yourright signal lightor aright-turn hand signalto tell other drivers you have claimed this parking space.

  3. 3

    Stop when your car is lined-up with the vehicle beyond your space.  Yourdriving handbookmay recommend leaving two feet of space, though this is usually too large a gap when parking on the right.Try to stopas close to the other vehicle as possible.

  4. 4

    Shift your car into “reverse” and look for traffic.  When checking for traffic you must use your mirrors AND turn your head to check the vehicle’s blind spots. Leave your signal light on to let other drivers know not to pull up close behind you. It may sometimes be necessary to wave a motorist past if they do not realize you intend to turn.

  5. 5

    Reverse cautiously.  Only begin to back up once you are certain it is safe to do so.

  6. 6

    Steer sharply to the right when you rear wheels clear the rear bumper of the adjacent vehicle.Turn the steering wheel completely to the right and hold it in that position while continuing to reverse.

  7. 7

    Continue until your vehicle is at a 45-degree angle in relation to the curb.  You should be in the correct position when your front wheels are lined up with the rear of the vehicle in front. The right side-view mirror can also be used as a reference point, when it is in-line with the bumper of the vehicle in front.  In extremely tight parking spots, drivers can check their position with the headlights of the vehicle behind. You should be roughly at the right angle when you can see both headlights in your left side-view mirror. Note that this will not work if the vehicle behind you is too far away.

  8. 8

    Straighten your wheels and reverse in a straight line.  Stop when your right side-view mirror is in line with the left corner of the car in front.

  9. 9

    Steer sharply to the left.Continue reversinginto the parking space but stop before you collide with the vehicle behind you.

  10. 10

    Shift the car into “drive”, straighten up and pull forward.Center the vehicle in the parking space. Make sure you do not hit the curb and that no part of your vehicle is sticking out into the traffic lane. Try to leave an equal amount of space between your vehicle and the vehicles to the front and rear.

You are bound to feel pretty excited having successfully parallel parked for the first time! If you are leaving your vehicle, be sure not to neglect proper protocol. Make sure the parking brake is active and exit the vehicle with care.

Parallel parking tips

Our parallel parking tips can help you get to grips with parallel parking in the shortest possible time, while ensuring the experience stress-free.

  • Start at the beginning. Do not attempt to learn parallel parking until you are comfortable with car reference points, backing up in general, angle parking and 90-degree parking. Without these skills, you will be in over your head.
  • Take your time. You may feel rushed when parallel parking next to real cars for the first time, but it is important to take things slowly. Moving slowly will let you utilize your reference points more effectively and stop without damaging other vehicles, if you maneuver incorrectly.
  • Ask for help, if you need it. If you know a licensed driver who is confident with parallel parking, ask them to accompany you while you are learning.
  • Practice regularly. This is the best advice you will receive. You will learn much faster attempting to parallel park than reading guides and watching videos. You will make mistakes – but this is all part of the process! Each time you go wrong will take you one step closer to doing it right.

How to pull out from parallel parking

Thankfully, pulling out of parallel parking spot is much easier than getting in to start with. Though, it can still be a challenge. Follow these guidelines to drive out of a parallel parking spot:

  1. 1

    Make sure your wheels are straight.Slowly reverse toward the vehicle behind you while looking in your mirrors and over your right shoulder. Take care not to back up too far.

  2. 2

    Turn your head and use your mirrors to check all around the vehiclefor approaching motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

  3. 3

    Signal your intention to move into the traffic lane, using your rear-view mirror to keep an eye out for hazards.

  4. 4

    Turn your head to look over your left shoulder, steer left and begin to drive forward when it is safe.Look toward the front of your vehicle to make sure you can clear the car ahead of you.

  5. 5

    Check again for hazards by turning to look over your left shoulder. Drive forward and align yourself in the traffic lane when it is safe.

Would you pass a driving test today?

Find out with our free quiz!

TAKE A FREE TEST

Like the article? Give us 5 points!

Click a star to add your vote

5.0 out of 5 stars based on 2 votes.

Up next

Parking on Hills
Parking 6 of 8

Parking on Hills

New drivers must learn how to park on a hill safely. Parking on a hill is more dangerous than parking on a flat surface, as you will need to contend with gravity and secure your vehicle in such a way that it does not roll. You will be legally responsible if your car causes damage to another person’s property or injures somebody, if you have not properly secured it.

Choosing a Parking Space
Parking 7 of 8

Choosing a Parking Space

The parking space you choose will depend heavily on your experience level as a driver. Very new learners would be foolish to opt for a tight parking spot when bigger spaces are available nearby. Whereas the size of the parking spot may have little relevance for more experienced drivers, who are more concerned with location or the security of their vehicle.

Exiting the Vehicle
Parking 8 of 8

Leaving the Vehicle

Every driver must ensure their vehicle is safely parked and shut down before leaving it. It is all too easy to neglect proper protocol at the end of a journey. Leaving your vehicle requires just as much thought and attention as the pre-drive checklist you worked through before commencing your trip.

Review
Passing 2 of 3

Passing: Step-by-Step

When learning to pass another vehicle, the most important skill that new drivers must develop is accurately judging whether there is enough space to pass safely. Overestimating how much room you have could cause a serious collision. When passing at highway speeds, drivers need a 10 to 12 second gap in opposing traffic to execute the maneuver safely. During this gap, you will travel approximately 800 feet, or one third of a mile.

Passing 3 of 3

Illegal Passing

Qualified drivers must keep up-to-date with passing rules and restrictions, as making an illegal pass could earn you a ticket and create a dangerous driving situation. Do not pass another vehicle when your view is limited by a hill, a curve or unfavorable weather conditions. Passing close to intersections, bridges, railroad crossings or school zones is also illegal.

Parking 1 of 8

Parking

When learning to drive, you must learn how to angle park, perpendicular park and parallel park. The latter of these three techniques – along with parking on a hill – is almost guaranteed to come up during your practical driving exam. Attempting to park becomes dangerous if you fail to think ahead or allow yourself to get stressed-out by other drivers.

Parking 2 of 8

Parking Restrictions

Parking is illegal or restricted in many areas. Unfortunately, you cannot always rely on colored curb markings or a “NO PARKING” sign being present in places where parking is prohibited. As a driver, it is your responsibility to learn about parking rules, restrictions and prohibitions and abide by this information at all times.

Parking 3 of 8

Angle Parking

Angled parking spaces are designed to make parking easy. This maneuver is far less challenging than parallel parking or perpendicular parking but will still take a little practice to get right. Angled parking spaces are painted with the same dimensions pretty much across the whole of America: once you’ve mastered angle parking, you should be able to repeat the maneuver with ease anywhere.

Parking 4 of 8

Perpendicular Parking

Also known as 90-degree parking, perpendicular parking uses spaces that are arranged at a 90-degree angle in relation to the parking lot lanes. Drivers may enter a perpendicular parking space head-on or in reverse – there is a great deal of debate among highway and traffic safety experts as to which method is better. As reversing is always more challenging, you should begin by mastering the head-on perpendicular parking method and progress to backing-up later.