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How to Park a Car in a Parking Space Like a Pro: 5 Parking Lot Tips for Beginners

Updated on September 9, 2019
CarNoobz profile image

Chris Desatoff (CarNoobz) was a delivery driver for 10 years, transporting everything from newspapers to pizzas to auto parts to furniture.

Parking lots are full of hazards and challenges and can be pretty stressful for beginning drivers. Learning how to park the family car isn't as easy as Mom and Dad made it look all these years.

The following driving tips should help take the edge off a little bit as you improve your parking skills and build your confidence.

1. Don't Try to Get the Closest Parking Space

Everybody wants those spots closest to the store entrances, so they swarm to those areas of the parking lot. They'll circle around for 5-10 minutes to park right in front and will sometimes even get into fights with other drivers over those coveted parking stalls.

And this parking lot road rage intensifies during peak shopping times and holidays, so it's often best to avoid those congested parts of the parking lot anyway.

All that traffic increases the likelihood of an accident occurring, so beginning drivers would do well to avoid those hotspots and simply head straight to the back and outer edges of the parking lot where there are more empty parking spaces available and less drivers competing for them.

The same can be said for the top level of a parking garage. Up on the roof there are typically several empty spaces side-by-side, which means that your chances of scraping the side of a parked car while pulling into your own stall are much lower.

And it's ironic that you'll probably be parked and inside the store much more quickly than all those fools who circle the parking lot for five minutes just to save themselves an extra 60 seconds of walking.

Parking Lot Rage on the Rise

2. Reverse Into a Tight Spot Rather Than Pulling in Forward

Nearly every time I back into a narrow parking stall, my wife asks how I make it look so easy. It can be tricky, and the short answer is that reverse parking simply takes practice.

But I guess the key I’ve found is to really trust my side mirrors. Driving forward is generally safer and easier than driving in reverse, due to increased visibility. But when you're pulling forward into a parking stall with vehicles on both sides, you can actually see better by reversing and looking through your side mirrors.

Don’t keep whipping your head around everywhere. Just check your blind spots as you’re getting started, and then focus on those side mirrors.

I like to keep a very tight gap between my inside mirror and the car next to me as I reverse in. Then once I’m more or less straight in my stall, I can even out the gaps so there’s the same amount of space on each side of the car. If the space is simply too tight to allow much room on both sides, then I keep my passenger side very close to the next car (but not if it’s going to block their driver’s side door).

Also make sure that your mirror itself doesn’t touch the car next to you. As your back bumper is nearing the back edge of the stall, then double check your rearview mirror, too, so you know when to stop.

3. Check Your Reflection in Store Windows When Backing Out

Sometimes you’ll find an empty parking stall directly in front of a large, reflective storefront. Take advantage of that mirror image in front of you to see how well centered you are in your stall, and to check how much room there is between you and the cars beside you.

Think of those store windows in front of you as a giant rear-view mirror.

When leaving that stall, you may find that it’s difficult to see if there are cars coming up from the sides, especially if you have large vehicles like vans alongside your car.

If you check the reflections in the storefront when backing out, you can often spot cars and pedestrians approaching from those blind spots.

4. Check Behind Your Vehicle Before Getting In

After you're done shopping and are heading to your vehicle, take a quick look around to make sure you have a clear path to reverse out of your parking stall.

When I had a job delivering auto parts to stores and mechanic shops, those parking lots, loading zones and back alleys were always a little crazy.

There would be workers walking around everywhere and kneeling beside cars, forklifts zooming in and out, tools and debris on the ground and some very tight squeezes (often just an inch or two on each side of my truck) due to other delivery vehicles being parked and unloaded.

One thing that helped me get out of those places intact was the habit of simply checking the area behind my vehicle for debris and clearance and imagining the path I would take as I reverse out and turn around - before getting in my truck.

If only it were this easy...
If only it were this easy... | Source

5. Back Up Only as Far as Necessary

When reversing out of a parking stall and turning around, many drivers like to back up as far as possible, aligning the front of their vehicle in the direction they intend to go after backing up. That way when they’re done reversing, they’re already aiming the way they want to go, and they can simply put the car in “Drive” and go straight forward.

That’s actually a very bad habit.


Because the more time you spend reversing your vehicle, the more likely you are to reverse right into another car, pole, tree, or pedestrian.

Don’t forget: your visibility is greatly restricted when backing up.

A much safer approach is to simply back up only as far as is necessary, and then turn your steering wheel hard as you pull forward. It may take some getting used to, but again, don’t forget: driving forward is almost always going to be safer than driving in reverse.

When you’re still getting used to being behind the wheel, a crowded parking lot can be a scary place. Just be patient and take your time, though. Stay calm, pay attention to your surroundings, and try putting some of these parking lot tips into practice.


This article is for information purposes and should not be interpreted as a recommendation to buy any insurance product, or to provide financial or legal advice. Articles on this website are copyrighted material and cannot be reproduced in any form without the author's written permission.


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    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 

      8 years ago from East Coast

      These are some good tips here. I typically try to take a space away from the more crowded areas that is well lit. As for reversing, I usually back up only as needed and when I'm being lazy I do exactly as you said not to so long as I won't force others to wait by doing so :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      8 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Awesome tips parking lot tips here, so to the point and very well explained thanks for the helpful information which can be used more than once by many readers.

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      @ Sunshine

      That is a good tip. My son and his friends always love to blast the radio when driving (just like I did when I was a teen), and it's just such a huge distraction.

      I try to tell him but you know...he can't hear me cuz the radio makes him get broken ears. lol

      I think even more scary is when I see drivers with earbuds in! HELLO?! Stupid.

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      @ glassvisage Oh no, that's embarrassing! We just recently got a Hyundai with those backup sensors, and I have to admit, it's easy to get lazy and just listen to the sensor without looking over your shoulder. Thanks for the heads up.

      When I was a delivery driver for an auto parts distributor, I had many, many close calls with parked pickups that had their tailgates down. It's definitely something to watch for BEFORE getting into your own car and backing out.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Excellent advice! A tip that I was taught when I learned how to drive (music) must be turned off when parking and backing up. This tip could save a few lives, it possibly did since my driving skills aren't the best.

    • glassvisage profile image


      8 years ago from Northern California

      Great Hub. The backing-up rule reminds me of when my friend's dad backed up into a guest's car because he had his tailgate down and his sensor to alert him of objects behind him was blocked!

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      @ Tonette

      Hahaha! I think I had to do that too when I was first learning to park =)

      I also remember my dad having me practice on EMPTY parking stalls in EMPTY parking lots.

      So I'd be pulling into an empty stall and he'd be like, "Well, you just hit the car on the you hit the car parked on your left."

      And I'm like, "Dad, if I could see these imaginary cars, then I wouldn't be hitting them." LOL

      Thanks for commenting.

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      @ Emma

      Oh, you poor thing! lol It was hard enough learning to drive from my dad, but to learn from your dad -- who is himself A DRIVING INSTRUCTOR?!?! Oh no no no. That must be stressful =)

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 

      8 years ago from The City of Generals

      I was never good with parking. In fact, my first time I had to ask someone to park the car for me... thankfully, security of the building came for help, lol. But to all honesty, I'm a good driver in the sense that I take time avoiding hotspots. To me, why compete when there are more spaces at the back. I wouldn't mind walking to the building no matter how far, lol. But as of now, I have my two feet to drive around:=)

      I'm bookmarking this. Thank you for the tips. Voting up useful and many blessings for your Valentine's Day:=) - Tonette

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      @ Kristin Oh man I HATE that! That happens a lot here in Hawaii, because almost all the new parking lots are made for smaller cars, yet all the locals insist on driving ginormous trucks and SUVs LOL

      Sometimes it's so snug, that I can't open either door...

      Thank God I have a sunroof =)

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks tnvrstar. I hope it helps.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 

      8 years ago from Illinois

      Typically I try to park away from the action - better for the car and a few more steps added to my day. But the other night I drove a friend and myself to dinner and parked close so she wouldn't have to walk far in the cold weather. When we came out a car was parked so closely to me that I had to go in the passenger-side door and climb over the center console in order to get in the car. I barely was able to back out as there were mere inches between me and the other car. From now on I'm sticking to your "park away from the action" suggestion no matter the weather or who is with me! I like your parking garage suggestion, as well.

    • tnvrstar profile image


      8 years ago from doha, qatar

      Great Hub. I know the basic rules for parking but my dad struggles a lot. You hub could be useful to my dad :)

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Kisby 

      8 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Ha ha, I need these tips - I am useless at parking! My father is a driving instructor and despairs at me. I will practice more with your advice and hopefully build up my confidence!

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      @ moonlake

      Oh man! Don't you just want to wring their necks sometimes? I'm actually a little bit glad that my teen is uninterested in learning to drive. I tried and tried to get him to go take the test...offered to help him review/study or just take him out for a test drive...


      Maybe I should count my blessings.

      Thanks for the comment and vote =)

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks John. I'm glad you found something useful in there. Thanks for commenting.

    • moonlake profile image


      8 years ago from America

      Good information and advice. The first day our son got his license he hit a car in a parking lot because he was busy looking at his friends and not where he was driving. Voted up.

    • John MacNab profile image

      John MacNab 

      8 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      Nice one CarNoobz. Excellent advice, and not only for learners.

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from USA

      Most people fill half their side mirror's field of view with their own car. It's their "comfort zone," but it actually makes it harder to see and makes your blind spots ENORMOUS.

      But you just gotta trust those mirrors. =)

      Thanks for the comment, vote and share!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      8 years ago from Peru, South America

      Your clear parking instructions are very useful. I tend to not trust my side mirrors, but I agree that I need to learn to. Voted up and shared!

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from USA

      Well thank you so much! I appreciate that.

    • ncma789 profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hey, not a problem. I really do enjoy them. I feel like you could pull off video. Keep up the good work. I'll be glad to check out some of your ideas, if you like.

      I will definitely post this and share this on my FB account.

    • CarNoobz profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from USA

      Hi! I'm glad u liked my hub. No plans for a driving manual, but I guess that the articles on this hubpages account could be used in a similar way. I have a lot of ideas for similar posts, but I think they would be a lot better with video clips to go along with the text. Not sure if I could pull it off myself without looking too ghetto haha! So we'll see...

      Who knows? Maybe if these hubs get shared by more readers and followers, maybe some younger drivers will put the ideas into practice and make a difference out on the road.

      Thanks for checking me out! =)

    • ncma789 profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      I have really enjoyed reading your post. I have found it very useful and very informative. Have you every considered writing a manual for young teens and those who are beginner drivers? As a teenager, I am not sure if I would have given it much thought and concern; but as an adult, I find it very interesting and useful. I think that information as this would help prevent accidents.


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