How To Parallel Park Like A Pro

parallel parked carsDo you have parallel parking phobia? Get flashbacks of orange cones and an impatient Drivers Ed instructor? If so, you’re not alone. This parking technique can strike fear in the hearts of rookie drivers and even cause experienced drivers to break a sweat. But don’t be intimidated! With a little practice and patience, you can show off your inner valet as you skillfully maneuver your car into tight downtown parking spaces.

Parallel parking is a method of parking in line with, or parallel to, the curb. Often times this occurs between two cars, bumper-to-bumper style. Here are the general rules to follow:

  1. Find a Parking Spot
  2. Signal and Assume the Position
  3. Check Your Surroundings
  4. Start Reversing and Turn the Wheel
  5. Straighten Out and Turn the Wheel the Other Way
  6. Straighten and Align
  7. Admire Your Work

How To Parallel Park

Step 1: Find a Parking Spot

Find a parking spot a least one and a half times longer than your car. Take a deep breath and relax—you’re about to do this. Check the mirrors and blind spots so you’re fully aware of what’s going on around you.

Step 2: Signal and Assume the Position

Activate your turn signal in the direction you’ll be reversing and pull up next to the car that’s in front of the space where you wish to park. If another car approaches from behind, either wait for it to pass or wave the driver on. Align your side mirrors with the other car’s. Alternatively, you can line up the back of your car with the back of the other car.

Step 3: Check Your Surroundings

Check your side and rear-view mirrors, then glance behind your shoulder to make sure there are no cars or people approaching. Once clear, step on the brake and put your car in reverse.

Step 4: Start Reversing and Turn the Wheel

Gently lift your foot off the brake and begin reversing slowly, then turn the steering wheel all the way in the direction of the curb. Look over your shoulder as your car slowly reverses at an angle toward the curb. As you back up, continue to check around the car. If you aren’t backing up properly, it’s perfectly fine to stop and start over. Continue angling your rear until you can see both headlights of the car parked behind you in your driver’s side wing mirror.

Step 5: Straighten Out and Turn the Wheel the Other Way

Straighten the steering wheel and continue reversing slowly until your passenger-side wing mirror is lined up with the rear bumper of the car next to you. Now turn the wheel all the way in the opposite direction (away from the curb) and guide the front of your car into the space. You want to get the car straight within the space. If your rear wheels hit the curb, it’s because you’re not straightening the wheel fast enough.

Step 6: Straighten and Align

Once you’re close to the car behind you (but not hit-the-bumper close), pull forward slightly to center your wheels. Leave the car in front of you with enough room to reverse and the car behind you with enough room to pull forward. You’re centered once you are no more than a foot from the curb (6-8 inches is ideal).

Step 7: Admire Your Work

Beam with pride because you just parallel parked your car!

As with everything in life, practice makes perfect. Take it slow and don’t get overwhelmed.  Before you know it, you’ll be confidently showing off your skills to passengers and passers-by without giving it a second thought.

Are you a proud teen who just passed your parallel parking test, or the parent of a newly minted teen driver? Check out our Car Insurance Information for Teen Drivers page for everything you want to know about safety, insurance, and driving advice. There’s a special section for parents too!

By Stephanie Levis

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  1. Joe says

    Great method, thanks. Slightly different than I learned but with easier visual cues. One thing more would be helpful…to me anyway. I usually find that getting the spacing between my car and the car I am pulling up next to at the start is many times the hardest thing. Too close, and you can’t turn-away from the curb after straightening without possibly impacting the front car’s bumper. Too far, and I find that the maneuver often ends too far from the curb. So, do you have a visual clue that will put the car at the correct spacing between it car and the front parked car at the outset?

  2. vincent says

    I definitely think that you should show a video demonstration of this parking, it would be a lot helpful
    thank you

  3. Abdel says

    My Dad tought me a trick to parallel parking which I will teach my kids when the time comes. The trick is whe you are ready to go in reverse, you will need to be next to the car in which you are about to park behind, window to window before reverse. That what my Dad used to say. Window to window. Sorry if it not clear but if it is try it out yourself.

  4. Paul Schmolke says

    When I took my first drivers test in Arkansas, in 1960, parallel parking was part of the driving exam. It also included a hand signal panic stop and use of hand signals for all turns and stops. The written test was pretty tough too, requiring memorization of safe following distances and stopping distances from various speeds. Rules of the road were covered including the right of way rules and speed limits for school zones and flashing yellow traffic signals. After all this, one year of driving with a licensed adult would get you a real license and not just the learners permit. My starting insurance cost was $900 a year…more than the cost of my first car, a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air…$850.

    I’m still good at parallel parking…the rules I was taught are a little different but they work well.