#936 Perfect parallel-parking on the first try

What is parallel parking?

Parallel parking is when you park the car parallel to the road, but for the purposes of the driving test it refers specifically to the technique of reversing into a relatively small space between two other ‘parallel parked’ cars. In other words, the sort of manoeuver you’ll have to employ routinely to get a space on almost every British street where parking is permitted.

Go Backwards

Let the car reverse in a straight line while on this angle for approximately one meter.

You should be still looking mostly over your right shoulder; this time you can have one hand at 12:00 ish since you’re going on a straight line. 

Again, this amount may differ depending on the size of the vehicles. Some people have used guidelines for this, but I have found they do not necessarily always work. It depends on the size of your vehicle.


Helpful Comment from a Reader:

  • John Smith below 2 years ago. Very close but slightly different to the method I learned. This advice was given by a world champion racing driver from Scotland many years ago and works for any length of vehicle.
  • I used to work for a very large Provincial phone company in BC as a driver of a 6500 kg.. truck.
  • First you arrive at the space you intend to park in and bring your vehicle to a stop, beside the space between the 2 other vehicles, and you make sure your vehicle can fit the space plus some extra at both ends.
  • You then pull forward until the back of your vehicle is level with the back of the other vehicle, but not too close sideways (arms length)
  • You then begin your reversing right turn carefully past the front vehicle and using your mirrors (only when experienced) sight down the left side of your vehicle using your left mirror until you can see the right marker light of the vehicle behind you.
  • At this point you begin to turn the steering wheel fairly quickly the other way(left) in order to bring the front of your vehicle past the front vehicle (not too closely- do not hit) and into the space.
  • At this point you can sight the right kerb in your right mirror and straighten out and stop your vehicle before hitting the one behind.
  • If you are not perfectly parallel with the kerb you can make some quick corrections within the length of your space without the need to start all over again unless you badly misjudged the space.
  • Truck drivers cannot see through windows and have only their mirrors to guide them.
  • Trust me – with very little practice this works like a charm and served me well in over 45 years of professional driving.

Thank you Gordon for this helpful info!

Adjust your position

Once you have your vehicle straight and as close to the curb as possible, you may need to shift into forward to position your car so that there is an equal amount of space in front and behind your vehicle.

What does the examiner need to see when Im parallel parking?

The examiner needs to see that you can:

  • Reverse into a space of about 2 car lengths.
  • Show that you’re aware of the traffic around you and you’re able to see what’s going on around you while doing the manoeuvre.
  • Park your car safely, smoothly and show that you’re in control.
  • Stop reasonably close and parallel to the kerb.

Straighten the steering wheel

As your car moves into the empty parallel parking spot, slowly straighten your steering wheel as you continue to move backwards towards the parked car at the other end of the parking space. As you are maneuvering your vehicle, continuously check all mirrors and through your windows and front windshield to ensure you are not in danger of hitting either of the vehicles bordering the parallel parking space.

Phase 2: Drive forward

In the second phase, we need to drive forward. The question is, how far? In simple scenarios, we need to drive exactly f (so the rear axis is at the obstacle’s corner). This allows us to exactly pass the obstacle. However, for high turn angles, this may be too far. Then, we need to drive so far, such that the resulting rotation center of the subsequent right-turn is exactly r-w away from the obstacle’s corner. Using a bit of vector arithmetic, we get the following neat formula:

How to Parallel Park

Parallel parking diagram
Parallel parking diagram

Selecting a suitable space

As you should do whenever you are parking you need to make sure that you identify a place that is a safe, convenient and legal position (known as the SCALP routine). To find such a place you can draw on your knowledge of road signs, road markings, and The Highway Code as well as your common sense.

The other essential thing you need to consider is if you can control your vehicle in the environment you have selected to park in. For instance, if you are going to need to reverse downhill into the space you need to make sure that you can control the car with confidence.

To summarise here is what you need to ask yourself before selecting a parallel parking space:

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Is it convenient?
  3. Is it legal?
  4. Can I control my vehicle here?

In your driving test if you are asked to parallel park the examiner will select the space for you and ask you to pull up before the car you will reverse either behind or in front of. When you are driving independently after passing your test, make sure you select a space that is at least one and a half times the length of your vehicle so that you can fit into the space without difficulty.


Approach the space slowly and check that it is suitable. Go through the Mirror Signal Manoeuvre (MSM) routine and, whether or not there is anyone around, signal if you need to. Make sure you use your nearside mirror to judge where to stop and pull up just in front of the gap. Your position should be parallel to the vehicle you are parking behind and around a metre away from it.


now you need to prepare the car to reverse, do this by putting the clutch down, putting the car in reverse and finding the biting point. If you are reversing into a space downhill make sure you use brake control.


check all around you ensuring all of your mirrors and blind spots have been observed and that it is safe to start reversing. Make sure that you have identified anything you need to keep a close eye on during the manoeuvre – such as a pedestrian walking on the pavement or a car reversing out of a drive. Once your observations are complete look out of the back window as this is the direction the car will be moving in, this will be your main focal point but make sure you keep checking around throughout the manoeuvre.


Reverse slowly until the back of your car is level with the back/front of the car you are reversing in behind – this is known as the point of turn. The view through the back left window will help you to find this point of turn, and if you can see daylight past the rear of the target vehicle you know that you have reversed enough.

  • At the point of turn have a pause and check all around you once again – check for pedestrians and other vehicles that are moving or potentially about to move. Make sure you are aware if vehicles are going to drive past you while you are parking or are going to wait for you to finish. At this point in the manoeuvre, the car is about to swing out into the road so it is essential that you are confident that the coast is clear.
  • Slowly reverse and apply a full left lock on the steering wheel. Your focus needs to be on the back window, but keep looking around. Keep going until the kerb disappears in the back window and make sure that your car points out at 45 degrees. If it is at this position take off the full lock to straighten your wheels while slowly moving.
  • Reverse straight back slowly while being close to the kerb, use the door mirror to find a reference point to follow. You will find your own reference point that works for you, but generally frequently checking in the mirror will help you to find the final point of turn.
  • Now steer the wheel full lock to the right so that the front end of your vehicle moves towards the kerb as you continue to move slowly. Continue to look out the back window and keep an eye on the left mirror to ensure you are not going to catch the kerb.
  • When you are almost straight in the space swiftly remove the right steer lock.
  • If you are not happy with your position you can slowly move forwards and backwards to adjust the vehicle until you are satisfied with your parking.

Where can I practice parallel parking?

If you’re practising with a family member or a friend, try a wide residential road which doesn’t have much traffic. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can build your confidence by heading to slightly busier roads with smaller gaps in between parked cars.

You could also try parking on a slight hill, or at night – get out of your comfort zone and you’ll quickly become used to parallel parking.

If you’re thinking about taking to the road, we’ll get you behind the wheel. Book our driving lessons and you’ll get an instructor who’ll tailor their teaching to suit you.


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