Road with cars parked both sides with sun glare in the distance

UK drivers spend four days a year finding a parking space...can you relate?

5 minutes

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An optimist's approach to parking a car is simple: believe you will find a convenient space, and you will. But that’s not the case for everyone.

And when you do find one, slotting your car into it is a challenge that rattles plenty of very competent drivers. We talk to an expert for their tips on how to handle parking problems.

  • The average UK driver spends four days a year finding parking spaces
  • Don’t worry about being watched – concentrate on parking properly
  • Where you park your car at home is important

Parking is the Achilles' heel of many car owners – even if you find a perfectly sized spot, manoeuvring your car into it can be very stressful. In fact, parallel parking has been voted the trickiest motoring manoeuvre by an Accident Advice Helpline survey.

Parking your car near home could also be a challenge. If a garage isn’t an option, those who pay for street parking permits aren’t always guaranteed a spot right outside their home – which can be a real pain given that where you park can affect your car insurance premiums. Little wonder, then, that the average UK driver wastes four days a year trying to find a space they can fit into.

So how can drivers solve their own parking problems? Motoring journalist Sue Baker (@carscribe) explores solutions with Rebecca Ashton (@rebeccaashton68),who is head of driver behaviour at IAMRoadSmart (@IAMRoadSmart) and has been an approved driving instructor for 20 years – so she has some sterling advice.  

Where's that parking space?

When the British Parking Association surveyed 2,000 drivers, it found that parking problems are (perhaps unsurprisingly) worst in London, where it typically takes a driver almost eight minutes to find somewhere to leave their vehicle. This figure is five minutes in eastern England and the East Midlands.

Their research revealed that: 

  • 59% were frustrated by drivers who park badly and take up two spaces
  • 48% were annoyed by lack of spaces
  • 27% complained about car parks that are difficult to navigate. 

What's the trickiest parking manoeuvre?

It’s parallel parking. An Accident Advice Helpline poll discovered that many of us are happy to drive around 100 metres further just to find an easier place to park. Nearly half of drivers admitted to attempting a parallel park that went so wrong that they gave up halfway through. A quarter have even exited the car and let someone finish parking for them.

‘Parallel parking has been a thorn in drivers' sides since the invention of the car,’ says David Carter of Accident Advice Helpline. ‘We've all felt the pressure of getting into a tight parking space on a busy street when others are watching.’ 

What parking manoeuvres do drivers find difficult?

These were the top ten most troublesome driving manoeuvres identified in the poll:

  1. Parallel park
  2. Reverse into a parking bay
  3. Reversing around a corner
  4. Turn-in-the-road/three-point turn
  5. Driving forward into a parking bay
  6. Reversing in a straight line
  7. Parking close to the curb
  8. Navigating a roundabout
  9. Emergency stop
  10. Pulling up on the right of the road 

What can we do to make parking easier and less stressful?

‘Try to take the fear factor out of it,’ says Rebecca Ashton, who is an expert at guiding new drivers through the techniques of skilled parking. ‘People get very concerned about trying to park, they worry about being watched and not doing it properly. Take your time, don't be in a hurry. There's no shame in manoeuvring slowly to get it right.’

Any special tips for those who find parking difficult?

‘For kerbside parking, choose a space that is one and a half times longer than your car,’ Rebecca advises. ‘Then pull up alongside the car you want to park behind, with your left mirror level with the front of it. Tilt your car's wing mirror down to help you see how close you are to the kerb as you back into the gap. Some lovely up-market modern cars have a feature that does this for you automatically when you engage reverse gear, and it's a great help.’

What technology can help with parking?

Cars equipped with parking aids, such as reversing cameras and sensors that sound an alarm when you come into close proximity with another vehicle, are already on the market.

Some vehicles also have self-park systems which, when you simply press a switch, let clever electronics, assisted by cameras and radar, steer you into a gap while you sit hands-off in the driving seat.

There are also apps that all drivers can use – not while they’re driving, of course – such as JustPark, which will help you find a parking space ahead of time, taking away some of the stress of the journey. 

Will there ever be a self-park car that you can leave to park itself?

It has already been developed by German automotive technology company Bosch, although it’s not road legal in the UK yet. Automated valet parking is described by the company as ‘an important milestone on the road to autonomous parking’.

With a command from a smartphone, an owner can automatically park the vehicle in an assigned spot without even being in the car, and without having to monitor its movements. 

What about parking at home?

Where you park your car when you go home could affect your car insurance premiums. The chances of your car being stolen can increase depending on where you park it overnight. For example, if you park it on a driveway, or even better in a locked garage, it may be safer than if parked by the kerb of a road – even if it is your own. As such, insurers will ask during the quote process where you park your car.

Finding a parking spot is a challenge, not to mention fitting your car into it when you discover one. Even though it’s a stressful experience, staying calm is the best way to go.