If you suspect you’re wasting far more minutes than you need to cruising aimlessly around packed parking lots and walking long distances to and from your car, these tips can help you score the good spots, save time and maybe even take over the world. It’s all about confidence, practise and punctuality.
Of course your top priority is driving safely, and aggressive drivers are bad news. But if you want to score good parking spots, you’ve got to be confident. Don’t hesitate to flick on that indicator to let other drivers know the spot that’s about to open up is all yours, and don’t be afraid to hold up traffic for a few seconds while they wait for you to parallel park. If you don’t grab those prime spots when you see them, someone else will.
Give it a go
Go ahead and roll right up to the exact place you’d ideally like to park. If you assume there won’t be any available spots and go straight for that dimly-lit corner of the carpark that’s 10 minutes’ walk away, you’ll never get the good spots. You’ll be surprised how often there’s a space free right outside the door.
Don't see any spare spaces? Look for a line of parked cars and pull up beside it, leaving room for other cars to drive around you (make sure you indicate so they know you're waiting for a space). With that many parked vehicles, someone is bound to leave soon, right? Hang around a few minutes and see if any spaces become free. Of course, this works best in places where people will be leaving at different times (such as a shopping mall carpark) as opposed to events with a single finishing time, such as a concert.
Before you claim a parking spot, you need to see it, right? Of course you’ll need to keep an eye on where you’re going and check for hazards, but you should also be scanning for empty spaces or people heading back to their cars. So drive as slowly as is practical (this is easier in a carpark, where the limit will be low anyway) and look for parks not just immediately ahead, but as far as you can see. If you have passengers with you, ask them to keep an eye out too.
Brush up on your parallel parking
If you’re not confident about pulling off a parallel park, you’re going to miss a lot of great spots and be forever limited to quiet side-streets a good walk away from your destination.
If you avoid parallel parking unless you have to, you’ll never get comfortable with it. The key is to practise until you can do it no matter how many people are watching. Take every opportunity to do parallel parking manoeuvres into nice, wide spaces and gradually work up to tighter spaces.
Get comfortable reversing
Sometimes the parking spaces that are the closest to the door are passed over because they’re more difficult to get out of afterwards – there’s probably a lot of traffic passing through, making it harder to reverse out safely.
One way to turn these potentially tricky parks into the best park ever is to reverse into them in the first place. That way, when you go to leave you can easily see when it’s safe to pull out and won’t miss those gaps in the traffic.
To pull this off, you might need to reverse while there’s a line of impatient cars behind you – and as before, the key is to be confident.
You’ll need the car immediately behind you to stop and give you some room, so indicate early and if possible, don’t give them room to overtake you (otherwise you’ll be waiting there forever as the line of cars passes you). In a carpark where there’s no on-coming traffic, you’ll want to position your car towards the middle of the lane as you indicate towards the park you want. Use your rear-vision mirror to keep an eye on the car behind you (to be sure they’ve stopped to give you room) as you swing your car’s nose away from the park to get a nice easy angle for your reverse. Double-check the coast is clear before you reverse into the park.
Get there early
This one’s pretty obvious, but it really can make a difference. If you’re heading to a big sale or another popular event, getting there on time (or earlier) will mean there are more parking spots available to you.
Keep your car running well by finding the right mechanic.