What is Parallel Parking?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Parallel parking is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of learning how to park a car, and since it’s frequently tested on driver’s exams, you absolutely have to learn how to do it correctly in order to receive a passing grade and your license. The term parallel parking does not refer to you parking cars parallel to other cars, but instead, you are parking a car parallel to the curb. This usually means you must sandwich your car between two other cars, with your front bumper facing the back of one car, and your back bumper facing the front bumper of the car behind you.

Parallel parking might be used by drivers having a hard time finding a spot at a busy event.
Parallel parking might be used by drivers having a hard time finding a spot at a busy event.

If you are learning parallel parking, remember that practice is the key to becoming good at it, but it can often be a difficult thing to learn, especially is you’re trying it on a very busy street. Instead of first learning on a street where others may be annoyed at your multiple attempts to line up parallel to the curb, consider trying your first attempts outside your home if the street is quiet, or in an unused parking lot, where you can park next to a fence or wall, so you can get that “feel” for bringing a car close to a curb.

Parallel parking requires near perfect manipulation of the steering wheel.
Parallel parking requires near perfect manipulation of the steering wheel.

Once you’ve gotten practice with parallel parking without being surrounded by other cars, it’s time to try it on a real street. The basic method is the following:

1. Find a space that will fit you and give you a bit of room to maneuver.
2. Signal your intent to use the space, and slow down, prior to passing the space.
3. Let other motorists that are behind you pass you.
4. Pull in front of the space, in line with the car that will be in front of you when you park
5. Slowly back into the space at an angle, slightly turning your steering wheel so that the wheels are producing a gradual turn in the space.
6. Once you’ve backed into the space, you may need some vehicle adjustment by pulling forward and turning the steering wheel.

You may need to go forward and back a few times to achieve true parallel parking. Sometimes you may have to pull out and start again if you angled into the space too sharply.

As you’re attempting parallel parking, use your rearview mirror, and your side windows, and turn your head to look behind you, and to your sides. You do want to be careful not only of other drivers, but pedestrians who might try to cross through your space as you’re backing in. Also be certain to choose a space that is large enough. Don’t forget you’ll need to get out of the space too; so don’t hem yourself in too closely to the cars in front and in back of you.

To address parallel parking issues, some cars now come equipped with automatic censors that beep or signal when your bumper is in close proximity to other cars. This may help you make sure you don’t accidentally tap the bumpers of other cars when you’re backing up or pulling forward. New models of some cars now have rear cameras that help you to see directly behind you. Others even offer what automakers are calling "Intelligent Parking Assist," where the car takes over the steering aspect of parallel parking. If you have to get into a tight spot, or are a hopelessly bad parallel parker, it may be helpful to enlist a friend or bystander to direct you into the space.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Animandel - I had to parallel park to get my driver's license and I'm still hesitant to use the skill. The last time I tried, it took three attempts and there were a lot of honking horns and angry hand gestures from other drivers. Passing the parallel parking test doesn't necessarily give you a lifetime of confidence.


In my state, we didn't have to parallel park to get our driver's licenses. I know, lucky us. However, to this day, I am the worst at parallel parking. I am afraid to attempt to parallel park on a busy street, or a not so busy street if two cars are already there and I have to park between them.

So I guess there is something to be said for conquering the fear of parallel parking before you get your license.


When I was a teenager and about to try for my driver's license everyone warned me about parallel parking. It's a wonder that was not psyched out long before I took the road test portion of the driver's test.

All the talk about how difficult it was to parallel park did make me focus more on that skill when I was practicing for the test, so I guess all the warnings helped in that way. When I took the test, I parallel parked with one try. It may not have been perfect, but I got the car in the spot without having to start over.

Post your comments
Forgot password?