8 Tips to Parking Etiquette

In our “hurry up” world to run errands, attend meetings, and get home, we often disregard other drivers and cars when deciding where and how to park. Here are eight of my biggest pet peeves on parking etiquette:

1.  Park straight in a parking space. In a parking lot or garage where cars are parked in slots, leave room on each side so you can open your doors without hitting the cars beside you. Park in the middle of a marked parking space. Overhanging the stripes will crowd the driver who parks next to you will inevitably lead to door dings in the paint.  If you’re parking on the street, leave room so you and the other cars can exit without bumping.

2.  Don’t straddle a line and take up two spaces in a parking lot or garage. Some people with new cars or those who don’t want to risk having their car’s sides banged by adjacent car doors will park in the middle of two spaces. This is not only rude; it also makes it impossible for others to park at all.  Crowded garages and lots need every space.

3.  Don’t take up two spaces on the street. In residential areas where the parking spaces are limited and not marked, always park as close to the end of an open space as you can.  Often there is room for two cars between driveways.  If you park in the middle you make it impossible for another car to park in that space.  Even if there is not room for two full-size cars, there may be room for a mini car or a motorcycle.  Be considerate.

4.  Take your turn when waiting for a parking place. In a crowded parking garage or lot, when you see someone pulling out of a space, get as close as you can and turn on your turn signal to let other drivers know you have “dibs” on the space.  If another car is close to the space and has its turn signal on already, you lose!  The other car gets the space.

If you and another driver both think you found the space first, be generous and let it go. A parking space is not worth a fight.  Another spot will be vacant soon.

5.  Make your intentions clear when walking in a parking lot. If you’re walking back to your car and you sense a car crawling down the aisle behind you, don’t presume they’re sightseeing. They want your parking space!

If you’re just dropping off your shopping bags and heading back into the mall for lunch, make eye contact and tell the other driver your intentions.  If you’re not leaving, shake your head, or say, “I’m not leaving.” I once followed a woman to her car, and watched her put her packages in the trunk and walk away.  She knew I was following her and waiting and never said a word.

If you are leaving, make eye contact, then nod and point toward your car. If your car is clear across the lot, communicate this to the other driver by pointing or telling them. Walk directly toward your car. Don’t meander. It’s aggravating to follow a shopper, only to watch her cut across to a different aisle, pull out and let somebody else grab the spot before you can get there.

6.  Make sure your car is pulled into the space far enough, but not too far. If you have a normal-size car, pull your vehicle all the way into the space so the rear of your car is in line with other cars. This makes it easier for other drivers to see past your car when they are backing out of adjacent spaces, and also gives the widest possible driving lane between rows. Pulling in properly is particularly helpful when shoppers pushing loaded carts are sharing the driving lane with moving vehicles.

If you have a small compact or sub-compact vehicle, such as a Mini Cooper or Smart car, do NOT pull all the way into the space.  Park so that the back end of your car is in line with the cars beside you.  This lets drivers know that the space is occupied and does not give the false impression that the parking spot is vacant.

7.  Never force your car into a space that’s too small. It bums me out whenever I see a giant SUV parked in a “compact only” space.  Standard parking spaces are generally 9 feet wide while compact car spaces are only 7 feet wide and shorter. Obviously, a large SUV or pickup—and especially a Hummer—will not fit easily in a compact car space. Quite simply put, they are not supposed to fit.

8.  Watch for pedestrian crosswalks in parking lots. Crosswalks are common near the main entrances and exits of most large garages and lots. Created for the safety of pedestrians coming from and returning to their cars, they are usually marked with diagonal white or yellow stripes and often marked with a pedestrian crossing or stop sign.  As much as you are in a hurry to find a spot, slow down. Watch for pedestrians and obey all signs in the parking lot.  I’ve witnessed near hits by cars driving too fast and not seeing the pedestrian.

Finally, don’t expect miracles. Even if you are already driving this way, or decide to adopt these courteous practices, don’t expect others to do the same. Be careful of letting your expectations for others’ behavior contribute to your own potential parking lot rage. Take a few deep breaths, and take your time.

Blog Question of the month:  Do you agree or disagree with these observations?  What pet peeves do you have about car parking we can add to this list.  Let us hear from you in the space below.

Happy Practicing!


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6 Responses to “8 Tips to Parking Etiquette”

  1. Pattie says:

    You forgot to add those drivers that block people’s driveways, park up on sidewalks and obstruct wheelchair ramps.

    Also something needs to be shouted about the lack of common courtesy of the city’s bicyclist.

  2. Kathleen McDonough says:

    I have always wondered the best way to handle the situation when you ARE leaving your parking space and someone wants your spot but you have to unload an entire cart and then strap in two babies which takes at least five minutes. Do you tell them you are not leaving so they will move on and not pressure you? Or do you nod that you are leaving and then torture by making them wait a long time?

  3. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Pattie: Thanks for the add. Admittedly there are no doubt many more items that could be added to the list. I simply chose my top 8 pet peeves.

  4. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Kathleen: I understand your situation. It is not a good idea to signal you are not leaving because a) it’s not true; b) what if he sees you leaving in five minutes. The best is to simply acknowledge them and tell them you will be five minutes. It’s up to them to wait for your space, or not. Afterall, “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush” so five minutes may not be too bad.

  5. SUSAN says:

    I don’t think one should “wait” for a space. I live in Capitola, CA and many times people will see a car not quite ready to leave and will wait for that spot that holds everybody else up and that could wrap traffic around the block and make a real nightmare.

    My advice, especially around Christmas time, if there is a car in the space, guess what that space is not empty, move on and find an empty space. Contrary to what Syndi is saying; don’t stalk somebody around the parking lot to find a person walking to their car, it makes people anxious and rushed and this could be dangerous to all. They might have small children that they loose track because they are hurrying to get out the space for the other person to park.

    We can’t be responsible for the other person getting a parking space. We need to worry about ourselves and stay safe.

  6. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Susan: Thanks for writing. There are exceptions to all rules, depending on the environment. Holding up traffic selfishly is not appropriate, nor is stalking. Yet, it all boils down to… “It’s not what you do, but how you do it” that counts. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to look for and wait for parking spaces when done with civility and courtesy to others in mind. Keep the comments comin’!

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