How to parallel park

Parallel parking is one of the most challenging parking manoeuvres. If you haven't already, learn the basic parking skills before learning to parallel park.

Getting started

If you're worried about bumping into another car, start off on a street or in a car park where it's safe and there's little or no traffic around. You're not likely to have a serious crash while parking but small crashes can be expensive. Don't try your first parallel park in a busy street.

Practise parallel parking

  • Check your mirrors. Before you intend to park, check the rear and near side mirrors for traffic behind. If you have vehicles following you closely and will not be able to slow down smoothly and safely, keep going and choose another place to park.

  • Use your indicators. Give other road users plenty of warning that you're going to park by indicating early.

  • Slow down. Brake gently and slow down gradually. Check that the drivers behind you are responding.

  • Be observant. As you approach the vehicle you are parking behind, notice its size and how far out from the kerb it is. Later, this information will be useful.

  • Prepare to park. Come almost to a stop alongside the space where you intend to park (this forces any drivers behind you to hang back and gives you room to reverse). Ease off the brakes and move slowly forward alongside the car you are going to park behind – keep a good arm's length out. Stop when the rears of both cars are level.

  • Reverse into the parking spot. Select reverse gear. Look back over your shoulder into the parking space and keep looking back. Reverse slowly until you judge your back wheel is getting near the rear of the car next to you. (Your back wheel is what's called a ‘pivot point’ - the point your car pivots around as you steer.)

  • Start steering. Drive even slower and begin to steer quickly into the parking position. When your car is nearly at an angle of 45 degrees to the kerb quickly straighten the steering.

  • Adjust steering. Continue to reverse straight and slow for a very short distance and then steer quickly back the other way until you are nearly parallel to the kerb.

  • Fine-tune your final position. Use the car behind and the car in front to judge where you should be. If there is a shop window nearby, look for your reflection – you’ll find this very helpful for positioning.

Understand the experience

After you've done some parallel parking, share your thoughts with your parent or supervisor. Talk about how well you think you went, how it affects you, and work out ways you can improve next time.

Keys2drive is an Australian Government-funded program providing learner drivers and their parents/supervisors a free driving lesson with a Keys2drive accredited professional driving instructor