how to parallel park

How to Parallel Park for Beginners: Step-by-Step Guide

Zutobi
by Zutobi · Updated Feb 15, 2021

For beginner drivers, parallel parking is one of the most difficult things to do. What makes parallel parking difficult at first is that it requires the driver to follow a strict approach to get the angles into the parking spot right.

In this Ultimate Guide, we’ll go through:

  • Parallel Parking on the Driving Test
  • A great 6-step guide on how to reverse parallel park as taught by driving professionals
  • How to Parallel Park with Cones

Do You Have to Parallel Park on the Driving Test?

In most U.S. states, you will be tested on your parallel parking skills during your driver’s license test. Failure in the parallel parking part of the test is often equal to an instant fail on the driving test and it is considered to be one of the most difficult parts of the exam. You can read which states have decided to drop parallel parking from the driver’s exam here.

Considering the fact that most states still test parallel parking and how often you will do it once you have your driver’s license, it should be a no-brainer to learn the 6 easy steps outlined in this guide.

How to Reverse Parallel Park in 6 Easy Steps

We’ll now explain how parallel parking can be done in six easy steps.

  1. Find a large enough parking spot
  2. Place your car parallel to the car in front
  3. Turn the wheel fully to the right and begin to reverse
  4. Turn your wheels straight and reverse further
  5. Turn your wheels fully to the left and reverse into position
  6. Straighten your wheels and creep forward into position

Step #1 – Find a large enough parking spot

The first thing you need to do is find a large enough parking spot. The gap should be at least 1.5 times the length of your car for you to have enough room to safely perform the maneuver. More experienced drivers may parallel park with even less space, while less experienced drivers may need even more to use as a safety margin to get in and out. 

Step #2 – Place your car parallel to the car in front

Align your right passenger side mirror with the driver’s side mirror of the car that you intend to park behind. You should be about 2-3 feet from the side of the parked car. 

Step #3 – Turn the wheel fully to the right and begin to reverse

The next step is to turn the steering wheel fully to the right and slowly begin backing up. Stop once you can see the car behind you in your left side mirror. You should see the full front of the car (see illustration 3).

Step #4 – Turn your wheels straight and reverse further

Parallel parking step 4: showing how to know when to turn your wheels straight

Once you can see the full front of the car in your left side mirror, you need to reverse straight to move closer to the curb. Turn the wheels straight and reverse until your right side mirror covers the taillight of the vehicle in front (see illustration 4). 

Step #5 – Turn your wheels fully to the left and reverse into position

When your right side mirror covers the taillight of the vehicle in front, you should turn your wheels fully to the left and reverse carefully until you’re in position. You may need to adjust your position and drive forward or reverse until you are in a good spot between the two cars.

Step #6 – Straighten your wheels and creep forward into position

The last step is about straightening up into position. Straighten your wheels and if necessary creep forward to the correct position. If you are parked on a hill or sloping driveway, you want to turn your wheels in a direction that prevents your vehicle from moving into the path of traffic if the brakes fail.

How to Parallel Park with Cones

It’s a good idea to start practicing parallel parking using two cones so you don’t damage other cars. Here’s how you do it:

  • Find a street with little-to-no traffic 
  • Get two cones and place them about fifteen feet apart to create an area the size of a real parking spot
  • Practice until you get the gist of the maneuver and feel confident in your ability to parallel park. You can then move on to real-life situations with real parking spots. 

If you need to learn additional driving tips, go into the Zutobi Drivers Ed course for your state to learn more. We’ll cover everything you need to get your driver’s license.

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