Rules of thumb and experience help, but we prefer repeatable experiments. And if you see this and laugh, you're probably not as good as you think you are. Thankfully, the recipe for a one-move parking job is pretty simple.
- Pull alongside the car ahead of the space you want. Align your rear axle with that car's bumper. Turn the wheel toward the curb at full lock.
- Back up until the center of your inside rear tire aligns with the streetside edge of the forward car. Straighten wheel, continue to reverse.
- When your outside tire aligns with that same edge, turn the wheel the other way.
- If all went according to plan, you're in the space, bodywork intact. Get out and admire your work.
A Vauxhall-backed University of London study determined the exact amount of extra space any car needs to parallel park. It depends on your car's turning radius (r), its wheelbase (l), the distance from the center of the front wheel to the front of the car (k), and the width of the car you're parking behind (w).
Or you could just kinda eyeball it.
Pull the handbrake
Two original-Mini-driving English brothers share the Guinness record for tight parallel parking, at 5.2 extra inches. The secret: a precise J-turn ( a few chrome-crunching failed attempts).
Here's the most recent record set in 2015:
Press a button
Electric power steering and sonar help some modern cars literally park themselves. Ford says its customers' biggest gripe is that they can't get out of spots that the car puts itself in.
No, it's not the preferred way to do it, but if you have enough room in front, why not? Just don't try it if you're trying to beat someone to a parking space... or on your driver's test.