Learner drivers certainly have their work cut out for them when it comes to preparing for the practical test. From getting to grips with clutch control to mastering the art of safely navigating around parked cars whilst meeting oncoming traffic, your newfound skills will be well and truly tested. Of course, one of the biggest areas of interest (and/or fear) for learners is manoeuvres. Parallel parking is one of three manoeuvres that you could be asked to demonstrate during your test. Not mastered it yet? PassMeFast's guide to parallel parking will have you up to speed in no time!
In this guide, we're going to completely break down the parallel parking manoeuvre—looking at how to demonstrate it safely, what the examiner will be looking for and when it might be used in real-life conditions.
One of three manoeuvres in the driving test, the parallel parking manoeuvre is pretty simple. The clue is in the name—it will involve you parking your vehicle parallel to the road, typically in a line of other vehicles. During your practical test, you'll usually have to drive your vehicle next to the vehicle in front of the space you want to park in, before you reverse in. Though parallel parking is one of the most disliked manoeuvres for learners, it's easy enough to get your head around with enough practice.
There's a 1-in-3 chance that you'll be asked to complete the parallel parking manoeuvre during your test. If you are asked to demonstrate it, the instructions from the examiner will sound something like this:
“Stop on the left well before you get to the next parked car, please. This is the parallel parking exercise. When you're ready, drive forward and stop alongside the car ahead. Then, reverse into the space behind the other vehicle, and park reasonably close to and parallel with the kerb. Try to complete the exercise within two car lengths.”
As the candidate works their way through the parallel parking manoeuvre, the examiner will be keeping a close eye on their control of the vehicle. This will include how well they handle the clutch and the accuracy to which they park next to the kerb. Throughout the manoeuvre, they will be monitoring how often the learner checks their mirrors and blindspots, and how aware they are of their surroundings. The examiner will also be watching how steady the candidate is with their steering, both during their point of turn and as they straighten up their vehicle.
As you progress through the parallel parking manoeuvre, the examiner will be looking out for:
The examiner will begin by asking you to park on the left-hand side of the road, well before the nearest parked vehicle. Once you've done so, they'll relay the rest of the instructions and watch as you drive forward next to the other car in preparation for your parallel park.
Now that you've positioned your car just after the other vehicle, it's almost time for you to begin the reversing part of the manoeuvre. Before you can even think about it, though, you need to take a few important precautions.
Your car is now in the perfect position for you to reverse into your chosen spot. Don't forget your MSM routine as you move—this is one of the most potentially hazardous parts of the parallel park manoeuvre.
You're now almost at the end of the parallel park manoeuvre. Don't get too cocky though—you've still got to straighten up and make sure you don't hit the kerb (and get an instant driving test fault).
And there you have it! You've now mastered the art of the parallel park. As with every other manoeuvre, we always advise learners break the parallel park down into smaller, more manageable stages. After all, it doesn't seem half as intimidating when you're able to work through each step one at a time.
Let's face it, you'd be pretty hard pressed to find a driver who hasn't ever had to parallel park, or been in a situation in which being able to so would have been beneficial. If you live in any sort of residential area, especially ones where space is limited, you'll need to be able to parallel park. After all, unless your neighbours don't have cars, it's unlikely that you'll always have the option to drive forward into a parking space.
Even if parking isn't an issue at home, you've still got to deal with things like inner city parking. If you can't find a car park, or all of your available options are full, parallel parking on a street might be the only way you'll get a spot in a place where space is sparse. Please note: if you've managed to pick out a good parking space (that you'll definitely be able to fit into!) make sure there aren't any parking restrictions in place—you don't want to pick up a parking ticket!
You have a 1-in-3 chance of being asked to demonstrate the parallel parking manoeuvre on your practical test. Don't be tempted to forgo practising parallel parking in the hopes that you'll be asked to complete another manoeuvre—make sure you know all three manoeuvres like the back of your hand.
Other than parallel parking, there are two additional manoeuvres that you might be asked to demonstrate during your practical test. These manoeuvres are:
To put it simply, if you want your driving test to continue—and you want to get your hands on that full driving licence—there's no way that you can refuse to complete the parallel park if you're asked to do so by the examiner. If you're confused about something, you are allowed to ask questions. The examiner will be more than happy to explain their instructions. Outright refusal of a manoeuvre, however, will simply end in a terminated test.
It's entirely up to the examiner to pick the location of where you'll have to demonstrate a parallel park. Despite what you might think, examiners aren't limited to quiet, residential areas when it comes to manoeuvres—they're allowed to test your skills on busier roads too. That being said, with it being a parallel park, it's likely that they'll pick a relatively quiet area. They won't want to run the risk of you holding up traffic on a busy street.
As with the location of the manoeuvre, it's entirely up to the examiner to decide when they want to you to carry out the manoeuvre—the DVSA doesn't give them a designated time or anything. As there's no real way of knowing, there's absolutely no point in you panicking about it. Simply concentrate on your driving and tackle the parallel park if and when you're asked to.
It's important to remember, as with any manoeuvre, that you are allowed to take your time. Instead of rushing through the parallel park, take a breath and slow things down. If you're using your mirrors correctly, you'll be able to tell straight away if you're too close to the kerb. If this happens, make the necessary adjustments—drive forward to your point of turn and try again.
Odds are that your driving examiner will have assessed hundreds of learner drivers by this point. As such, it's highly unlikely that they'll need to get out to check—they'll just know right off the bat. Remember, they're using your mirrors as well.
It depends on how badly you hit the kerb. If it's the slightest nudge, the examiner might not notice or might just allow you to continue anyway—it's up to their discretion after all. If you end up mounting the kerb, however, then yes, you're looking at an automatic fail. As we've said, if you take your time and use your mirrors, you should be able to stop before this happens.
The examiner will ask you to park within two car lengths of the vehicle in front. Now, standard parking spaces are 15.7ft (4.8m), which makes two car lengths around 31.4ft (9.6m). You should be able to make an educated guess as to how far back you need to reverse—it doesn't need to be exact.
If you've waited a long while, and there's still a lot of oncoming traffic, you are allowed to go ahead (unless the examiner specifies otherwise). Simply indicate to let other road users know what your intentions are, and if they wait, start your parallel park. Though you might feel pressured into rushing your manoeuvre, take your time.
Not really. The examiner isn't going to sit there with a timer once they've asked you to carry out the parallel park. As a rough guess, we'd say you probably have around 4 minutes or so. Again, it's not like the examiner is going to time you—though if you're dragging it out or having to adjust several times, they will start to hurry you along.
Whilst manoeuvres are intimidating for most learners, it's important that you don't let this overwhelm you on the day. You are allowed to make small mistakes on your test—no-one is perfect, after all. That being said, if you hit the kerb or outright refuse to finish the parallel park, then yes, you're going to fail your test.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to complete the parallel park in one move. Let's face it, even veteran drivers sometimes need to take things in stages. In fact, we urge learners to break their manoeuvres down into steps and minimise the risk of making silly mistakes.
As with your distance from the kerb, it is highly unlikely that the examiner is going to get out and measure how far you are from the car in front. They'll be able to tell straight off the bat if you're too far away—in which case, they might give you a slight nudge and ask you to move further back.