Most modern cars have reverse sensors in them, and many have reversing cameras. These conveniences help a lot in ensuring that you don't hit the car behind you when reverse parking.

But I find it very difficult in estimating the distance to the car in front of me when parallel parking. I often find myself being too conservative when parking in a small spot, because I think I'm 10cm away from the car in front of me but I'm actually 50cm away. So I get out of the car, realise I have lots of more room, jump back in and edge forward a bit [repeat until satisfied].

If there's a window or reflective surface nearby this is quite easy, but these aren't always available. Any hints about how to make this easier?

5 Answers 5


You could turn on the lights and look for the reflection on the other car. This might not work as well on very bright and sunny days, but in general even a lightly overcast sky is enough to make out the reflection

As with any reflected light, the farther the light source is from the surface, the more the reflection is scattered. The closer the light source gets, the sharper the reflected image gets. As you drive slowly closer to the other car, you should notice that the illuminated spot gets smaller and it's edge more defined. If you can see a single, very bright spot in a halo of light, you've almost bumped into the car in front.

The advantage is that this methods works with almost any surfaces, like cars, walls or garage doors. The disadvantage is that it might not work in very bright daylight. If your car has LED headlights, the reflection looks different from light bulb headlights.

  • +1 but another disadvantage is that the front of many modern cars is curved, so the headlamps are not right at the front (unlike the brick-shaped cars of yesteryear). Aug 15, 2019 at 9:42

I had exactly the same problem after I bought my first car. It is a Ford Focus - quite big. Not only that I was not able to estimate the space around the car while parking, but I always had the impression that, while driving, I fill my own lane, and also parts of the adjacent lanes.

Long story short, I had exactly the same issue as you do.

Solution: before I had a chance to find a "workaround", I got accustomed with the car and now I go through even the narrowest places without fear (or with just a little fear).

If you are patient for a few weeks / months, you will get accustomed and things will become natural.

I had bought "recently" another car, bigger, with more of a rectangular shape (old design) - corners are not really rounded. Adjusting to this car was significantly faster (probably just a few days ), as I already had the experience of the other car.

Note: it will help you in the meanwhile to adjust your seat higher (as high as possible), both during driving and during parking maneuvers - it improves visibility a lot. Just be careful when you exit the car, you might hurt your head, as I did :)

  • 1
    I think the "Note" is a better Lifehack solution than the "You'll get used to it" one. +1 for the heads-up
    – Stan
    Aug 15, 2019 at 19:18
  • This is the only solution. Back in the day, you simply got very good at judging distance. Get out the traffic cones like when you took driving lessons and practice parallel parking with your new car.
    – pboss3010
    Aug 16, 2019 at 12:07

The next time you have to park, have a good look at the car in front of you, especially features that are at a standardized height like the bumper.

While you're parking, keep track of when these features disappear behind the nose of your car. Get out, and check the distance. Do this a few times, and you'll learn to correlate the image you see with the distance between cars. Pretty soon you'll be able to park without having to get out of the car.


High tech solution: Laser distance meter

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Handheld_laser_distance_meter.jpg

  • Park behind another car at a comfortable distance.
  • Hold the meter out the window and measure that distance.
  • The next time you go to park, use this tool to measure the distance to the car in front of you as you roll in. Some meters will even have a beep function so you can know when to stop without taking your eyes off the parking spot.

I don't have a car. I have given this advice to everyone who has had a similar problem as yourself. The technique is ridiculously easy. Use the technology to its best advantage.

After you have backed into your parking spot and are the correct distance from the curb, pull ahead as far as you can (or dare). It's okay if you want to take your time, no rush. Slowly, pull yourself ahead to the point where you might touch. Stop.

Now, look at the rear view given by the camera. Use the coloured grid to locate half of the distance. All you need to place your car between the objects is to use half of the remaining available parking space that you can see in the camera. Slowly back up until you get halfway there. Stop.

Done. The parking concept is to centre your car in the available space — using proportions — which is easier than to determine a distance the old fashion way.

It might take you two tries the first time you try it.

Good Luck.

  • For those of us who rent or use a lot of different size and shape vehicles, the rear view camera can make well-aligned parallel parking MUCH easier.
    – Stan
    Aug 15, 2019 at 19:53
  • Good advice, but this doesn't really answer my question. If it's a big enough spot, it's not necessary to get really close to the car in front of me. If it's a small spot (maybe because the car in front left a big gap in front of them) then it's important that I can get as close to the car in front of me, without hitting it. Aug 16, 2019 at 1:35
  • This is good advice, but it doesn't answer the question. OP has the problem that they don't dare driving close enough to the car in front at all because they cannot estimate the distance.
    – Elmy
    Aug 16, 2019 at 6:26

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