Easy Guide to Parallel Parking for the Test (Reverse Park on the Road)

On this page about reverse parallel parking out on the street, which is section 5R on the driving test report form, you will find a description and a video of how to parallel park to UK driving test standard. You can be sure that this is what the examiner wants to see as it is based on information from a number of official sources:

You'll also discover not just how to do it but also what what happens when you have to do this on your driving test.

There's also a section on common methods that are taught that don't always work, and why they don't.

And finally a section on how to get into tighter spaces by modifying the manoeuvre. You can practice these once you have your licence.

How to parallel park to UK driving test standard

If you practice this without a professional instructor make sure that the practice is done somewhere that is safe, legal and convenient, ideally on a quiet stretch of straight residential road. If practicing with a professional driving instructor, they will find a place that is suitable.

Here is a simple method, with reference points, that should help you to master the parallel park exercise easily. Any method that involves more than half a turn of steering is likely to be trickier than necessary for a novice driver to regularly get right from the very beginning. This method also includes a simple correcting option, in case things go a bit wrong.

If you steer while stationary you will not be marked down on the driving test but it is not good practice as it increases wear and tear on the steering and the tyres of the car. It can also damage the road surface. For these reasons many instructors don't allow this practice, which is known as 'dry-steering'

We'll look at the manoeuvre in two parts, initially dealing with the control aspect.

CONTROL

1. First set up the passenger door mirror
Parallel Park passenger door mirror set up

Set up the passenger door mirror before you move off to start this exercise.

You should adjust the mirror down and out so that you can clearly see all of the front door handle in the mirror.

It may be easier to begin with if you set it up so that the door handle is roughly in the middle of the mirror.

2. Pull up alongside the 'target' car

Pull alongside or even slightly ahead of the 'target' car, which is to be parked behind.

You need to be about an arms length away from the car that you are alongside.

3. Check all around to make sure it is safe and when it is, start to reverse very slowly.

4. As soon as you move steer half a turn to the left (anticlockwise, top of the wheel goes toward the kerb)

To begin with or on your test you can steer before moving if you prefer.

So the steering wheel ends up upside down turned 180 degrees to the left

Steering wheel turned half a turn to the left

The car move will start to move in a gentle arc towards the kerb.

Be aware that it will initially seem as if the car is not going into the space. This is because you are only at the beginning of the turn. As you move the angle will change. Do not be tempted to add more steering. Hold the wheel firm with just half a turn of steering.

Parallel park diagram showing car moving toward the kerb

As you are moving back look in your passenger door mirror.

Parallel park mirror view showing passenger door handle on kerb line

5. Just before the passenger door handle reaches the kerb line, stop the car.

Parallel park mirror view detailing passenger door handle on kerb line

Note that the BOTTOM edge of the kerb is aligned with the front door handle.

(Everyone's driving position is slightly different, so you may need to adjust this reference point slightly to suit)

Then...

6. Steer a whole turn in the opposite direction (back to the right, clockwise, top of the wheel goes away from the kerb) and slowly reverse.

 

So the steering wheel ends up upside down again, but this time turned 180 degrees to the right.


7. As you continue to move back one on two things will happen

a. No further steering required.

  • The door handle remains on the kerb line as the car comes into the kerb
  • Eventually it will come away from the kerb slightly
  • Just keep your steering in the same position
  • As the side of the car comes parallel to the kerb, stop the car
  • If you keep going the back of the car will begin to move out into the road
  • Select neutral and apply the parking brake
  • Re-adjust your passenger door mirror ready to drive on
  • You are now successfully parked.

b. More steering required.

  • If the door handle crosses the kerb and appears to be over the pavement, STOP immediately
  • Now steer as far to the right (clockwise) as the steering will go
  • Once you have done that move slowly backwards once more
  • Eventually the door handle should come off the pavement and away from the kerb slightly
  • As soon the side of the car comes parallel to the kerb, stop the car
  • If you keep going the back of the car will begin to move out into the road
  • Select neutral and apply the parking brake
  • Re-adjust your passenger door mirror ready to drive on
  • You are now successfully parked.

Parallel park diagram showing final position of car
You don't have to straighten the wheels as you will be driving on again shortly. It will be easier to move off if you already have the steering set.

If you wish to assess your control performance give yourself marks out of ten for the following:

  1. Clutch control
  2. Accelerator control
  3. Steering wheel control
  4. Steering direction control
  5. Use of foot brake
  6. Not touching the kerb
  7. Park parallel to the pavement
  8. Park within 20cm (8 inches) of the pavement

If you score 7/10 or better you are unlikely to get any driving faults (minor errors)

If you score 5/10 or better you are unlikely to get any serious faults

OBSERVATION

As a general guideline you should be looking all around throughout the manoeuvre. This means looking out of the rear window, in the direction of travel and over the right shoulder in your blind spot as well as out of the windscreen. It helps if you have a window slightly open so you can hear other vehicles too. As a novice it may be easier to have certain points when you look round while reversing.

  1. Before you move off
  2. Before you steer (if this is not done immediately as you start to reverse)
  3. As your head becomes level with the rear of the 'target' car
  4. When the door handle (in the mirror) reaches the kerb line
  5. Near the end as the door handle comes off the kerb line

If you wish to assess your observation performance give yourself marks out of ten for the following:

  1. Set passenger door mirror before moving (if necessaryAll round observation before moving
  2. Observation through rear window while reversing
  3. Use of door mirrors where necessary
  4. Observation while moving
  5. 4-5 left and right blind spot checks during the manoeuvre
  6. Stop for other road users where necessary

If you score 7/10 or better you are unlikely to get any driving faults (minor errors)

If you score 5/10 or better you are unlikely to get any serious faults

Now let's have a look at how the examiner marks you

You can confirm our method is suitable for the driving test by checking out the following official information about parallel parking.

Current and historical guidance from the driving test report explanation sheet

  • The parallel park exercise is done in 25% of tests
  • So you have a 1 in 4 chance of having to do it
  • You have to demonstrate that you can keep control of your vehicle
  • This needs to be done while looking around as necessary and being proactive in responding to what you see.

What happens during the test

If you are asked to do the parallel parking manoeuvre, you will be asked to:

  1. Pull up on the left well before a parked vehicle identified by the examiner
  2. The examiner will then ask you to drive alongside it and reverse into a parked position either:
  • behind one parked car, when the exercise should be completed within two car lengths
    - this is what normally happens
  • between two parked cars, where the gap between the cars should be equal to about two car lengths
    -this happens very rarely

Examiner's official instruction to you

Some way before you reach a car parked at the side of the road, and in plenty of time for you to react, the examiner will say:

"Would you pull up on the left well before you get to the next parked car, please."

Once you have pulled into the kerb, applied the parking brake and put the vehicle into neutral they will say:

"This is the reverse parking exercise. Would you drive forward and stop alongside the car ahead. Then reverse in and park reasonably close to and parallel with the kerb. Try to complete the exercise within about two car lengths."

Once you have finished and applied the parking brake and taken the vehicle out of gear they will say:

"Drive on when you are ready, please."

Click below to play an audio recording of the instructions/

What they look for

There are two aspects to the parallel park:

  1. Control - Your ability to control the vehicle accurately when parallel parking is judged by your ability to get to within about 25 cm (10 inches) from and parallel with the kerb, without going onto it.
  2. Observation - You will need to take effective all round observation throughout the manoeuvre, showing consideration to other road users.

How the examiner assesses and marks your use of the ancillary controls

Expected outcome / competence

You need to show the ability to:

  • Park parallel with, and reasonably close, to the kerb
  • In about two car lengths
  • While reacting correctly to other road users

Common driving faults:

CONTROL

  • Shunting forward once to re-position for misjudgements
  • Allowing a loss of control
  • Final parking position is at an angle to the kerb or too far from it

OBSERVATION

  • Failing to look around regularly (particularly staring in the door mirror)
  • Failing to react promptly to other road users, including pedestrians

Driving fault (minor error)

You can only get a maximum of two driving faults for this exercise - one each for control and observation

Parallel parking control driving faults - If you pull forward to correct a loss of control or accuracy, you will incur a driving fault. You can reverse once again having pulled forward, without getting another driving fault. Should you need to shuffle again you may get a serious fault, but leaving the vehicle in a safe position is less likely to result in a serious fault than finishing the manoeuvre with the vehicle left in some other position.

Parallel parking observation driving faults - Should you fail to look around before you move you will likely incur a driving fault. If you fail to look out of the rear windscreen as you move off you may well incur a driving fault. Failing to look around regularly and stopping if necessary will also see you marked with a driving fault.

Common serious faults

You can get serious faults for both the control and observation aspects of this exercise

Parallel parking serious control fault:

  • Numerous attempts at re-positioning to correct multiple misjudgements
  • Allowing a significant loss of control
  • Final parking position is on the kerb or too far from it
  • Multiple separate driving faults

Parallel parking serious observation fault:

  • Failing to look around sufficiently
  • Failing to react safely with regard to other road users, including pedestrians

Dangerous fault

Any situation brought about by the above loss of control or lack of action, with regard to observation, that resulted in actual danger to the examiner, candidate, the general public or property.

Highway Code rules about parallel parking

202
Look carefully before you start reversing. You should

  • use all your mirrors
  • check the ‘blind spot’ behind you (the part of the road you cannot see easily in the mirrors)
  • check there are no pedestrians (particularly children), cyclists, other road users or obstructions in the road behind you.

Reverse slowly while

  • checking all around
  • looking mainly through the rear window
  • being aware that the front of your vehicle will swing out as you turn.

Get someone to guide you if you cannot see clearly.

The National Driving Standard for the parallel park

Performance standards

You must be able to:

  • select a safe, legal and convenient place to stop and park and, once stationary, secure the vehicle on slopes, facing both up and down, as well as on the level
  • make sure the parking brake is applied effectively
  • where necessary, select a gear to hold the vehicle safely when parked

Knowledge and understanding requirements

You must know and understand:

  • what factors to take into consideration when looking for safe, secure, legal and convenient places to park
  • how and when to set the position of the steering wheels of the vehicle to prevent it rolling away
  • how to make sure that the parking brake is applied effectively
  • that, when parking a vehicle with manual gears, selecting a gear will help to hold the vehicle if the parking brake should fail
  • the correct procedure for carrying out any reverse parking exercise on and off road

Examiner's guidance from the DVSA about the parallel park

Drivers of vans or other small commercial vehicles are expected to do this exercise in exactly the same way as a car driver. Vehicles parked on the offside of the road should not be used.

You should show proper care for the safety of other road users while performing this manoeuvre, by taking full and proper observation while performing it. This means looking around and stopping if necessary to make sure that other road users can easily plan their actions by knowing what you are doing.

If, because of the examiner’s seating position, you have difficulty in taking observation, then simply ask the examiner to adjust their seating position during the reverse parallel parking exercise.

Common methods that frequently don't work and why

Many people are taught to use twice as much steering as we recommend or even more. This causes problems for learners as they frequently steer too slowly or allow the car to move more than it should.

So due to the lack of fine control, which an instructor will have, the learner often comes in at too steep an angle. This means that their correction phase, where they steer away from the kerb, often sees them ending up with the car still at an angle with a wheel against the kerb, or sees the car too far from the kerb.

How to get into tighter spaces

To get into a tighter space start the manoeuvre from further forward. Steer the same as for the driving test method.

Alternatively, steer more to begin with, but still use the door handle on the kerb line as a reference point. If the door handle goes much over the kerb line you are likely to hit the kerb. However it is quite easy to shuffle back and forth once or twice to get into a small space.