What is bay parking?
Simply put, bay parking is driving into a bay and stopping within the lines. Car parks come in different shapes and sizes. Depending on the layout and situation in the area, the driving examiner could ask you to;
- Drive forwards into a bay and reverse out
- Reverse into a bay and drive out
Bay parking on your driving test
Bay parking is one of three reversing manoeuvres on the driving test. If your test centre has a car park, the examiner could ask you to complete the manoeuvre at the start or end of your test.
If your test centre doesn’t have any bays, you may have to complete the manoeuvre in a nearby hotel, retail park or supermarket car park.
Why is bay parking such a useful skill?
Finding a parking space in a busy car park isn’t for the faint of heart. With lots of cars, pedestrians and drivers in a rush, you might have to squeeze into a gap between two vehicles while holding up nearby traffic.
If you cannot park under pressure, you might have to wait for a bigger parking space, which can be difficult in a full car park.
It’s a good idea to switch on your dipped headlights when parking in an underground, multi-storey or indoor car park. It’s easier for pedestrians and other drivers to see your vehicle when your headlights are on, which can help prevent accidents.
Reverse bay parking
If you have the choice, it’s always best to reverse into the bay and then drive forwards out of the parking space. You’ll have a better view of the car park when doing so and this can help you spot other vehicles and nearby pedestrians.
Cars also are generally more manoeuvrable in reverse. You can think of it like a shopping trolley. The back wheels move in different directions, while the trolley’s front wheels are fixed.
The 90° degree method
There are a couple of techniques you can use when reverse bay parking. You can drive forward, turn away from the bay and then reverse into it. Or drive forwards past the bay and then turn as you reverse into the space.
We recommend learner drivers use the second option as the technique is a bit easier than the first.
In the steps below, we assume you’re reversing into a bay on the left-hand side. Reverse the signals, steering and mirror checks if the parking space is on the right-hand side
How to reverse park in a bay: Step-by-step
- Identify your target bay
- Drive forwards past your target bay
- Select reverse and complete your observations
- Reverse slowly and steer quickly
- Straighten up
- Reverse till you’re in the bay and then stop
- Drive forward out of the bay.
Identify your target bay
The first step is identifying a suitable parking space. The bay you choose is known as the ‘target bay’, and you can pick any available bay in the car park.
Check for directional arrows and speed limit signs when entering the car park. You can fail your driving test if you drive in the wrong direction or break the speed limit in the area.
Drive forwards past your target bay
Get your vehicle straight and position yourself one metre away from the row of bays. Then, apply a left signal and slowly drive forward past your target bay. Next, drive three bays past your intended parking space and stop when you’re level with the third bay. This is your first reference point.
Select reverse and complete your observations
You must ensure it’s safe before your start reversing. You can use the POM routine for this. With the handbrake applied, clutch down and select reverse gear. Your signal and reverse lights will inform other road users of your intentions. Then, complete the 6-point check. Observe all around your vehicle and look out for nearby vehicles and pedestrians.
Do not reverse if you spot anyone approaching your vehicle. Instead, wait for the area to be clear before you begin.
Reverse slowly and steer quickly
When you’re sure it’s safe, release the handbrake and reverse till your left wing mirror lines up with the next bay line. This is your second reference point. Now, steering quickly, turn the steering wheel full-lock to the left and use clutch control to maintain a slow and steady pace. If you raise the clutch pedal, your vehicle will pick up speed, and you could lose control and finish outside the bay.
As you reverse into the bay, look through your rear window and over your left shoulder. Make sure you’re a safe distance from any nearby vehicles, and you’re not in danger of cutting across the bays.
As the front of your vehicle swings out, look to your right for any approaching road users. Stop and give way if you spot a potential hazard. As you turn into the bay, check your right door mirror. When the bay line appears in this mirror, and your vehicle is straight, turn the steering wheel one and a half turns to the right to straighten the wheels. This is your third reference point.
Parking bays in a car park often run parallel to one another. This means you can use the positioning of other parked vehicles to guide you as you reverse. If there’s a vehicle parked in a bay opposite you, straightening your wheels when you’re in line with it, should keep you within the bay.
Reverse till you’re in the bay then stop
Once your vehicle is straight and within the width of the bay – i.e. you can see a bay line in each wing mirror – reverse till all four wheels are in the parking space. Look through your rear window and check both door mirrors as you reverse. Stop when the line at the front of the bay appears beneath your right door mirror, and the back of the bay lines up with your door. This is your fourth reference point.
If there’s car parked in the bay next to you, you can stop when both your wing mirrors line up.
Drive forward out of the bay
The manoeuvre isn’t over when you finish within the bay. You still need to drive out of the bay safely. Before you move off again, check all around your vehicle, scan left and right and look out for the reverse lights of any nearby vehicles, especially if there are bays in front of you.
When you’re sure it’s safe, signal if necessary, then gradually move off. Avoid getting too close to any parked vehicles nearby.
Forward bay parking
It’s harder to drive forwards into a bay and reverse out than reverse into a bay and drive out. Your view is restricted when reversing out of the bay, making it harder to spot pedestrians and vehicles passing behind your car.
How to reverse park in a bay: Step-by-step
- Line up on the opposite side of the road
- Drive towards your target bay and turn
- Straighten the wheels
- Reverse slowly and turn quickly
- Straighten up and stop
- Reverse till you’re in the bay and then stop
- Reverse out of the bay
In the example below, we’ll drive into a bay on our right-hand side.
Line up on the opposite side of the road
The driving examiner will ask you to drive forwards into a bay on this manoeuvre. You can pick any available bay in the car park, and it can be a bay on the left or right-hand side. Once you’ve chosen your bay, you need to position your vehicle on the opposite side of the road.
If you choose a bay on the right, you’ll need to position your vehicle on the left-hand side. You need a wider starting position when driving forwards into a bay, as your car isn’t as agile as it is when reversing. Remember to check all around your vehicle before moving over and look out for oncoming vehicles if it’s a two-way road.
Drive towards your target bay and turn
Once you’re on the correct side of the road, drive slowly toward your bay. Keep an eye out for anyone going around you and signal if necessary. Use clutch control to manage the speed of the car.
With movement, turn the steering wheel full lock to the right when your right door mirror is level with the first line of your target bay. This is your point of turn and first reference point.
Straighten up and stop
When you’re in the bay, turn the steering wheel one and a half turns to the left to straighten the wheels. Steer back to the left when your dashboard is parallel with whatever is in front of you. This could be another vehicle, the kerb, fence, wall or horizon.
Once your straight within the bay, stop when the bay line appears beneath your right door mirror. This is your third reference point. Check to see if the bay lines are visible in both mirrors, and open the driver’s door and take a look if you’re unsure.
Reverse out of the bay
Driving forwards into a bay is only half the battle. You still need to reverse without endangering other road users or nearby vehicles. Before reversing, take a good look all around, check your mirrors, both blind spots and look through your rear window. If you spot a pedestrian or vehicle nearby, wait for them to clear the area or give way to you before you start reversing.
When you’re sure it’s safe, clutch down, select reverse and signal if necessary. Reverse in a straight line till your right wing mirror is level with the back of the adjacent bay. This is your fourth reference point.
Turn to your left or right
You can reverse to your left or right when leaving the bay. To turn left, turn the steering wheel full lock to the right at your point of turn. And when turning right, turn the steering wheel full lock in the other direction.
As you turn, the front of your vehicle will swing out, so look out for oncoming and approaching traffic. Alternate your looks between the front of your car and the rear window. Keep an eye out for other vehicles, pedestrians, shopping trolleys, boulevards and dogs if you’re near a park. Stop and give way if anyone approaches your vehicle.
When you’re out of the parking bay and straight, check both blind spots and move off if safe.
Bay Parking: FAQs
The driving examiner will ask you to drive forwards or reverse into the bay; unfortunately, you can’t choose between the two. You can, however, select which bay you enter and the direction you turn when leaving the bay.
Make sure you follow any nearby arrow road markings, as you could fail your test if you drive against the traffic flow.
If you can’t finish within the bay on your first attempt, you can return to the starting position and try again. You’re allowed two attempts at the manoeuvre but be careful when restarting, as you still need to give way if another road user approaches your vehicle. Check both blind spots and look through your rearview window when reversing.
Yes, you can fail your driving test on this manoeuvre. Although it’s relatively straightforward, you will pick up a serious fault if you do any of the following;
- Fail to look all around the vehicle when reversing
- Fail to give way when necessary
- Finish outside of the bay
- Get too close to a parked vehicle
- Move off without making the necessary observations
The standard size of a parking bay in the UK is 2.4 metres wide by 4.8 metres long. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, some car parks have large bays to accommodate coaches and mini-buses, while others have smaller bays for motorcycles and two-wheelers.