A beginners' guide to bay parking

Parking in a bay is not only a useful everyday driving skill, but there’s a one-in-three chance you’ll be asked to perform it on your practical driving test.

It may seem straight forward, but it’s a skill worth mastering.

In this guide we break down bay parking and all the points you need to learn to get you on your way to passing your driving test.

Bay parking image

In this article:

What is bay parking?

This is simply manoeuvring your car into a parking space and stopping. For the purposes of the driving test, there are two types of bay parking:

  • Forward bay parking: this involves driving forwards into the bay, followed by reversing back out.
  • Reverse bay parking: this involves reversing into the parking bay, followed by driving out head-first.

Depending on the bay, it may be possible to drive both in and out forwards. For example, there may be two empty spaces adjacent to each other in a car park. But you won’t be asked to do this on your driving test, as the manoeuvre will involve reversing.

We recommend reversing into a bay when you can and then driving forwards to exit. This is so you can make your observations easily and perform the manoeuvre in the safest way possible.

It’s worth mastering both ways though, you may be asked to perform either one on your practical driving test.

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Why do I need to learn how to bay park?

Once you get your licence you will realise that parking and bay parking is an essential skill in getting around. Most places like supermarkets and shopping centres have car parks and these can be busy places.

Bay parking was added to the driving test in 2017, so it will be one of the three manoeuvres that will come up in your test.

We break down in this guide how to forward bay park, reverse bay park and reverse out of a bay. Make sure you memorise and understand all three to prepare for your driving test.

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What should I look for when I'm bay parking?

To ensure you demonstrate control, it’s best to take it slow and steady. It’s best to move the vehicle slowly, but steer quickly and decisively.

To park accurately, you want your car to be fully within the bay lines. Try not to stick out, or clip the kerb – or anything else.

You should also have good all-round observation at all times during the manoeuvre. You should be looking for potential hazards, such as pedestrians or other vehicles. There might be a dog without a lead or a small child so you need to stay alert. If there are any road users nearby or approaching you, you should always stop to let them pass. Only continue with the manoeuvre when it’s safe to do so.

If you do make a mistake while bay parking on your test, don’t assume it means you’ve failed. You might only get a minor fault if there’s an error in control or accuracy. What’s most important is ensuring that no one is put in potential danger – including yourself.

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How do I forward bay park using reference points?

Driving into a space, or forward bay parking can seem easier and sometimes be more convenient than reverse bay parking. it is worth noting that when you are ready to leave, you will need to reverse out of that space and potentially into traffic and pedestrians. 

Read more on how to safely reverse out of a parking bay below. 

In your driving test, you pick the bay that you will park in. We have outlined the steps for you to park on the right side as that is easier. If you park on the left-side just reverse the instructions.

If possible, for your driving test try to choose a bay without vehicles on either side so you can see the parking lines clearly.

  • Assess and decide what parking bay can fit your vehicle, depth and width.
  • Slowly position your car on the left-hand side of the parking bay, find your reference point: the right- hand line of the bay should line up just below your right-wing mirror.
  • Give yourself a lot room to enter the bay.
  • Check your mirrors and blind spots for other road users and put your indicator on to signal you are parking.
  • If the way is clear, steer quickly- putting a full lock right on the steering wheel and edge slowly into the bay.
  • Look for the dashboard to be in line with something in front of you for example a wall and straighten up the vehicle using the steering wheel.
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How to reverse out of a parking bay

When you forward bay park you will need to reverse out of that space.

Be mindful if you're in a car park there might be a one-way system in place, so be sure you know which direction to take. 

  • Make sure the coast is clear, looking at both sides and in your rear-view mirror for any pedestrians or cars approaching.
  • Put the car in reverse gear and if it is clear: slowly pull out – be ready to hit the brakes at any time.
  • Always reverse slowly and rotate your view all around you, including looking over your shoulders.
  • When the front of your vehicle is near the back end of the vehicle beside you, turn the steering wheel quickly full lock to the opposite direction you need to turn. For e.g., if you want to turn left, steer full lock right whilst reversing out of the space.
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How do I reverse bay park using reference points? 

We recommend reverse bay parking when you can, it is easier to make your observations and to see other road users.

In your driving test, you pick the bay that you will park in. Try to choose a space that will give you plenty of room for the manoeuvre.

We have outlined the steps for you to reverse park on the left side. If you reverse park on the right side just reverse the instructions.

  • Assess and decide what parking bay can fit your vehicle, depth and width.
  • Position your vehicle towards the centre of the road, this will make the turn easier to get between the lines.
  • Pull up around two car lengths past the bay you have chosen.
  • Put the gear in reverse, and slowly reverse your car up to the point of turn. This reference point is usually the third line from the bay you are aiming for lines up with your side door.
  • Check all around to see it’s clear and make your observations, including your blind spots and rear-view window.
  • Now steer full lock left, slowly moving the vehicle into the bay whilst constantly checking around your vehicle.
  • Check your left-wing mirror for the left line of your parking bay to appear and check your right-wing mirror for the right line of your parking bay to appear.
  • Straighten the steering wheel as the car is parallel with the white lines of the bay.
  • You can check you are straight by both white lines appearing in your wing mirrors.
  • Keep edging back slowly into the bay, without hitting a wall, or the kerb or another car behind your vehicle.
  • You are allowed to drive forward and to readjust your position and reverse back in if you need to.
  • When you leave the bay check all blind spots and make sure you know the point of direction to exit.
  • Pull out slowly, and wait until a third of your vehicle is out of the bay before turning the steering wheel to the point of exit.
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Test ready: how will I pass on bay parking

There’s a one-in-three chance that you’ll be asked to perform a bay parking manoeuvre on your driving test. This will either be driving in forwards and reversing out, or reversing in and going out head-first.

We have outlined the key check points:

  • You need to demonstrate control, accuracy and observation with bay parking.
  • Generally, if you get bay parking in your driving test it’ll be towards the beginning or end of the test.
  • You’ll be guided into a car park, and asked to park the car in a convenient space and to finish between the lines.
  • Try to avoid a bay close to neighbouring vehicles.
  • Look out for bays that you might not be allowed to park in.
  • When forward bay parking you cannot drive through the first parking bay to the one in front of it.
  • When reverse bay parking you cannot reverse into a second bay behind you.
  • You can make corrections or adjustments if you need to.
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