Intimidated by the prospect of a hectic car park? Prefer to park far from the grocery store doors to avoid squeezing in beside other vehicles?

Or perhaps you’re learning how to drive and preparing for your driving test and in need of some last-minute guidance on manoeuvres? In any case, here’s our guide to forward and reverse bay parking to assist you and hopefully mean you end up being a natural.

What is bay parking?

Added to the driving test in December 2017, the bay parking manoeuvre is probably one of the most important manoeuvres you’ll require to learn – considering you’ll need to be able to bay park on an everyday basis. It’s definitely crucial that you get to grips with it. 

There are two types of bay parking, so you could be asked to demonstrate either on your test:

Forward bay parking: in which you drive into a parking bay and then reverse out. On your test, this can be performed in any car park – including the driving test centre car park.

Reverse bay parking: in which you reverse into a parking bay and after that pull out. Your driving examiner will usually only ask you to do this in the driving test centre car park.
There’s a 1 in 3 possibility that you’ll be asked to complete the bay parking manoeuvre throughout your driving test.

How big or small is a parking space?

There are two primary types of parking bays that you’ll discover when parking your car: perpendicular parking bays and the less-common angled parking bays (also called tier parking bays) which are helpfully positioned at angles to the road.

The suggested size of a parking bay in the UK is 2.4 metres wide and 4.8 metres long, with a suggested area of 6 metres for manoeuvring. These aren’t legal minimums though, which is why some areas might appear tighter than others.

A few of our favourite cars are getting wider nowadays so parking spaces have never ever appeared so little! Even compact cars are spreading out – The Nissan Micra has grown in width from 1.61 metres to 1.98 metres over the last 20 years.

Why do I need to learn how to bay park?

If you ever wish to utilise any of the UK’s countless car parks that utilise bay parking spaces, you’ll be required to learn how to not only securely get in a parking bay, but also how to exit one too.

As of December 2017, forward and reverse bay parking has also been consisted of as one of the three possible manoeuvres in the practical driving test for learner drivers, along with parallel parking, reversing and re-entering traffic.

Driving Examiners might ask pupils to carry out a reverse or forward bay park, so it ought to be something you practice a lot of before taking your practical driving test.

How do I forward bay park using points of reference?

Driving into a space, or forward bay parking can seem much easier and sometimes be easier than reverse bay parking. It deserves to be kept in mind that when you are ready to leave, you will need to reverse out of that space and possibly into traffic and pedestrians.

In your driving test, you choose the bay that you will park in. We have laid out the actions for you to park on the right side as that is much easier. If you park on the left side just reverse the instructions.

If possible, for your driving test attempt to pick a bay without cars on either side so you can see the parking lines plainly.

Assess and decide what parking bay can fit your vehicle, depth and width

Gradually position your car on the left-hand side of the parking bay, find your reference point: the right-hand line of the bay you need to line up simply below your right-wing mirror

Give yourself a lot space to go into the bay

Inspect your mirrors and blind spots for other road users and put your indicator on to signify you are parking

If the way is clear, steer quickly, putting a complete lock right on the steering wheel and edge slowly into the bay

Look for the control panel to be in line with something in front of you for instance a wall and tidy up the vehicle with the steering wheel


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 make sure you know which direction to take.

Make certain the coast is clear, taking a look at both sides and in your rear-view mirror for any pedestrians or vehicles approaching

Put the car in reverse gear and if it is clear: gradually pull out – be ready to strike the brakes at any time

Always reverse slowly and turn your view all around you, consisting of looking over your shoulders

When the front of your vehicle is near the back end of the vehicle next to you, turn the steering wheel quickly full lock to the opposite direction you require to turn. For e.g., if you wish to turn left, steer full lock right whilst reversing out of the area


How do I reverse bay park using reference points?

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

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

We have laid out the steps for you to reverse park on the left side. If you reverse park on the right side simply reverse the instructions.

Evaluate and decide what parking bay can fit your vehicle, depth and width

Position your vehicle towards the centre of the roadway, this will make the turn easier to get between the lines

Pull up around two car lengths past the bay you have actually selected

Put the car in reverse, and gradually reverse your car as much as the point of turn. This reference point is usually the 3rd line from the bay you are aiming for lines up with your side door

Inspect all around to see it’s clear and make your observations, including your blind spots and rear-view window
Now steer full lock left, gradually moving the vehicle into the bay whilst constantly examining around your vehicle

Check your left-wing mirror for the left line of your parking bay to appear and inspect your right-wing mirror for the best 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 examine you are straight by both white lines appearing in your wing mirrors

Keep edging back slowly into the bay, without striking a wall, or the kerb or another car behind your vehicle

You are enabled to drive forward and to readjust your position and reverse back in if you need to

When you leave the bay inspect all blind spots and ensure you understand the point of direction to exit

Pull out gradually, and wait until a 3rd of your vehicle is out of the bay prior to turning the steering wheel to the point of exit.