Ever see someone attempting to reverse into a parking spot, fail, repeat, fail again, then drive away with embarrassment radiating like a power plant? Know someone who would rather drive a mile away from their destination, just to avoid having to reverse bay park? Worried that you’re going to be that person?

Reverse bay parking can be daunting for drivers of all experience levels. But, as with every other area of driving, you just need to get to grips with the mechanics of the manoeuvre. In this short guide, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know.

What You Need to Know About Reverse Bay Parking

What is meant by reverse bay parking?

OK, let’s start with the basics. A parking bay is the standard parking space that you will find in any car park, from supermarkets to multi-storeys. In the UK, most are perpendicular in form because they maximise the available space. Although you do occasionally find slanted, echelon bays, which can be easier to negotiate.

Most UK parking bays are 4.8 metres long and 2.4 metres wide, which will accommodate most car and van designs.

Why do I need to learn to reverse bay park?

Sometimes, reverse parking is simply the easiest option. And in high traffic areas, it can also be the safest. Because by reversing in, you’re removing the need to reverse out into traffic later.

Reverse bay parking is also one of the three potential manoeuvres you may face on your practical driving test. So, if you don’t prepare now, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

How to reverse bay park successfully

These points are to help you reverse bay park to the left, which is the most common scenario. To reverse park on the right, you need to follow the opposite directions. So, steer right instead of steering left.

  1. Assess the parking space. Is it definitely wide enough and deep enough for your vehicle?
  2. Position your vehicle roughly a car’s width away from the bay you’re aiming for.
  3. Slowly drive about two car lengths past the bay you’re aiming for, before switching into the reverse gear.
  4. Check that there are no hazards and it’s safe to move. Continue to check front, rear, and side windows and, rear and side mirrors throughout the manoeuvre.
  5. Steer left until the wheel is locked, slowly easing into the bay. At this point, the left-hand line of the bay should be visible in your left wingmirror (if you are parking to the left).
  6. Once your car has begun to draw parallel with the lines of the bay, you need to begin to straighten up your car while easing backwards. When your car is fully straight, you should be able to see both lines of the bay in your wing mirrors.
  7. Continue to slowly reverse into the space, paying close attention to your mirrors to make sure that you stay within the bay, and don’t bump the kerb, a wall, another car, or – most importantly – a pedestrian.
  8. Once you’ve successfully parked, double check that you are not obstructing another driver’s doors. Do the drivers either side of you definitely have enough space to enter/exit their vehicles.
  9. And you’re done.

Watch one of DGN’s great learners in action, as they get to grips with the reverse bay park.

Will I fail my driving test if I can’t reverse park?

Well, the thing about driving tests is that more than anything else, you need to be able to show that you can drive safely. If the manoeuvre on your practical test happens to be the reverse bay park, then you’ll need to know how to do it. BUT – and this is a big but – failing to successfully reverse park won’t necessarily result in a test fail. Your examiner is looking to see if you have control of your vehicle, and if you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you, as well as the degree of accuracy with which you handle the manoeuvre. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Keep your cool. And listen to your instructor. If you’re not sure what to do, ask them if it’s OK for you try again. If they tell you to drive on, check your mirrors and your blind spot, check the way ahead is clear, and slowly edge out of the bay. Don’t give up at this point.

Reverse bay parking is often daunting for drivers. Especially newbies. But it can be mastered with practice and care.

If you have any concerns, or would like additional help with any manoeuvres including reverse bay parking, talk to your DGN driving instructor. We’re always here to help.