Backing into parking spaces. Why?

I was pulling into a parking space at work today and I watched with some amusement as a driver a few spots down tried to back into a parking space. It took him a few tries, but he finally got his car lined up nice and straight, with more or less equal room on either side between the adjacent parked cars. As I watched this scene I also noticed that several other cars had been backed into their spots (I know they were backed in and not pulled through because there is a small median behind the spots). I’ve noticed this phenomenon for a long time now and always thought it was a bit strange.

What possible advantage does backing in to a spot provide? The extra 3 seconds it takes to back out of a spot when exiting the parking lot can not possibly make up for the time it takes to carefully back into a spot between cars. When I back out of a space, I only have to make sure I don’t hit anything moving behind me. But to back in requires carefully steering the car between the lines, stopping just so, etc. Are people really in such a hurry leaving a lot that they need to just whip straight out from a backed-in position? And why it it mostly men I see doing this? Are they pretending they are truckers, or just practicing the ol’ back-in manuever so they won’t get rusty? Does anyone out there do this and if so, can you explain why this is better than parking the good ol’ regular way?

OK, how can I, a guy, answer this without sending a fine mist of testosterone into the air?

When pulling frontways into a space, the hood of the car (front) drags the trunk of the car (back) into the space. Suppose you are pulling into a space to the right. Because the back of your car will have a smaller turning radius than the front, you have to turn wide. (Recall that trucks [in America for all you Euro-dopers] have the sticker that warns of wide right turne.)

When backing into the parking space, the hood of the car is pushing the trunk of the car into the space. Since it’s the trunk axle with the smaller turning radius, the driver has more control over the “last” end of the car to get into the space when backing in.

Plus, we can sit in the car and look at chicks while the wife shops.

Honda tried to deal with this different turning radius years ago by introducing reciprocal steering on the Prelude. When you turned the front wheels to the right X degrees, the rear wheels were turned to the left X - Y degrees (where X and Y are both positive values). This never really caught on. I suspect the steering “felt” different and was tough to get used to.

I back into parking spaces. Maybe it’s a holdover from the years when I parked in an underground garage where the rule was that you had to back in. (No, I don’t know why they had that rule, but they did.) Now it’s a habit; if I can do it, I will.

The reason? I don’t know of any beyond my habit of doing it but I’ll hazard a guess. First of all, as you said, you’re going to have to back up sometime. Might as well do it going in so you can get it over with.

Then there could be the fact that you can see how much room you have going in, but you don’t know how much room you’ll have going out–perhaps when the space opens next to yours, the incoming car won’t be as careful as you, and it won’t leave you much room. Driving out would be easier than trying to get out in reverse.

Like I said, a couple of guesses.

especially at the supermarket,in my truck. If I have a clear area, and the right spot I’ll back in. This way, when I leave, I have a clear view and don’t have to worry about shoppers(and small children) which I may not easily see. I would guess that at work, when a number of folks leave at the same time, it would be the same.
That’s only about my half cents worth.\

later, Tom.

Pac Bell did a survey about 15 years ago, I don’t have the specifics on it, but they found that they could avoid about 15% of accidents if their drivers never backed up. Always pull through diagonal spaces, or park somewhere out yonder so they’d always be able to go forward.

When I moved to the Twin Cities, I applied this to midwestern driving and found out it helped, and that if I had to back up, I should do it at the end of the driving experience rather than the beginning.

  1. I knew what the road conditions were (icy or snowy…), so I knew how much traction I would get when backed up.
  2. The car was warmed up (I knew the brakes worked, my windows were fog-free, etc.).
  3. There’s probably nothing to run into if you’re backing into the spot, but when backing out, there are things (other cars, pedestrians), and you can see them easier.

I thought it was only people with expensive cars and rice burners. Kind of a way to show off your car. I’ve never had a problem with the back of the car coming too close to anything when pulling in forwards. You just have to turn the steering wheel ALL THE WAY and make a 90 degree turn, a talent lost on some people (judging by the way they make lefts at an intersection cutting across at a 45 degree angle and running over the median of the perpendicular road). If done right you even have enough space to keep the car moving forward and straightening your wheels.

I hate when someone moves my car in the driveway and leaves it parked with the wheels turned. When I pull out I don’t know which way it’s going to go, since I forget to look at the wheels before I get in.

Pulling into a parking spot is okay for me, as long as there isn’t a car parked close to it on the right side. As spritle said, you have a wider turning radius. I often have to back up, and go in again to get lined up properly.
I just recently started to back in, and it makes a big difference. I almost always get in on the first try, and don’t have to keep re-posistioning. So for me, backing in is quicker going in AND out.

You must back into parking spaces, at all times - and here’s why:

Pink Lenny could be on the move at any time, and if Caine gets wind of it you’ll have Brazillians whooping down on you in no time. You’ll need to get out of there fast. Besides, Jones’ cover is pretty thin, you never know when it might blow and you’ll have to get him to the docks, especially when the C4 you have in your trunk is set to explode in a minute and a half, and you, uh, … oops …

Sorry. I guess I’ve been playing a little too much Driver 2 on the ol’ Playstation these days.

I was in a packed parking lot a few months ago and I saw someone pulling out of a space behind me. I backed up to get the space and then backed into it. I got a ticket for it that I still think was bogus.

At work I can choose how to park to take advantage of the sunlight. Facing one way, the light hits the drivers seat just before I go out for lunch. On clear days in the winter it’s nice to have the car pre-warmed.

Ethilrist and spritle made some excellent points. Time for a few more.

Most people are unfamiliar with the fact that besides warming up your engine, you need to warm up your transmission too. When you arrive at a parking space your entire drive line is already warmed up from the drive to the destination.

If you pull in forwards to the spot and attend to your business, when you come out your car’s drive train will have cooled. If you need to back out of your space you will use at least two different gears to do so. There will be increased wear and tear on your reverse gear while you use it in its less lubricated “cool” state.

If you have backed into your space, all you need to use to exit is your first gear which is going to get used anyway. So much for the wear issues on your car.

More importantly is the safety aspect of things. As you drive up to your intended parking space, you have a free and clear opportunity to survey the area surrounding your space to make sure it is free of pedestrians or other obstructions. When backing out of a space it is far more difficult to watch for the back-up tail lights of other vehicles that may be doing the same. In addition you must also beware of passing pedestrians and unattended shopping carts in the much more limited field of view behind you. All of this compounds the likelihood of some sort of mishap.

If you have backed into your parking space or, better yet, pulled through (without so much looking around or stress on your reverse gear whatsoever) you need only to look around you for people or other cars pulling out before proceeding with ease. This is very much worth the redistribution of effort needed to back in first, rather than go through all of the mental and physical gymnastics required to back out of a space.

Because you don’t know what the lot will be like when you finish your errand and you might find yourself parked in.

If you are going to be a while and it’s cold, back in while your car is warm and you are used to driving. Get the hard maneuver overwith. That way when you finally make it back to your vehicle (and find yourself parked in between two huge trucks that weren’t there before) you just zip on out.

Oh, and all that science stuff about turning radii and all that. I knew there was a reason.

All that stuff about turning radii, warmed up gears and pedestrian safety is crap.

We do it because we CAN.

I drive a company vehicle, and The Company is adamant about having us back into parking spots “when safe to do so” (or ideally, drive through so that we’re facing out.) Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass - the only times I’ve nearly been hit by other vehicles is when I’m backing into a spot in a mall or hotel parking lot.

The safety guys at The Company swear up and down that backing in save countless accidents. It is definately easier to see traffic (especially people) when you’re pulling out again.

Maybe the person in question was driving a company vehicle (?)

Thanks for the responses guys. I guess I never really thought much about the act of parking. Eh, I probably still won’t think too much about it. Force of habit and all, you know.

And Jack, you poor deluded soul. You should know that it is always best to pull into a spot. That way, upon exiting, you can tear down the alley in reverse, yank the handbrake and spin the car through a smoke-producing j-turn before you burnout in the the direction you desire. That way any damage you take from smashing into cop cars will be to the rear of your car, which in some instances can actually improve your handling in high speed turns.

Next time I’m running a job for the cartel, I’m gonna think twice about riding shotgun with you, buddy.:smiley:

As guys we know that there is always a chance that we will start a fight wherever we’re going and it might get out of hand. We also know that at some point we just might decide to rob the place spur of the moment style… even though thats not like us… but hey… we are guys after all… so in other words…

Its for a quick getaway!

The only time I back into a space is when I’m parking for a big event, such as our hockey games up here. That way, when everyone is rushing out of the lot, I can just zip out when there’s a small hole. If I pull in forwards, I have to wait for a HUGE hole, and then try not to back over pedestrians while backing out. It’s much easier to back in in that case. I never park like that at normal shopping places or things like that. However, if it’s an open lot, and there are two spots open across from each other, I’ll pull through the first space into the second so i just have to go in forwards and leave forwards. :slight_smile:


Right on the money!

I PREFER to back into the parking spot, and can actually park just as quickly, and just as straight, if not straighter, when I back in. I can’t explain why, I just do it.

It definitely has to do with turning radius, as well as visibility. When I moved from the US to Japan I wondered why everybody backs into parking spaces. I soon found out that with the extremely cramped parking spaces, it’s the only way to park. Getting in head first is hard enough, but how do you back out of a parking space when you have 1 foot of space on each side? You can’t turn the steering wheel until you’re clear of the cars next to you, and by the time you are, your rear bumper has hit the car behind you. On the other hand, if you back into the space, you can pull out very easily. Also, you have a much better view as you come out of the parking space. At home I have no driveway at all, the garage is flush with the road. Backing out of this garage into the street is extremely dangerous.

A comedian used to do a bit about these guys, “What, is he Batman? ‘To the Batmobile, Robin!’ Every second counts, can’t bother to back up!”

A modern car only takes a single crank to oil itself, and about 15 seconds to warm the drivetrain.


Cars turn around a point in line with the rear wheels. If you back in, you just have to get the rear wheels lined up as they enter the space, then straighten out and the car is centered in the space. “Fronting in” (to give it a really silly name), you have to either get the car lined up before you enter the space or try to guess what angle you have to take to end up centered in the space once the car is all the way in (ok, it’s not that hard, but…) Even coming out of a really tight space, you can start to turn long before the car is out of the space.

Also, since most people “front in”, you can line up drivers side door to drivers side door and park offset in the space, giving people more room to get into their cars.