What's up with backing into parking spots?

I know in the scheme of things this is totally unimportant, but I love to understand what makes people tick, so please bear with me.

I’ve noticed a massive increase in people “backing” into parking spots. Why?

Parking is a two-act process (getting in, getting out), so you cannot just say, “well I can just zip out when I leave”. The two actions have to be taken as a pair.

Let’s compare the two. I’ll call the method of driving in/backing out as “traditional” and backing in/driving out as “new”.

The scenario is a parking spot between two cars.

I’ll stipulate that driving into the spot (traditional) is as easy as driving out (new). If so, then the only way to determine which method has more benefit is to compare backing out (traditional) with backing in (new).

IMHO it is easier to back out (tarditional) because you are already aligned with your neighboring vehicles. Backing in requires more work; you have to align as you back in.

Therefore it seems illogical to me do this.

So where am I wrong. Is my stipulation incorect?

Have a nice day and drive safely.

Where I work, I’m usually the first one in the parking lot and it’s an open plateau. By the time I leave, it’s quite crowded and a lot of cars are double-parked. It avoids a lot of damage for me to back in at the start of the shift and zip straight out at the end.

As for big shopping mall parking lots… I never back in those, but if I can, I do the old “pull through” maneuver. Head-in, head-out, no fuss no muss!

Sorry for the spelling mistakes. I spilled coffee and was distracted.

It’s easier to back out, but considered less safe to do so. When learning to drive (the UK driving test being very stringent) you are told to go from major to minor only when backing your car, ie you go can back from a main road to a side road but not the other way round. In parking lots the parking space itself is the “minor”. It’s more a defensive driving technique than anything else - your visibilty will be restricted, other drivers going past your slot will expect right-of-way etc.

  • Backing in to most spaces isn’t all that difficult

  • Pulling forward out of some spaces is definitely easier sometimes, such as when an SUV in the adjacent space blocks your vision

  • When pulling into a space faced by another empty space, it’s quite easy to just continue forward until parked “face out” in the second space

  • The only place you need to avoid “face out” parking is lots where the driving lanes are skinny such that everyone needs to drive the same direction.

If space is limited, backing into the space is far easier. Normal cars have steering wheels in front so when you turn the steering wheel all the way and move the car, the front of the car moves diagonally while the rear end of the car only moves straight forward or backward. If you stick the front end of the car into the parking space at an angle, you can’t straighten the car by swinging the rear of the car sideways. But if you back into the space at an angle, you can swing the front of the car as the car backs into the space. Over here we have very crowded parking lots, and I’ve seen many parking spaces into which it’s physically impossible to drive forward.

It’s the same with parallel parking. If the space is barely large enough for your car, the only way to get in is backwards. If you drive forward into the space the rear of the car will be sticking out in traffic.

Also consider that forklifts are designed to move cargo into tight spots. They all have rear-wheel steering for the same reason.

When I took Driver’s Ed. the instructor advised always backing in and driving out. New to the driving experience I took any advice that seemed sound and began this practice. I found that I liked it and now, over a decade later, I still do it and greatly prefer it.

The reasoning goes as such. As you are parking, you’ve been driving for some time and your frame of mind is “driving” oriented, making you more prepared for the more difficult tasks.

When you are returning to your car from the shopping mall, or from work, or from a movie, or from your NA meeting your mind is on other things. You are more easily distracted, you are not yet in the proper frame of mind. Good idea to avoid the trickier procedures until you’ve been behind the wheel for a few minutes.

as scr4 said; it simply works better that way;

Here is a visual aid.

Good description scr4!

I find it easier to back into a spot and drive out than I do to drive in to a spot (properly aligned) and try to back out (especially if it is a tight parking lot).

The main reason is that when I back in to a spot I have a lot more room for manouvering the car than when I am in the middle of a tight parking space. Typically I only need to put the car into reverse once as opposed to people who end up driving into a spot and then moving back and forth three or four times to make sure they are in the middle of the spot.

When I drive out of the spot, it is extremely easy to simply drive off. The number of people that I see backing out, then pulling forward, then backing up, then driving off makes me wonder how there isn’t more road rage (parking lot rage?).

It seems to me that people who drive into parking spots don’t have a comfortable sense of the size of their vehicle and don’t like backing up EVER.

The other reason is in parking lots I can’t see oncoming traffic as easily when I drive in. In our minivan I sit a lot closer to the front of the vehicle and would have to back out blind a lot further than if I were facing out.

Hmm, at my company car park in Dublin, it was the more senior employees who reversed in, and the younger people drove in face-forwards.

My logic is that when parking you have to take the car from a big space into a small one, with very little margin of error. When leaving the space, you have to take the car from a small space into a big one, so the margin of error is a lot greater. Therefore it makes more sense to do the least forgiving movement with the car having the greatest level of visibility and manoeuverability - thus forward in, backwards out.

Backing in or backing out isn’t really all that hard. That said, with other cars in the parking lot all searching for spots, it’s often easier just to drive straight in, otherwise you’re apt to back into the impatient bozo behind you (hint, turn signals are there for a reason; don’t forget them). When it comes time to back out, the traffic will generally let you because people are lazy and would rather spend 3 minutes waiting for you than driving 10 spaces forward and getting into the store 2.75 minutes earlier. Actually these lazy idiots can be dangerous because you sometimes have to squeeeeze past them to get to a spot (then it’s fun to walk past them smirking while they continue waiting).

When it comes to lots of groceries or other large shopping excursions, it’s almost always easier to park head-in. Plenty of room to get the goodies into the trunk without maneuvering the cart between 6 cars.

Now until recently I backed in every day at my parking spot at work. There was a concrete barrier adjacent to “my” spot, and it was easier to back in to avoid it, following the reasoning of scr4, above. Heck, I didn’t even think about it; it was a completely automatic response. Now that our own lot is opened again, “my” current spot is head-in for me daily.

Truck drivers are taught to back in and drive out whenever possible, look at the way trucks are parked at a truck stop. Your better off backing in when you know exactly what your in for, when it’s time to leave you never know what will be in your way. Also, like parellel parking a car, the way a truck turns means it is usually easier to back in and pull out. Many truck drivers carry this habit into their cars, at most trucking companies a larger than normal percentage of the cars are backed in.

With a car I find it is easier to pull in and back out so that is what I usually do. However when I am at some event where lots of people are leaving at the same time (Eg, concert), I find that being able to pull out makes it a little quicker to leave.

I have also heard backing a car in is called something like ‘gangster style’ (I could be totally wrong on the name), but the theory is that you may need to leave in a hurry because of police, rival gang, etc.

When you back into a spot you’ve already been driving for a little bit so it doesn’t matter if it takes an extra 10 seconds to park. When it’s time to go you can just hop in and zoom away without having to turtle about.

I even back into my own driveway.

I agree that it’s as hard to back out as it is to back in. But I’d say that backing out requires more care as it’s possible to hit someone or something in the passageway of the parking lot (if that’s what you call it). So all things being equal, it’s easier to back in. There’s usually no chance of bumping into a car as you back in, and not much chance of hitting a pedestrian either.

In most parking lots/garages in my locale there are posted signs stating it’s illegal to back into spaces. Anyone have an idea as to why a municipality would care whether someone backs into a spot?

I just traded in a nimble little RAV for a full sized pickup, and I have noticed that my approach to parking has changed considerably. In most parking lots it is almost impossible to drive my truck forward into the little spaces they give you. The truck just doesn’t turn sharply enough to get lined up properly, so I always end up at a bit of an angle. When I back in I can really square the corner and fit just fine. Backing out of the tight spots and into the narrow lanes is quite difficult also.

I also have to back into my driveway, which presents a completely different set of problems. The street is plenty wide for me to square the corner going forward and pull in correctly, but I have to back into the driveway because it slopes downhill and the truck will collect a bed full of rain if I pull in forward. It is much more difficult to back into the driveway because there are no good visual clues as to where I am, whereas with parking lots there are cars on either side to help you keep aligned. Furthermore there is no problem pulling into the street either forwards or backwards because there is so much room to maneuver. So if there is no chance of rain I usually pull forward into my driveway.

That’s so they can tow you with ease should the sadistic whim occur to them. Parking brakes apply to rear wheels, not front. So when those bastards want to add your car to their fiendish collection at the impound lot, you have complicitly aided them by following some moronic sign that has the same approximate legal weight as “Close Cover Before Striking.”

I’m sorry, I shouldn’t foist my bitterness on you beautiful people. Unless one of you drives a tow truck…

I drive a sports car with poor visibility in the rear. Backing into a parking spot is easy, since the only cars I have to worry about are the ones parked on either side of the spot I’m sliding into. Bakcing out, on the other hand, is problematic, since it’s very difficult to see if any cars are zooming down the row it’s too late. This is also true for pedestrians.

When I have backed into a spot, however, I have a full field of view from the front windhsield to see if any traffic is approaching, and I can safely leave the spot without relying on other people to notice me and avoid hitting me.

Even if I weren’t in a sports car, however, I would still back into a spot whenever possible. It’s simply easier to see what’s coming on the left and right through your front windshield than it is looking through the rear-view mirror.


This is why all parking lots should be painted with diagonal lines. Diagonal parking makes everything easier.

When I pull past a parking spot to back in, I can look between each car and discover whether a small child or animal is in the way before I back in. When I back out, I have to keep swiveling my head to make sure that no such creature has begun running down the lane while I was depositing my groceries, belting up, and starting the engine. And, since no car I’ve ever driven has had better rear visibilty than forward visibility, I can see any “new” dangers more easily when pulling out forward.

Similarly, with a driveway and a road: pulling out forward allows me to instantly join traffic (or wait until it has passed). I am also closer to the road to look farther for oncoming traffic since the driver’s seat is not in the exact center of the car.
Backing out requires that I stop the car long enough to change directions (and, if I am on a narrow street, I am going to be across two lanes for a longer period). While it is true that I also have to watch traffic to back in, the traffic behind me already knows that I am there (since they have been following me) and they can see my brake lights and turn signals to know that I am going to mess up their smooth journey. (In addition, if I am backing off a street, I will generally swing part way off the road onto the drive’s apron to let people behind me go by before I begin my entrance. If traffic is too heavy, I simply sigh and pull in forward and hope I have room to turn around in the drive.)

In angle-in parking lots or streets, I pull in forward, figuring that any contortions I go through to back in will be counterproductive to all the reasons to back in, to begin with.