Motoring

10 top car parking tips for hassle-free shopping all year round

car parking tips
Parking can be the hardest bit about shopping. Follow our top tips (Picture iStock/BrettCharlton)

Whether it’s Christmas shopping or enjoying the Boxing Day sales, Green Flag research shows the largest proportion of people (46 per cent) will drive. And that means having to park in shopping centres or on busy high streets. Here are our 10 car parking tips for ensuring a hassle-free shopping experience, whatever the time of year.

Research before you go

One of the most wasteful bits of parking is using fuel doing laps of a town centre looking for somewhere to stop. Research where you’re going to park before you go and have a list of parking places in order of convenience.

Where you park

Try to choose a car park that’s been approved by Parkmark for its security. If you’re worried that a car park isn’t safe, try to park near to the lifts or the exit where there are likely to be more people around.

car parking tips
Ideally you don’t want to be doing laps of a town centre or car park trying to find a space to use (Picture iStock/Bim)

Check parking times

Some councils suspend charges over the Christmas period to encourage shoppers. Others don’t. You don’t want to be caught out with a parking ticket at any time of year, least of all Xmas, so make sure you know where and when charges are enforced.

Have change

Not everyone’s comfortable using the new style parking meters where you pay using a smartphone app. If you’re not, make sure you have change in the car. If you do leave coins in the car, stash it somewhere it can’t be seen.

Don’t be rushed

Don’t allow yourself to be hassled by other drivers. When you spy a free parking spot, indicate early. If you’re parking on the street or in a crowded car park, you may well hold up the traffic behind. But it’s better to take a few seconds longer to park than to damage your car or someone else’s. Always remember, if anyone’s getting impatient with you, they too will hold up traffic when they park. And you will have been held up by other people parking. In this instance, what goes around really does come around.

Reverse in

When you parallel park, it’s much easier to reverse in than to go in forwards. Equally, in a car park, it’s usually easier and quicker to reverse into a bay than to go in forwards. The downside of this is boot access may not be as easy. But there are two big benefits.

It’s safer because when you leave it makes it much easier to spot hazards such as other cars or pedestrians. And if you’re in a car park, as most people park nose in, it’ll mean your driver’s door is adjacent to the next car’s driver’s side. If there are big cars in small bays, this means you can position your car to give yourself room to get out of the car knowing the driver of the car next to you will have room to get in too. And if you are tight to the car on your passenger side, their driver should still be able to get in.

car parking tips
Perhaps don’t park like this… (Picture iStock/simonkr)

Think about others

If everyone parked in the middle of the bay, how easy life would be. But as we’ve reported, parking bay size isn’t keeping up with the ever-expanding girth of our cars. When you’re stopping in a car park, try to position your car in the middle of the bay if you can. If you leave your car right on the white line, chances are, the person in the bay next to you will have to do the same thing. And there will come a point where bays next to walls or bollards become unusable.

When you’re parallel parking next to a kerb, look at how the cars in front and behind are parked. If you can, leave some space for the car in front’s owners to put things in their boot.

Keep valuables hidden

Remember: most car crime is the theft of things from vehicles. If you’ve bought some presents and you’re heading off somewhere else to do your shopping, put them in the boot. That should keep them away from prying eyes.

Equally, a fifth of people asked in our survey said they use their car to hide presents in. If this is you, make sure you hide them in the boot.

Remember where you’ve parked

It sounds obvious but in the rough and tumble of Christmas shopping, it can be easy to forget where you’ve left the car. Most smartphones have a function that will show you where your car is and guide you back there using a map. Alternatively, in a multi-storey car park, take a quick snap of the sign by the door; at least that way you’ll know which floor you’ve parked on.

Use your smartphone

Use your smartphone as your handy assistant once again. If you’ve parked on the street and have paid for a certain amount of time on the meter, set your phone’s alarm. It’s easy to get carried away buying presents and this will remind you to get back to your car before the parking attendant can get busy with the ticket.

10 of the best mobile phone apps for drivers

Mobile phone apps
There are some great free mobile navigation apps (Picture iStock/Svetikd)

Mobile phone apps are a way of life for many of us. And unsurprisingly there are loads out there aimed specifically at drivers. Some are better than others so we’ve chosen 10 that we think are among the best.

All the ones we’ve picked are available for either iPhone iOS or Google Android operating platforms. And all are free. That said, some do have upgrade options that you can pay for if you choose.

Do remember that it’s illegal to hold your mobile phone while you’re driving. You must control it via a Bluetooth headset or voice command, or while it’s safely located in a dashboard or windscreen mount. But we’d advise drivers to program destinations into navigation apps before they set off.

10 Great mobile phone apps

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Quiz: how much do you know about electric cars?

electric cars quiz
Cars like the electric Kia Soul are becoming increasingly popular. How much do you know about the electric car phenomenon? (Picture Kia)

Drivers are waking up to the cheap running costs and eco benefits of battery-powered motors. But sales of electric models are still lagging a long way behind conventionally fuelled cars.

In the first nine months of 2019, official figures show that just 1.3 per cent of cars sold are battery electric vehicles. The vast majority are still petrol or diesel.

However, new research by transport group TRL has revealed that half of us are considering buying an electric car as our main or second motor within the next five years. And if the range increased to 300 miles per charge, 90 per cent would consider buying them.

Take our cunning quiz to find out how much you know about electric cars.

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Cashless parking catches drivers out. Here’s why it’s costing millions

cashless parking
Should you be penalised if you can’t do this and only have cash? (Picture iStock/MartinPrescott)

Drivers who’ve been fined for not being able to pay at cashless parking meters are being urged to contest the penalty. New research conducted by the Mail On Sunday has found that around a third of parking meters are now cash free.

That means drivers must pay with a debit or credit card or via a telephone hotline or mobile phone app. But what happens if you can’t?

Drivers penalised for not going cashless

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All about Blue Badges and disabled bay parking

blue badges
Drivers with Blue Badges can park in privileged positions (iStock/Richard Johnson)

Blue Badges help disabled people park closer to their destination. The idea is that on the street and in special parking bays close to libraries, doctors’ surgeries or other amenities, there is parking for cars that show their driver or passenger is disabled or somehow incapacitated.

How can you get a Blue Badge?

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25 years ago, Green Flag was brand new. Here’s what else was going on

25 years ago
Cars have got better but roads have got worse in the last 25 years (Picture iStock/oversnap)

Do you remember what you were doing 25 years ago? What car you were driving, how much you spent on fuel and how congested the roads were?

Even if you don’t, you may recall signing up for cover from a new breakdown company. It was called Green Flag and caused a splash by sponsoring the England football team.

Twenty-five years later and Green Flag is still offering the same great service. Motoring, however, has changed significantly. It might not be quite beyond all recognition but things are certainly very different.

The cost of cars

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Expert advice: what the ECU does and why it’s so vital for our car

ecu
All this is computer controlled. The ECU is normally positioned at the top and back of the engine bay (Picture iStock/jaym-z)

Modern cars are more like computers on wheels and central to that is the ECU. If the engine is the heart of the car, the Electronic Control Unit or ECU is its brain. Your car may develop a fault that you think is mechanical but actually the real culprit could be the electronics, caused by a malfunctioning ECU or one of its sensors.

The ECU is now such a crucial and integral part of our cars that I think it’s worth understanding exactly what it does.

What’s in a name?

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