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.
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.
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.
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.
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.