Skills That Can Save You Money Part 1: Parallel Parking
It may at first seem odd that a driving lesson would appear on a blog about saving money. But read on and you’ll see why something as basic (well, to some) as parallel parking can be a ticket to big savings.
I passed my test late in life. I was 26, and I did it here in America. It lasted roughly 15 minutes, and it basically involved driving around the block for a few minutes, getting on and off a highway, and stopping at a few stop signs and traffic lights. There was no test for parallel parking, which is good because I’ve never really had to do it.
I was fortunate enough to work and live in places that always had free parking lots. Only recently did I move to a new job downtown, and when you move to the city, you are presented with a severe lack of free parking lots.
For instance, in downtown Denver the parking lots run from $4 for the day (if you get in by 7am) to $20 a day. And that’s what you’ll have to pay if you’re parking for the duration.
But if you’re only looking to park for an hour, say to grab lunch or run an errand, some of these places charge you $2 for every 20 mins! Contrast that to the parking meters that max out at $1 per hour and it’s a significant saving to park at a meter.
Therein lies the problem for some people though. The sheer horror of trying to parallel park will have them lining up for the expensive lots. From having to reverse into a space, to doing the deed in front of an audience and looking foolish, it puts some people in a cold sweat. And if you have to run errands once or twice a week, you’re blowing a ton of money for the convenience of pulling into a space rather than maneuvering into one.
Parallel Parking 101
For those of you who are expert parallel parkers, this will bore you to tears. From my experience and a few surveys of friends and relatives, at least 50% of people aren’t confident with this at all. So, if that includes you, stick around.
Now, there is actually a science to this, as I found out when I had to start parking like this over the last few months. It’s not just “hit and hope,” you really can do it well every time if you follow a few simple steps. I have included a few how-to videos at the end, but for those of you who like to follow written instructions and diagrams, the following is for you. Of course, if the free parking space is at the beginning or end of the row, you simply pull up or reverse into the space. These instructions are for a spot between two cars.
Step 1: Align Front Bumpers
First, pull alongside the car in front of the space you want to park in. You want about two feet between the side of your car and this one. Now step on the brake and put the car in reverse.
Step 2: Brake Off, Hard Turn
Now you take your foot off the brake, apply a tiny bit of gas if needed, and turn the wheel hard towards the curb. You want to go in at around a 45 degree angle.
Step 3: Back of Seat to Rear Bumper
This is the stumbling block for most people attempting to parallel park — when do you start straightening out? As you can see from the video below, most people do it too late or too early, often with funny results.
It’s simple enough though. Once the back of the driver’s seat is aligned with the rear bumper of the other car, start turning the wheel away from the curb. Just remember, your back, rear bumper.
Step 4: Fine Tuning
If you’ve done everything right, you should be about six inches from the curb and nestled between the two cars. Usually, you’ll have to move forward a little just to increase the gap between you and the car behind you. After that, just get out of your car, pop some change in the meter (if there is a meter), and lock up your vehicle.
The videos below go into more detail on parallel parking. As some people prefer visual aids, this may be a better for you.
And if you get REALLY good, you could always try this more advanced technique. Well, maybe not. Look for another money-saving skill soon.