Are Parking Spaces Getting Smaller?


Are Parking Spaces Getting Smaller?

4 min read

We’ve all had moments when we’ve had to clamber out of a parking space, sucking in stomachs and carefully holding car doors so as not to scratch a neighbouring car that seems impossibly close. And these moments of parking gymnastics seem to be getting more common, begging the question, “Are car parking spaces getting smaller?”

It certainly seems to be the case, but what’s the truth?

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Are UK Car Parking Spaces Getting Smaller?

Space is at a premium in the United Kingdom, and that’s especially true for big cities like London. At the time of writing, you can pick up a leasehold garage in Knightsbridge for £50,000, an amount that could buy you a small freehold terrace in the North East. It makes sense then that parking spaces would be getting smaller—just another victim of shrinkflation.

But they’re not. In fact, the size of the average car parking space in the UK has remained relatively unchanged for 50 years.

The same can’t be said for the size of the country’s favourite cars though, and therein lies the issue.

The VW Golf is a prime example. Not too long ago, the car measured just 1.7 metres across. It’s now about 2 metres. It means you have more space for yourself, your family, and a boot full of shopping, but it also makes for a tighter squeeze when it comes to parking. The Ford Fiesta, the UK’s most popular car, has also filled out over ten years, moving from over 1.6 metres in 2000 to 1.75 now.

There are smaller cars on the market and these are often purchased with sustainability and fuel economy in mind, but we also love our SUVs and family-sized cars in this country. In fact, sales of SUVs jumped by nearly a quarter from 2022 to 2023, and they account for over 40% of all car sales across Europe.

Why are Cars Getting Bigger?

Manufacturers must abide by strict rules and regulations when designing and building new vehicles. All new cars are required to pass safety tests, ensuring they don’t crumple like sheets of discarded tinfoil as soon as they hit a wall or another vehicle. Oftentimes, this means reworking the shape and adding more components, which in turn increases the size of the vehicle.

Manufacturers are chasing those safety ratings, as that’s what modern consumers want. Modern consumers also seemingly want bigger and more imposing vehicles, as noted above. We might be living in an age of compact, electric vehicles that can dart around big cities like souped-up Sinclair C5s, but the SUV is still king.

How Likely are You to Damage Your Car in a Carpark?

Carparks can be busy and cramped spaces, so it’s no surprise that they account for 1 in 5 car accidents. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, as there are countless more minor issues, from doors scraped with shopping trolleys to bangs and bumps from careless drivers getting in and out of their vehicles.

How Big Are Car Parking Spaces in the UK?

It varies, but the average parking space is about 2.4m wide and 4.8m long. To put that into perspective, the VW Golf, which is far from the biggest car on UK roads, is over 2m wide and between 4.28m and 4.64m long.

What are the Widest Cars on Sale in the UK?

The average UK car spans a little over 2m with its wing mirrors out. But many luxury cars and new SUVs far exceed those specifications. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is a prime example, as it comes in at 2.16m. The Hummer EV, although not widely available, is an even bigger offender with a width of 2.3m.

What is the Best Car for Parking in the UK?

The aforementioned Ford Fiesta is arguably one of the easiest cars to park. It has a relatively sleek design and there’s also a feature known as Active Park Assist built into the Ford Parking Pack along with sensors and a camera.

How to Protect Your Vehicle in a UK Carpark

You’re at the mercy of others when you leave your car in a carpark. You can be extremely careful and avoid all issues, only for someone to recklessly throw open their door and leave you with an expensive repair bill. There are some things you can do to reduce the risk of such issues though:

  • Park Securely: Always park in secure carparks, especially if you’re leaving your vehicle for several days. If you have a trip booked and are flying out of the country, use our site to find cheap and secure airport parking.
  • Get a Dash Cam: It will record any accidents that occur as you drive in and out of the carpark and could also capture people who intentionally or accidentally damage your vehicle.
  • Alarm Your Vehicle: It will prevent theft and has the added bonus of scaring anyone who recklessly bumps your car.
  • Don’t Park Too Close: Give yourself and the neighbouring vehicles plenty of space to enter and exit.
  • Reverse Park: You’ll be able to see more as you pull out of the space.
  • Park Between the Lines: It should be a given, but you only need to glance at a full carpark to see that many drivers ignore this rule.
  • Check the Neighbouring Vehicles: If the car next to you is full of bumps and scrapes, you should probably park elsewhere.
  • Don’t Leave Valuables on Show: If there are phones, laptops, bags, or anything else of value, place them under the seat. You’re not just trying to avoid bumps and scrapes; you also don’t want anyone to break in and steal all your stuff.
  • Drive Slow: Give yourself plenty of time. Don’t rush.
  • Fold the Mirrors: Fold your wing mirrors, as they are the most likely to get damaged. Many cars do this automatically when you lock them.

Summary: Cars (Not Spaces) are Changing Size

To summarise, car parking spaces are not getting smaller in the UK; it’s the cars that are getting bigger. Remember that the next time you’re in the market for a new vehicle, and if you find yourself in a packed carpark, keep the above tips in mind to reduce the risk of damage.