Parking a van is a true test of your mettle. Achieving elite level parking skills can take time, but you can cut a few corners – not literally – by checking out our ultimate guide for parking a van.
Sure it’s cool?
Before you can even think about parking your van, you need to make sure it’s alright to do so. If you’re making a quick stop to unload some things, are you allowed to park where you’ve pulled up? No one likes getting a ticket, especially when you’re spending the day working or moving home.
You may also need to park your van in the direction of traffic overnight, leave parking lights on and even check permit restrictions if you need one to park at home. Make sure you don’t obstruct any neighbours or park too close to a junction, and that you’re insured and taxed to park at home if you drive a van for work.
Make life easier for yourself
If you need to park up somewhere busy, like a shop car park, you may find it’s easier to reverse into a space so you can drive back out forwards. Vans are obviously a lot bigger than most cars, especially in bustling towns and cities, so think how you can make life as easy as possible for yourself when parking.
Pick your spot
In the spirit of making things easy for yourself, finding a large, open space to park in is the dream. This isn’t always possible though, so can you find a designated spot for bigger vehicles if you’re in an urban environment? Check the surroundings before you commit to parking somewhere, including if there are any obstacles or obstructions in your way. Bollards, for instance, have been the nemesis of many van drivers down the years. Get out of your van if you need to and walk right round it for a good look.
Get a grip
Getting to grips with the size of your van is the key to successful parking. Knowing your weight and measurements can help in lots of different situations, whether you’re parking up at the tip or heading to the supermarket. If you’re driving in a busy metropolitan area, your van’s going to be a lot bigger than all those tiny city cars which can fit into the tightest of parking spaces.
People who park across two spaces to protect their fancy car from getting dinged by someone else’s door are usually castigated. But sometimes straddling two parking spots can be absolutely necessary when you drive a van. It’s usually better to simply take two bays out of commission if they’re needed, rather than hanging over into the one next to you and sparking a chain reaction of poor parking which may last the rest of the day – cheesing off the local car parking attendant in the process.
Mirror, mirror on the van
Who is the greatest parker with a plan? You are because you’ve set your wing mirrors to the perfect position before attempting to park. You know you’ve not got a rear window, so you treasure your wing mirrors like they’re one of your babies. You set them so you can see right down to the kerb that wants to grind up your wheels, and you even installed some handy blind spot mirrors on them too.
Tech a leap into the future
Speaking of installing things on your van, there are lots of different driving aids available nowadays to help you park. From parking sensors to cameras and alarms, the cost of buying different systems varies but can usually be tailored to most budgets.
That human touch
Technology is great, but sometimes it can be just as good to get a helping hand from a passenger or even a pleasant passer-by. There’s no shame at all in getting someone to help guide you in, especially if you’re trying to park in a tight space or holding up traffic to pull off your manoeuvre.
Slow and steady wins the space
Another of the biggest tips we can give you for parking your van, is to go slowly. Reducing your speed will increase your control. Constantly check your mirrors, and even get out and have a look around your van mid-manoeuvre if you need to. Worst-case scenario and you do nudge into something like a parked car or a bollard, you’re unlikely to cause any serious damage if you’re taking it nice and slow.
Perfect parallel parking
Perfecting how to parallel park can be really useful if you’re driving a van. Especially if you find yourself needing to pull up on a busy street when the pressure’s on and you don’t have a huge space to fit into. Repetition is the key to success in this regard, which leads us nicely on to our next tip.
Practice creates confidence. Confidence empowers you
Wise words indeed from decorated American gymnast Simone Biles. And very true when it comes to parking a van. Practicing different parking manoeuvres can quickly create the confidence you need to whip out your moves on those busy streets or with passers-by staring at you hoping that you fail and abandon your attempt. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Anyway, head to a big, empty car park to practice your parking and other techniques, including parallel parking, reversing around corners, turning in the road and both forward and reverse bay parking.
Mind your rear
The back of your van is very different from that of a car. There’s often a significant overhang from the back wheels, which you need to be aware of when pulling out of parking spaces. Whether you’ve parked next to another vehicle or a wall, make sure you pull forward a little first before swinging round to exit the space. This allows for the overhang at the back, while you should also leave space at the back of your van when you stop for the rear doors to open.
It’s good practice to engage your parking brake as soon as you stop. Stick an automatic into park or leave a manual in first gear – especially if you park on a hill. Then apply the parking brake or handbrake if you have one. If you’re facing down a hill, turn the wheels into the kerb so there’s less chance of it going anywhere if something goes wrong.
Keen to learn more? Check out our top tips for reversing your van.