How to Use Parking Lot Etiquette

Seven Parts:Waiting for a parking spaceParking accurately in car spacesThings to watch out for in parking lotsMaking your parking experience saferSupervising children in the car parkBusiness parking lotsGeneral parking lot etiquette

Often, in our hurry to get into the store to pick up a few things before heading home, or in the throes of holiday shopping, we disregard courtesy and respect for other drivers looking for that perfect parking space. It is regrettable that in our hurried up lifestyles, common etiquette is seldom observed, but if you would like to ponder parking lot etiquette, here are some steps you can take.

Part 1
Waiting for a parking space

  1. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 16
    Use your turn signal. Signaling to others when reaching a desired parking spot will reduce unnecessary confusion in the parking lot. It is often thought that when two cars reach a parking spot at the same time from opposite directions, the one that turns their turn signal on first, claims the spot.
  2. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 15
    Park only in designated spaces. Parking along the curb, with the exception of loading zones, or for loading a heavy item or helping a less mobile individual with their load is annoying and often dangerous.
  3. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 1
    Do not block other parking space seekers while you wait for a space to open up near the store entrance. The drivers in the cars behind you may be finished with their errands, and are ready to head for work or home. If the person is already pulling out, that's one thing. But if you're sitting there while they walk to the car, waiting while they put their bags in the car, etc. you'll be trying the patience of every other car behind you, especially if they can't go around you.

Part 2
Parking accurately in car spaces

  1. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 3
    Center your vehicle in its parking space. Overhanging the stripes will tend to crowd the driver who parks in the adjacent space, and frequently leads to door dings in the paint of cars.
    • Know how to Park a Truck or Large Vehicle neatly if you have one, or if your vehicle is large in relation to your local parking spaces because they are too small.
      Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 3Bullet1
  2. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 4
    Pull your vehicle all the way into the space. This makes it easier for other drivers to see past your car when they are backing out of adjacent spaces, and also gives the widest possible driving lane between spaces. This can be particularly helpful when shoppers pushing loaded carts are sharing the driving lane with moving vehicles. The exception would be a very small compact or sub-compact vehicle. With small cars such as a Mini Cooper or Smart, parking so that the back end of your car is equal with the cars beside you lets drivers know that the space is occupied and does not give the false impression that the parking spot is vacant.
  3. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 18
    Don't pull too far forward If you drive a small car (Honda Fit, Smart Car, KIA Rio, etc.) do not pull so far forward that your car cannot be seen as a person drives down the lane, looking for a spot. Pull into the spot, out of the lane of traffic, but not so far that your car is unable to be seen from the lane. You may be saving yourself damage from someone who sees the "open" space and pulls in a BIT too quickly.
  4. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 5
    Never force your car into a space. In crowded, busy parking lots, special compact car spaces are becoming more common. Standard parking spaces are generally 9 feet (2.7 m) wide while compact car spaces are only 7 feet (2.1 m) wide. Obviously, a large SUV or Pickup will not fit easily in a compact car space, and quite simply put, they are not supposed to.

Part 3
Things to watch out for in parking lots

  1. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 7
    Watch for drivers backing out of blind spots. Small cars parked between larger vehicles like vans and SUVs often have to back blindly out of their spaces, so be alert and give them a break. If you are walking past a car in this situation, pause for a moment and guide the driver out of the tight spot if you are able.
  2. 2
    Observe the legal aspects of driving in a parking lot. You are not likely to be pulled over by the police, but there are laws regarding operating a motor vehicle in a public parking lot, just as there are on the highway. Here are some things to watch for.
    • Posted speed limits. Many large parking lots do have posted speed limits, these are for the safety of pedestrians and other drivers, please note and obey them.
      Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 8Bullet1
    • One Way signs and markings. In parking lots with diagonal spaces, individual lanes may be one way, most often marked with a directional arrow painted on the pavement at the end of each lane. Even if the lane is not marked, you may be safe to assume the lane is one way if the diagonal spaces are oriented in the same direction on both sides.
      Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 8Bullet2
    • Stop and Yield signs. These serve the same purpose in parking lots they serve on city streets, allowing the right-of-way to a vehicle driving in a certain lane or direction, and should be obeyed.
      Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 8Bullet4
    • Handicapped and elderly spaces. Handicapped parking spaces are generally clearly marked with signs and special striping, and are wider than regular spaces to accommodate wheel chairs. They are located near disabled ramps, usually very close to the business's entrance. If you do not require the use of these spaces, and do not have a permit, park somewhere else.
      Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 8Bullet3
    • Pedestrian crosswalks. These are common near the main entrances and exits of most large businesses, for the safety of pedestrians returning to their cars. They are usually marked with diagonal white or yellow stripes, and often also are marked with a pedestrian crossing or stop sign.
      Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 8Bullet5
    • Turn signals. Using turn signals gives other drivers an idea what your intentions are, use them in a timely manner to indicate what you are doing.
      Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 8Bullet6

Part 4
Making your parking experience safer

  1. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 6
    Remove trailer hitch receivers if they hang out of the parking place. These receivers, usually made of heavy steel and often with sharp corners, can be dangerous to inattentive pedestrians trying to walk as close to parked vehicles as possible to give drivers more room.
  2. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 12
    Avoid curb hopping. This is very important where landscaped areas are within the curb boundaries, since jumping the curb may damage plants and irrigation components.
  3. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 13
    Slow down in the rain. Driving at highway, or even street speeds, in a parking lot filled with puddles of rainwater can inundate a passing pedestrian, or even another driver who is traveling with their window down. It also makes it harder to stop quickly if a child should run out or a wayward cart start rolling across your path.
  4. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 14
    Resist temptation to blow the horn (or give the finger) to other drivers. You may feel like they were discourteous, but showing grace, rather than anger, shows more class and prevents reciprocal aggression. See How to Release Anger and How to Respond to a Road Raged Driver.
  5. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 19
    When parking in a spot and opening doors, be aware of vehicle on each side of you as to not hit the doors and producing dings, scratches or dents, as these can be very costly to repair.

Part 5
Supervising children in the car park

  1. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 2
    Never let small children push the shopping cart for you. Not only is it dangerous in busy parking lots, but a loaded shopping cart in a hilly parking lot can end up crashing into and damaging someone's vehicle. Children should also not be allowed to ride the cart back to the vehicle, with the exception of small toddlers or infants riding in the special seat built into many shopping carts, while a parent has both hands on the handle.
  2. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 11
    Keep children under control walking through parking lots. This will help protect them from inattentive drivers, and make the parking lot safer for everyone.

Part 6
Business parking lots

  1. 1
    Be mindful of any specific parking rules your business office may have. For example, there are often employee lots reserved for certain employees or for those who have served a set length of employment as a reward. Know about these cordoned off parks before selecting a spot in which to leave your vehicle for the business day.
  2. 2
    Once selecting a spot, make sure to follow all the rules explained in previous sections. This includes speed, distance, and size of parking space before pulling your vehicle into the selected spot. Be aware that in many business parking lots, parking is not the only activity, but there may be a lot of loads being unloaded and packed, in tall vehicles, that can make it more congested and difficult to see your way clear. This makes it even more important to be very careful and follow the parking lot instructions, for your own safety and for the safety of other workers.
  3. 3
    Be particularly mindful of parking arrows designating traffic within the lot a certain direction and no parking zones. Going the wrong way causes accidents, while parking in no parking zones can impact loading and packing operations. It may also mean that your car registration is called out over the intercom and you have to sheepishly leave a meeting to move your car.
    • For parking lots with two entrances/exits, one is usually the entrance and one is the exit. Pay close attention to this, as various lots will have selected parking spots along the entrance. When parking in these spots, pull all the way in, with the direction of traffic.

Part 7
General parking lot etiquette

  1. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 9
    Keep the parking lot clean. Nobody likes to see trash blowing around the parking lot as they walk to and from the business, so stow the empty fast food wrappers, ashtray contents, drink bottles, and other potential debris until you have access to a waste receptacle. This should also apply to sales fliers and business literature, including that which is conveniently posted underneath windshield wiper blades while you are searching for your latest bargain.
  2. Image titled Use Parking Lot Etiquette Step 10
    Park shopping carts, dollies, and baskets in designated areas. Many large stores have cart corrals for shopping carts when the customer is finished unloading them. Putting the carts in these locations will make it less likely the cart you were using will end up denting someone else's car.


  • Reserve disabled spots for disabled users. Cars without a handicap tag are not allowed to park in disabled spots. The appropriate placard must be used, and used properly. If the person the placard is issued to is either not in the car or not getting out of the car, the parking space cannot be used. This would take away a spot from those who truly need it. Violations of these parking standards can result in heavy fines.
  • Push an abandoned shopping cart back to the store or to a cart corral if you pass one as you walk to the business through the parking lot.
  • When you are able to visit a business at off peak hours, do so. You will usually be rewarded with a much closer parking space.
  • Leave the rocks, plants, etc. in the curbed dividers for others to enjoy looking at, for the rain & snow to soak into, and to collect loose debris.
  • If you've got good legs, save the closer spots for the elderly or people with small children. Even if you got to the spot first, let in someone who you think may have more difficulty than you at getting in.
  • If you're going into a store, get a cart from the lot instead of waiting to get one inside the store. Even if they're a little wet and cold, they're just as good as the carts in the store.
  • If you choose to park next to a curb, hug it so that the person that parks on the other side of you has more room.
  • Consider reverse parking. It is easier to see and to be seen whilst reversing into a space than when reversing out, and safer to drive out of a parking bay than to reverse. Always check for signs about reverse parking. Many parking lots do not allow reverse parking. It takes longer to reverse park than to reverse out of a spot, and a busy lot can quickly get congested.
  • Choose a parking space farther away from the building. Fewer people want to park in a more distant space, so there is much less hassle, and it is safer. Plus, you get a little bit of extra exercise by walking.
  • Be courteous when seeing a car backing out of a parking space. Allow enough room for the car to fully pull out of the space and don't zip by the car as it's backing out.
  • Most people take longer to find a close spot then they'd take if they took a farther spot and did some walking.
  • Etiquette in the parking lot is also for pedestrians. Do not walk in the middle of the lane, do not jaywalk so that a car may not turn. If you're going into the store and there is a shopping cart nearby, return it to the store or use it.
  • Keep loose trash in a wastebasket or refuse bag in your vehicle. This will prevent it from being blown out if you open the door in a windy parking lot.


  • A disabled person's disability may not be visibly obvious (bad back, bad heart, difficulty breathing, etc.) If they have the placard, they've most likely gone through proving it to the doctor and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Despite the possibility they're borrowing it, don't yell and question their disabled status, it's very rude and you don't really know.
  • It isn't just inattentive drivers that don't see small children. It's also inattentive parents that let their small children trail behind them. The best driver cannot see a small child shorter than the rear deck of the car.
  • Even if you decide to adopt these courteous practices, don't expect others to do the same. Be careful of letting your expectations for others' behavior contribute to your own potential "parking lot rage."
  • Parking lot rage can lead to violence, so showing a disregard to others can ruin your shopping trip. You don't want someone vandalizing your car while you're inside shopping.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Driving Basics