/ Motoring

Are women really better at parking than men?

A National Car Parks (NCP) report has concluded that women are actually better at parking their cars than men. This turns a car parking stereotype on its head, but does gender really come into it?

In its study, NCP ‘assessed’ 2,500 people’s parking and rated them on things like speed and accuracy – in fact the final position within the space was given the highest weighting.

The survey found that although women took longer to park on average (21 seconds versus men parking in 16 seconds), they spent this extra time well. More than half the women managed to park centrally in the bays, compared to just a quarter of men.

Much of this was due to women having a better ‘pre parking pose’ and being more likely to reposition their car for a better final position, which the survey calls the ‘female shuffle’.

All in all, NCP gave women a better ‘parking coefficient’ score than men, despite only a fifth of women actually believing that they were better parkers.

Girls better than boys?

Well, when I read the report, I thought it flawed. I could draw anecdotally on lots of male/female drivers I know, but in this case, I’ll talk about my own family.

In our household at least, we’re split down the middle – but not by gender. Of the four of us who drive, I’m not too bad at parking and can squeeze my car into spaces my wife would probably shy away from trying.

But the same applies if you compare our two daughters, one of whom would give it a go and probably succeed, while the other would either drive on by, or ask for help.

I simply don’t believe that there is a male/female split. It’s much more about spatial awareness and confidence. Some may argue that men have better spatial awareness than women, but I’ve known women who could throw a better dart than many men, and I’ve known men who simply couldn’t hit a barn door with a beanbag from two feet away.

My parking obsessions

Of course, when it comes to parking, there are three things on my mind:

1. I’d rather not pay. I am told by my wife and daughters that ‘being mean’ – or as I’d prefer to say ‘saving money on my motoring’ – is a male trait! I always look for free parking wherever I go, though this isn’t always feasible, especially if you’re picking someone up from the airport, where you’re bound to be fleeced!

2. I’m keen to avoid a parking ticket, so I keep my eyes open for limitations and restrictions wherever I park.

3. I want to avoid risk – either of accidental damage to my car (lots of car parks have insufficient space in their bays in my view), or of being a victim of car crime.

As far as my parking style, I almost always reverse into a space. I learned that during my advanced driver training. It is always better to come out of the space forwards, where you can clearly see what’s happening ahead of you.

And going in forwards is usually more difficult in any case – I’ve seen many instances where a driver fails to judge it correctly. If they’re lucky, they reverse out and try again; if they’re not, they clip one of the cars either side. In either case, their gender isn’t the problem here, their approach is.

How good do you think you are at parking your car?

I'm a man - and I'm good at parking (44%, 336 Votes)

I'm a woman - and I'm good at parking (26%, 200 Votes)

I'm a man - and I'm not good at parking (16%, 119 Votes)

I'm a woman - and I'm not good at parking (14%, 103 Votes)

Total Voters: 762

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I hope you are wearing plenty of protection Dave, even though you have been very careful about what you have said in the introduction.

I am surprised you mention that you learned about the advantages of reversing into a parking space from advanced driver training. That should be obvious to anyone who has compared both approaches or has given some thought to how the steering of a vehicle works.

I think Dave meant reversing into a parking bay like the one you find at supermarkets, where you end up at right angles. Not reversing into a street parking bay, where it is quite obvious that you should reverse rather than going forward.

I think the mechanics of parking in a “right angles” bay (whatever its correct name is) don’t make much difference whether you go forwards into it or reverse. It’s the visibility that’s more important, especially when there may be shoppers crossing in front just as you are driving out.

Round here a lot of people drive big vehicles and fill the spaces in the supermarket car park. They can park them alright, but it makes it jolly tricky getting out of a standard parking space if you come back and find one on each side of your car, so going in backwards makes a lot of sense. Reverse or paralell parking on a busy road is the thing to avoid so I always look for an off-road space if I can and think the price worth paying.

….and I ALWAYS wear my wifes clothes whenever I go out in the car – just to confound the census takers.

I applaud your reversing into spaces and hope you don’t just do it to show off as many men of my acquaintance do. BUT please, please, please do not do this is supermarket carparks and then attempt to push your trolley to the back of your car to get your shopping to the boot. I’ve had two cars badly damaged by male idiots who did and weren’t man enough to stick around and own up to what they had done!! I for one are fed up with being out of pocket due to inconsiderate male parkers.

Yes, people who can drive a car can’t necessarily steer a trolley! It’s happened to me as well so I have every sympathy.
Something I don’t understand about surface car parks is why the authorities insist on dotting them with trees. Trees and parked cars just don’t mix – you’ll rarely see a decent specimen, they’re nearly all damaged, broken off, or absent with just a patch of earth in a trip-hazard surround. The leaves drop all over the cars and make the ground messy and slippery when wet. Some trees drip sap or resin on the cars. Trees also attract birds whose droppings do nothing for smart bodywork.

Perhaps we are getting off-topic, but my top parking tip is to keep well away from other cars in supermarkets etc. You will often find one or two cars parked well away from others. I started doing this about 20 years ago and it does help to avoid minor damage that is both unsightly and expensive to repair.

I agree with John about trees and car parks, though I have not noticed problems with bird droppings damaging the paintwork. Having said that, my car is not smart, just free from minor dents and scrapes.

Trees and bird poo are no longer a problem. Ford has invented a system that protects the car’s paintwork with great success: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi63paLAtsQ

Parking in supermarket car parks would be much simpler if we adopted chevron parking, as used in America and in Europe. You drive straight in to a space and can reverse straight out. No having to maneouvre large cars in and out at peculiar angles. Simples!

Totally agree with sylvia re chevron parking. B&Q have a superstore in my area, lots of parking and usually pretty busy. They changed to chevron making it much easier and safer to access and exit. It also helps if you need the boot.

Steve says:
9 February 2012

My experiences of parking over many years of driving has been mixed like many have commented. I think there is a gender difference, probobly based on spacial awareness and the fact that men generally are meant to have more of it. They also have more impatience and less consideration which I guess accounts for faster and less precise parking.
One topic that hasn’t been raised so far is the difference wearing glasses makes. I used to wear contact lenses and my reverse parking was pretty good, first time in and lined up well. I now wear glasses and when I get out of the car I wonder who parked it! When reversing half turned in the seat I am looking out of the edge of my glasses rather than the middle and as you know if you wear them the edges are thicker and naturally distort the view.
I find I am parking nose in more often these days even with the awkward space issue to get in evenly betweeen two parked cars.
So I think its a mix of gender, glasses, patience and consideration.

All4One_One4All says:
11 February 2012

I was mostly taught to drive by my Father who, in over 40 years of motoring, never had an accident. I took my test after 3 weeks and 6 professional hour long lessons, and passed first time. I new I didn’t know it all, and could be better, but I was shocked to find just how bad car and van drivers are (incl. myself) when I moved on to take HGV (now LGV). I passed my C+E first time after 4 days instruction. Although, unlike my Father, I’ve been involved in 5 accidents, none were my fault and all would have been particularly difficult to avoid. (1) Lorry dropped a very large concrete lintel right infront of my car which flipped over onto its roof (2) a skip lorry dropped a lump of concrete right in front of me as it overtook me, and (3, 4, and 5) I’ve had three cars run into the back of me while waiting at traffic lights. I think the standard of driving, particularly amongst young males is too low. I’d like to see new car drivers limited to vehicles that can’t exceed 50mph for a year, then 60mph for their second year (both years being years that they own and insure a car), and have these periods extended if they get driving related points. I’d also like to see all cars showing coloured squares that indicate the driving record (years no claims discount) Black=0, Brown=1, Red=2, …, Silver=10, Gold=15.
As for parking, people should reverse in to parking bays, house drives etc. and it should be made legally binding As for ‘Steve’, if you can’t see properly with those glasses, you shouldn’t be driving, and why do you need to half turn round, you could reverse using your wing mirrors – how do you think articulated lorry drivers reverse?
I get really annoyed by car drivers that can’t drive or park their cars, yet leave enough room for a bicycle and expect an articulated lorry to squeeze through. An example of this. Confronted by a collection of cars parked on both sides of a narrow road, I pulled up to allow cars from the opposite direction to negotiate the hazard. The last car, a Ford Ka, suddenly pulled up such that its back end was stuck out into the middle of the road. The driver flashed her lights, but it was obvious that I wasn’t going to fit through, so I flashed mine back. She again flashed hers. So I got out of my Army recovery truck towing a trailer with another lorry on it, and walked over to talk to the driver. It turned out to be a blond in her 20’s. I said that she needed to go first. She replied that she didn’t think there was enough room. I pointed out that several other cars all larger than hers had already gone through. This puzzled her. She again stated that I should go first as she was sure she wouldn’t fit through. I tried another tack. If your tiny Ford Ka won’t fit through, what makes you think that very large lorry will fit through. In an extreme but oh so typical attitude of car drivers, she stated that my lorry might be longer, but surely it was the same width as her car.
I eventually persuaded her to drive through slowly with me directing, and I thought she was going to have a panick attack. Nearly a minute later she had ‘squeezed’ between two cars parked opposite to each other while trying to sit on the handbrake (so she could see better) – she explained why she was sure she was going to hit the car on her nearside was because she couldn’t see all of that car.
A truly frighteningly scatty female with zero spacial awareness that in my opinion should never have managed to pass her driving test.
And that’s just one reason why everyone needs to retake their driving test every few years.

I think the whole business of reversing into parking spaces is total tosh most bumps in car parks are not caused by people reversing out of spaces but by inconsiderate, impatient and mostly male drivers who see someone reversing out of a space and then proceed to insist on driving past rather than waiting patiently and considerately for you to finish your manouevre. Most of the problems raised by everyone who has posted could be solved by just a little more patience and consideration for other road users not by making reverse parking compulsory!