Other Considerations


Cars in Danger
Cars in danger

SUVs Everywhere
The new family car

There are, of course, a number of other factors that contribute significantly to a safe parking experience. Let's look at a few.

Navigating the Lot

Besides door dings, parking lots tend to be dangerous places for cruising around in general. In the first place, many people are looking for parking spaces, not at other drivers. Most spaces require backing out - and since so many drivers seem to have a problem with this, extra care is required when you see those white backup lights. It's a good idea to be constantly scanning for backup and brake lights. Have your hand near the horn button and your foot near the brake pedal.

Parking structures pose unique dangers. It's hard to see in dark parking structures after you've been driving during the daylight (not just for you, but for the person heading your way). If you can, remove those sunglasses as you are entering. Also, the walls and columns often hide approaching traffic. SLOW DOWN!

A good practice in any lot (but especially in structures) it to park near an exit. Spend as little time as possible in a parking lot traffic jam. When driving in parking lots and structures, presume that other drivers don't see you. It's probably true more often than not. And what a good excuse to get a little extra walk in you day. (Unless, of course, your doctor told you not to walk so much.)


Hillside Parking
Make slopes work
for you!

Avoid the Slopes

I enjoy living in the foothills of southern California. But there is one distinct disadvantage: many of the parking lots are on a mild to moderate slope. Parking downhill from a vehicle is worth avoiding at all costs. This is inviting contact. (And if you read the Introduction page, you know that this type of incident inspired my safe parking practices!)

But a sloping lot can work in your favor - if, and only if, you are at the top! Make gravity your friend! If you leave enough space between you and the car "beneath" you, it is less likely that their door will accidentally bump into your vehicle. You've got gravity on your side!

Home Depot
A scary place...

Safe at Home Depot
...but you never know!

Where Are You Going...and When?

In a very real sense, good parking starts before you leave your house. This might be going way overboard for most. But if you've just had it with door dings and want to do everything possible to avoid them...

Before I leave on a trip, I think about my destination(s) and how the various parking lots are situated. Is there street parking available (often preferable)? Is the parking lot big enough to find an isolated spot far from the crowd? Are there any known "great spaces"? Will I be going at a busy time? (I'll admit that I'm crazy enough to alter which vehicle I choose to take depending on answers to these questions.)

As stated elsewhere, it is not the act of parking that's dangerous. It's the coming and going of neighboring vehicles. For that reason, I would give the "worst place to park" award to post office parking lots followed closely by banks. By the very nature of the businesses, it's almost a guarantee that the cars you park next to will be replaced before you return. I never park in a post office or bank parking lot - unless they are closed, of course.

Trader Joe's market is a great place to shop. But for some reason, around here at least, they all have horrible undersized and overcrowded parking lots. Because of that, I don't even enter the lot, and always choose park on a nearby street. (I never do a "big" shopping at TJs, so carrying bags a little extra distance isn't a problem.)

I also sometimes visit a Home Depot near my house. This is what I consider one of the worst (i.e.: most dangerous) locations to park. In the first place, people who are going to any big-box store are likely to bring their pickup truck or SUV if they have one.

Another huge problem with stores like Home Depot is the many loose carts in the lot. As with shopping carts at supermarkets, most people do not return their merchandise carts to the proper rack or location. They are mostly left anywhere, creating a minefield of potential bumps and bruises.

And Home Depot always seems to be crowded.

There are other factors going against you at a home improvement store. The material being moved through the lot is often large, heavy and bulky: pipes, bricks, 2x4s, etc. And much of it is being maneuvered about by customers and workers who really don't care very much about your new car.

The lesson here: if you don't have to take your shiny baby to these places, don't. If you must go, park as far away as possible. Other techniques mentioned here may be beneficial, but the deck is stacked against you here. Remember - we're talking about reducing risk.

Supermarkets parking lots are very similar to those at home improvement stores for many of the same reasons. Of course, you (or your spouse) probably visit the supermarket more often than any other single place (except for work), so there is a good possibility your ding will (or did) happen there.

The supermarket lot represents a deadly combination of shopping carts (full and empty), high traffic (hundreds of cars constantly coming, going and circling) and shoppers who are just looking to squeeze into the space closest to the front door as possible.

Practically everyone who is leaving the market is pushing a cart out into the lot piled high with bags of groceries. Many have children with them and can be quite distracted.

A suggestion made by one reader (thank you Mr. X) is to park right next to the shopping cart collector rack. The logic here is that if someone is close by, they would probably be willing to return the cart correctly and less likely to leave it loose.

A reader with an opposing point of view states:

"I found danger near cart corrals to be from two types of people. One is from those bringing the cart to the corral. Now most people I see bringing carts there do indeed put it away properly. But probably one in ten that I see will stop a number of meters away and just aim and let it go. This would work if everyone had good aim and the carts all had wheels that tracked straight but I see this is rarely the case. There is much potential for damage this way."

"The other potential problem with the cart corral is from people that are parked immediately across from the corral. These people invariably will just aim, windup and push across the lot. I have seen many cars damaged by people doing that."

One thing is sure...you can bet that the last thing on anyone's mind in a supermarket parking lot is how to keep from bumping your car.

Yikes. Don't go!



In hot weather, we all seek shade. Parking under trees is a two-edge sword: shady and cooler, but potential tree and bird droppings. Given a choice, I'll always take the option of something that will wash off (especially because I keep my vehicles waxed). If you do get bird doo-doo on your paint, clean it off as soon as possible. Some will actually eat through the clear coat or the paint itself.

Reader Joseph G. warns that some trees can drop blossoms that will actually stain your paint. He also suggests to make sure not to get tree droppings in the runners/gutters of your sun roof.


Side Molding
Click to read about
the disappearing rub strip

What Are You Driving?

Many vehicles have protective strips along their sides that provide varying degrees of protection. Unfortunately, some seem to be for show only, offering little in the way of protection. And, sadly, many cars offer no side protection whatsoever (click the photo to the left). What this means is that the slightest contact with a hard object will most likely cause at least some damage.

I'm not suggesting choosing a vehicle based on the size and position of the protective molding (even though I do!). But be aware of how well or poor your side protection is as this will greatly affect the parking risks you may take. As of this writing, there are some Subarus, for instance, with large, plastic protective panels on the sides.

Also keep in mind that few vehicles provide protection over wheel wells. As mentioned above, this can be a concern when angle parking.

The size of your vehicle is also a major factor. It's simple physics. If you drive a huge SUV, the extra width will place those precious, shiny flanks closer to your neighbors. Also, there are a number of folks out there that aren't exactly fans of SUVs - you may irritate them if you park too close.

Go BackGo BackGo Back