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How to Bay Park and Reverse Into a Parking Bay

Louise Kirkpatrick owns a driving school in the East Midlands region of England.


How to Reverse Into a Parking Bay

Bay parking is one of the reverse parking manoeuvres you may be asked to carry out on your driving test (the other reverse parking manoeuvre is parallel parking).

Reversing into a marked parking bay is carried out at the test centre car park either at the start or end of the driving test. You can choose whether to reverse into a bay on the left or right depending on how busy the car park is, its layout and your personal preference.

The aim of the bay park manoeuvre is for you to show the examiner that you can reverse the car smoothly and accurately into a restricted space. You will be expected to demonstrate proper use of the controls and take appropriate observations whilst doing so. The car must end up completely within the marked bay.

On this page, you will find step-by-step instructions and video tutorials to help you learn how to do a perfect bay park!

Many driving test centre car parks are small and very busy, and while it is useful to practice your bay parking in the place where you will be doing it for your test, you must not get in the way of people actually taking their driving tests. You should learn how to bay park in a suitable public car park which allows learner drivers to practice there and stay away from test centre car parks while driving tests are in progress.

Reversing Into a Parking Bay on Your Driving Test

You may be asked to perform this manoeuvre right at the start of your driving test before you leave the test centre car park, or you may do it at the end of the test on your return to the car park. If you are asked to bay park at the beginning of your test, the examiner will say something along the lines of:

"Drive forward a short distance either to the left or to the right, so that your wheels are straight, then reverse into a convenient parking bay. Try to position your car between the white lines."

If the manoeuvre is being done at the end of the test, the examiner's request will be along the lines of:

"I should like you to reverse park in the car park. Drive forward into the car park, then reverse into a convenient parking bay. Finish within one of the bays."

Note: Some driving test centres don't have car parks or have car parks that are unsuitable and if that is the case for the test centre you will be using, you won't be asked to do the bay parking manoeuvre.

How to Bay Park, Step by Step

Here's a summarised list of what's required for bay parking. For those who prefer instructions given visually, there are some tutorial videos further down the page. Some include an audio commentary for those who like to listen to what they need to do!

How Straight Does the Car Have to Be?

It doesn't matter if the car isn't perfectly straight within the marked parking bay, as long as it's not touching or crossing any of the white lines!

  1. Start about one car's width from the parking bay that you wish to reverse park into and one car length past it.
  2. Line up your reference point (more about reference points below!).
  3. Select reverse gear.
  4. Full observation: all round the car
  5. Slowly start to move the car backwards while turning the steering wheel quickly to full left lock (if you're reversing into a bay on the left) or full right lock (if you're reversing into a bay on your right).
  6. Keep looking all around as you go back.
  7. As the car comes to around a 45-degree angle to the bay, look in the left door mirror (left-hand bays) or right door mirror (right-hand bays). You will see the side of the car and the white line. Decide if the car will fully enter into the bay. If you think it will, leave your steering on full lock. If not, turn the wheel approx. half a turn in the opposite direction.
  8. When the back wheel enters the bay by passing inside the white line, ensure that full left lock (left-hand bays) or right lock (right-hand bays) is applied.
  9. When the side of the car and the line look straight in the mirror, keep the car moving slowly and straighten the wheel.
  10. Look at least once over both shoulders as you come back into the bay and stop once you are fully in the bay—be very careful at this point not to lose your concentration and go too far back and hit the kerb!
  11. Handbrake on and gear lever into neutral.

Reference Points for Bay Parking

Reference points are used to help learner drivers know whether they are in the right place to start a manoeuvre or when to turn when reversing.

For bay parking, some driving instructors teach their students to line up parts of the car with line markings on bays, others may use stickers attached to the doors or windows etc.

Reference points will be different for every vehicle, so don't take it as read that you should "line up with the left door mirror" just because that's what your friend did when they learnt to drive!

Your driving instructor will let you know which reference points they want you to use on their car.

Bay Parking Dos and Don'ts!

  • Keep your speed slow.
  • Observe and consider other road users/pedestrians.
  • Use mirrors properly to check position relative to the bay.
  • Make any positional or steering corrections before you enter.
  • Don't touch or go over the white lines of the bay.

What Happens If I Make a Mistake?

You only get one attempt—if you get it wrong you can't have another go, so take it slowly and carefully! If you think you're not going to end up between the lines, you can shunt forwards and reverse again, but this must be done before you actually enter the bay.

Common Mistakes When Reversing Into a Parking Bay

Mistakes that could result in driving test faults when doing the bay parking manoeuvre during your driving test:

  • straddling two bays
  • no blind spot checks
  • relying too much or entirely on the mirrors
  • ineffective observation
  • looking but not reacting to other vehicles or pedestrians
  • waiting too long for other users in the car park

Bay Parking Video Tutorials

Below are video instructions on how to reverse into a parking bay. It's sometimes easier to actually see something done, rather than just read a set of instructions! The following videos will give you visual instructions to help you learn how to do the bay parking manoeuvre.

All the videos are presented in a different format—one is animated and two are "real-life" driving lessons presented by a fully qualified DVSA Approved Driving Instructor.

Can You Take Your Seatbelt Off When Reversing on Your Driving Test?

Yes, you can take your seatbelt off when carrying out any of the reversing manoeuvres on your driving test—but it's not advisable.

It's very easy to forget to put it back on afterwards—which won't impress the examiner at all!

The advice given on this page is intended only for UK drivers and those taking the UK Practical Driving Test.

Please be aware that road traffic legislation and what is considered good driving practice vary throughout the world!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 LouiseKirkpatrick