Some valet drivers and car reviewers park incredibly expensive cars, and a botched parking job could leave quite a hole in their wallets. This is especially true when dealing with car collectors, who may have their inventory shuffled around every day. But Forbes recently spoke to some celebrity valet drivers and automotive experts, people who’ve parked a lot of cars, and asked for their driving techniques.
The golden rule of car parking: don’t rush anything
Matt Farah, who’s driven and reviewed over 1,500 cars without a single accident, tells his staff this rule every time they step into a car. He recently opened a garage for car collectors in LA, where they can store their vehicles. And whenever one of his employees steps foot in one, they’re told to take a breath and take their time.
The same applies to you and your considerably cheaper car. There’s no reason to rush anything (unless you’re trying to parallel park with people behind you. But if you get hung up, just find a different spot). “It is important to always be slow and methodical,” says Farah. “Give yourself plenty of time to move the needed cars, so that you never have to rush while a member waits. Rushing is where vehicle damage happens.”
This is true in every aspect of driving. When you’re stressed, you fail to focus on how your driving and the things around you. This often leads to speeding, recklessness, and avoidable accidents. Take your time, and pay attention to your surroundings. Speaking of which:
Pay attention to your physical surroundings
With new car technologies and mandated rearview cameras, you may find yourself relying on technology more than your eyes. But to properly park a car, one must be aware of everything around them. Poke your head out the window, or use a spotter if you have to. There’s no shame in asking for help, especially if it means you don’t ding the car.
Again, being aware of your surroundings at all times applies to both parking and driving. Some people choose to blast down a motorway, only looking to their mirrors when they need to merge. However, it’s best to focus on your surroundings all the time, checking your mirrors to see if anyone wants to pass, or is merging into other lanes.
“Try to make it like if you had X-ray vision and you can actually see the wheels,” says Tony Rackley, Head of Specialties Division for Classic Automotive Relocation Services in Gardena, California. “One should really—while sitting in the car, be able to know the points of the car, look to their left and right, to know: OK, my left front is there, my right front is there, and then look over your shoulder and see where the C pillar is—that sort of thing.”
And while some people have better spatial awareness than others, you can train yourself to be better. In other words, practice makes perfect.
Valet drivers always back in
Not only does it look nicer, seeing the front end of the car rather than the rear, it’s also more manageable once you need to move the car again. You have a full view of what’s ahead of you, rather than a limited view from your trunk. Use your newly trained see-through vision to navigate the back corner of your car into the spot.
In truth, you don’t need x-ray vision to back in at all. You already have your mirrors, which you ought to be using in most driving scenarios. It seems obvious, but angling your mirrors so you can see the back of your car will help determine whether or not you’re about to hit vehicles parked beside you.
Personally, I back my car in every time I park. It started when I almost got into a major accident backing out of a spot, due to limited visibility. And now, after practicing on my own vehicle, I can back in just about any car I drive (haven’t tested this theory with a full-sized RV yet). Find an empty parking lot, grab some cones, and just keep at it.
Never park your car under trees
Alright, this isn’t exactly advice, but it’s a fun way to end the article. Chauffeur drivers are often told to avoid parking under trees for many reasons. For starters, pollen can collect on the car, making the vehicle look dirty. Moreso, bird poop is corrosive. Any splotches that land on the car can damage the paint, and repairing paint on a luxury vehicle is remarkably expensive.
Though, if you aren’t sporting a pricey paint job, then parking under trees can be beneficial. For one, they provide shade that’ll keep your car’s interior cool. Though, the car may be covered in sticks, leaves, and poop by the time you return. So long as you’re not driving a Bentley, it’s a matter of choice.
So the next time you’re at the grocery store, practice backing in. Use a combination of your mirrors and your spatial awareness skills to plan the route and park the car. After all, if the valets park this way, it must be good.