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Parking space sizes haven’t increased since the 1970s but today’s cars are up to 55% bigger


A new study has revealed that parking is becoming an increasing struggle for drivers as the size of the latest vehicles have grown dramatically while bay sizes have remained unchanged for half a century. 

Car owners are being left with almost no room to squeeze out of their cars in public car parks, which have space sizes that have remained consistent since the 1970s.

A comparison of vehicles on sale today and similar cars from 50 years ago shows that some motors have expanded by as much as 55 per cent and big SUVs now taking up almost 90 per cent of a parking space.

It begs the question: how are we expecting to park the latest cars, enter and exit – especially if suffering from mobility issues – them and do so without causing damage to other vehicles?

Today’s parking squeeze: Off-street bay sizes have remained the same since the 1970s but with vehicles forever increasing in dimension they could soon be too big for car parks, according to a new report

Parking guidelines haven’t changed in 50 years, with the requirement for public bays to be 8 feet (2.4 metres) wide by 16 feet (4.8 metres) long.

The British Parking Association says that these dimensions are ‘neither minimum nor written in tablets of stone’ and councils and car park operators are free to designate their own bay measurements.

However, it remains the most common size used to ensure a maximum volume of parking spaces. 

While this might have been sufficient for mainstream vehicles in the 1970s it is now starting to put a squeeze on 21st century drivers. 

With modern car design and stricter safety standards demanding larger crumple zones and more reinforcements to protect drivers and passengers in crashes, vehicles are undoubtedly getting bigger and their increasing dimensions are somewhat out of the control of manufacturers.

But as vehicle sizes have gradually expanded, bays have continued to remain the same size.

These ever-tightening spaces have – unsurprisingly – contributed to the thousands of incidents that occur in car parks, costing drivers and insurers millions annually.

Research by Skoda earlier this year revealed parking prangs accounted for around £1.5billion in repairs every year – a figure that will continue to rise as cars continue to get larger.

, Daily Echoed

Skoda said earlier this year that bigger cars and same-size parking bays are the cause of £1.5m worth of motor prangs each year

, Daily Echoed

The British Parking Association says off-street bay dimensions of 8 feet by 16 feet are not a minimum requirement and operators can use larger sizes. However, with businesses looking to maximise the number of bays, the standard requirement remains most common

In the most extreme example, car buying platform CarGurus found that today’s Land Rover Range Rover takes up to 86 per cent of the standard parking space, leaving just 21cm of room for drivers to get out. 

In contrast, the 1970s model took up just 69 per cent – the same footprint as today’s Ford Focus – giving drivers more space.  

The study by the online automotive shopping platform compared the most popular cars currently on UK roads and their equivalent available in the 1970s, showing how their footprint on the typical parking bay has grown.

As cars have grown, many of the most popular vehicles are leaving perilously little space for drivers to get out. 

, Daily Echoed

Today’s Range Rover (right) is far bigger than the original from the 1970s (left). The 2020 model takes up almost 90% of available bay space, says CarGurus

, Daily Echoed

, Daily Echoed

The tenth generation Honda Civic (left), one of the biggest growers from its first generation, now takes up 71%. This has ballooned from 49% in the first generation (right)

, Daily Echoed

Today’s Mini Hatch (right) is 55% bigger than the Mini that would have been used on UK roads 50 years ago

For example, the tenth generation Honda Civic, one of the biggest growers from its first generation, now takes up 71 per cent of the parking space, ballooning from 49 per cent in the first generation and leaving just 30cm of space for drivers to get out.

The Mini Hatch was the biggest grower on the list; 55 per cent larger and taking up 20 per cent more of the typical parking space than the original that was produced between 1959 and 2000. This means it offers 16cm less room for drivers to get out.

The Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, BMW 5 Series, Ford Focus, Ford Mondeo, Mercedes E-class, Peugeot 308, Vauxhall Insignia and VW Passat have also all grown significantly compared to their 50-year-old equivalents to leave drivers with less than 30cm space to exit the vehicle.

CAR SIZE COMPARISON: 1970 VS 2020 VEHICLES 
1970s Make & ModelSpace to open door (cm)Area of parking space used upToday’s Make & ModelSpace to open door (cm)Area of parking space used up% increase in area
Morris/Austin/ Rover Mini (1959-2000)5037%MINI Hatch 3dr (2014-)3457%55%
Fiat 500 (1957-1975)5434%Fiat 500 (2007-)3950%47%
Honda Civic 1st Gen (1972-1979)4549%Honda Civic 10th Gen (2016-)3071%44%
Peugeot 104 (1972-1988)4443%Peugeot 208 2nd Gen (2019-)3361%42%
Renault 5 (1972-1985)4447%Renault Clio V (2019-)3063%36%
Mazda 323 3rd Gen (1977-1980)4053%Mazda 3 4th Gen (2019-)3070%31%
Audi 80 (1972-1978)4058%Audi A4 B9 (2016-)2876%30%
VW Passat B1 (1973-1981)4058%VW Passat B8 (2015-)2876%30%
Vauxhall Nova A (1982-1993)4348%Vauxhall Corsa F (2019-)3262%29%
VW Golf MK1 (1974-1983)4052%VW Golf MK8 (2020)3167%28%
Ford Escort MKII (1974-1980)4254%Ford Focus MKIV (2018-)2969%28%
VW Polo MK1 (1975-1981)4249%VW Polo MK6 (2018-)3262%26%
Ford Fiesta MK1 (1976-1983)4248%Ford Fiesta MK8 (2017-)3361%25%
Range Rover Classic (1969-1996)3169%Range Rover L405 (2012-)2186%25%
Toyota Corolla 3rd Gen (1974-1981)4254%Toyota Corolla 12th Gen (2019-)3168%25%
Ford Cortina MKIV (1976-1979)3564%Ford Mondeo MKIV (2014-)2778%22%
Vauxhall Cavalier MK1 (1975-1981)3764%Vauxhall Insignia B (2017-)2779%24%
BMW 3 Series E21 (1975-1983)4061%BMW 3 Series G20 (2019-)2975%23%
Vauxhall Astra MK1 (1979-1984)3857%Vauxhall Astra MK7 (2015-)3069%21%
Peugeot 304 (1969-1980)4256%Peugeot 308 2nd Gen (2013-)2967%19%
BMW 5 Series E12 (1972-1981)3668%BMW 5 Series G30 (2017-)2780%17%
Mercedes 190 (1982-1988)3664%Mercedes C-class 4th Gen (2014-)3074%14%
Mercedes W123 (1976-1986)3173%Mercedes E-class 5th Gen (2017-)2779%8%
Source: CarGurus       
, Daily Echoed

Despite many cars already proving to be a tight fit in standard parking spaces, the growth spurt appears to be unrelenting with CarGurus’ research finding cars are continuing to grow by an average of nearly 3 per cent from generation to generation, meaning squeezing out of parking spaces will continue to become more and more challenging for drivers.

Chris Knapman, editor at CarGurus.co.uk, said car makers are increasingly making car parking technology available to help motorists steer into shrinking bays – though unless space sizes are expanded will become redundant.

Off-street parking dimensions are neither minimum nor written in tablets of stone, and may be revised to suit particular needs, but remember that good access and wider bays aids efficient use of the parking area 

 British Parking Association

‘It’s understandable why cars have grown so much over the years, and the dramatically improved safety standards of modern cars versus those of years gone by is an obvious benefit,’ he explained.

‘However, as many motorists will no doubt confirm, it’s disappointing that parking space guidelines haven’t been updated accordingly.

‘Many of the latest cars are at least available with technology to help with parking, including parking sensors, reversing cameras, 360-degree view cameras and automatic parallel and bay parking functions. 

‘Some even equip cars with features to help prevent car park damage, such as door edge protectors and Citroën’s Airbump Technology. 

‘However, it is of course worth noting that no matter how easy the technology makes it to park, if the space is too small for your car none of it will help you to physically squeeze out of the driver’s seat.’

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