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Jamie Gibbs

Parking bays to be widened to meet growing demand for bigger cars


Big SUVs and 4x4s have become very popular, but the size of the average parking space hasn’t changed.

Parked cars

Parking giant National Car Parks (NCP) recently announced it would be looking at enlarging the average size of parking bays across a number of its car parks.

This is due to the increase in larger cars on the road, and an associated increase in car parking accidents.

A recent report undertaken by Accident Exchange suggests that accidents, such as scratches and bumps, in car parks have increased by some 35% since 2014.

And such incidents now account for around 30% of all accidents recorded in the UK.

The rise of the SUV

Demand for SUVs has been growing quite steadily since 2003. Industry data from JATO claims a 44% surge in SUV sales in early 2016.

This means these beasts account for a whopping 27% of the current UK market.

The SUV’s popularity is in no small part down to the feeling of safety and security when driving. Drivers also enjoy the higher driving position and increased load space.

In the past these larger cars have put people off because of running costs. However, over the last 10 years, manufacturers have made a huge effort to make them cheaper to run.

Parked Volvo XC90

Smaller cars are getting bigger

This move towards larger cars isn’t just all down to the SUV though. The size of smaller cars has increased too.

The now classic Ford Anglia which came about in 1959 was just 1.42 metres wide. This is quite a lot narrower than a modern Ford Fiesta which comes in at a portly 1.72 metres.

Another popular small car – the Vauxhall Corsa – is now 16% larger than it was 15 years ago.

And what of SUVs themselves? The popular Nissan X-Trail is over 1.8 metres wide which makes the Anglia look tiny.

And something like a much larger Range Rover rolls of the factory line at a whopping 2.01 metres in width. This is over half a metre wider than the little Ford.

Popular big cars Length (metres) Width (metres)
Avg parking space 4.80 2.40
Mercedes GL-Class 5.05 1.98
Audi Q7 5.05 1.96
Land Rover Discovery 4.97 2.00
Volvo XC90 4.95 2.00
BMW X5 4.88 1.93
Ford Edge 4.80 1.92
Volkswagen Touareg 4.80 1.94
Hyundai Santa Fe 4.70 1.88

It’s not just width that is an issue either – the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes GL-Class are both 5 metres long.

This means that even if drivers do squeeze into a narrow space, they may find themselves rather exposed at either end to passing cars.

Even the somewhat less extravagant Ford Mondeo in its latest form is 4 centimetres longer than the average parking space.

Popular hatchbacks Length (metres) Width (metres)
Avg parking space 4.80 2.40
Ford Mondeo 4.86 1.85
Vauxhall Astra 4.70 1.80
Ford Focus 4.35 1.82
VW Golf 4.25 1.79
Ford Fiesta 4.06 1.72
Vauxhall Corsa 4.02 1.74

The solution

According to government parking standards, the recommended minimum sizes are 2.4 metres wide and 4.8 metres long.

This means a Range Rover driver, for example, has just 0.4 metres of room to squeeze into a space which is 0.2 millimetres each side. Opening the doors, or perhaps, taking a child out of the car could be difficult.

The rise of parent and child parking spaces in supermarkets and larger shopping centre is a welcome change. However, for those drivers without a child, the problem remains.

Parked SUVs

The NCP’s move to enlarge its parking bays is certainly one that will be welcomed by most drivers. However, according to the BBC, there are a number of people that feel the small drop in the number of overall spaces to cater for the bigger bays will be a problem.

A spokeswoman for the NCP said that there’s an "extremely fine balance between demand for bigger spaces and the number of spaces available".

The company has actually already trialled the larger spaces in some car parks in Manchester, London and Bournemouth.

The bottom line

Larger parking spaces will result in fewer spaces to choose from. This in itself could mean drivers will have to wait longer to park, and parking in general could become more expensive.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: "Local authorities follow best practice to ensure car parks get the trade-off between the number of spaces and the size of spaces right.

Although larger cars are certainly safer, there are some people that feel this trend is not an environmentally sustainable one.

However, with more eco-friendly SUVs appearing on the market each year, this might not be such a problem.


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