Hooniverse Asks: Is it Just Me, or are Parking Lot Spaces Nowadays Too Damn Small?

Too Small
I have a bunch of cars and they range in size from small to medium to sort of extra large. I’m finding that in a lot of parking lots, the modern stall is definitely not one size fits all.
Now, I recognize the need for us all to accept a little inconvenience for the greater good of society as a whole, but when it comes to people banging their car doors into mine because they needed to cram a couple of extra slots on the lot I get a little miffed. I mean, I’ve been to some stores—I’m looking at you Trader Joe’s—where the spaces are not only way-too small, but also too few for the traffic the store generates. It’s a lose-lose for all involved.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember when I was a kid, parking spaces were both plentiful and amply sized. It was part of the American dream and their copious dimensions may in fact be guaranteed in the Constitution. Of course these days people seem to think that the Constitution means what they want it to mean and they also give us parking spaces that are equitable to hipster skinny jeans. What do you think, are parking spaces getting smaller, and is there anything we can do about it?
Image: FunnyJunk

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  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    Have parking spaces grown with cars? – finally an excuse to post this:
    Awesome slide-images of cars in their first and latest generations. Educating, too!

    1. Ken Pauley Avatar
      Ken Pauley

      I experienced this the other day sitting on the freeway next to a new Honda Civic. Save for length it was taller and almost as wide as my 02 Nissan Maxima.

  2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    The example of this that confuses me is Lowe’s. I have an old pickup which is extended cab and long bed. It has a wheelbase of 155.5″ and is almost exactly 20 feet in overall length. Not a small truck, but not abnormally huge. It overhangs the lined space front and rear at Lowe’s. If ever there were a store that would justify pickup-sized spaces, it would be a home improvement store.
    Perhaps it is moot. I’d prefer to fit within the space, but parking space is seldom at a premium. I have never been unable to park there, and have never taken more than one space (the only caveat being that another similarly sized truck couldn’t park directly across from me)

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      They always have huge parking lots, though, with the expectation that if you need four spots, nobody will complain.

  3. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Just for the record, they’re even smaller outside North America. The Holiday Inn Express NEC in suburban Birmingham has the smallest parking spaces in the known universe. If I’d had the Town Cow there, it would have had to hang over all four sides.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Holiday Inn, eh? My, your corporate overlords sure know how to keep a guy…

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        Not even a full-fledged Holiday Inn, it was a Holiday Inn Express.

  4. tonyola Avatar

    I worked in a few civil engineering firms and learned that parking spaces have definitely shrunk in width over the years. In the 1960s, parking spaces were usually 9 feet wide. Now they’re 7.5 to 8.5 feet wide, with rising land costs and maximizing building areas being to blame. New standard pickup trucks, however, can be as wide as 96″ (8.0 feet) if you include the mirrors in the width.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      My ’70 International will just barely fit through the narrowest part of my driveway. To achieve this I had to remove its passenger-side mirror. Many modern vehicles, even “small” ones, simply will not fit at all. Mirrors generally are bigger these days and very much need to be included in a determination of width. For example, the International’s remaining side mirror projects beyond the side of its door by only 1.5″ in its ordinary position. Even a folded modern mirror typically exceeds that.

      1. Tiller188 Avatar

        Wait, just 1.5″? That’s kinda awesome, but I’m having trouble picturing it…does the door have a lot of bow to it, or something, so that the mirror projects a fair bit from where it is locally, but the door’s overall width is significantly more?

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          A little of both. This is the best photo I’ve got:

    2. LEROOOY Avatar

      Texas architect here, we follow the city codes and design all of our spaces to be 9′ x 18′, but all bets are off once a painting crew comes out and actually does it.
      18′ as a maximum still doesn’t do a Ram 3500 Megacab Longbed enough favors.

  5. Justin Hughes Avatar
    Justin Hughes

    When my BRZ barely fits into a space and I have to do acrobatics to get out of the car when someone is parked next to me, something’s seriously wrong.

  6. Alff Avatar

    They’re usually too small for my pickup. What do I do about it? Park there anyway.

  7. 0A5599 Avatar

    The size of the customer determines the size of the parking lot, and the spaces. Health food store = skinny spaces. Don’t want door dings? Go to Golden Corral or Walmart.

    1. Alff Avatar

      I’ll offer up my local Whole Foods parking lot as proof. I usually have to take two spots to fit the truck. No biggie, bad parking is common amongst WF shoppers.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      That’s a very interesting theory. Will you find bike spots only at the local eco/radical/glutenfree cucumber-farmer?

  8. irishzombieman Avatar

    Pffft! Room to spare.
    (Don’t I wish I had one.)

    View post on imgur.com

  9. Maymar Avatar

    My car is 4m long, so no, everything is just fine.

  10. Car_Door Avatar

    Correcting terrible parking jobs would solve I lot I think. On a different note, I much prefer the heavy duty chevy truck in the article’s picture to the new trucks. Its got clean lines and is an honest truck.

      1. Car_Door Avatar

        Yeah I guess, I think it’s just the stubborn old man in me the wants to resist technology and change to larger, heavier, and better things.

  11. Batshitbox Avatar

    Everything is getting narrower in San Francisco. I’ve long since resigned myself to parking in the “pickup truck zone” in parking lots (way far the hell away from the stores.)
    SF has (and I’m a fan, don’t doubt) installed about a hundred miles of bicycle lanes and other space consuming things like Bulb-Outs at corners and (not a fan of) “Parklets”, former parking spaces converted into tiny public parks that seem always to be in front of a cafe, and stick way far out into the street. This means the lanes themselves frequently get squeezed to a minimum. In some cases, though, where there used to be two lanes they’ve been forced to leave just one really room one.
    Here’s a typical SF “Parklet”

    1. pj134 Avatar

      That poor h van.

    2. dead_elvis Avatar

      Hey, I’ve been to that one! Wouldn’t all “parklets” (just typing that makes me cringe) be better with more Citroeness?

      1. Vairship Avatar

        I think I’d prefer a nice trailer park, and still having that H-van cruising the streets.

  12. engineerd Avatar

    I have mixed feelings. On one had, it is a pain to squeeze into spots that are barely wider than the vehicle itself when on either side are cars parked cattywampus or too far to one side. On the other hand, we seem to dedicate very large percentages of land to parking.

  13. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    I’m getting the impression that a “compact” parking space that used to be sized for a 90s small car (Corolla class) is now sized for a Kei car since even a 2000 Honda Civic hatchback is a squeeze and that is still a smallish car. I’m astonished at the bloated things I see parked in the compact spots, although the trucks are usually out in the far corners.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Forever relevant classic ad:

      1. duurtlang Avatar

        How perspectives can change, especially across continents. In my mind Volvo wagons have always been and still are *large* cars. This is assuming the biggest Volvo wagon of the range, so I’m ignoring the V40/V50/V60.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          For Europe: Definitely! I was very surprised seeing this ad for the first time, but it makes a valid point nonetheless. In a pretty old fashioned way, of course, but it is relevant again if you look at how the US is plastered by massive trucks.

    2. 0A5599 Avatar

      As it turns out, today I am parked in the “compact only” space at work. It is the same width as the other spaces, but located on the end of a section with a turn, so a short vehicle is needed in order not to block the turning radius. Though it is technically a full sized SUV, my Ramcharger is one of the shorter vehicles in the lot, and it fits fine.

      1. dead_elvis Avatar

        I was yelled at by a woman at the library earlier this winter. My offense? Parking my Volvo 244 in a space marked “compact”, too close to her car. She then got into her Toyota Sequoia from the passenger side, and pulled out of the space marked “compact” that she had parked in. Eff you, lady. (But maybe she was attending adult literacy class that night & I shouldn’t just her so harshly*.)
        *eff you, lady. I’m doubling down.

      2. Vairship Avatar

        On the other hand, where I work my PT Cruiser is too long (at 169″) for the compact spaces. I still park there, since (apart from the Miatas and Fits) it’s about the shortest car.

    3. Ken Pauley Avatar
      Ken Pauley

      You’re not too far off. The “Compact” parking space was invented by the Hilton Corporation in order to build their hotel next to the Anaheim Convention Center. In order to build the class of hotel they wanted, they had to have a minimum amount of spaces. The space available did not allow for the minimum ammount so the folks at Hilton convinced the city council that since compact cars were smaller, they didn’t need the space a normal car parked in. Hence, the compact car space was born.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Wow, that’s very well illustrated. There are some garages that are built like that here in Norway, too. It also happens that ground painters and architects seem to be at odds, like Leeroy said above.

  14. Krautwursten Avatar

    American parking spaces definitely aren’t, you can land a jet in those, in addition to their abundance. I think the standard length in Germany is 5,00m or 16.5 ft though, so you can barely even fit an E-Class. What worries me more however is how wide cars are getting nowadays compared to the space around them. You have to go subcompact to find something narrower than 6 ft or 1,82m wide (without even considering mirrors), and even mid size crossovers love to exceed 1,90m wide these days. If this goes on any further, soon cars will be 2 meters wide and won’t fit into any garage anymore.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Our Camry won’t fit in our 60’s garage – unless we empty it completely. For oil changes, I occasionally climb out of the window. What is the extra width used for? Fancy monitors and massive barricades between driver and passenger. I’d rather see more storage space and an ergonomic button layout – but I’m mentally stuck in a different time. Annoys myself, too.

  15. Tiller188 Avatar

    Well, I used to drive a 1990 Econoline E-150 conversion van, and now I drive a 2011 WRX. And yet, I pretty regularly come across spots, usually in newer-construction parking garages, that are tight even in the WRX — like, an inch clearance from the lines on either side if I nail the centration (granted, those are those double-line spots where there’s at least some dedicated door-opening room aside from the spot itself). Then again, in the van I could always clamber out of the rear double doors if the situation was really dire. Did that at least once.

  16. Fresh-Outta-Nissans Avatar

    Recently at trader joes, I was dismayed to find a 318ti parked NEXT to the space marked ‘compact.’
    I could never park the 370Z in an alphabetical parking lot, methinks

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