What’s the problem?
The standard size for a UK car parking bay is 4.8 metres long by 2.4 metres wide. Yet over the past decade, car manufacturers have produced more than 100 new models that are too large to fit into a regular bay. As a result, many drivers now struggle to find somewhere to park their oversized vehicles, while others who try to squeeze into a too small a space are being fined for parking outside the boundaries of the bay. Data also suggests that the problem has led to an increase in the number of parking prangs, costing British motorists and their insurers billions of pounds every year.
How big is too big?
Over the past 25 years, many of our most popular cars have expanded in size each time a new model has been launched. For example, a 1994 Ford Mondeo was 4.63 metres long, but the latest model is 4.87 metres long – that’s 7cm longer than a standard-size bay. And even compact cars have been growing – the Vauxhall Corsa has stretched 8% since it was launched back in 1993, while its width has increased by 20%. The latest Mini Cooper is almost one and a quarter times the width of the original 1959 model, yet the worst offenders are large SUVs, at over 2 metres wide.
Why are cars getting larger?
The simple answer is that car buyers want more space, but the increase in size has also been driven by safety legislation, which requires new models to have larger deformable structures around ‘hard points’ like the engine and sub-frame. Additional equipment is a factor too, because accessories like air conditioning and air bags all need their own space. Yet changing consumer demand is perhaps the biggest factor, and is certainly the one behind the emergence of a new generation of large SUVs.
The parking space trade-off
So why aren’t parking spaces being extended to match motorists’ needs? Well at least one national car park owner has expanded the bays in some of its city centre sites, but changing all parking bays across the country would be a mammoth task, particularly where bays are defined by structural pillars. But what about larger bays in new-build car parks? Well that has a serious downside too – because with fixed space available, larger bays means less of them. And with more cars than ever on UK roads, that can’t be the answer. Ultimately, there’s always going to be a trade-off between the size and the number of parking bays available – so all motorists might be well advised to add ‘parkability’ to their list of must-haves when choosing their next car.