Parallel parking has long been regarded as a huge issue for learners. However, a new study reveals that the fear of executing this manoeuvre is real throughout the driving community.

What is it that drives this terror and are we failing as driver trainers to combat this effectively at an early stage?

Heart in your hands

Auto Trader has conducted a new heart rate study that exposes the true terror drivers feel when it comes to parking. The research shows that heart rates spike by an average of 57% when performing a parallel parking manoeuvre, followed by a spike of 46% when performing a reverse bay parking manoeuvre.

When asked what other ‘scary’ things they would rather do than a parallel park, 1 in 5 drivers admitted they would prefer to catch a spider than attempt a parallel park.

Wired up

Auto Trader’s heart rate study compared resting heart rates with peak heart rates during three essential parking manoeuvres; parallel park, reverse bay parking and forward bay parking.

As rising heart rates are a good indication of being stressed, the results revealed that parking indeed induces panic, with drivers experiencing a nearly 48% increase on average.

Interestingly, male participants saw a bigger surge in their heart rates than women, with a 50% versus 46% surge, respectively.

However, the dreaded parallel park caused the most significant impact, leading to heart rates soaring by over 57% on average. Male drivers in particular found it more daunting, with a 58% increase compared to 56% for female drivers.

Reverse bay parking was the second-most stressful manoeuvre, with heart rates surging by an average of 46%. Again, male drivers exhibited more stress than their female counterparts (51% versus 42%). Forward bay parking rounded out the top three, with an average heart rate increase of 41%.

  • Parallel parking: +57% (average heart rate increase)
  • Reverse bay parking: +46% (average heart rate increase)
  • Forward bay parking: +41% (average heart rate increase)

Fear Factor

The study includes a survey of over 1,200 drivers which reveals the activities motorists deem scarier than parallel parking. Astonishingly, 1 in 5 drivers would rather confront a spider than execute a parallel park, which is interesting considering a recent YouGov survey found that 21% of Britons have arachnophobia (phobia of spiders).

When looking at the differences between male and female drivers, men would rather catch a spider than parallel park (18%) whilst female drivers (21%) admit to finding a parallel park more frightful than a trip to the dentist.

Top 10 compromises

There are many alternative scary tasks that drivers would rather do than parallel park.

  • Catch a spider – 19%
  • Watch a horror movie – 19%
  • Visit the dentist – 19%
  • Go for a blood test/have a vaccination – 18%
  • Ride a rollercoaster – 15%
  • Be in a confined space for 60 seconds – 14%
  • Go on a first date – 13%
  • Visit a haunted house – 13%
  • Public speaking (e.g. wedding speech) – 12%
  • Stand on top of the world’s tallest building – 12%


The survey results support the findings of the heart rate study, with one in four motorists revealing that they find parallel parking stressful, and one in five saying they find bay parking stressful. Additionally, 25% of drivers admit to passing up parking spaces due to anxiety about manoeuvring into them.

Incredibly, some drivers resort to allowing passengers to park their cars, which can lead to legal consequences.

Experts are warning drivers that allowing an uninsured driver to operate your vehicle could result in a £300 fine, 6 points on your licence and higher future insurance premiums, based on The Highway Code.

The survey also highlights that 11% of drivers resort to illegal parking to avoid challenging parking situations, with 25-34-year-olds being the most likely culprits.

It’s a feeling

  • Finding parallel parking stressful – 26%
  • I have driven past a space to avoid parallel parking – 25%
  • Asking a passenger to parallel park for me – 23%
  • Reverse bay parking stress – 21%
  • Parking illegally to avoid a difficult parking space – 11%

To see the full research, as well as top parking tips from the Auto Trader leasing experts, click here.