Everyone hates door dings and scratches. Few people ever fess up to creating them, and they can send the most level heads into an uncontrollable rage. While you can't control who parks next to you, there are some ways to hedge your bets against these little marks of vehicular shame.
Know Your Limits and Park Legally
I realize that I suck at parking, which is why I take great pleasure in having the car at the outer edge of the parking lot. The roof of the parking garage at work usually has some guy's Maserati and my car—with ample space between the two, of course.
I do this for two reasons:
- 1. I hate door dings.
- 2. I'm not the greatest at maneuvering a porky 3,100-lb chunk of metal with questionable rear and side visibility between three painted-on lines.
To be perfectly honest, I'm afraid of being the person who's leaving a scratch on someone else's car.
If you're bad at parking, don't be that guy who parks poorly and/or illegally. Just park farther away. Take your time, and keep your car between all of the lines.
If you're forced to parallel park and can't pull it off without doing so by feel, random strangers are usually more than happy to help direct you in. They don't like getting their bumpers scratched up, either. So, ask.
Yes, there's always a chance of some bunghole parking right next to you when you're parked at the end of the universe because he thinks it will ruin your day, just like there's always a chance that Brocephus Brosenheimer of the Ultimate Bro Tribe will deliver you via wedgie pull to stall number two of the men's room to give you the most humiliating swirly of your life.
That being said, parking legally between the lines seems to discourage other people from wanting to ruin your day. It's pretty simple: people who take up multiple spots regardless of how empty the lot is are always going to be seen as selfish, no-talent turds who have a giant bird plop coming out of karma's sake.
This guy is just begging for the nastiest, most battle-worn Prius to show up next to him to "teach him a lesson." Don't be that guy, and people will just assume that you want some exercise and leave you alone.
Be Wary of Other Hazards
Of course, parking lots are filled with perils besides other cars.
Fall not for the temptation of easy, ample tree shade, as it is a path fraught with the perils of plop. Anywhere birds tend to congregate is a bad idea. Unless that shade is caused from a nice structural carport or an overhang with spikes all over it to keep the grackles off, it's probably a better idea to buy one of those folding windshield shades for inside your car and call it a day.
Anywhere close to a buggy bin, playground, dumpster or entrance is generally a bad idea, too. Narrow lots with little room to back up or turn around are bad ideas, as is anywhere frequented by new or inattentive drivers.
I got a new car my last semester of college. I started leaving it parked at home and walking more often after that.
Have as Many Non-Car Things Next to You as Possible
The fewer people are next to you, the fewer people can ding your car. Support posts, cross-hatched areas, curbs and islands are all things that don't move and won't scratch your car.
Alternately, you could park next to your own car.
Try to Park Next to Other Car People
Car events are usually pretty safe from door dings since they are full of people who don't like getting door dings. Ask yourself: is the other car pristine and shiny? Is it an exotic, a classic, a rare model, a track toy or a show car?
I'm pretty sure this is the safest parking lot in the entire universe.
Outside of being at a concours, there are certain telltale signs that you've parked next to the right person:
Awesome car-related stickers are usually a dead giveaway.
Track outlines, run group stickers and numbers, too, are a good sign that the car's owner knows better than to let an errant door scratch your paint. Even if they're on the biggest beater imaginable, that driver is far less likely to fail at driving and scrape you on the way out of their parking spot.
This guy? I would totally park next to this guy. Then again, I also know this guy. Parking next to people who you know would be mortified if they scratched up your car is always a safe bet, too.
Consider it mutually assured destruction: you don't want to scratch them, and they don't want to scratch you, and nobody wants to cause the first whack.
Know Who to Avoid
Obviously, you don't want to park next to a guy who's hogging multiple spaces, or whose car looks like an extra from BattleBots. Look for more subtle signs that the owner just doesn't care: worn paint, other door dings, or a trashy or junky interior. If they can't bother to care about their own car, they probably won't care about scraping yours.
Likewise, watch out for cars whose owners clearly care about something else far more than they do driving. Usually this involves a lot of stickers, a bulky rack or trailer hitch. I'm looking at you, Dude Who Would Clearly Rather Be Floating the River, But Had to Stop for Beer.
That being said, the cars I want to park next to least out of any vehicles in existence are the guys with controversial bumper stickers all over the back.
Anyone who's ever been forced to sit through any kind of "manners" class (groooooooooooan) ought to know that politics and religion are no-nos for polite conversation. They're subjects that people start fights and key cars over if you don't approach them delicately.
One or two stickers for your candidate of choice? A single witty but inoffensive statement about your political leanings? One shiny religious badge on the back? Congrats, you're a normal dude with an opinion. I might park next to that if the car looks clean.
"42 stickers on the Prius" guy, however—I'm not going to park next to you. Nothing against your first amendment right to express yourself, but I'm too afraid you'll recognize the little squiggles on my side window and take revenge on my car door for Mother Earth.
The same applies for all ends of the political/religious spectrum—if someone has got sorta-iffy-to-repeat-in-mixed-company stickers all over their trunk, it shows that they probably don't care if someone gets offended enough to punch their doors in, and that lack of care makes me worry that they'll have the same attitude towards the cars next to them. Avoid.
Loophole: Beaters & Rentals
I'm a little jealous of my friend's rallycross beater. Why? Not only can he park it pretty much anywhere without any thought or care of what else is in the lot, but it could jump whatever's in the way of said parking spot and no one in the entire universe would care. In fact, the whole world would laugh with you if you ramped a decorative planter to claim a parking spot.
Ladies and germs, this is your loophole. The easiest way to deal with the possibility of other people in a parking lot not caring about your car is to find a car you aren't too particular about, either. If your car already looks like this:
...you're probably not too worried about door scuffs. That alone makes me want to register the LeMon for road use! It would be the BATTLEPORSCHE.
Rental cars also work for the same reason. When I picked up a loaner while my car was in the shop, the rental office lady joked that "yep, the car has been in Austin" and didn't think twice about the couple scuffs on the doors. While it's never awesome to intentionally damage someone else's property, I know I'm a far less nervous when parking a rental than I am with my car. I also know that I won't stare at the rental for hours upon end fuming in anger and wondering how to buff out someone else's mistake.
So, there you have it: a completely paranoid guide to picking the perfect parking spot. Even though it's impossible to avoid any obstacles (especially grackles), there are ways to minimize the risk of having your precious scratched up by inattentive or vengeful drivers in a parking lot.
Photo Credits: Getty Images (top) Chickabee Studio (Hyundai), Flappy Paddle Heads (BMW), Imgur (poop), J. Timothy King (Camry), Legal Insurrection (too many bumper stickers), Philip Thomas (Subaru, MOST AWESOME CAR EVER!)