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The ultimate guide to parking space dimensions

March 29, 2024
Hannah Michelle Lambert
Content Writer

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Consider your parking lot: the starting point for the overall tenant or patron experience at your business or residential community. A key part of creating the best parking lot or garage possible is choosing the right dimensions for each spot. 

Whether you’re a developer strategizing your parking scheme for the first time, a building owner looking to overhaul your existing parking spaces, or a property manager striping your lot for a lease-up, it’s crucial to get it right. 

But with no federally-regulated parking space sizes, dimensions are often left up to local regulation — or not regulated at all. If you live in a city where there is no minimum size required, it’s important to know the most common dimensions so you can make the best decision for your community. 

Keep on reading for a full guide.

The impact of the right parking space dimensions

Before we talk about actual dimensions, we first want to clarify why they matter. You may think that a parking lot is just a parking lot, and as long as you can fit in all the spots you need, you’re okay.

But as we’re about to make clear, there’s much more that goes into it. 

Your property value 

For apartment buildings especially, well-selected parking space dimensions can enhance your property value and the attractiveness of your complex. 

Since easy parking is one of the deciding factors for renters on where to live, your strategy here is important in the lease-up phase and beyond to get — and keep — your units full. 

Additionally, a well-planned lot with the right mix of spaces is crucial to driving parking revenue at your building. Parking is often overlooked as a revenue stream for multi-family property owners, but it can significantly boost NOI and lift asset value by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Community experience

Your parking lot is typically part of a patron or resident’s first impression of your business or community. You don’t want people to drive up and see cramped spaces, misparked cars, and fender benders in progress.

For apartment complexes in particular, parking obviously continues to have an impact after a resident makes the decision to sign a lease. And spots that are the right size can shield your residents from potential negative experiences like damage to their cars, difficulty navigating the parking lot, and frustration with other residents parking cars outside the lines. 

Want to hear an entertaining but cautionary tale of a San Francisco resident living at a complex where they didn’t do the right planning?

"The parking lot is designed by a madman tripping on LSD. My car was in near-perfect condition when I started here and I was excited to keep it that way by having underground garage parking. Nope! The design of the parking lot itself has ensured my car is maimed. And yet I pay $475/month for a spot." —Gabriel S.

Now that you understand the importance and impact of proper planning, let’s get into all the different sizes of parking spaces available to your lot.

Common dimensions for every type of parking space

Standard parking space dimensions

For your standard parking space, meant to accommodate “average” sized cars like sedans, crossovers and minivans, the most common dimensions in the U.S. are 8’6” by 18’. Some cities have minimums for standard spaces, so check your local regulations.

In Canada, the standard is just slightly different at 9’ by 17’ (or 2.75m by 5.2m).

For “standard large” spots, made for bigger vehicles like trucks and vans, the dimensions are generally 9’ by 20’.

Compact parking space dimensions

For smaller cars, like coupes, smart cars and fiats, compact spots can help you take advantage of their small size to make extra room in your parking lot. 

The average dimensions for a compact parking space in the U.S. are 8’ by 16’. 

Parallel parking space dimensions 

For standard parallel parking spaces, common dimensions are 8’6” by 23’. The 23’ length includes 19’ for the spot itself and 4’ of safety space. 

It’s also important to include at least 12 feet of space next to the parallel spot to leave adequate room for traffic flow. 

For compact parallel parking spots, the dimensions are 6.5’ by 19.6’ with 11’6” next to it for the flow of traffic.

Handicapped parking space dimensions

You’ll also need to include handicap parking spaces in your lot. Per the ADA guidelines, one of every 25 conventional spaces need to be handicap accessible. And one of every 6 of the accessible spots needs to be van accessible. 

The dimensions for these different spots can vary slightly. 

For car accessible spaces, they must be at least 96” wide with a marked access aisle that’s at least 60” wide. It’s important to note that two handicap spaces next to each other can share a single 60” access aisle between them. 

For van accessible spaces, you have two options. You can have a spot that is 132” inches (11 feet) with an access aisle that’s at least 60” wide, or you can have a spot that’s 96” wide with an access aisle that’s 96” wide. 

For all of these spots, they must be clearly marked with the right striping and signage, designating them as accessible and van accessible spots. For full guidelines on signage requirements and other details, visit the ADA.gov information page.

Tandem parking space dimensions

Tandem parking spaces, or spots where one car blocks another car in, the dimensions are 9’ wide and 36’ long. 

Angled parking space dimensions

For angled parking spots, which is a space-saving strategy we’ll talk about a little later, the dimensions of the spots themselves remain the same, the only difference is the space needed for traffic flow.

For standard angled spots, you generally must have a minimum of 14’ aisle between spaces for one-way traffic, but this can vary slightly depending on local regulations. And for compact spots, you need to leave 9’10” for one-way traffic. 

EV parking spot dimensions

Level 2 EV charging spaces — i.e. popular charging options that charge cars much faster than when plugging into a regular outlet — are an increasingly popular amenity for apartment complexes to provide. And while the actual parking spot dimensions will not change — you can put a charger at any of the above-mentioned spots without needing different dimensions — but you just need to ensure that there is enough space to fit the charging station without cutting into the dimensions of the space itself. 

Many parking planners like to put these chargers up against walls or sidewalks, or they’ll create a few feet of space between rows of parking. 

Factors influencing space size

There are a handful of factors that can affect the size of spaces that you may choose to fill your parking lot with. 

Vehicle size

There’s a growing trend towards larger vehicles such as SUVs and trucks in the United States. This has led to an increased need for larger spots. 

If you’re building a parking lot from scratch, you may want to consider doing some type of research into the types of cars your tenants or patrons are likely to have. Some of this can be done by surveying the communities around you and seeing the types of vehicles you see. Typically, rural areas are more likely to have larger trucks and SUVs, while urban areas are more likely to have more compact cars.

Getting a gauge on this beforehand can help you anticipate needs and determine the best mix of compact, regular, and oversized spots. 

If you are managing an already-built property, you may have already noticed that you’re having problems with large cars parking over the lines or hitting other cars. Or maybe you’ve noticed that you have lots of small cars that could easily fit in compact spots. This can inform your decision to re-strategize your parking and restripe your lot.

If you’re a residential property manager, you can also send surveys to your residents and ask them directly if they would prefer any additional spot sizes, as well as their willingness to pay more or desire to pay less. If you build more compact spots, you have an opportunity to squeeze in more spots when you’re tight on space or experiencing a parking shortage. And if you need to create more oversized spots, you can look into boosting your revenue by charging more for premium-priced spots

Local regulations

Your local zoning laws and building codes can also dictate the minimum parking space dimensions. These can vary from one municipality to another.

As a developer, checking these boxes is likely already a part of your building process. But if you’re a property manager looking to re-stripe your lot, you’ll want to get local planning authorities involved to ensure that the changes you want to make are up to code. 

As we mentioned above, there are also ADA laws that you need to remain compliant with. 

Design considerations to optimize the use of space

Whether you’re working within the confines of your existing lot or looking to plan your lot the right way from the beginning, there are several strategies to make the most of the space. 

Angled vs. straight parking spots

Angled parking is a great way to fit more spaces into tighter confines because of the reduced space needed for turning. Whereas with perpendicular, or straight parking, it requires a larger turning aisle for maneuvering into the spot. 

Angled parking is typically most suitable for lots where you can reliably enforce one-way traffic flow, since the angle of spots should align with the flow of traffic. 

There are several different possible options for the angles that your spots can be:

45 degree angle spots are best for higher-density areas since it can accommodate more spaces per square footage than any other angle. They are also the easiest to maneuver into, requiring less space for a turning aisle, only 14 feet on average in the U.S.

60 degree angle spots are usually the most popular option, balancing space efficiency and ease of use with a comfortably-sized aisle of 20 feet (on average) for one-way traffic. Less driving aisle width is needed than 90 degree parking, but a little more is required compared to 45 degree angles. This is a good option for mid-sized lots.

75 degree angle spots are the closest you can be to perpendicular spots without actually being straight. They save a little more space than perpendicular parking, but out of the angled parking options, they are the most difficult to maneuver, so they’re not that popular at residential properties. Instead, they are more common in places where people will have more patience with tight maneuvers, like urban centers or professional environments. 

Tandem spots

If you’re really tight on space and in a pinch, tandem spots could be a space-saving option. However, these are a major pain for residents, so it should only be used as a last resort. 

Here are just a few sentiments from people who’ve dealt with tandem spots before:

“That sounds like such a nightmare. It’s fine with friends or roommates, but I wouldn’t do it with anyone I couldn’t trust trading key copies with.”

“Holy hell I cannot imagine the headache of needing to call someone and wait. But you're also forgetting the other half of this complete nightmare - having to drop everything to go move your car for someone else. Honestly a tandem parking spot sounds worse than prison. Like, it's not something you choose, it's something a witch curses you with.”

Flexible layouts

In many cases, it’s a good idea to find a good mix of different types of spots—straight, angled, and maybe a few tandem spots at a big discount—to suit your space needs without sacrificing your resident experience or adding unnecessary operational complications. 

Should I maximize parking spaces by making spots smaller?

When you’re in the midst of a parking shortage, fielding complaints from residents or patrons every day about being unable to find a spot, it’s enticing to shave a few inches off of each spot to squeeze in a few more. 

But making spots too small can end up causing more headaches than it’s worth. People are just as likely to complain about dings to their car or their spot neighbor parking over the line into their spot as they are about not finding parking. 

The better solution is to instead better manage the spots you already have. Unbundling parking from rent and finding the right pricing strategy can go a long way in managing demand, and using the right parking management tool will help you keep an up-to-date record of who’s allowed to park where and reliably enforce your parking standards, cutting down on unauthorized parking that’s eating into your valuable spaces. 

One of our customers with an apartment building in a popular downtown LA neighborhood came to us with a parking shortage, thinking they didn't have enough space to accommodate the growing number of residents and guests at their community. 

Simply by switching to Parkade, they were able to boost their capacity by 27% — the always-accurate parking records made the biggest dent in the problem, with the parking log audit revealing 18 spots that were incorrectly assigned and could be put to use. Another 8 spots were made available from subleasing by traveling residents, or residents who used to rent long-term, opting to just rent short-term when needed instead.

Paint + maintenance

Closely aligned to the topic of parking space dimensions is the consideration of painting the actual lines. There are several different paint options for your parking lot:

Thermoplastic paint

This is the most durable option. It contains plastic, which has to be heated and melted down before applying it to your lot. This durability helps it hold up against bad weather, leading to less need for restriping since it lasts a long time. It has a higher price tag and is more time-consuming to apply, but given the reduced need to touch it up, it often ends up balancing out. 

Water-based paint

This is the most affordable and eco-friendly option. It’s also quicker to apply. However, this comes at a cost since it doesn’t stand up to the harsh elements very well. If your property is in an area that frequently has rain or snow, this may not be the best option. The benefits can quickly be canceled out by a need to constantly touch the paint up. 

Oil-based paint

If you live in a climate with a lot of cold winters, oil-based paint is probably the best option. It’s a bit more affordable than thermoplastic paint, but still delivers durability, at least when it comes to withstanding freezing temperatures. It’s not eco-friendly like water-based paint, but given its long life span, this may end up being less relevant. 

Whatever option you choose, you want to make sure you consistently maintain it to avoid the issues of faded spot lines, including damage to your pavement because of frequent sudden stopping, people parking in the wrong spots, and collisions. 

So… are the wrong parking space dimensions really your problem?

Perhaps after reading this, you’ve realized that your spot sizes aren’t the problem, or at least changing your spot size won’t lead you to the results you really need. You may have discovered that you simply need to better manage your existing spots. 

To see if this is the case, check out our interactive infographic to see if your problems align with what we help our customers solve every day in their lots.

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