Car parking spaces are having to be made bigger to meet the growing size of family cars and 4x4s, the UK’s largest car park provider has said.
National Car Parks (NCP) said it had widened some bays in London, Manchester and Bournemouth to cope with the popularity of increasingly large cars.
The firm told the Times it planned to widen parking bays “wherever possible”.
Accident Exchange, which loans courtesy cars, estimated there had been a 35% rise in parking accidents since 2014.
NCP said there was an “extremely fine balance” between the demand for wider spaces and the need to maximise the number of spots.
However, it told the Times: “We are moving towards making the bays wider as we recognise that vehicles are growing in size, especially SUVs.”
The standard parking space in the UK is 15.7ft (4.8m) in length, by 7.8ft (2.4m) in width.
However, the latest models of the Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery, BMW X5 and the Mercedes GL-Class are all longer than 4.8m, while many smaller models have also increased in size.
Accident Exchange said the number of crashes and scratches while parking was now costing UK insurers about £1.4bn per year.
Parking-related incidents now account for more than 30% of all accidents, it said, adding that more than 675,000 parking collisions are now registered every year.
Director of operations, Scott Hamilton-Cooper, said drivers were “having to squeeze increasingly large cars into spaces that generally haven’t got any larger for a very long time”.
“Manufacturers follow the market, and so cars are outgrowing parking spaces,” he said.
“Not only are popular SUVs usurping smaller hatchbacks when it comes to new cars sales, older smaller cars are being taken off the street.
“The undoubted success of the SUV segment will have played its part – perhaps the roads aren’t quite ready for them because some drivers feel certain car parks are no-go areas due the sheer length and width of their cars.”
Socially unacceptable ‘tanks’
“I don’t want the bays widened,” Neil Hawker, from Hampshire says.
“I drive a reasonably large car (BMW 5-series), but do not have difficulty parking in most car parks except when parking next to some particularly wide 4x4s and SUVs, which do take up the whole of their space.
He says the solution is to make particularly large “SUV ‘tanks socially unacceptable”.
Rob Young, from Gateshead, who drives a Ford Focus, says “nine times out of 10 parking my car is not a great experience”.
If parent bays are full, he says he then has to undertake a “struggle” to gain an extra inch of space to help his daughter out of the car.
Phil Rutter, from Rhayader, Powys, says the basic design of car parks in the UK is wrong.
America has “a more pragmatic approach” to parking, he says, by setting out spaces diagonally, therefore using “the space more efficiently”.
Anthony Graham says that while wider car parking bays “are needed for larger cars”, they should come at “a materially higher price, to encourage more environmentally friendly ways of travel”.
But not everybody would be unhappy with that.
Richard Ansell, who owns an Audi Q5, says “virtually all spaces are too small” for his car.
“If I park over the white line because another driver has struggled to fit in a bay I risk getting a parking ticket for parking illegally.
“I would be happy to pay a higher parking tariff in order to safeguard my car.”
‘No minimum size’
Sarah Lewis, from the AA, said the overwhelming majority of the organisation’s members wanted the size of car parking spaces to be increased.
“We spoke to our members and over 90% said that they feel that parking spaces are too small comparatively to the size of modern cars,” she told the BBC.
“There is nothing more frustrating than coming back to your car and finding it has been damaged.”
Patrick Troy, from the British Parking Association, said the main problem was with older car parks.
He said: “There is no legal minimum size, there is a design standard which was put in place some years ago which is 4.8m by 2.4m. But it is just that, a design standard and a lot of car park operators use that as the minimum standard these days.
“The problem here is older car parks, some of which have been around since the 60s and 70s and aren’t designed for those larger vehicles.”