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Even if you do great fuel-efficient driving, you’ll ruin your average in the parking lot. Here are a few tips to help you park more safely and more efficiently.

“Face Out” Parking

The best way to park is with your car facing out of the space. This is safer and saves you gas. When you’re driving on a warmed up engine, you use less fuel. When you come back from the store, your engine is less efficient. It’s better to be able to leave quickly and waste less fuel instead of taking forever backing up.

Pull-Through Face-Out Parking

The best way to park face-out is by pulling through an empty space. This is easier to do, because you can just drive forward. It’s better for saving gas, because you don’t use so much fuel later when you leave the lot. It’s safest, because you never need to back out into the open, where pedestrians and other cars might surprise you on the way out.

Another reason to park facing out is called “tactical parking”. If you need to leave the parking lot in a hurry for any reason, you’ll be able to get away faster.

Back-In Face-Out Parking

Backing into the space is the second best way to park. You’ll get most of the advantages of pulling through. The only downside is that you’ll run the engine longer pulling in. This isn’t quite as good for gas, but it’s better to do that slow backing on a warm engine than a cool one, like you would backing when you leave. Backing into a space is also safer than backing out, because you aren’t ever pulling into the unknown.

Face-In Parking

Just say no to face-in parking. Friends don’t let friends park face-in.

It’s easier when you are pulling in, but it’s riskier when leaving. You’re also saving your most inefficient parking for when the motor is cool and inefficient. It’s a double whammy on your mileage. Seriously, just don’t do it unless you absolutely have to do it for some reason.

It’s not easier than pull-through parking anyway, so what’s the point?

“But I want to be close to the store!”

Unless you are disabled or very elderly, don’t be a lazy turd. That, and like me, most people could use the exercise! Plus, if you go to the side of the store, you can probably get close without being forced to park the wrong way for fuel economy.

“What about accessing the hatch/trunk?”

If you’re concerned that somebody might park too close, move farther out in the lot where that’s less likely to happen or back into a space where there’s nobody behind you, like at the end of the lot or on the side. More exercise. Yay! And, once again, quit making excuses. You can do it!

Potential Parking (High Ground)

This tip is really simple. Be Like Obi-Wan. Take the high ground.

Save gas by parking on the highest part of the parking lot. By doing this, you will have less energy use when you depart. For gas engines, this is better because you are doing less work on the cold engine. For hybrids and electrics, you’re saving electric on the initial acceleration and may be able to coast away from the space without activating a hybrid’s engine.

Avoid Idling

The worst thing about parking lots is all the idling you might have to do if you don’t plan ahead a bit. Remember when you’re sitting with the engine running, you’re wasting gas. Or with an electric or hybrid, you are still wasting energy if you’re running heat or A/C.

The above picture is an aerial shot of my local Walmart. When I go in from Walton Blvd, I go in behind the store and park on the side. I do this because I am always sitting there in front of the store while people slowly leave and clog the lane. The bad news is that these folks aren’t just an annoyance, they’re costing you energy and fuel. Drive around them by picking a better route.

I also like to enter and depart by the other side road to the right because it doesn’t get clogged with people trying to turn left. More idling avoided! Also, I like to pull in through the Arby’s lot sometimes to avoid the traffic at the other entrance.

When you go to your stores, how are you coming and leaving? Are there more fuel efficient routes? Might it be better to go at a different time of day to avoid traffic?

Think about the parking lots you frequent, and you’ll probably find your own path to saving energy and fuel.

Don’t Sit And Idle In Your Space

One last efficiency tip: don’t sit there with the car on before you drive off. Get everything done before you turn the car on. Adjust mirrors, buckle children, load groceries. But don’t turn that key or press the power button until you’re ready to immediately drive off.

Don’t Get Complacent With Safety Features

Safety features like backup cameras, radar, and self-parking cars are great. I’m not knocking them at all.

It’s best to avoid becoming complacent, though. You should still look when you back up, at least once. You should be careful about blind spots, and distorted views the backup camera might give you. There’s also the chance of malfunction for higher-end radar and self-driving systems.

Plus, I’ve driven a car with some of these features and really loved them. Then I drove my older car that didn’t have them, and I caught myself starting to back up without looking because I was used to seeing a backup cam. Just keep an eye on yourself. It could prevent disaster.

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