In Search Of The Perfect Parking Spot

Ostiusionophobia:  <Late 20th-c.  From L. Ostium “Door”, L. Sionem “Dent”>  The irrational fear of door dings.  I may have made up the name of the condition, but the condition itself is real.  I know because I am afflicted with it.  I don’t see it as abnormal, but those who ride in my car certainly do.  You see, I am willing to go to most any length (or walking distance) to avoid door dings – or the very possibility of door dings.  Hit the jump for some helpful tips on how to avoid mankind’s worst blight.

Have you ever pulled into what you thought was a suitable parking spot only to further assess the situation and then back out of the spot in favor of another?  Do cars with extra long doors or obvious signs of conveying children make you cringe?  Do you often walk past dozens of open parking spots on your way into a business because none of them were quite wide enough to actually park in?  If so, you may have ostiusionophobia.

A very good parking spot with an unused walkway on one side and the ability to park off-center for maximum berth.

Don’t worry though, this condition can be good for you, and is almost certainly good for your car.  To that end, let’s take a look at the characteristics of the perfect parking spot.  While there is no way to completely protect your car or truck from parking lot dings, there are measures you can take to reduce the risks.  In reality, the perfect public parking spot does not exist, but there are some things to look for and some things to avoid.

What to look for: 

  1. Width.  The more available space between your car and the car next to yours, the better.  Costco has some ample parking spots, with painted voids between cars.  They are excellent. 
  2. Barriers.  Find spots next to lamp posts, curbs, and other barriers.  The best way to avoid a car dinging yours is to choose a spot with limited exposure.  If they can’t park next to you, they can’t ding you.  (End spots open up the possibility of an errant shopping cart, or worse, getting clipped by some driver who isn’t good at negotiating things like turns, but those risks are modest.) 
  3. Ability.  Look for vehicles with sliding doors, trailers, and other vehicles that aren’t capable of swinging their doors into your car. 
  4. Nice cars.  Park next to cars that are well-kept, clean, and generally nice.  People who take care of their car will be more likely to be careful around yours.
  5. Distance.  If all else fails, just park way out back, where other cars aren’t likely to park.

The owner of this BMW is using many of the tips above.  (He parks here every day.)

An aside: One time, at work, I was driving a company-owned Ford Taurus with three co-workers in the car.  I parked the car in its assigned spot next to the other staff cars.  The co-worker in the passenger seat, who was a large man, opened his door hard into the next car, leaned against it to help himself out of the car, and the door dragged upward against the next car as he stepped out of the car and the springs recovered to their original height.  Despite the fact that it was just a staff car, I was horrified.  The point of the story is that there is a segment of society (perhaps even a majority) that views cars as just a pile of steel, glass and rubber – a tool to take them from here to there.  These people will ding your door and not even notice.  The car in the next spot is merely a door stop to them.  I have seen it with my own eyes.  This brings me to the next section.

What to avoid:

  1. Fat.  I’ll go ahead and say it.  Fat people, fat cars, cars that look like fat people might drive them, cars with IHOP stickers on them – avoid them.  Let’s face it, fat people need a lot more space to get in and out of their cars.  They also are less nimble and therefore less able to slip out of their cars without opening the door all the way. 
  2. Beaters.  Park next to a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero with cracked bumpers and no paint on the edges of its doors and you are nearly guaranteed a door ding.  People who drive beaters rarely care about their car, and care even less about yours.
  3. Long doors.  Think Lincoln Mark VIII here.  That’s one long door.  Even in the widest of parking spots, that door can reach out and get your car.  It’s like an evil superpower some cars possess. 
  4. Children.  It is not always readily apparent, but there are clues you can watch for.  Family stick figure decals, school decals, baby seats, etc…  Children may not know any better; it’s best to avoid them.  Anyone who has seen a child at a car show crawling into a show car just because it’s blue can understand this one.
  5. Close spots.  No matter how wide the spot is and how nice the cars next to yours are, close spots are a bad idea.  When you get back to your car, it is likely that the Porsche and the WRX you parked between will be gone and an overgrown Suburban will be parked crookedly next to it.  This is not a chance you should take. 

(I should note here that I refuse to double-park, so this advice is solely for single-spot parking endeavors.) 

Occasionally, there is a good, safe spot somewhere close to the entrance, but if you follow these instructions, you will end up parking far away quite often.  Think of it as another way to keep yourself fit.  Take those few extra steps and keep your heart and your car in good condition.  If you are anything like me, avoiding troublesome door dings will keep your psyche in good condition as well. 

Another good spot.  This time, the trailer is double parked, keeping others from parking between.  The xB is off-center to provide ample berth for a car that may park next to it. 

(Note:  I know that not all 1999 Alero drivers will ding my doors and that not all fat people will use the car next to them as a doorstop.  These are guidelines posted by a guy with a made-up psychological disorder, so take them with a grain of salt and a bit of tongue-in-cheek.)

Scott Ith is an Associate Editor with, but he also contributes to his own site  Head over there for more automotive hoonery.

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