• An ultimate guide to parking in the UK

An ultimate guide to parking in the UK

Find out where and when you can park without getting a fine

Whether you are popping into town for a few hours, heading to the beach for the day, or spending the weekend away, one thing’s for sure is that you’ll need to find somewhere to park. 

If you’re local to your destination, then you’ve no doubt sussed out the best (and worst!) places to park, but if you’re heading to a holiday hotspot, then it’s well worth checking your options online first.

In our ultimate guide to parking in the UK, we explain more about the various rules and regulations when it comes to parking your car or van. Find out where and when you can or can’t park without getting into trouble, so you can enjoy a stress-free journey… 

What are the rules for parking in the UK?

Rules highlighted in the Highway Code explain that parking in the UK is subject to various rules and restrictions. These include specific rules for waiting (pick-ups/drop-offs or loading and unloading), parking at night and spaces reserved for specific users: 

General parking rules

Drivers are warned NOT to wait or park on single yellow lines during times indicated on nearby signage. In addition, drivers MUST NOT wait or park on double yellow lines at any time during the day or night. 

Where there’s school entrance markings on the road, drivers are NOT permitted to wait or stop during times when in use. These will be indicated by nearby signage too.

Parking is permitted in off-street car parks or designated on-street parking bays. In some circumstances, stopping or parking on the roadside (if safe and legal to do so) may be necessary. In this instance, drivers MUST follow these rules:

  • Not to park against the direction of oncoming traffic
  • Not to park in a dangerous position or one that causes an obstruction
  • To stop as close to the verge or kerbside as possible
  • Not to stop in close proximity to a disabled vehicle (that’s one displaying a Blue Badge)
  • To switch off the engine and lights
  • To apply the handbrake
  • To take care when opening doors
  • To check for other road users, including cyclists
  • To exit the vehicle on the kerb side
  • To conceal any valuables kept within the vehicle
  • To lock the vehicle

There are clear rules when it comes to stopping or parking on certain stretches of roads in the UK. Drivers MUST NOT stop or park on the following:

  • Anywhere on a motorway unless deemed an emergency, in which case drivers must use the hard shoulder or a designated emergency area (these usually are accompanied by an orange SOS telephone)
  • A pedestrian crossing, or the zig-zag areas either side
  • A road with double white lines (in some cases, vehicles are permitted to load or unload)
  • A road with red lines (single or double) also known as a red route
  • A clearway or urban clearway (signage will highlight this)
  • A taxi bay/rank
  • A cycle lane
  • A tram lane

In addition to the above, there are other road-based areas where drivers are NOT permitted to park at the risk of causing an obstruction or accident. These are: 

  • Places which would restrict access for the emergency services (remember that a fire engine may need to pass by)
  • Near to or on a bus stop
  • On or the approach to a level crossing for trains or trams
  • Within 10 metres of a major junction
  • On a bend
  • On or near the brow of a hill or bridge
  • On or opposite a roundabout or traffic island
  • In front of someone else’s property
  • Anywhere that would block access to a cycle lane
  • On the pavement in London

Other parking restrictions include NOT parking in bays marked for disabled drivers (Blue Badge holders), those reserved for residents with permits, ones allocated to electric vehicles, or spaces specifically for motorcycles. 

There are extra rules for drivers who operate goods vehicles of 7.5 tonnes or over. In this instance, a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) is NOT allowed to park on a verge or pavement anywhere in the UK without prior permission from police. 

Parking at night rules

Parking at night is subject to a few extra rules due to poor visibility for drivers, so these are as follows:

  • DO NOT park in the opposite direction of traffic, unless in a designated parking bay
  • DO switch on parking lights if parked on the side of a road which is not in a residential area
  • Vehicles with trailers or extra loads MUST have parking lights switched on at all times when parked

Parking on a hill rules

The Highway Code has shared its tips to safe and considerate parking when in a hilly area. In this case, drivers should do the following:

  • Park as close to the kerb as possible
  • Always apply the handbrake if in a manual vehicle
  • Switch on the ‘park’ function if in an automatic vehicle
  • When facing uphill, put your vehicle in first gear and turn the wheel away from the kerb
  • When facing downhill, put your vehicle in reverse gear and turn your wheel into the kerb 

What are the rules for parking an electric car?

Electric cars can park in any standard car parking space, but EV drivers also have the added benefit of parking in bays designated to electric cars only. But there’s a rule to this one; an electric can only be parked in an EV space if it is being actively charged for the duration. If you park an electric car in an EV bay without charging it, you could risk being fined.    

What is meant by on-street and off-street parking?

On-street parking means that a vehicle is parked along a street, whether it’s along unmarked roads or designated parking spaces. On-street parking is commonly found in towns and cities where properties are less likely to have private driveways. 

Off-street parking means that a vehicle is parked in a car park or private parking area that is away from the main street. 

What is a Controlled Parking Zone?

A Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) is an area where drivers are limited to where they can stop or park at any given time. Usually found in urban areas with on-street parking, CPZs are monitored by local councils to support people living in areas where residents have restricted parking. 

The idea of a CPZ is to stop non-residents from using unpermitted on-street parking instead of public car parks, or to deter commercial vehicle drivers or tradespeople from parking inconsiderately and obstructively.  

What types of parking charges are there in the UK?

For drivers who park illegally, poor parking choices could result in a penalty fine. As such there are various types of parking tickets issued to motorists who fail to park properly, these are:

Fixed Penalty Notice

A Fixed Penalty Notice (also known as an FPN) can be issued by the police, a council warden or an agent working for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). An FPN is usually issued in the case of illegal or dangerous parking and will result in a time sensitive fine. 

Parking Charge Notice

A Parking Charge Notice (PCN) is issued when a driver parks illegally in a car park managed by private companies, such as a supermarket car park. Wardens dedicated to managing the car park can issue a PCN which comes with a fine - this will need to be paid within a certain timeframe.     

Penalty Charge Notice

A Penalty Charge Notice (also referred to as a PCN) is similar to a Parking Charge Notice, the only difference being that these are issued to drivers who park illegally in a public or council-owned car park.  

What happens if you get a parking ticket in a rental car?

When you sign a contract for a rental car, it becomes your responsibility as the driver to park legally so as not to incur a fine. If you do happen to receive a fine in a hire car, the rental company will be notified and you'll be expected to pay the fee. Remember that hire car companies will have your credit card details on file, so there’s no avoiding the fine.    

Parking charges for Rent Direct customers  

Here at Rent Direct, we provide hire cars, MPVs and vans to customers across East Anglia and beyond. Hiring a vehicle means that you as the driver take on the responsibility of looking after it while in your care. 

We understand that mistakes can happen, so if you receive a parking fine in one of our vehicles then it’s best to let us know as soon as possible. You can then either pay the fine straight away (this is usually the best option as the fine will normally be reduced by 50%) or when you return the vehicle to us.