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American Cars Are Getting Too Big For Parking Spaces

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 27, 2023

a comparison of the size of a 1955 Fiat 600 with a 2020 GMC Yukon

The American car has gotten bigger in the past few decades but parking spot size has not kept pace.

Regardless of the cause, the end result is roughly 50 percent of the American car market switched from sedans and wagons to SUVs, especially midsize and large SUVs, chunkifying the average American car. Consider someone who switched from a Honda Civic to a Honda CR-V. This added about three inches in width. A CR-V to a Pilot, a large SUV, would add five more inches in width. This may not sound like much, but repeat for half the cars in a parking lot and it adds up. For example, in a 700-space garage, if each car is four inches wider than its predecessor, that is 233 additional feet in car width-from the goal line to the opponent's 23 yard line on a football field-that needs to be accommodated.

The local community mailing list in the small town I live in has been discussing this issue recently. Over the past 20 years (and in my opinion, it's really escalated in the past few years), it's become more and more difficult to park in the lot that serves the more popular of the town's two grocery stores, 3-4 restaurants, and a few shops. Length is more the issue here than width: we've got many more massive pickup trucks, SUVs, and sport utility wagons around here than we used to have, and it's become much harder to navigate the increasingly narrow aisles between rows of parked cars. I hate parking there now โ€” getting into or backing out of a spot often requires multiple tries and just clogs things up for everyone.

BTW, before I get any feedback like "ban cars!", you should know that I'm a very reluctant car owner โ€” the amount of resources America devotes to cars over better alternatives is one of the many reasons why โ€” but biking and public transportation in rural areas with cold winters are not viable options. I try to drive as little as possible and consolidate trips, but it still ends up being thousands of miles a year. (via curious about everything)

Note: The image above from Carsized compares the size of a 1955 Fiat 600 with a 2020 GMC Yukon.