Putting aside the annoyance factor, another basic rule of frugal living is to protect your possessions, especially the expensive ones. Protecting your vehicle should be high on your list. Protecting the vehicle from avoidable physical damage, such as dents and dings, is a no-brainer.
Many of us, however, believe that dents and dings are just an inevitable part of car ownership. After all, it almost seems to be a rule of law that every new car owner, usually after an already hectic day of work, will come out to see his car sporting a hideous dent, right there on the driver’s door, for you to see for the rest of the car’s life. Almost always, the ding is perfectly positioned so as to be accentuated by the sunlight. And the dents and dings seem to come in batches as well. Once you get that first one, you can safely bet on finding two or three more, along with a thick scratch and a gash or two, within the next six weeks. To make matters worse, cars are more vulnerable than ever as manufacturers, in their endless quest to cheapen production costs, are dropping molding strips from new models.
But here’s the good news, my fellow frugalists: there are a number of simple strategies that can be followed to significantly reduce the chance of your car receiving one of those unsightly dents, dings, creases, or scratches. Here they are, free of charge as always:
1. Leave it at home: The absolute best technique for avoiding physical damage is to leave that car in the safety of your garage. You can do it if you walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation – all of which, by the way, are great approaches to a frugal lifestyle.
2. Park it alone: The next rule of dent avoidance is wonderfully simple. It goes like this: if you don’t want to have your car dented and dinged by other cars, don’t park beside them. Break away from the herd. Park in the far end of the lot, and keep your car looking new. While not always possible, just think of how many times you have the option of parking in an isolated spot where no other vehicle would have any reason to park within a door’s length of you. And it’s not like you have to park miles away to do it. Frequently, it’s simply a matter of parking four or five spaces away from the last car. Instead, we are seemingly programmed to scour the lot for the closest space to the door.
Granted, this will require a tad bit more exercise. But, when you really think about it, isn’t that just another benefit? I still chuckle when I watch fellow members of my gym squeeze their cars into the nearest space rather than walk those extra twenty paces to their workout.
3. Parallel Park whenever possible: It sounds contrarian, doesn’t it? Most people avoid parallel parking like the plague. You should, however, welcome the opportunity if your goal is to avoid dents and dings. Why? Because it eliminates the possibility of neighboring cars banging their doors into yours. Yes, you can still get bumped from the front or behind, but that’s what those 5 mph bumpers are for.
4. Increase lateral distance from adjacent parked vehicles: You also want to maximize the distance between vehicles when you must park next to them. One way to do this is to go for corner spaces. These spaces often are odd-ball spaces with additional space, too small for another parking space, beside them. Take advantage of the opportunities these spaces provide to park your car outside of the door opening radius of your neighbor.
Another tip is to park against the direction of any angled space. Doing this actually increases the amount of room that the neighboring vehicles’ doors have to open before touching yours.
5. Minimize exposure to other doors:
For those other times when you must park in a crowded lot or parking garage, look for the spaces with the fewest threats. Look to park next to the following vehicles, in descending order of preference:
Motorcycles – no threats here;
Minivans – Sliding doors will do your car no harm;
Two door cars – only one door per side means half the risk;
Compacts – smaller and lighter doors cause less damage.
6. Miscellaneous strategies:
If you must park beside a dreaded SUV or truck, consider parking close to the vehicle. Why? Because doing so minimizes the room for the larger vehicle’s door to gain momentum before crashing into yours. A light touching will do far less harm, and quite possibly, none at all.
And, finally, whatever you do, don’t deliberately park over two spaces. This only sparks parking lot rage and could very well prompt another driver to key or otherwise intentionally damage your car.