Car-tortion – the 30cm squeeze on motorists getting in and out of parked cars

  • Drivers have just the length of a child’s ruler, box of cornflakes, or two hot dogs, to squeeze out of their car when parked next to another vehicle
  • ‘Car-tortionists’ - drivers are forced to use acrobatic skills to access their cars, with one in five having to enter through the boot because another car was parked so close
  • Parking bay dimensions are still based on guidelines from the 1970s despite car widths increasing dramatically
  • Damage caused by squeezing cars in and out of parking bays costs UK motorists an estimated £424 million every year

A new study1 by Churchill Motor Insurance reveals drivers of the UK’s most popular cars have just 30cm – the length of a child’s ruler, box of cornflakes or two hot dogs – to get in and out of their vehicle when next to another vehicle in a carpark2. People are forced to become ‘car-tortionists’, using acrobatic skills to gain access to their cars, with one in five (22 per cent) resorting to climbing into their parked car via the boot.

Three quarters (75 per cent) of drivers have been forced to squeeze themselves into their car when parked next to another vehicle in a car park, with 40 per cent having to do this at least once a month. More than half (51 per cent) of motorists say the only way they have been able to access their car is via the passenger door, because there wasn’t room to open the driver’s door.

As a result, drivers are regularly avoiding certain car parks altogether (57 per cent), driving past empty spaces (83 per cent) and letting passengers (including children) get out of the vehicle before parking (75 per cent), to avoid damaging their own or other people’s vehicles. 

Churchill’s analysis reveals the widths of some of the UK’s popular family cars3, including the Kia Sportage, BMW Mini and the Ford Puma, have increased by an average of 13cm from launch to 2023⁴, with a typical family car now measuring 180cm wide. However, it is clear from the car parks across the UK that Churchill examined, the space allocated for each car is still based on guidelines issued by the British Parking Association way back in the 1970s⁵. Those guidelines recommended spaces be 240cm wide, which means drivers of some of the UK’s most popular family models are left battling 50yrs later, with just 30cm of space to get in and out of a parked car.   

Amongst the popular family cars examined by Churchill, the much-beloved Mini has seen the biggest width increase, which has grown by a whopping 33cm since its launch in 1955, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa which has widened by 23cm since being first introduced to UK roads in 1982.

Table 1: Widths (cm) of 10 of the UK’s most-loved family cars

Car model

Width (cm) at launch date + year launched

Width (cm) in 2013

Width (cm) in 2023

Lifetime growth width (cm)

Excess space for driver[i] (cm) in 2023

Ford Fiesta

155 (1989)





Ford Puma

180 (2019)





Hyundai Tucson

183 (2004)





Kia Sportage

186 (1993)






142 (1959)





Nissan Qashqai

178 (2008)





Renault Clio

162 (1990)





Vauxhall Corsa

153 (1982)





Vauxhall Mokka

177 (2012)





VW Golf

161 (1974)











Source: Churchill Car Insurance 2024


A consequence of bigger vehicles has been bad behaviours surfacing, with over a quarter (28 per cent) of drivers admitting to using a special designated parking space, such as a parent and child or accessible space for blue badge holders, when they’re not eligible to do so. 


Nicholas Mantel, Head of Churchill Motor Insurance, said: “Ask almost any driver and they will have a story about having to creatively escape their car due to a lack of space when in a car park, even crawling out through the boot. Widening cars combined with parking bays that haven’t been redesigned to accommodate today’s models, means motorists all over the country are at risk of damaging their cars through no fault of their own.”

Drivers squeezing in and out of their car isn’t the only consequence of cars widening. The damage caused by motorists hitting another vehicle, or scraping walls and bollards, when getting in or out of parking bays costs UK motorists an estimated £424 million every year.  A third (30 per cent) of drivers had their car damaged in a car park in the last year, with the average cost of repairing the damage coming in at £223.50. Just seven per cent said the person who caused the damage paid for the repairs, whilst over a third (37 per cent) of respondents admitted that the damage was still there.

Nearly a third (32 per cent) of UK drivers say they now drive a bigger vehicle than five years ago. The most common reasons for doing so included wanting more internal space for luxury and comfort (eight per cent), liking the car design of a larger vehicle (eight per cent) and requiring more space for leisure and work equipment (seven per cent).

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

1.      Research conducted by Opinium with a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults 26th January-30th January 2024.

2.      Based on the average car reviewed by Churchill Motor Insurance (180cm wide) being parked in the centre of a parking bay that adheres to the British Parking Association’s parking bay guidelines (240cm wide).

3.      Cars selected by Churchill Motor Insurance included in chart below – based on most sold models in 2023 and most insured cars by Churchill Motor Insurance.

4.      Measurements taken and calculated from Automobile Dimension: Car dimensions of all makes with size comparison tools ( All figures are rounded to the nearest centre metre.

5.      British Parking Association: Bay_Sizes_-_Jul_2016.pdf (

6.      Measurements taken and calculated from Automobile Dimension: Car dimensions of all makes with size comparison tools ( All figures are rounded to the nearest centre metre.


For further information please contact:

Hayley Saunders

Churchill PR Manager

Email: [email protected]



Founded in 1989, Churchill is now one of the UK's leading providers of general insurance, offering car, home, travel and pet insurance cover over the phone or on-line.

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