Carparks, 4 Wheel Drives, Roads and *Big* Vehicles

Edit: New readers to the topic can join at July 2023 by clicking here although much is worth a read.

Have moved this OP from the “Voice Your Choice” section. It is copy/pasted exactly as it was from here:

This is not a choice of a consumable ITEM issue, but a choice of a PLACE where we spend more than a quarter of our disposable income each week.
I am speaking about Supermarket car parks.

We do not own a 4WD vehicle - we had a nice one in the past and enjoyed using it (real estate sales in a Queensland country town).
Today, when we go to shop in Coles or Woolworths car parks, we have the frustration of having to find a car park that is not right beside or in between one or two 4WD’s.
Why is this an issue for me? Three reasons:

  • After I have put the groceries in the car, I have difficulty backing safely out of the car park space, when my vision is obscured by the elevated back end of a 4WD vehicle.
  • The doors on 4WD’s are on average much bigger than the doors on a small sedan. So when the owner returns to his 4WD, it is difficult for him/her to open the door without that door contacting the paintwork of the vehicle beside them.
  • Some 4WD owners have cashed in the super, and opted for the “big, safe” vehicle, which they sometimes have difficulty manoeuvering into tight parking spaces. The vehicle is simply too big for them to manage, though some will surely contest this. I am speaking of a very small minoritry here - but these are the ones who come under notice when they get into a tight spot. This can result in a poorly parked vehicle, and if they park after I have, then at times they are so close to my vehicle, that either myself or my wife has difficulty getting into ours.

On the flip side of this, owners of 4WD must also be frustrated that the available carparks are too tight to accommodate their naturally larger vehicle.
This is even more pronounced when a smaller vehicle is badly parked, making it even more difficult for the 4WD to park.
And let’s face it - smaller vehicle owners can be even more lazy or incompetent in their parking abilities than any 4WD owners - facts of life.

I am not picking on 4WD owners and drivers - they have the same rights as I have.

But in order to improve the experience of all shoppers, I believe it is time to begin segregating the types of vehicles that may park in designated areas.
To begin with, the major supermarkets need to do some surveys to arrive at a rough estimate of the numbers of smaller and 4WD’s that patronise their businesses.
Then they should consider separating the parking allocation areas roughly in those proportions, ensuring that both parking areas have equally close access to the front doors of their supermarkets. It would not be fair to force either party to park further away than the other. And it should not be permissable for small vehicle owners to use the larger spaces that are (or hopefully will be) provided for the larger 4WD’s.

This would instantly improve the shopping experiences of both types of vehicle owners.
Currently Woolworths have much larger car park spaces per vehicle than do Coles.But that is immaterial to this issue, and just my opinion from where I live.
And let’s not forget Bunnings - very tight car parking spaces in my experience.
What is needed is a change of attitude by the major supermarkets/stores, so that they begin to care about how their clients are feeling about “doing the shopping.”

We know that on “pension day” we need to avoid Coles in the mornings, and instead go to the larger carpark offered by Woollies if we need anything.
Better to plan ahead, and know when it is “safe” to shop :slight_smile:
Similarly, we avoid the “after school” rush, when carparks fill up again.

But I’d like to hear a bit of feedback from people who have the same problems - damaged paintwork from the door of a 4WD and vice versa (or other vehicle in a tight car parking space). And difficulty getting the groceries into the car (and yourself) after a big vehicle (or small) has parked up beside you, snaffling what space was available.

I would also like good feedback (is there any other kind) from 4WD owners, so that I can understand how they are feeling about all of this too.
Do 4WD owners also get frustrated by paint damage caused by the owner of a smller vehicle trying to extricate themselves from a tight car park space?

This is not an “us and them” issue - we are all entitled to take whatever vehicles we choose to own, to any designated car park.
And I’d like to know both sides of the story. Maybe you can also help me with other factlets surrounding these issues.

I will then compile a letter to both Supermarket head offices, (and perhaps other stores) and ask for their understanding, co-operation and certainly action on this issue.
Your feedback will allow me to fairly present both sides of the story. And I am certain many of us have an opinion and an experience on this.

As consumers, we need choice in where we get the best shopping experience - not only in the price and quality of groceries, but also in how much the supermarkets respect the value of our vehicles.
Ivan Ballin ( Ingot54 at gmail dot com )


I always seem to get sandwiched between 2 of them, making it damn near impossible for me to back out and see oncoming cars.


I to wonder at the expansion of the four-wheel-drive market in suburban and the city areas. You really have picked a battle here.

No matter what your intentions are you are creating a them and us approach. The four-wheel-drive owners will just dig their heels in and you will get nowhere no matter what your intention.

You really know how to rack up the objections, firstly, the supermarkets, then it is the pensioners, then it is people are not parking as you would want to park. When do you stop blaming other people for your problems at the supermarket.
If you park away from the congestion in the car park. You should not have any of these problems of worrying about whether your car is damaged but then again you can complain about the wear on your shoes from having to walk so far.

If this letter is an example of your style of writing. I do not hold much hope for your letters for supermarkets head office.


In many parts of the US the “giant sized SUV” has become the standard “car”. Find some web cams of Houston Texas to see it. Looks like that is slowly happening across Australia, even the capitals where “footy mums” use them to ferry their children to/from school and activities, not go bush. People movers or 7-seat wagons are so “not hip”. Reality is the SUV has utility that is attractive to many, for multiple reasons; they are not going away.

I live in an outer suburb of Melbourne and experience everything you wrote but it is like airplane seats. The carpark is a finite size and the shops need to accommodate as many vehicles as possible or their customers might go elsewhere. The American "solution is that “everyone” buys an SUV to see over everyone else’s SUV and door dings in car parks are normal as people jostle to get in and out of them.


Almost every thing @ingot54 said I agree with but I add that I believe the registration system needs to be altered so that registration/road tax costs are on a sliding scale with vehicle weight the main determinant. Any vehicle over 1500kg mass should incur heavy road user charges.
In the mid last century registration charges were structure to be based on Hp, now it is irrelevant to modern vehicles.
State governments must recognise that big vehicles such as SUV’s use more energy in production, use and end of life they have a greater impact on infrastructure and the environment and produce significantly greater emissions and are a more destructive vehicle in road accidents should be taxed accordingly.
With such a tax car manufacturers would be forced to work harder to make lighter vehicles which would also reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Many people buy these vehicles simply as a lifestyle choice or to boost there ‘driving image’ they have no need for them and as such it is a luxury not a necessity to have one and should be taxed accordingly.
Business and genuine trades that need this type of vehicle should be able to seek dispensation.

Although this is not likely to happen as the swinging electorates in Australia are in the nappy belts around the capital cities and oversize SUV’s are clearly a favourite of the nappy belt and any such a proposal would make every marginal state and federal pollie shaking in his or her overstuffed salary package.


Appreciate the comments and engagement folks.
Making this an us-and-them issue, is off-topic, so thanks for your awareness of that.:slight_smile:

No one is being attacked - it is a simple airing of experiences, and identification of ways to improve our weekly (or more frequent) visits to places where many of us spend thousands of dollars over the course of a year. At the same time we suffer avoidable inconvenience and vehicle damage.

The real issue is the tight parking spaces, and the inappropriate mixing of large vehicles with small.
A secondary issue, resulting from the first, is the thousands of dollars of damage (collectively) to vehicles, simply because of the irrational need to squeeze more cars into available space.

There are other concerns - the difficulties people have getting in and out of their vehicles themselves, and/or with their groceries.

On any given day, many parking spaces are available further away from the front door, as one respondent kindly pointed out. This is evidence that there is NO need to have parking spaces as tight as they are - the space IS there.
Rarely are large shopping centre carparks actually full.

With the advent of the 4WD, and the increasing numbers of them in use, it seems illogical to keep parking spaces within current dimensions.

Please keep the comments coming, and thanks for the interest. The supermarkets will take notice if enough people come up with experiences and ideas that can demonstrate the issues.


I also have a problem with 4WDs.
The long wheel base ones that have a Bull bar on the front and a towbar on the back. They do not have any place in a car park as they will protrude into the aisle by at least half a meter. if there is a 4WD on each side of the isle the isle becomes one way. To make matters worse in poor lighting you may not see a tow bar.
Supermarket car parks are just that, car parks. They are not truck stops where you park the rig.
Post WW2 in the UK they had a solution for large sized motor vehicles. The cost of road tax for them was very very high.
We could have 4WD car spaces in shopping centres here at say double the cost of a normal car space. Easy fixed and very fair.


I’d suggest you have a good think about what you’re saying & suggesting here.

No matter what type of vehicle you drive, you have exactly the same rights as everyone else. If you choose to drive a 4WD or a station wagon, sedan, ute, van or whatever, each & everyone has the legal right to park in any designated parking area or space.

How do you differentiate between an SUV with 4WD or one without. Lots of non 4WD SUV’s that are around these days are quite large . Utes can be 4WD or 2WD, they’re the same size & look exactly the same.
What about parking next to a delivery type van or people mover, they’re a reasonable size & impossible to see around. Should we ban these from car parks too?

Who decides what size a vehicle should be before banishing it to a separate section of a car park?
A Holden or Ford sedan or station wagon is physically larger than many 4WD’s on the road today & I haven’t heard of anyone complaining about parking next to one of these.

Before going ahead & putting forward any ideas along the lines suggested please think through what you’re suggesting & how you’d go about any separation of vehicle types in a car park situation, it’s not a simple black & white issue.


Great input Geobjw - thanks.
This is good and considered feedback - you are stimulating thought here already.

There will be a lot of things which can be put in the too hard basket.
But I will not walk away from a problem, and I suspect - by your thinking - neither will you.

It could well be that the logistics of defining what qualifies as “big” … “4WD” … “small” … and so on could be left for another day. There would need to be some kind of defining limits that do not unfairly treat the driver of a larger vehicle in favour of others and vice versa of course.

To my way of thinking, the problem can solve itself, simply by providing better parking conditions for the larger vehicles, and banning small hatch-backs and similar types of vehicles, from the larger parking spaces. By “banning” I do not mean the imposition of a penalty. But what small car owner would choose to park beside/between larger vehicles, if better parking is available elsewhere? That is the issue in the first place imho.

In time, people will sort themselves out, if signage and publicity are appropriate.
And it would only take putting a flyer under the windscreen wiper (irksome to some I know) or a notice or two in the merchant’s product catalogues, to educate people fairly quickly.

I think it is a good innovation to work towards, without unfairly treating anyone, provided the larger vehicles are not asked to park further away from shop entrances than they currently can. And provided people remember to be considerate of others. Most people are good and kind and decent, and “should” do their best to comply with the spirit and intent of improving the supermarket parking experience.

A bonus would be less damage to paintwork, and easier disembarkation from the parking space.

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I have a 2t people-mover that I bought because both of my disabled parents had great difficulty getting in and out of my previous station wagon.
I have just renewed the NSW registration, and the largest component of the cost was the weight tax. I don’t know how pricing works in other states or territories.


If a vehicle does not fit in the “designated parking area or space” then it should not be there. Our Council will fine a driver of a vehicle that protrudes out of a street parking space. Shopping center car parks should be no different.
The shopping centre car parks around here are always full on weekend and school holidays. Making spaces larger to accommodate larger vehicles would create lots of problems.

How difficult would it be for drivers with a long wheel base 4WD to remove their tow ball assembly?

Actually I believe it is illegal here in Victoria to leave the tow ball assembly in place when it is not in use.
Long wheel base 4WDs with Tow bars and Bull bars fitted are longer by over half a meter than a standard vehicle.
This means that when two of them are parked opposite each other at least one meter of the traffic isle is blocked.

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OK lets have a look at some quick stats.

A current model Holden Commodore is 4.94 m long & 1.9 m wide
A current model Nissan Patrol (considered to be a “large 4WD”) is 5 m long & 1.9 m wide. Not a lot of difference.

A bull bar up front adds only 0.25 m. Tow bars are all different but you’l likely find that it’s not legal to drive with one protruding when not towing in most if not all States, so that’s really an academic argument.

I had a quick look at car parking requirements for Brisbane. Whether they’re similar for other jurisdictions I don’t know but I’d imagine they would be similar in most areas.

A small car is classed as being 4.4 m long & 1.9 m wide
A medium car as 4.7 m x 1.9 m
A large car is 5.3 m x 1.9 m
(So neither a Commodore or Patrol is large by this definition).

The design for retail car parking is for bays 5.4 m L x 2.7 m W. (larger for disabled) with a 7 m wide driveway. Bay sizes I came across for other councils were similar with 5.4 - 5.5 m L & 2.5 - 2.7 m W being common.

This size would fit most vehicles with some room to spare. It’s very unlikely that shopping center owners would increase the parking bay sizes unless forced to do so.

Surely it’s not a common occurrence to have two large vehicles opposite both protruding into the driveway. Also consider that it’s impossible to account for peoples poor (or lazy/thoughtless) parking when cars encroach on neighboring spaces or on to the driveway.

These are just a few other things to think about, but just stick to the facts & see where that takes you.


Geobjw - you have gone to a bit of trouble there to help us understand the sizes of carpark bays.
Indeed, today I was out shopping with my wife, and I did a bushman’s measure (forgot the tape) of the bay.
I estimated it to be 2.6M, but 2.7M could easily have been the case. (Coles Noosa Junction).

The space left each side of my Pulsar was “about” 60cm. I backed into the space, as there were two empty bays, and my vehicle was beside a 4WD. When the young bloke driving the 4WD came back to his vehicle, I noticed he was very careful not to allow his door to come anywhere near my paintwork. He was actually parked only 10cm from his white line on my side, leaving 40cm roughly for him to open his door to get in the driver’s seat.

I’m sure he would have liked another 20cm each side of his vehicle. btw - he too had backed in.

Further, a serious look at how we allocate parking on these large sites, would assist us to avoid the scenario you mentioned:

"Also consider that it’s impossible to account for peoples poor (or lazy/thoughtless) parking when cars encroach on neighboring spaces or on to the driveway."

You are correct - the double encroachment issue would be rare.

I am not concerned at this point in splitting hairs about such matters - just the principle that something needs to be done, and can be done, if there is a will to look at this objectively.

We can never account for laziness, sloppy parking or carelessness.
But I am certain that insurance companies would bless the day that some of these issues were dealt with constructively.

The logistics of implementing change will never be up to a single individual, or a group of complaining nobodies.
But those “complaining nobodies” can most certainly highlight that there is indeed a situation that can be improved, and that can effected without inconveniencing or disadvantaging the drivers of any type of vehicle.

Note: Back in the “Voice Your Choice” forum, MarkM, a regular contributor had this to say:

"I often wonder if these sorts of issues really need the local motoring organisations to lead the charge rather than Choice? They the NRMA, RACQ etc all sell car insurance and must have an massive history of minor claims and owner grumbles re excess or rejected claims. The state governments could regulate to fix it, the councils could change their planning approvals, and the supermarkets could insist too."

Great comment and certainly food for thought.

I raised this matter with my local council (Lake Macquarie, NSW) when I was sent a questionnaire on supermarket parking. I did not receive an acknowledgement to my suggestion that 4WDs and similar have their own parking area with bigger spaces in some shopping centres. I often feel quite unsafe in some car parks if I have to back out in my two door elderly car, and prefer to find a space to back into or drive through, and walk further.

I have had my car damaged by a 4WD and to the driver’s credit, he did wait for me and paid to have it repaired. As it was a dark night and on the passenger side, he could have just driven off.

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I am surprised there are not more pedestrian injuries. I have a small car and often cannot see around the big cars when I reverse out and pedestrians cannot see me. I would like to see car parks designed with pedestrian zones.


Have you tried shopping online? As an owner of a 4WD, I find that many shopping centre carparks do not accommodate oversized vehicles. Our local shopping centre for the last 10-15 years recently re-allocated the very limited grade parking outside the front of the centre to maximum 15 minutes making it impossible to shop there anymore. Instead, we choose to support the independent green grocer and butcher where parking is possible, user friendly, and you do not need to encounter many of the difficulties that occur when you have hundreds and thousands of people who frequent shopping centre complexes each week.


don’t forget that the larger 4WDs generally have a poorer turning circle than a 2WD of the same length. This makes them more difficult to line up parallel with the parking bay lines. Hence they are often angled. A good driver will make the effort to align the vehicle without intruding on the adjoining spaces. It is just as important to provide sufficient turning area as it is for bay width.

Great post! It’s not just 4WD vehicles… car parks seem to be getting smaller… and some people have massively long vehicles, which makes it hard to navigate in and out of car park spaces, not to mention dangerous. Sigh. Thanks for taking this on.


Lots of good input here - a few having issues with the 4WD type of vehicle, but remember these owners have EXACTLY the same right to use the car parks as anyone else. If I buy one, I want to have the ability to park it without risking damage or inconvenience to others. And I wouldn’t want any regulations telling me I have to park in the back corner either.

This issue can be fixed - or at least improved markedly - if there is the will to look at it and problem solve a little.

In the next week or two I will collate the comments and ideas, and formulate an approach to all of the major organisations, shopping centres and so on.

In the mean time, if anyone has anything to add, or has an idea - please post it here.
If you don’t wish to do that, I am happy for you to email me at the address in the Opening Post.

This forum has a limited audience, and I appreciate that Choice has allowed the venting of this issue here.

It shows that there is enough interest in improving the parking experiences - from a safety and paint work damage point of view, to take the issue to management people in the appropriate bodies. If the opinions expressed here were extrapolated through a much larger forum, I am certain similar conclusions would be reached.

Thanks for your involvement so far - looking forward to any other ideas and input before taking action.


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Try reversing into parking spaces and driving out, much easier.