How to Find Your Car in a Parking Lot

Keep track of your car in a large parking lot by parking near landmarks, avoiding crowds, using smartphone apps, or making your car stand out.

Amber Dowler
How to Find Your Car in a Parking Lot

Shopping malls, large event centers, airports, and sporting venues are all notoriously difficult for keeping track of your parking space. It can be hard to locate your car in a sea of vehicles, particularly if your car is a common color or design. One 2012 study from Utrecht University in the Netherlands observed shoppers at a home improvement store and found 14 percent made significant detours when looking for their car.

Fortunately, there are a few hidden tricks for keeping track of your car in a large parking lot. In this article, Part 1 suggests parking near a landmark, Part 2 recommends avoiding crowds, Part 3 explains how to use your phone, Part 4 suggests ways to make your car stand out, and Part 5 talks about other devices you can use to find your car.

Part 1 of 5: Park near a light pole or landmark

When you are searching for a parking spot, don’t just make a beeline for the one closest to the entrance. Be deliberate about where you park, and choose a spot next to a light pole or landmark for reference.

Many larger parking lots have big, numbered poles scattered throughout, and parking next to one of them can offer you an easy point of reference.

  • Tip: If your car has keyless entry, and if that keyless entry engages the horn or makes a beep, use it to your advantage - listen for your car. Can’t get a strong signal? Take Jeremy Clarkson’s advice and place the key fob at your head to increase the range.

Part 2 of 5: Avoid the crowds

Not only is it easier to find a parking spot away from the most crowded areas, but it also often means that you will be able to leave the parking lot faster. Crowded areas are more congested when it is time to go home. You will thank yourself later if you avoid them from the start.

Part 3 of 5: Use your phone to plot your location

Most smartphones have some form of map technology. You can use these apps to “drop a pin” in your current location before your leave your car. You can save the location of the pin and use it to navigate back to your car later.

For example, certain iPhones (iPhone 6 and later) can remember where your car was parked using location services and Maps, and if drop pins are available, that’s a useful tool as well. There are also free apps available for Android phones that serve the same purpose, but you’ll need to remember to engage with these apps before you close the door and walk away.

Part 4 of 5: Make your car stand out where possible

You might have a car in a popular shade of gray or white, but that doesn’t have to be the only defining feature of your vehicle. One surefire way to never lose your car in a parking lot again is to make it truly unique. You don’t need to add a roof rack, paint it an odd color, or lift it either to get the same effect as a flag of your favorite sports team. Keep one of the small, plastic window mounted flags with you in the trunk and mount it after you park. This will help you find your vehicle faster when you are scanning the rows of similar looking vehicles.

Part 5 of 5: Employ new technology

There are a ton of technological apps and devices that can help you track the location of your car, even when it is parked. Consider purchasing a specific device that relies on Bluetooth technology and an app on your phone to monitor the location of your car. You’ll never struggle to find it again.

Being conscious of where you park in a large parking lot helps you easily find your car hours or days later. The above tips for keeping track of where you left your car will be one less thing to stress about and make shopping, appointments, and traveling that much less of a hassle.

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