What Is Tandem Parking? Tips on Surviving Tandem Parking


When you live in an urban area, parking often comes at a premium. You might find the perfect place to call home, only to find that the rental unit comes with a tandem parking setup. Understanding the meaning of tandem parking, as well as how to survive when this is the type of parking space you have, can help you decide if it works for your needs.

What is tandem parking?

Tandem parking is a term that refers to parking two vehicles in the same garage with one in front of the other. In a traditional two-car garage, two vehicles can typically park side by side with room on either side to open the doors and get in and out. But a tandem garage is much narrower and longer than a traditional two-car garage, allowing for multiple vehicles to park in a single-file line.

The challenge that comes with tandem parking is that the first car gets blocked in by any vehicle(s) behind it. The front of the first car will be facing the back wall of the garage, so there’s no way out other than waiting for the other vehicle(s) to back out.

Purpose of tandem parking

The purpose of a tandem garage is to maximize useable space. When a townhouse or condominium doesn’t have enough room for a full-size two-car garage, adding a narrow and long garage might be better than simply adding a garage that can only hold one vehicle. Some apartment buildings also offer tandem parking to renters. Both newer and older units might have this type of parking, and it’s usually dictated by the size of each unit and the available space on the property for parking.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, 30% of the apartment buildings being built in the urban areas of Seattle don’t offer any parking spaces for renters. In the past, most units offered at least one parking spot, but this is no longer the case. Having access to a tandem parking space might be more appealing than having no designated space to park a vehicle.

Tandem garage size

The tandem garages connected to townhomes and condominiums typically have space for two vehicles, with one parked directly behind the other. However, larger units might offer space for three vehicles, which can make it even more difficult to use.

How to survive a tandem parking situation

Now that you understand the meaning of tandem parking, you may wonder whether you can deal with this type of parking situation. We’ve compiled a few tips to help you survive with a tandem garage or parking structure.

Review your schedules

Whether you live with a roommate or a partner, it’s helpful to know the other person’s regular schedule and plan the parking accordingly. For example, if you usually leave for work at 7:30 a.m. and your roommate leaves at 6 a.m., it makes sense that the roommate would park their vehicle behind yours. Consider what time you each get home from work or school each day as well to determine who should park in the front upon arrival.

You could put a whiteboard on your fridge or a wall of your apartment with each of your schedules for the day written on it. A visual reminder of who will leave and arrive home first or last can help you remember where to park. 

Try rotating

If you have similar schedules, it might be nice to rotate who gets to park on the inside versus the outside every month or so. Using a schedule can help the situation feel a bit fairer to all involved, as each person will have a chance to park in the back. If you decide not to park two cars in the tandem garage, you could rotate who gets to park their vehicle in the space. This might work if you have sufficient street parking around your unit. If you live in an area with harsh climate conditions during the winter, consider rotating weekly until the weather warms up.

Make an extra car key

Trying to get your partner or roommate to move their car can be time-consuming and frustrating, so take matters into your own hands by making an extra key to each vehicle. Keep both keys on a ring that’s easily accessible, such as hanging on a hook in the kitchen of your unit. If you need to leave and your car is blocked in, you can grab the extra key and move the car without having to bother the other person.

Pay extra

If it doesn’t work with your schedule to park both vehicles in the tandem garage, you could decide that only one person can park in it, but they have to pay extra toward the rent. If you’re willing to pay a larger share of the rent and your partner or roommate is willing to give up the spot, you could end up with a spacious place to keep your vehicle. The other person could also consider renting a parking spot nearby, using the money they’ve saved on rent.

Tandem vs. stacked parking

In some major cities, parking garages use the stacked parking method to maximize space. This involves hoisting a vehicle up on a lift to make room for another vehicle to park beneath it. Stacked parking is even more challenging to manage than tandem parking because only a parking attendant can operate the lift and bring a vehicle back down.

Although tandem parking may not seem ideal, it may be better than having no designated spot to park your vehicle. With these tips for surviving tandem parking, you can decide whether this type of parking situation is acceptable for your next rental.

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