Believe It Not, There’s a Strategy For Finding a Good Parking Spot

It’s Saturday afternoon and you have a few errands to run at the mall. So, it seems, does everybody else in town. The mall parking lot is packed, so where should you park if you’re trying to save time? Most people would assume that you would park at the first spot you see, no matter how far away from the entrance it is, while others say the best thing to do is just drive up and down the lanes looking for a closer spot. Yes, there’s a study for that. A study published in the Journal of Statistical Mechanics pinpoints the best parking spot search strategies. The study divided parking personas into three categories: meek, optimistic, and prudent. 


“Meek” drivers immediately settle for the first spot they find, which may leave spots near the front unfilled, as well as resulting in a longer walk.


“Optimistic” drivers aren’t afraid to hunt, certain that they’ll eventually land their primo spot, no matter how many times they have to circle the parking lot to find it. 


“Prudent” drivers are a bit more aggressive than meek drivers, bypassing the low-hanging fruit in hopes of a closer spot, but unwilling to circle several times just to get a bit closer to the entrance. They may end up backtracking to a spot a meek driver would have claimed initially if they don’t find something better immediately. 


Using these three categories, researchers found that the prudent strategy was the best because it cost drivers the least amount of time. In second place were the optimistic drivers, followed by the meek drivers. Researchers are quick to point out that this theory is purely mathematical. In the real world, the best strategy to use to get the best spot is to pick the first spot that’s available. The time saved in finding a spot quickly more than makes up for all the time you’ll waste circling the lot to find the closest spot. Better yet, take an Uber and get door-to-door service.