Walking out to a vehicle and finding a door ding is one of the most upsetting things for us gearheads. Sometimes it’s an honest mistake by another driver but in other cases, it’s caused by blatant disrespect for another person’s belongings. Unfortunately, a door ding isn’t something most of us can fix ourselves with a little elbow grease.
The best way to avoid door dings is to limit your exposure to other careless car owners. Parking in the far end of the lot where no one else is willing to walk will certainly decrease your chances of a dent. Parking in an end spot will also reduce your risk by 50%.
The unfortunate truth is that cars are viewed as nothing more than appliances for most people. That’s fine when it only applies to the one that they own. The problem is that way of thinking usually translates to how they care for other peoples’ belongings too.
It isn’t difficult to avoid giving other cars door dings. You just have to do whatever is necessary to keep your door from slamming open into the one beside you. And yet for some, this kind of common courtesy is a bit too much to ask for.
The best we can do is put the odds in our favor whenever we have to leave our car in a parking lot. It might not be possible to eliminate the chance of a door ding but we can at least try our best.
Ways to avoid door dings in parking lots
A large part of avoiding dents comes from understanding the parking lot situation. Take a second to assess the area as if it were a future crime scene. Pay attention to a few of these things and you’ll be able to choose a spot that has the lowest risk of a ding.
The most obvious recommendation is to park as far away at the back of the lot as possible. That’s certainly not bad advice but unfortunately, it isn’t always enough to keep the weirdos from going out of their way to park near you.
Find other like-minded car enthusiasts to park near
Most of us car guys/gals are on the same page. If you see another vehicle that appears to be cared for very well (especially if the paint is polished up real nice!), chances are, they get it. They don’t want a door ding any more than you do. Parking beside these people is one of the safest options.
One thing to be aware of though is the condition of your own car. If you’re a few months overdue for a wash or it looks like you don’t care about it, you might get grouped in with one of the weirdos that parks near nice cars just to mess with them.
Sometimes giving a 1 spot buffer in between the cars is enough to keep your distance while subliminally messaging other drivers to park somewhere else.
Judge the vehicle beside you
I know, Mama says not to judge people. In this case, we’ll make an exception. Take a good look at the vehicle you’re about to park next to. Obvious damage like scratches and dents are a good indicator that this person doesn’t care what happens to their car or anything around it.
There are a few repeat offenders when it comes to vehicles that are likely to give you a door ding. I don’t want to stereotype every owner of these vehicles but it’s certainly something to keep in mind when you’re deciding who to park beside.
There are pros and cons to parking beside a minivan. The biggest pro is that their rear doors slide rather than swing open. That’s great news because it minimizes the chance of a door hitting your car.
The downside is that minivans are typically kid haulers. And kids, as much as we love them, don’t know how to act around cars. They might bump into it, drag their backpack zipper along the side, or even write “clean me” in the build up of dust. They just don’t know any better (but their parents should).
Speaking of their parents, remember that their doors open normally. After a long day of chasing little Billy around with 3 of his friends, Mom is probably a little worn out. The last thing on her mind is making sure her door doesn’t swing into yours while she buckles the kids into their seats. She just wants to get home.
This is more of a physical issue than anything else. Big trucks and SUVs fill up more space in a parking spot, leaving less room for doors to open. They also sit up taller which means any door dings from them will likely be higher up on your vehicle and even easier to see.
There is also a certain type of truck owner that believes scratches, dents, and mud make them more of a man. They look down on clean, shiny vehicles and think that neglecting their truck is a badge of honor. I don’t want to say that these guys will purposely damage your vehicle, but they probably won’t go out of their way to make sure you don’t get a door ding either.
Older Cadillacs and Lincolns
Old people. You know the cars I’m talking about. The land yachts that have been under the same ownership for 30 years. These can actually be hit or miss in terms of risk. A lot of elderly drivers are very proud of their vehicles and take exceptionally good care of them. They were raised in an era where respecting other people’s property was a common thing.
Sometimes even good-hearted old people can be the worst offenders for door dings. They aren’t doing it on purpose – they just can’t see or hear as well as they used to. That can be a real problem when it comes to handling a 5,000lb chunk of metal.
Their mobility might be compromised as well and that makes it difficult to get in and out of a vehicle. That’s when the door gets kicked open into the side of your car.
Stay away from shopping cart return areas
Another thing to watch out for at mall parking lots is the dreaded runaway shopping cart. Now, most people have functioning brains and are able to safely return their cart to the dedicated area. Unfortunately a very select few let their laziness get in the way and choose to give the cart a push in the general direction and call it good enough.
A runaway cart can cause some serious damage to your car. Avoid the area as much as possible and if you’re forced to park nearby, try to find some high ground. That way the carts will naturally be rolling downhill, away from your car.
Park on the passenger side of another car
This is a bit of a gamble but the odds are promising. If you think about it, every car in the parking lot is guaranteed to have someone coming in and out of the driver’s side. Now consider how many of those cars might be traveling without passengers. It’s certainly not a sure thing but it’s worth considering.
Find a car that will be staying longer than you will
You might recognize certain vehicles whether they’re employees of businesses or you just know their routine. Parking beside them if you know you’ll be leaving before they do might just eliminate the chance of a door ding.
For example, the last time I got my haircut I parked next to the stylist’s Jaguar that I recognized in the parking lot. I knew she’d be working on me so there was zero chance that she’d be flinging her door open and driving away.
Watch out for more than just other cars
The doors of other cars aren’t the only thing that can cause damage to yours in a parking lot. Pay attention to tall curbs, signs, light posts, walls, cement pillars, etc. If these surprise you when you open your own door, you’ll have no one but yourself to blame.
It’s also a good idea to stay away from busy walkways where kids and cyclists might be zipping past. If there’s one main walkway into the front door of a restaurant, don’t park right beside it. The chances of someone rubbing up against it are pretty high.
Make the most use of the space you have
If you’ve been lucky enough to acquire an end spot make the most of the space you’re given. You only have threats on one side of your car so park as close to the curb or outside edge as possible. That extra foot or so might make all the difference between whether or not the door beside you is able to reach your car.
Don’t park sideways or take up more than one spot
Don’t be that guy. You might think that this will send a message to other drivers not to mess with you but in many cases, it does the exact opposite. For some people, this makes it seem as though you think you’re better than them. It’s like a magnet for yahoos to come and park close to you on purpose.
There are a lot of stories out there from people that have come out to find their car damaged (both intentionally or unintentionally) after parking this way.
Are door dings covered by insurance?
Technically as long as your vehicle has the proper coverage, you could claim damage from a door ding. The problem is that the chances of the cost being higher than your deductible are slim. You’ll likely be paying out of pocket whether you claim it or not.
How is a door ding repaired?
For many years, door dings could only be fixed by body shops. That would typically require metalwork, filling, and painting. Modern technology (specifically paintless dent removal) has changed that.
Not every dent can be fixed this way, but you’d be amazed at what these experts are capable of fixing. They use a wide range of special tools from tiny hammers and levers to suction cups. In general, most dents can be fixed or at least improved as long as there aren’t any sharp creases in the metal. Any related scratches will need to be either polished or touched up as well.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: