How To Ensure You Never Lose Your Parked Car Again

How To Ensure You Never Lose Your Parked Car Again

How many times have you parked your car and forgotten where it is? Some of us just don’t have the necessary skills to locate our own vehicle a few hours later. If you suffer from this affliction, we have the help you need.

Images by Andreas Altenberger (Shutterstock), RicLaf, and Matthew Rutledge

I lose my car all the time. I don’t have a fancy remote to set off my car alarm and locate it by sound. I have a black car so it looks like a lot of other vehicles. If I don’t explicitly try to remember where I parked I will not remember, and in order to do that I have to remember to remember which, as you might guess, doesn’t happen too often. Tired of losing my car and wandering down streets and through car parks, I decided to create and enact a plan to fix that.

Shoot A Video

Don’t just take a picture, take a video. Pictures help you locate where you parked the car but you rarely get enough detail to determine the exact location. In a crappy parking lot or on a street you won’t get enough detail. You can, however, find your way back if you record the entire trip from your park to your destination to your destination. Simply film behind you with your smartphone, walk to the exit, and upon your return scrub through the video in reverse. As you do, you’ll see the exact path you’ll need to walk and it will lead right to your car. When you really need specific visual help, this method never fails.

Pin Your Location (Where Possible)

Indoor parking lots don’t work well with GPS, and you won’t get a precise location anyway. If you park on the street, however, a pin in the map can pretty much land on the exact location of your vehicle and help you find it when you return. If you go out for drinks or have some other version of a wild night, use your smartphone to navigate you back with walking directions.

Make Your Car Noticeable

If you have a generic car like mine, you can’t spot it easily. How can you fix that? You have to make it look different. While you can decide what sort of horrible adornment you want to use to ruin your car’s perfect aesthetics, a piece of fabric works fine. You just need to take a brightly-coloured shred (it can come from an old t-shirt) and tie it around your car’s radio antennae. If that doesn’t work, or if you don’t want a semi-permanent solution, place it underneath your windshield wiper whenever you park or keep it in the car and under the windshield. If you can see the bright colour you improve your chances of locating your car.

Park Near Exits

If you can park near the exit of a large car park, you’ll have a bit more of a trek to find the vehicle but will save time exiting. That exercise won’t kill you, and if you routinely park at exits, you always know exactly where to find your vehicle. If you forget somehow, just go to the exit and you’ll figure it out.

Outside of car parks, try to find a spot near the corner of two streets. You might have to drive a little farther but if you can, choose a corner, and then you just have to make a note of those two streets intersecting and not worry about where you parked on one. Of course, you could also just drop a pin on a map in your smartphone instead.

Let Technology Find Your Car For You

If you don’t really want to exert any effort remembering, you can use your smartphone (presuming you don’t leave it in the car regularly). Through the power of Bluetooth, you can pair apps with custom hardware to locate your car without doing much more than lifting a finger.

On the iPhone side, Find My Car Smarter uses a tiny Bluetooth dongle that plugs into your car and notes your parked location via GPS right before you leave. You don’t have to do anything — it’ll figure out when you park and just make the note for you. If you lose your car, just open the app on your iPhone and it’ll help you locate your vehicle.

Android users should check out Park Me Right. While it won’t know when you park and automatically trigger a GPS note in your phone, the app costs nothing and you can load it up when you park to do the same thing. If you can get into that habit, you can drop a pin in the map in far fewer steps.

Overall, you need to put some effort into keeping track of your car even if you have no talent for the job. While tips and tricks can help a lot, you do need to pay attention and try to improve your ability to find your vehicle. If you get used to employing these methods, you’ll think more about losing your car as soon as you park. Once you can create that habit, you’ll always remember to at least take a mental note and vastly improve your chances of locating your car.


  • The iPhone app options are still useless when it comes to underground car-parks – especially multiple-block spanning behemoths like that at Bondi Junction.

    I’d rather see carpark operators do more to make levels/sections of their kingdoms more memorable by reinforcing multiple cues – numbers, colours, shapes etc – tied to specific exit and entry points.

    Some are still notorious car-traps – the spiral carpark for Sydney Opera House, or IKEA at Tempe which uses colour sets but repeats them on the same level – the “yellow” aisle next to the store entrance is different to the one next to the exit.

    • Yes i argree, carpark operators should do more, ie number the parking spaces and number each level according to numbers in the car spot. ex: level 1 1-30 level 2 31-40 and so on

      • If there were only a few spots per level then I would be numbering them Level 1: 101-130, Level 2: 201-230 etc.

        I’d also add colours and reminders at prominent spots: you are on Level 2 BLUE, perhaps with some memorable icon. That would also be repeated near stairway exits, lifts etc. I’ve seen it done for years in different ways, but not many shopping centre / airport / carpark operators seem to chase “best practice”.

  • I have an app on my phone which in theory lets me mark the spot where I left my car. It even has a nifty little radar thing to show how far away and what direction it’s in. In practice though, it takes too long for it to get a GPS lock.

  • I just take a pic of the nearest identifier (i.e.: 2 purple, row x or whatever). At least then I can ask security if I need to. Learnt this the hard way when I was in a shopping centre in Sydney, spent 2 hours looking for my car and worked out that the green level had 3 sections, not 2. Never. Again.

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