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Tandem Parking: What Is It and How Does it Work?

By: Susan Finch
September 1, 2020

Urban living and popular neighborhoods come with plenty of perks and amenities. However, there are downsides when it comes to parking.

Finding a place to park, let alone pay for it, usually comes at a premium. If you're moving in with a roommate or significant other, you might need two spots in an area where parking is scarce. Instead of traditional parking options, consider an apartment or townhouse with tandem parking.

What is Tandem Parking?

Tandem parking offers multiple parking spaces in the same garage or lot, but with a twist. The parking spaces resemble a narrow, oversized spot that can fit several cars in a single-file line.

The single line can make parking less than ideal. That’s because the ones behind it usually block the first cars.

However, tandem spots can also work seamlessly if you and your roommate have different schedules or someone relies on public transportation instead of a car.

How Many Cars Can a Tandem Garage Hold?

There are usually just two parking spots in a townhouse with a tandem garage. However, on rare occassions, an apartment complex may offer tandem parking holding multiple vehicles. This can make parking tricky when you're coordinating with there or more people's schedules.

Why Does Tandem Parking Exist?

Tandem parking saves space while still offering options for more than one car, especially in narrow buildings. You'll find tandem parking across a variety of housing developments, from apartment complexes to townhouse communities to quadplexes.

You may wonder why builders can't just construct a more traditional garage where people can park side by side. But cost is usually a factor.

Tandem spaces can be a big win if you're motivated to work out the logistics, live alone, or live with someone you're close to.

How to Manage Tandem Parking

Tandem parking comes with its pros. However, it also requires some creativity and resourcefulness to make it work.

In some cases, there are common parking areas or a small driveway outside of townhouses with tandem garages. That makes it easy for everyone to park.

In other cases, parking tandem with roommates isn't practical. In that case, residents choose to park on the street instead.

Sharing tandem spaces with neighbors you don't know well, or several roommates you rarely see, can feel awkward. It's essential to come up with a plan to make tandem parking spaces work for everyone involved. Here are some tips to help manage the process.

1. Get Familiar with Each Other's Schedule

Tandem parking requires intimately knowing your roommates' or neighbors' schedules to work out how to get your car in and out of the garage. It would help if you set up a shared online calendar.

Sharing a tandem garage is difficult with changing work and social schedules. It’s not always feasible to come and go whenever you feel like it with tandem parking.

Make sure the person who works from home or takes public transportation is parked in such a way that it doesn't block your car.

2. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Staying in regular touch is key to a successful tandem parking experience. Start a text conversation or call when you have an emergency or schedule change.

Whenever possible, allow each other plenty of time to move the car. Avoid early morning or late night hours.

A dedicated chat room or shared calendar is also helpful so you can see everyone's schedules. A calendar can help identify when you should run errands or pop out to meet friends.

Try to plan it around your tandem parking partner's schedule. That’ll minimize the headaches.

3. Come up with a Plan B

If you have a good relationship with your parking partners, you could consider swapping keys to move each other's cars when needed. Outline conditions of using the keys, like only in an emergency and if someone isn't home or unreachable.

Another option is to have an emergency contact like a close friend or relative who’s authorized to move the cars in a pinch.

4. Take Turns Parking on the Street

Sometimes tandem parking spaces can be more trouble than they’re worth, depending on your schedule and set up. If street parking is available, consider trading off week to week and let the other use the garage.

A roommate without a car can also offer up the tandem garage in exchange for using the space for storage.

Alternatives to Tandem Parking

What happens if you don't need tandem parking or find it too much of a hassle to manage? There are a few alternatives to consider.

1. Ask for a Rent Reduction

In some areas, apartments and townhouses with tandem parking come at a premium and a higher price point. Other areas with ample street parking and inexpensive lots could make tandem parking undesirable. In this situation, you could ask for a rent reduction to make up for the hassle of managing the parking logistics.

2. Offer to Pay Your Roommates a Small Fee

Are you looking at renting a townhouse with a tandem two-car garage? A roommate may be open to the idea of permanent street parking or leaving their car at a friend's if you make it worth their while.

You could offer to pay a small monthly fee for the privilege of using tandem parking all for yourself.

3. Use Tandem Parking for Extra Storage

Like townhouses, some rentals may have a tandem garage even if you're the only one living there. Or, you might find that a roommate doesn't need the spot and is fine if you take it over for yourself. If you have extra space in your garage, consider using it as storage for your bike, sporting equipment, and seasonal items.

Final Thoughts

Tandem parking isn't always perfect. However, it’s still desirable in urban areas with limited parking options.

Keep an open mind and stay flexible to make tandem parking work for you. Ready to find an apartment with parking? Just start our quiz to begin apartment hunting.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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