Parking your truck is becoming a tighter squeeze.
Across America, the drive for bigger vehicles is bumping into physical limitations. SUVs and pickups are getting so large that they’re struggling to fit into some home and parking garages and public parking spaces.
Homeowners may need to think twice about purchasing larger vehicles, while parking lot operators are starting to charge oversize fees to accommodate behemoth SUVs and trucks.
SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition and pickups like Fiat Chrysler’s Ram are examples of popular vehicles that have grown in size in recent years, testing parking limitations.
When Kristen Trevino moved to her new home in the Dallas area recently, she ran into a problem.
Her 2016 Ford F-150 did not fit in the garage. Undeterred, she bought the 2019 model. That one also didn’t fit.
“It’s too tall. It’s too long,” she said. Now she keeps it parked in the driveway.
Her next-door neighbor has an F-150, as well, and has just enough room in his garage.
“He can squeeze his in,” she said, but added that it “hits his front wall and just barely clears the door.”
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Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, said the trend is becoming a problem. “They are very difficult vehicles to maneuver” and park.
Take Tesla’s Cybertruck. The massive stainless-steel-bodied electric pickup made its debut at a media event in November, as CEO Elon Musk bragged that the Cybertruck would be the fiercest and most efficient pickup on the market when it arrives in late 2021. Commercial demand, he said later, has already exceeded expectations.
But some fans who are interested in the Cybertruck are worried they won’t have enough room for it.
Jim Griffin is Exhibit A. The Pennsylvania resident recently placed a $100 refundable deposit to secure his place in line for the Cybertruck. But he’s not sure he’ll follow through with the purchase after reading chatter online about the vehicle’s immense size.
“They’re like, ‘This thing is massive and it won’t fit in your garage,’” he said. “That’s when I said, ‘Hold on a second here, timeout. This thing may not fit.’”
And fitting the pickup into his garage is a dealbreaker.
“Nowadays, there’s people buying Dodge Rams, Ford pickups that don’t fit, and they’ll park them outside,” he said. “The difference here is this is an electric vehicle and … you need to plug it in. I’m not gonna spend $50,000 $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 on a vehicle and then have to run an extension cord outside the garage or an outside outlet.”
Parking any vehicle in the driveway or on the street exposes it to potential damage from weather, vandalism or theft.
The Cybertruck is so big that it might be classified as a medium-duty pickup if its batteries tip its total weight above 8,000 pounds, said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at research firm IHS Markit.
“We can prob reduce width by an inch & maybe reduce length by 6+ inches without losing on utility or esthetics,” he said.
Tesla engineers are also fitting the Cybertruck with an air suspension, he said. That would allow owners to lower the vehicle’s height to fit into a garage.
Would your garage fit the Tesla Cybertruck?
Home garages vary in size. Common sizes for newly constructed two-car garages include a number of dimensions: 18 feet wide and 20 feet deep; 20 feet by 20 feet, 22 feet by 22 feet and 20 feet by 22 feet, according to garage builder Danley’s. But some garages, including older ones built in an era of smaller vehicles, can be even smaller.
At 231.7 inches long, the Cybertruck would have only about 8 inches to spare in a 20-foot-long garage. Better be a great parker to squeeze that one in.
It’s not the only vehicle that’ll have trouble fitting in. At 225.7 inches long, the recently redesigned and lengthened 2021 Chevrolet Suburban would technically fit into a 20-foot-deep garage, but it’ll have only 15.7 inches to spare.
Even if the biggest SUVs and pickups can technically squeeze in, many homeowners pack shelving, tools and other items into their garages, reduce the amount of space to store their vehicles.
Griffin, for example, said he has some laundry equipment in one part of his garage.
“If you look at like a Suburban or a Ford Expedition nowadays, they’re huge and I’m not so sure they would fit,” he said. “I even looked at one of those once and I’m not so sure.”
“The next-generation Suburban is gonna be so big – my wife drives one – you’re not going to be able to park it in the garage,” said Jeff Dyke, president of Sonic Automotive, one of the largest automotive dealership networks in the U.S. “The Tahoe is the new Suburban, and the new Suburban is a school bus.”
But it’s what Americans want, he said. “Gas prices are low, they’re reasonable, and the country’s in love with SUVs.”
Oversize fees for parking
While home garages are getting tighter and tighter, public parking garages and public parking spaces are also feeling the pinch.
Who among us hasn’t been driving through a shopping center parking lot and seen massive SUVs and pickups hanging several feet past the end of the space?
“The parking spots aren’t big enough,” Sonic Automotive’s Dyke said. “The parking garages aren’t big enough to deal with all the cars that are coming out.”
Trevino, the Dallas area resident whose F-150 doesn’t fit into her garage, said she’s personally experienced the frustration associated with the size of her pickup.
“My truck is really big,” she said. “Trying to maneuver into a space totally sucks. If you go to the mall and it’s really crowded, looking for a spot is a huge factor. I really have to spend time searching.”
At parking garages, it’s particularly problematic if they have low-hanging ceilings and tight turns.
Parking.com, the consumer brand of publicly-traded parking and transportation provider SP Plus, is beginning to adjust its business to deal with larger vehicles. The company is already charging oversize fees for large SUVs and trucks in some lots, particularly in New York, said Jeff Eckerling, chief growth officer of SP Plus.
He said the company may need to consider going further if vehicles keep getting bigger.
“We would have to look at what our rates are and what we charge for those vehicles,” he said. “If you’re at a surface lot, we could (say) that if you’re parking and your vehicle goes over two spaces, we could charge you for two spaces.”
For SpotHero, an app that sells parking at more than 7,000 locations throughout the country, oversize fees are currently limited largely to New York, where about 11% of vehicles must pay extra.
Now, some New York lots are starting to charge “super oversize” fees, which applies to truck-based SUVs and pickups, while the “oversize” fees are applying to crossovers.
In the rest of the country, “parking operators could take a page out of the New York playbook and start to charge an oversize fee for bigger vehicles,” said Elan Mosbacher, senior vice president of strategy and operations at SpotHero.
While larger vehicles may pose some inconveniences, Americans don’t seem too bothered by it overall, at least if the vehicles being introduced by automakers are any indication.
In fact, several recent announcements suggest vehicles are likely to continue getting bigger. General Motors announced that it will revive the mammoth Hummer as an electric pickup truck under the GMC brand. Ford is also poised to show off a redesigned F-150 later this year, and it’s likely to be bigger than the previous generation.
George Augustaitis, director of automotive industry and economic analysis, speculated that Ford may even consider bringing back the Excursion nameplate as the biggest SUV in its lineup despite the fact that the Expedition has grown significantly in recent years.
“Everything’s getting bigger,” he said.
“We never quite know where the end is going to be,” IHS analyst Brinley said. “People buy what they want to use. Whatever their personal reasons are, however it fits in their life, they’ve decided it’s worth it to them. That’s not critical, it’s just a fact.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.