How to Reverse a Car

Updated April 17, 2017

Knowing how to drive a car in reverse is an essential part of a state driver's licensing test. States use one or more of these techniques to test a potential driver's ability to parallel parking, drive in reverse around a corner and drive in a straight line in reverse. Knowing the basic steps to reverse a car is essential to passing any state driving test and acquiring a state-issued license. Without the knowledge of how to drive in reverse, parking in cities and backing out of driveways would be difficult.

Start the vehicle's engine. Keep your foot on the brake while starting the vehicle.

Check the mirrors for potential obstructions. Look in the rearview mirror and both side mirrors to prevent accidentally running into nearby objects. Continue to look at the mirrors, as needed, throughout the backing-up process.

Place the vehicle in reverse while keeping your right foot on the brake. Using the shifter, located on either the steering column or between the front seats, change the gear from park to reverse.

Turn your head toward the rear of vehicle as you slowly remove your foot from the brake. Place your right hand on the passenger seat to help hold your body in place while you look out the back window. Continue to scan the area behind the car while you begin moving in reverse. Depress the accelerator gently with your right foot to increase your rate of speed, but be ready to apply the brakes if needed.

Turn the wheel the direction you want to back up. If you want to back out of a parking spot toward the right, turn the wheel to the right. The front of the vehicle will swing out toward the left, pushing the back of the vehicle to the right. Use small turns of the wheel for a slight turn and larger turning of the wheel for a tighter turn.

Turn the wheel the opposite direction to complete parallel parking. When driving in reverse, to parallel park, you start by turning the wheel the direction you want the rear of the car to go. For example, turn the wheel to the right to put the rear of the vehicle into the parking spot. Then turn the wheel toward to left to push the front of the vehicle into the parking spot.


Parallel parking is a common type of reverse driving and takes practice. Use orange cones in a car park to perfect this driving technique.


Always double-check your mirrors and the surrounding area when backing up.

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About the Author

Lindsay Zortman has worked as a writer since 2001. Her work focuses on topics about cancer, children, chemical dependency, real estate, finance, family issues and other health-related topics. She is a featured writer with the National Brain Tumor Foundation. Zortman is a nationally certified counselor and holds a Master of Arts in counseling from the University of South Dakota.