Rules of the road - lines you can and cannot park on
Finding a space in a town centre is a job in itself and avoiding rip-off multi-storey car parks is a must if you want to save cash.
But where you can leave your car and for how long can be confusing - and cheeky traffic wardens dine out on your bewilderment.
The Government has announced that new legislation will come into force in November to ban clamping on private land, so drivers can breathe a small sigh of relief, but there's still plenty of ambiguity about parking in public areas.
Just how long can you leave your car on a single yellow line for, and what does a red route really mean? We've scoured the Highway Code to reveal the facts so you don't have to find out the hard way.
It's common knowledge that double yellow lines alongside a kerb mean no waiting at any time, but in some cases there are signs nearby indicating that you can park there at certain times of the day or year, so it's worth a look if you're desperate.
Single yellow lines are where the biggest source of ambiguity lies. According to the Highway Code, single yellows should be accompanied by a sign that displays when you can and can't park there. It's usually a case of no parking at peak times (i.e. between 8am and 6pm), but check the sign to be sure.
Double and single red lines are a common sight on London's congested roads. Parking, unloading or even stopping for a second to let a passenger out are all strictly prohibited on roads with these along the side.
In a similar vein to a single yellow, a single red line will have a nearby sign that shows the times when the enforcements are more relaxed. Double reds should be avoided at all costs and at all times. The only exceptions to the rules are for licensed taxis and blue badge holders.
If you need to park for a short period of time to load or unload the boot then look for yellow marks on the kerb. Two yellow marks mean no loading at any time, while one yellow mark means that you can load at certain times. Both markings should also have nearby signs that tell you whether and when you can stop to load there.
Specific loading bays are marked in white with the words LOADING ONLY displayed on the ground alongside the bay, so parking and walking away is not allowed. A white sign with a blue 'loading only' symbol will also be displayed nearby.
Other road markings
White zigzag lines mean you're near a zebra crossing and stopping on them is out of the question as you may obstruct the view of pedestrians crossing the road. The same goes for yellow zigzag lines outside a school, which are usually accompanied by the words SCHOOL KEEP CLEAR in yellow.
Bus lanes and bus stops should be avoided for obvious reasons, and cameras to keep them free of anything but buses and taxis are now widespread, particularly in cities. A criss-cross yellow box means that you can't stop for any reason as you may obstruct other traffic and yellow box cameras are now very popular with city councils.
Some parking spaces are reserved for specific vehicles like doctors' cars or vehicles that belong to nearby businesses - such spaces are always marked, either on the road itself or with signs and, while you may or may not be fined for leaving your car in them, you'll almost certainly leave the locals a little peeved, which is never a good move.
If you're still unsure then check out the Government's motoring guidelines on: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring.