How much do parking sensors cost as an optional extra on a new car? On more high-end cars they come as standard, but on a Ford Fiesta, for example, they are £400 as part of the City Pack (which also gives you folding door mirrors). On the Volkswagen Polo they are £483.50, and if you want them painted that’ll be some extra pounds, thanks.
That is a lot, however you spin it. Particularly when many aftermarket options are available for a mere fraction of that. Get the aftermarket set, install it yourself (carefully) and use the hundreds of pounds you’ve saved on a dash cam, a bike rack, or something totally unrelated to cars.
Why get parking sensors?
Whether we admit it or not (most likely not), a lot of us do not have brilliant spatial awareness. The countless efforts at people trying to parallel park outside my flat testifies to this fact. And so too do the bumper-height dings and scraps that adorn many cars that venture to the shopping centre and supermarket car parks.
It would therefore be in your best interests and the interests of those peoples’ cars you may back into, to invest in parking sensors. The only fiddly bit is installing them, but the sets come with instructions and all the bits you need.
Granted, most cars already have enough beeps and bongs and chirps to drive us deliberately into a wall, but at least parking sensors are performing a useful task.
The best aftermarket parking sensors:
Dolphin DPS400 Reverse Parking Sensors
Best rear parking sensors
For reliable and simple rear parking sensors, this set from Dolphin Automotive is your best bet. The sensors themselves come in 32 different colours, which means there will almost certainly be the correct match to your caru2019s paint. It comes with everything you need: four sensors with two-metre cables, a 21mm hole saw for cutting holes in the bumper (if youu2019ve got your own hole saw for use in plastic it is probably better quality than the one supplied so use yours), brainboxm, and instructions.
What we like about this kit is that the buzzer works properly – it starts beeping 1.5 metres from an object, increasing in frequency until you are 30cm away, at which point the beep becomes a continuous tone – just like in factory-fitted parking sensors. We also like that the sensors have a socket plug into the main cable just 150mm from the sensor. This means that fitting and potential replacement is so much easier.
Dolphin DPPK1 Front and Rear Parking Sensors
Best front and rear kit
If you tend to park by feel, then front and rear parking sensors are a must for you. This set gives you eight sensors (four front, four rear) and 32 colour options. The rear sensors are activated when the car is put into reverse, but the front sensors are switched on manually via a switch that goes on the dashboard. Alternatively, you can opt to have the front sensors activated automatically.
Like the DPS400 above, this set has a buzzer that sounds once objects come within 1.5 metres of the bumpers, changing in frequency as they get closer.
Park Safe Parking Sensor Kit
Best parking sensor with camera
Naturally, you may also wish to see what you are trying to avoid backing into. Therefore, a parking sensor kit with a camera is a sensible option. This is the best, from the aptly named brand: Park Safe. You get a 4.3-inch colour screen and camera with night vision.
All fitting instructions are included and provided you’re happy to spend half a day getting it installed, you’ll be very pleased with this set.
Streetwize SWPARK1 Reverse Parking System
Best basic parking sensors
This set from well-known car accessories brand Streetwize is very similar to the Dolphin Automotive DPS400 except itu2019s a few pounds cheaper because it comes in black or black and doesnu2019t give you the benefit of easy-swap sensor sockets. What you do get instead is an LED display to pop on your dashboard that indicates the distance of impending collision, in addition to a beep.
EAUTOUTLET Parking Sensor
This parking sensor's radar switches on automatically when the engine starts, warning of your car's proximity to danger via the light up LED display, ranging from green to amber to red. Along with the LED display, an alarm beep sounds when an object is within range of the sensor's radar, getting faster as the object approaches.
Each sensor is connected via a 2.5m lead for compatibility in even very large cars, allowing the sensor display to be set up on the dashboard for safety and convenience. For four sensors at just under £16, this is a great kit for a great price.
An analogue alternative for your garage is to put some flattened cardboard on the floor as a textured marker, if you find yourself continuously struggling to park in it. Place the cardboard on the floor exactly where it needs to be and use it to park your car correctly every time.
How do parking sensors work?
Like a submarine. Or a dolphin, hence the brand name Dolphin sensors, if you hadn't already picked that up. The sensors emit radar waves that bounce of objects, and the sensors pick up the rebounded waves. The electronic brainbox then computes the distance of the detected obstacle and sends the appropriate warning signal to you.
How easy is DIY installation?
So long as you plan how to tackle the task, and read the instructions several times, and set aside a few hours to get it done, installing parking sensors yourself is very doable.
The most concerning stage is drilling holes in your car’s bumpers. All these kits are meant for use in plastic bumpers, which is what modern cars use these days due to safety regulations. Practice using the hole saw a couple of times before doing it for real – the main event is always rehearsed and the same applies to installing your parking sensors.
The key thing to remember is to let the hole saw do the cutting, don’t push it hard against the surface. Use masking tape around the drill points because this will not only help keep the surrounding paint intact, but also help the hole saw grip.
Also before you drill, ensure that there is enough space behind the bumper to house the sensors and pay attention to how the instructions suggest wiring the kit.
Remember: If you don’t feel confident or comfortable installing the parking sensors yourself, you can always pay a professional to install them for you.