Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

Last Updated on February 3, 2023 by Jess

Whether on a road trip or a long day of travel, you may have to wonder if it’s illegal to sleep in your car. Driving can be exhausting, and if you’re driving drowsy, it can be incredibly dangerous.

Drowsy driving causes nearly 100,000 crashes each year, killing 1,500 people. However, you could be unintentionally breaking the law when you try to drive safely.

So is it illegal to sleep in your car? Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as you might think. You need to know the laws to avoid getting into trouble.

Today, we’re going to look at the legal aspects of sleeping in your car so you can avoid potential problems. Let’s get started!

Why should you sleep in your car?

No matter how well you plan, a travel day doesn’t always go as planned. A five- or six-hour drive can easily turn into eight or nine hours if you encounter traffic jams, accidents and road closures.

Driving tired is very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

On the other hand, there are drivers who want to sleep in their car instead of paying for an expensive hotel. A hotel room can seem like a waste when you only need a few hours of sleep before hitting the road.

In these situations, a driver may want to save their hard earned money for something else rather than spending it on a hotel.

Is it safe to sleep in the car overnight?

Sleeping in your car overnight can be safe under the right circumstances. You need to do your research and trust your instincts when it comes to the safety of a location. If an area appears run down or you notice sketchy activity, keep driving.

There are many places where you can park for several hours to rest and not get into trouble.

Some large retailers and other businesses allow nighttime parking of vehicles and provide some level of security for their patrons. Many of these locations are equipped with security cameras and lights and may even be monitored by police on occasion.

Is it legal to sleep in your car?

Is it illegal to sleep in your car? Well, that can vary greatly from place to place.

Generally, you can sleep in your car for a few hours during the day if you park in a safe place like a rest stop, gas station, or other designated area.

However, sleeping in your car overnight is a bit more complicated.

In cities, however, there are more regulations prohibiting sleeping in cars. In some places, fines or citations are issued for violations if you sleep or park in your car overnight. Therefore, you need to check with the local authorities carefully whether it is allowed or not.

Some travelers believe that it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. However, it is important to know that some law enforcement agencies and districts have zero tolerance policies regarding overnight parking.

If they catch you sleeping in your car, they may have no choice but to issue you a fine or citation.

However, many places around the country are a bit more hospitable and allow overnight guests. If you find one of these places, treat it with respect and leave it cleaner than you found it.

We have cleaned up our share of trash from others at these places to keep them clean for future guests.

The best way to find legal overnight parking is to use apps like Campendium, iOverlander, and Allstays. These apps have extensive databases of places where you can camp and park across the country.

You can filter the results based on your needs so you can find the perfect overnight parking spot.

Just because a parking lot is shown online doesn’t mean it’s legal. We found several places listed in large Facebook groups and on some of these resources where restrictions have changed.

It’s a good idea to call ahead or talk to the authorities before you head out to a night parking lot. You don’t want to arrive and find that you can’t get a few hours of sleep.

The best places to sleep in your car

You may come across some popular places that nomads and travelers go to for sleeping in their cars. If you need a place to rest, you should consider one of these places. However, you will need to get permission before you get too comfortable in the parking lot.

Walmart

Walmart offers daily low prices and parking spaces for overnight guests. Whether you’re traveling in a huge RV, a converted van, or a car, many Walmart stores allow overnight guests to park in the lots.

This option is ideal for many people because of the large and spacious parking lots. Even the largest RVs can often be easily parked in and out.

Also, Walmart stores are no longer open 24/7, so they are likely to be relatively quiet at night.

Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult to find these places. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in communities making overnight car camping illegal. This is often because not every guest respects the land and leaves a mess.

Remember: If you want to spend the night at Walmart, you must follow these 6 rules!

Cracker Barrel

What better way to start or end the day than with delicious Southern cuisine? Cracker Barrel shows its Southern hospitality by rolling out the red carpet for travelers looking for a place to park.

There is even designated parking for travelers with large RVs looking for a place to stay.

But just because Cracker Barrel wants to allow overnight guests doesn’t mean local laws will allow it. It’s a good idea to call ahead and get a permit if you want to stay overnight at Cracker Barrel.

Bass Pro Shops

Similar to Walmart, Bass Pro stores and their huge parking lots are great for overnight parking. Some of these stores have even offered disposal stations and drinking water in the past.

However, it has become difficult to find these amenities because stores generally don’t spend money on repairs when something breaks.

These places are great for staying overnight because they are quiet and close to major roads.

Remember to call ahead and get permission, though, as it may be illegal to stay overnight in your car in some cities. You don’t want to go a long way to spend the night and then find out that overnight parking is prohibited in the area.

A Bass Pro Store

Truck Stops

Truck stops aren’t exactly the quietest places, but they’re great for sleeping. You can get something to eat there, take a shower, refuel, and then sleep for a few hours so you’ll be fresh and alert when you hit the road again.

With customers constantly coming and going at truck stops, it can be easy to go unnoticed. However, the constant coming and going can be noisy, especially with large diesel semi-trucks.

Is this the best night’s sleep you’ve ever gotten? Probably not. But these places can get the job done, especially when things get tight.

A truck stop sign, a way to sleep in your vehicle

Rest stops

Like truck stops, rest stops are also a good choice. Many places allow drivers who need a few hours of sleep to stay overnight.

However, you need to be aware of local rules and regulations. In some areas, drivers are only allowed to sleep a certain number of hours before receiving a citation.

Also, some rest stops are better than others. We have seen some rest stops that have security guards patrolling the parking lot at night to ensure the safety of travelers.

Knowing that you have an extra pair of eyes while you sleep can help you make the most of it.

And some rest stops offer amenities like restrooms, vending machines, maps and more that you’d find in a store parking lot.

Two motorhomes sleeping at a truck stop

City streets

Another great place to park overnight is on city streets. If you can find a quiet city street where parking is allowed, you can blend in and go unnoticed for several hours.

However, is it illegal to sleep in your car on city streets? Not every city allows overnight parking, and if you want to avoid the dreaded knock on your window in the middle of the night, you need to know the rules.

Also, keep in mind that homeowners may not take kindly to you parking in front of their home overnight. If someone knocks on your window and asks you to leave, it’s best to pack up your things and find a new place.

Remember: Rest stops can sometimes be hard to find! Here’s the easiest way to find the next rest stop on your route

Hospitals

Hospital parking lots are a place that many people easily overlook when looking for a place to sleep in their car.

These parking lots are empty most of the night, with people coming and going all the time. If you play your cards right, you can fit in and sleep undisturbed.

Remember that some hospitals have their parking lots in parking garages. If you have a larger vehicle, you may have trouble fitting into these parking lots.

So check the parking situation before you head out.

Now you know where you can sleep safely in the car

We’ve mentioned some of the best places to park and sleep safely in your car. But just because we’ve mentioned a place doesn’t mean it’s always available or safe.

We’ve all probably visited stores where we felt safe in one place, and those where we couldn’t leave others fast enough. If you feel your safety has been compromised, find a new place to sleep. No overnight parking lot is worth risking your safety.

Now you know that in some places it’s not illegal to sleep in your car, but in others it is. Check with them, ask permission, and always leave it as you found it.

Have you ever slept in your car illegally?

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