Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car? Know The Laws Of Your State

It can be difficult for many RVers to make a short-notice reservation at an RV park. So, the question arises, are you able to sleep in a car or an RV without breaking the law?

Sleeping in your car overnight is illegal in 29 states. But if you know where to go, you can often get around these laws and get a good night’s rest.

The good news is that most of the time, sleeping in your car is perfectly legal! As long as you know where to park, what regulations to follow and how to stay safe, you’ll be in business! In this article, we break down some key considerations to sleeping in your car.

Like where you can and cannot sleep in your car legally, if Walmart parking lots are a good choice, and how to keep safe and stay inconspicuous.

Where Overnight Parking Isn’t Allowed

Where Overnight Parking Isn’t Allowed

Here is a list of state laws prohibiting parking overnight in a car to sleep in it.

Some states allow you to park for a few hours during the day to catch a few zzz’s (California, for instance, allows parking for 8 hours, just not overnight), so be sure to stay updated on the laws of your state.

  • Alabama | California
  • Colorado | Connecticut 
  • Delaware | Florida
  • Georgia | Hawaii 
  • Illinois | Indiana 
  • Kentucky | Louisiana 
  • Maine | Maryland 
  • Massachusetts | Michigan 
  • Minnesota | Nebraska 
  • New Hampshire | New York 
  • North Carolina | Pennsylvania 
  • South Carolina | South Dakota 
  • Tennessee | Utah
  • Vermont | Virginia 
  • Wisconsin 

It is possible to find a better alternative if you are traveling through one of these states, such as finding public land (which is okay for overnight parking as long as you clean it up before leaving) or asking if anyone you know in the area is willing to allow you to use their driveway. 

Where Overnight Parking Is Allowed

Where Overnight Parking Is Allowed

Let’s now take a look at where you can legally and safely park your vehicle or RV overnight.

Additionally, it is also vital to keep in mind the fact that the parking laws can vary from place to place according to where you park.

This is due to the fact that many places are considered private properties.

  • Alaska – City dependant
  • Arizona | Arkansas – for safety only
  • Idaho – 10 hour limit | Iowa – for emergency only
  • Kansas – one night only | Mississippi 
  • Missouri | Montana 
  • Nevada – 24 hour limit | New Jersey – in some places
  • New Mexico – 24 hour limit | North Dakota 
  • Ohio – RVs allowed, no cars | Oklahoma
  • Oregon- 12 hour limit | Rhode Island 
  • Texas | Washington- 8 hour limit 
  • West Virginia | Wyoming- for safety only

Why Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car?

Why Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car

You’re Sleeping on Private Property

Many people wonder why it’s illegal to sleep in your car, but it often comes down to the fact that you are sleeping on private property.

As an example, let us assume you pull into a government-owned parking lot overnight to catch up on sleep, the problem here is that you are technically trespassing on private property after working hours. 

You’re Sleeping in a Tow Away Zone 

Another reason you could potentially be breaking the law is if you’re parked in a tow away zone.

It is incredibly important to keep an eye on any parking regulation signs and if parking on the street, making sure you’re not parked in a red zone.

Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car In Walmart?

Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car In Walmart

For Most Walmarts, the answer is no!  It is often the case that Walmarts that are open 24 hours are more willing to allow overnight parking for cars and RVs as long as they do not create a disturbance for other shoppers in the parking lot.

When Walmart locations have set hours, it is strongly recommended that you find another store which is open 24 hours a day.

Sometimes, gas stations, rest stops, and casinos will allow one to stay on the property of their establishment overnight as well.

Additionally, it is recommended by many RVers that you do not visit the same location more than twice in a two-week period to avoid being recognized.

It’s also important to comply with the order to move along if you are asked to leave by the authorities should you be stopped. Otherwise, you could be issued a ticket instead of just a warning.

Where Can You Sleep In Your Car Legally?

Where Can You Sleep In Your Car Legally

Now that we’ve gone over the legalities of sleeping in Walmart parking lots, you may be wondering where else you can park safely and legally to get some rest.

While for some of these places it’s a good idea to call or go in and ask, these are most commonly the places that are the most accepting.

Casinos

Casinos are one of the best places to stay overnight in a lot of different states.

Many of them openly welcoming RVers and people sleeping in their car overnight since they can potentially get you to come in and spend money. 

With security keeping a close eye on the parking lots you won’t have to worry about any safety issues and if there’s an emergency you can run inside.

Though it is recommended for casinos to call ahead and make sure they’re alright with you staying so you don’t encounter a nasty surprise!

BLM Land

Bureau of Land Management, or BLM Land, is one of the most reliable free options for sleeping in your car.

One of the benefits of staying on BLM land is that it’s entirely free and entirely legal to do such. 

As long as you’re okay with roughing it and being isolated for the night, this solution can work fantastic in a pinch!

Rest Stops

Lastly, this is the first option many people think of when they think about needing to sleep while out on the road, and it’s for a good reason. Rest stops are the best option overall if you’re near one. 

The one thing to keep in mind with this is that some rest stops do have operation hours, so it’s a good idea to check google maps for your nearest rest stop and make sure it’s still open and the hour you’re pulling up.

How To Stay Inconspicuous While Car Sleeping

How To Stay Inconspicuous While Car Sleeping

If you do decide to sleep in your RV or car, the best way to avoid any legal problems is to remain inconspicuous, most of the time you will not be bothered as people generally won’t pick up on anything if you remain silent. 

Arrive Late and Leave by Sunrise

One of the surefire ways to make sure you’re not stopped when sleeping in your car is to arrive late in the evening and leave before anyone picks up on your presence.

Remain Polite to Fellow Campers

The best way for you to remain inconspicuous is usually to be aware of those around you at night and treat them with courtesy.

Don’t Play Loud Music

One of the best ways to remain inconspicuous is to not blast out music or TV and draw attention to people outside of your vehicle

Take Care of Hygiene in Other Locations 

Another way to avoid drawing attention to you and your car is to do activities like using the restroom and wiping yourself down in different locations than where you plan to sleep.

Many gyms allow you to use their showers and bathrooms with a pass, so that’s a great alternate option!

Other Ways Avoid Legal Trouble For Sleeping In Your Car

Besides the points already discussed in this article, other things to keep in mind are to avoid parking in residential areas and areas where people might feel uneasy in the presence of a car and call the police.

Another great tip is to make sure your car is clean and presentable from the outside.

What to do If You’re Stopped

If you happen to be stopped by store security or police, it is best to remain polite and listen carefully to whatever they have to say.

It is most often the case that the officers are just looking out for the safety of the general public, and they are looking out for your safety by asking you to move along.

And with all the options we’ve provided here, you’re likely to spot a new resting spot in no time.

Last Updated on by Aaron Richardson

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