Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

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A man sleeping in his car

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

Drowsy driving causes nearly 100,000 accidents yearly, resulting in 1,500 fatalities. However, you could unintentionally violate the law by trying to be safe.

So is it illegal to sleep in your car? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. You need to know the laws to avoid finding yourself in trouble.

Today, we’re diving into the legalities of sleeping in your car, so you can avoid any potential issues. Let’s get started!

Why Would You Sleep in Your Car?

No matter how much you plan, travel days don’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 something drivers should avoid at all costs.

On the other hand, some drivers may plan to sleep in their car instead of paying for an expensive hotel. A hotel room can seem like a waste if 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 instead of handing it over to a hotel.

Is It Safe to Sleep in Your 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 rundown or you notice sketchy activity, keep driving.

You can find many places where you can park for several hours to get some rest and not experience any issues. 

Some big-box retailers and other businesses allow vehicles to park for the night and provide a bit of security for guests. Many of these locations have security cameras and lights and may even have occasional patrols from law enforcement.

A man sleeping in his car

Can You Legally Sleep in Your Car?

Is it illegal to sleep in your car? Well, it can vary considerably from one location to the next. 

Usually, you can sleep in your car during the day for a few hours if you park in a safe location such as a rest stop, gas station, or other designated area. 

But sleeping in your car overnight gets a bit more complicated.

However, urban locations tend to have more rules prohibiting sleeping in your car. Some places will fine or issue citations to violators for those who sleep or park overnight. Thus you need to find out specifically from the local authorities whether you can or not.

Some travelers take the approach that it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. However, it’s important to note that some law enforcement departments and areas 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 spots around the country are a bit more hospitable and allow overnight guests. If you find one of these locations, treat it with respect and leave it cleaner than you found it. 

We’ve cleaned up our fair share of trash from others in these spots to help keep them clean for future guests.

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

You can filter results to fit your needs, so you find the perfect overnight parking spot.

It bears reminding that just because you see a spot posted online doesn’t mean it’s legal. We’ve found several locations listed in large Facebook groups and on some of these resources where restrictions have changed. 

It’s a good idea to call ahead or speak with the authorities before going out of your way to an overnight parking spot. You don’t want to arrive and discover that you can’t get a few hours of sleep.

Best Spots to Sleep in Your Car

You may come across some popular spots frequented by nomads and travelers looking to sleep in their cars. If you need a place to rest, consider one of these locations. However, you still need to get permission before you get too comfortable in its parking lot.


Walmart offers everyday low prices and spots for overnight parking. Whether you’re in a giant RV, a conversion van, or a car, many Walmart locations allow overnight guests to park in its parking lots.

This option works great for many people because of the large and spacious lots. You can often easily get even the largest rig in and out of the parking lots. 

Additionally, Walmart stores no longer remain open 24 hours, so they’re likely relatively quiet throughout the night.

Unfortunately, these locations have become increasingly more difficult to find. We’ve seen a drastic increase in local communities making sleeping overnight in your car illegal. This is often because not every guest respects the land and leaves a mess.

Keep in Mind: If you’re going to boondock at Walmart, then you need to know about these 6 Rules to Follow!

Cracker Barrel

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

They even have designated parking spaces for those traveling in large RVs looking for a place to stop and sleep.

However, just because Cracker Barrel wants to allow overnight guests doesn’t mean that local laws allow it. It’s a good idea to call ahead and get permission if you plan to stay the night at Cracker Barrel.

Bass Pro Shops

Similar to Walmart, Bass Pro Shops and their massive parking lots also work great for overnight parking. Some of these locations have even offered dump stations and potable water in the past. 

However, finding these amenities has also become challenging as stores tend not to spend the money to make repairs when things break.

These locations make great stops to stay the night because they’re quiet and located near major highways. 

But remember to call ahead and get permission because it may be illegal to sleep in your car in certain cities. You don’t want to go out of your way to stay and arrive to find that the area prohibits overnight parking.

A bass pro store

Truck Stops

While they may not be the quietest spots, truck stops can make a great spot to sleep. You can get a bite to eat, shower, and fill up on fuel, then get a few hours of sleep, so you’re fresh and ready to go when you hit the road.

Because customers constantly come and go at truck stops, it can be easy to blend in and go unnoticed. However, the constant coming and going can be noisy, especially from big diesel semi-trucks. 

Will this be the best sleep you’ve ever gotten? Likely not. However, these locations can do the job, especially in a pinch.

A truck stop sign, an option to sleep at in your vehicle

Rest Stops

Like truck stops, rest stops make great options. Many locations will accommodate a driver needing a few hours of sleep.

However, you need to check the local rules and regulations. Some areas restrict drivers to a certain number of hours before they’ll issue citations.

Additionally, some rest stops are better than others. We’ve seen some rest stops with overnight security that patrols the parking lot to help keep travelers safe. 

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

And some rest stops provide amenities you can get in a store parking lot, such as bathrooms, vending machines, maps, and more.

Two RVs at a truck stop to sleep at

City Streets

Other great options you can consider for overnight parking include city streets. If you can find a quiet city street that allows parking, 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’ll need to know the rules.

It’s also important to remember that homeowners may not take too kindly to you parking in front of their homes for the night. If you encounter a situation where someone knocks on your window and requests that you leave, it’s best to pack up your things and find a new spot.

Keep in Mind: Rest stops can sometimes be hard to find! These are the Easiest Way to Find the Next Rest Stop on Your Route


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

These parking lots sit empty most of the night, and people constantly come and go. If you play your cards right, you can blend in and get uninterrupted sleep.

You need to remember that some hospitals use parking garages for their parking facilities. If you have a larger vehicle, you might struggle to fit into these spaces. 

So verify the parking situation before you drive out of your way to get there.

Now You Know Where to Safely Sleep in Your Car

We’ve shared some of the best spots to park and safely sleep in your car. However, just because we’ve mentioned a spot doesn’t mean it will always be available or safe. 

We’ve all likely visited stores that felt safe in one location and ones where you couldn’t leave others fast enough. If you ever think your safety is at risk, find a new place to sleep. No overnight parking spot is worth risking your safety.

So now you know that it’s not illegal to sleep in your car in some locations, and it is in others. Do your research, ask permission, and always leave it better than you found it. 

Have you slept in your car illegally before?

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