Is it illegal to sleep in your car? Check out our comprehensive legal guide

The legality of having a snooze in your car depends on the state where you live. That’s because cities and state laws greatly differ from each other when it comes to sleeping in a car. Although in many areas where it is legal, you may not be allowed to park your car on the main public streets or the areas designated for parking for longer hours. In fact, you can find a number of locations where you can spend a whole night if you are a visitor.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

It is hard to find any federal or civil law that abandons you from dozing off in your car. But there are some restrictions from the federal government which include; sleeping in a car while you’re intoxicated, sleeping in a car trespassing and without permission, and catching a snooze behind the wheels. Other than that, it’s just fine.

Federal law is the law of the land, and this is why it has significant precedence over state or local law. For this reason, many road trippers sleep anywhere during their long trips even if it is just for a nap break.

However, if you find any laws or ordinances in your current location, you are obligated to follow them. If you really don’t have a place to sleep, it is always better to find overnight parking areas beforehand. If you need to sleep for a break, then comply with these laws:

  • Stay off from the highway shoulders
  • Obey signage
  • Avoid being sleepy on the busy city streets
  • Avoid sleeping in popular areas such as beaches
  • Avoid parking and sleeping in the residential areas

Why is it illegal to sleep in your car?

The reason behind many cities making it illegal for sleeping in the car is to prevent homelessness and loitering.

San Diego prohibits sleeping in the car and regulates ‘Safe Parking Lot’ services through which they move people from cars and provide them safe accommodation.

Road trippers often suggest that the state ordinances are not for long road trips. Even so, complying with them is advised. Conditions when sleeping in your car become illegal to contain sleeping in an area without the owner’s permission. Plus, being intoxicated in the vehicle is not only against the law and of course, but it is also insecure.

Additionally, there are other factors as well that make it illegal to sleep in the car. These factors include the place you have parked your car and the intention to park the car.

In what states is it illegal to sleep in your car?

As mentioned earlier, every state has its own rules when it comes to sleeping in your car. For instance, in Hawaii, it’s illegal to sleep in your car between 6 pm to 6 am. To view comprehensive data about laws regarding sleeping in your car consider the following table:

StateOvernight parking at rest stopsLaw for sleeping in your car by state
AlaskaNothing specified

In Alaska, laws for parking and sleeping in a car vary according to the city you reside

Parking on public property may not be allowed if official parking is not marked.

In Anchorage, it is also not allowed to park at the public parking space, on a street for 24 hours.

ArkansasNo camping is allowed, parking is allowed only for safety purposesComplying with the street laws is mandatory. No specific laws are regulated.
ConnecticutNot allowed

Parking laws differ within cities.

Some cities ban overnight parking and some restrictions are there for certain hours as well.

HawaiiNot allowed

It is not allowed to sleep in your car or live in your vehicle outside someone’s residence or on the public roads between the hours of 6 am to 6 pm.

It is not allowed to use the owner’s property without proper consent or permission.

IowaAllowed only under emergency and at certain circumstances that can be proved. No camping is allowed. 
NevadaAllowed only for 24 hours – both parking and camping. 
New YorkOvernight camping and parking are not allowed. You can park with the consent for a max of 3 hours. 
OhioOvernight camping and parking are not allowed. You can park with the consent for a max of 3 hours.Recreational vehicles are allowed for overnight parking at some areas of Turnpike.
Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island,Parking is allowed but camping outside the car is not. 
Indiana, Maine, Louisiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin,Not allowed 

When it is illegal to sleep in your car?

It becomes illegal if you are sleeping in your car in a city where there are ordinances against the attempt. In other areas, you may need to look for the signs at parking areas and rest spots to comply with them on public streets. You must also look for the laws where you want to park and catch a snooze whether extended parking or camping is allowed.

It depends on how long you need to park your car, sleep, or camp at a place, this will determine how city local ordinances are applied.

Road trippers suggest some tricks to have a rest and catch a snooze to have a break at points where car parking and sleeping are illegal. But before you know about them, you should also keep in mind that you will carry the burden of being at risk if you’re willing to sleep in your car.

Here are some effective tips and tricks to follow to make sure you’re safe:

  • Focus on parking in late hours and then leaving the parking space early.
  • Don’t stick to one place every night. Choose a different location whenever you prefer to spend a night in your car.
  • Dark tint your windows, try getting black curtains, use a sun shield for your front mirror, and put a blanket between your front driver and passenger seats.
  • Don’t use lights in the dark, you may get caught. Use a phone to watch movies or talk on the phone.
  • Be respectful in sites where it is illegal to park late or sleep in the car.
  • Make sure you leave early before you expect to get caught.

It is not very often seen that people are being ticketed or charged just for the reason that they slept in the car. Usually, traffic police deal with a sleeping fellow by just knocking at the window and ask to rush.

Many times you can get into trouble when you doze off intoxicated. In most states, the regulations regarding DUIs include provisions when you are sleeping in your car parked on a street while you are intoxicated. These laws translate the regulations in such a manner that an intoxicated person is on the driving seat with the capability of driving as the keys are on ignition. The laws say that you can get a DUI conviction if you are caught sleeping in the car and the breathalyzer shows positive readings. No matter if you intended to drive or not.

Where is it illegal to sleep in your car?

Where many states have similar laws for camping and parking, there are some legal ways to park and sleep in your desired location.

  • Rest Areas: Several rest areas in states allow parking for a few hours but ban overnight parking at rest areas.
  • Campgrounds:  This option can legally help you to camp in your car. Campgrounds are more cost-effective as compared to full-blown overnight hotel stays.
  • 24-hour retailers: Many stores in the states are known for providing 24-hour stay to visitors in which 24-hour Walmart is the one. Before you plan to stay at the store, you must ask them first and take the owner’s permission to stay overnight.
  • Private property with consent: It’s better to find someone you know in the area and get permission to sleep in your car parked in their possession.
  • Truck Stops: The truck stops are supposed to be private property, so getting permission from the truck owners can bring good news for you for overnight parking. If truck stops are under any store possession, then talking to the owner to spend a night at RV parking can help you in that manner as well.
  • Your private property: Of course, there is no harm in parking at your property. You can camp remaining inside your territory. However, adhere to the state’s parking laws if you are parking or camping on the public street of a property that you don’t own.
  • On Federal land: If you can travel before your sleeping time, usually it gets easy to find public campsites like Land of Natural Forest and the land managed by BLM – Bureau of kand management. They are referred to as boondocking and one of the cheap and great ways to spend the night. Plus, you can sleep with peace of mind that you are in legal and safe hands.
  • Casinos: Your state casinos may also allow you to sleep overnight in your car. This is because they encourage people to come, play, and spend nights while gambling inside. You can find the casinos with parking permissions here.

Is it illegal to sleep in someone else’s vehicle?

Parking laws are generally applied to all vehicles that usually include unconventional means of transportation like RVs, a van, a bus, or a camper. You also need to remain aware of any additional parking rules and DUIs regulations for large vehicles in states and cities to protect yourself from getting into trouble.

  • Popup Camper: Sleeping into a camper you tow is even possible at a truck stop designated for parking. Consider purchasing a vehicle insurance policy to protect yourself from damages or accidents while you sleep in your oversized vehicle.
  • School Bus convention: States allow you to park your buses at rest stops and outside the stores like Wal-Mart. Make sure that you have checked the parking signs. A vehicle insurance policy for buses or oversized vehicles can be tricky. For this, your bus needs to meet a particular list of specifications. These specifications may include living quarters and RVs.
  • Van: It is even legal for you to find parking at designated areas, rest stops, and campsites if you are a full-time van dweller. As always, you must check for signs whenever you are driving an oversized vehicle and need to find overnight parking. The type of insurance you need for your vehicle; depends greatly on the type of van you are driving. You are likely to meet similar requirements for insurance for your van as any other vehicle on the road to protect your belongings.

Is it safe to sleep in your car?

As far as security is concerned, your car is less secure as compared to your home with fewer locks and an open view.

Does it matter where you park your car?

If you are planning to stay and have a rest in your car, you must take the parking place into account. In many states, the crime rates are higher than in any other place. You must remain aware of the alleys, poorly lit, or deserted areas of the town.

It is also convenient to call the area police and ask about the crime rates in the locale.

Avoid leaving your engine running

Your car engine leaves carbon monoxide when it runs. When you leave it running while sleeping, the levels of carbon monoxide can rise and it can be dangerous. This situation normally happens when the car is parked in some enclosed areas like motor garages.

Other elements that cause a rise in the levels of carbon monoxide include:

  • Blockage of an exhaust pipe
  • Opening of a truck’s tailgate without opening the car’s windows or vent
  • Airflow blockage due to car malfunction

Can you get a DUI charge for sleeping in your car?

As DUI stands for ‘ driving under the influence”. If you are driving under the influence of illegal drugs or any illicit influential substance, you can be charged with DUI charges. This is because you are not only putting yourself in danger but everyone around you – on the road and individuals on the passenger seats. If you are found guilty of hurting someone under the influence, you may end up in prison under DUI charges.

Also, the penalties for DUI charges or DWI (driving with intoxication) charges can vary across states. But if you live in Texas, there are significant penalties attached to the offense you commit under influence. Such as

Ist offense:

  • Fine up to $2000
  • Driving license suspension for up to 1 year
  • A prison sentence of 180 days.

2nd offense:

  • Fine up to $4000
  • Driving license suspension for up to 2 years
  • A prison sentence of one year.

3rd Offense:

  • Fine up to $10,000
  • Driving license suspension for up to 2 years
  • A prison sentence of 10 years

Note: Penalties can be even stronger if an alcohol container or can is found in your vehicle regardless if you are intended to consume it or not. This is because carrying an alcohol container is also illegal in most of the states along with Texas.

Can someone die while sleeping in a car?

Dangers of sleeping in a car

You may find it convenient and cost-effective to sleep in a car. Undoubtedly there are exceptional benefits, but you have to look at the other side of the coin as well. Look at the following dangers of sleeping in a car that you might be neglecting.

Lack of security

IF you chose to sleep in your car while it is legal in your state, you must consider your security. No matter which latest car model you have, it cannot provide you the level of security that your house can provide. With limited locks and options, someone with a sharp weapon can always enter into it, You are just surrounded by the glass windows. Your car and windows can only offer protection to you until they are unbroken.

Unsafe parking locations

Depending on the location of your parked car, any area can be dangerous. Obviously, not every area in your state would be risky, but areas with a high crime rate should be avoided at all costs. Check on the online crime map to find out the crime rate around the area you want to park your car. These places may include the deserted areas and alleys of a town. You may ask for a safer place for parking and sleeping in your car where it is not illegal.

Health risks

Sleeping in your car or even living in your car can bring serious complications to your health. It may sound trivial but sleeping in your car for a longer time can invite lingering back and neck issues. Continuous sleeping in the same position can ruin your posture and it can be a reason for regular back pains. Additionally, everyone cannot sleep in the car decently (due to the size and features of the car), these problems can become more hazardous for your body over time.

Hygiene issues

Another risk to your health that sleeping in a car can bring is not having proper hygiene. When you are living your life on the roads, having a proper amount of sanitation becomes a luxury. But adhering to some common way-outs, you can have a decent shower every now and then.

One place where you can have a bath is in the public parks with showers or pools. It can be tough sometimes to find these parks and functions when you want to take a shower. What you can best find for yourself is the private campgrounds with shower buildings inside them. Make sure that you have extra cash in your pocket as these buildings may not be as cheap as a Walmart parking spot. Plus, you can get a laundromat and have a hot shower bath here.

If you’re short of hard cash and don’t want to spend much in these campgrounds, then search for the campsites that allow you to use their campground shower places without having you spend nights there. It can increase your chances of spending less and getting a good hot water shower, so do a quick research.

If a beach is near your parking area, then you can always make the most of it. Beaches also have showers in the specified huts and camp houses, but you may not have the privilege to use them unless you are a member. All you can do is request a favor or visit with a friend. It usually won’t cost you a penny.

Stressful roads

Many drivers share agitated tweets to show their displeasure of experiencing gridlocks on highways. Atlanta, Georgia, Miami, Texas, California, New Jersey, Newark are some of the names where drivers cross the standard legal limit of driving resulting in fatal accidents.

If you’re driving to find the right place for parking, consider not doing these things while you drive on stressful state roads. Avoid changing clothes, taking selfies, calling or texting, picking up someone’s call, and playing with your music system. Find a spot to stop your car and complete the desired tasks.

Even putting on hands-free devices are not capable of providing protection behind the wheels. Keeping things to a good time where you are in a rested position will significantly save you from fatal injuries. Plus, you should avoid traveling with agitated unruly passengers. Continuous arguments or having too much fun can distract you from driving safely on stressful highways and it can potentially increase the chances of accidents.

Latest Updates!

Is it still legal to sleep in your car at Walmart?

If there are local parking limitations in place by the municipality, then parking at Walmart becomes illegal. In most of the states in America, it is illegal to park and sleep in your vehicle at Walmart regardless of the time. Sleeping in the vehicle at Walmart was originally allowed for RV customers while they are on their long road trips. But, people over-used the space, littered, and caused damage to the offering. After such incidents, Walmart managers have certain personal discretion in place.

“We do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on the availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”

To spend your nights at Walmart, you should;

  • Make sure to speak with the manager before you park your car and try to spend your night at the parking lot.
  • Once you get permission, park your car a bit far from the lamps at the parking lot so they do not bother you while you try to sleep.
  • You must remain respectful to other vehicles sharing the space and customers trying to park and moving in/out from the store.
  • Leave a nice impression on the store staff and the Rvs to prevent managers from banning you from parking and sleeping at their locations.

Want to spend a night in your car at Walmart? Try Walmart Store Finder, and look for the details about the nearest store. Make a phone call and ask the manager if they have vacant space for parking your vehicle and spending a night sleeping in your car. Consider the instruction they tell you for parking and any local or state ordinance in place.

Applications that help you find destinations to park

As there are numbers of people who want to sleep in their cars are increasing, so the solution of application came into the field to address the needs. Here are some applications for Android and iPhone users to download and search locations to spend the night easily;

  • The Dyrt App
  • iOverlander app
  • iExit
  • Roadtriipers

Where The Dyrt and iOverlander apps are people’s favorite.

Options to avail while sleeping in your car comfortably

To optimize your comfort level, here are some more tips that you should consider.

Build a platform:

Car seats, however, are not made for lying, but with a few DIYs you can increase your comfort and save your backaches and posture damages in no time. Building a bed platform can provide you with a good night’s sleep. Make sure that it fits nicely and doesn’t move to avoid injuries.

  • Have an air mattress

A back seat air mattress can also do wonders. Getting an air mattress is the best way to inflate and spread when needed. It typically requires less space when you don’t need it and provides comfortable sleep within your car.

  • Find out places with bathroom

It’s not necessarily required that you wait for the high time. When you are looking to park your car for sleeping inside, find a place where you can access a bathroom. A supermarket or a store with bathrooms will be a safer and better option for keeping everything working hygienically.

Some more tips are covered here to make ensure that you’re stealthy;

  • Find and move to another location every time you wish to sleep in your car
  • Parkin late there spend the night safely and leave the spot early morning
  • Use darker curtains and bedding to avoid a catch plus, you can easily blend in
  • Avoid talking on the phone late at night or watching movies with dim lights. Also, make sure your vehicle lights are turned off.
  • Remain quiet and be respectful when caught
  • Keep your car clean from any kind of illegal substances and stuff.

Consider safe parking lots as most cities are implementing them to support homelessness, Although, the opportunity is for people who are genuinely homeless. If you are homeless, then opting for the option would be considerable. For this, you may need to go through a procedure.


From the discussion above, it is obvious that the legality of sleeping in your car solely depends on several factors. The most important factor to consider is not to trespass which means that you should not enter a property without the owner’s permission.

Some areas like big stores allow overnight parking for road trippers and visitors, but for this, you should ask the owner first. Try asking the police about the crime rate in the area where you want to park and sleep in your car. Always check for parking and rest spot signs before you park your car for long hours. Make sure to comprehend the parking and DUI laws of the place you want to spend the night in.  In cases where you get stuck in legal remedies for not adhering to the state laws or hit someone while performing unnecessary tasks behind the wheels, always consult an attorney to protect your rights.

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