Is it illegal to sleep in your car? Check out our ultimate 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
restriction by federal government

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:


Overnight parking at rest stops

Law for sleeping in your car by state


Nothing 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.


No camping is allowed, parking is allowed only for safety purposes

●       Complying with the street laws is mandatory. No specific laws are regulated.


Not allowed

●       Parking laws differ within cities.

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


Not 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. 


Allowed only under emergency and at certain circumstances that can be proved. No camping is allowed.



Allowed only for 24 hours – both parking and camping. 


New York

Overnight camping and parking are not allowed. You can park with the consent for a max of 3 hours.



Overnight 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.

Why is it illegal to sleep in your car

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.

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

Where is it illegal to sleep in your car

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


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.

Recent Posts

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

Leave a Comment