Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is responsible for nearly 100,000 accidents yearly. If you want to avoid being one of them, finding a spot to park and get an hour of sleep might be tempting.

But is it illegal to sleep in your car? Unfortunately, rules and regulations can be tricky and confusing. 

Let’s dive in and see if you can enjoy some shut-eye in your car during your next road trip.

Why Would You Sleep in Your Car?

Some circumstances are simply beyond your control while driving. Construction, traffic jams, or mechanical issues can easily turn an eight-hour trip into 12 hours. 

For many drivers, this means finding a place to stay for the night. However, hotels are expensive, especially if you only need a few hours of sleep. In these circumstances, sleeping in your car can be a great option.

It’s also important to remember that, unfortunately, homelessness is a real problem in some areas. Some people sleep in their vehicles because it’s their only option. They’ve lost their homes, and rent is expensive.

On the other hand, just because you see someone sleeping in their car doesn’t mean they’re homeless. Many people convert vehicles into homes on wheels. 

They take their converted vehicles into incredible places and sleep in them after a day of adventuring. They can live incredibly comfortably on the road and need to find a place to sleep at the end of each day.

Is It Safe to Sleep in Your Car?

Safety is always an important factor, no matter where you sleep. However, sleeping in your car can be as safe as anywhere else. 

You should always take safety seriously. Try to find safe places to sleep with security features like cameras, lighting, and even security patrols.

However, you may come across many areas you should avoid. Never stay in any area where you do not feel safe. Don’t be afraid to leave. You never know what you’ll wake up to or what people might be doing outside your vehicle.

Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

The legalities of sleeping in your car vary from one location to the next. Many cities and local municipalities create ordinances that prohibit overnight parking.  

This is typically the result of individuals abusing the hospitality of communities, such as leaving trash or overstaying their welcome.

You’ll want to check the rules and regulations anywhere you want to sleep. However, this greatly depends on how long you plan to stay. You’ll be less likely to have any issues if you park for an hour or two compared to sleeping throughout the night. 

Tips for Sleeping in Your Car

If you need to sleep in your car, here are some tips for making the most of the experience. In some situations, you can stay comfortable and get a few hours of solid sleep. Let’s take a look!

Know the Rules

Know the rules before you get too comfortable. Look for any signs where you want to park that may indicate overnight parking or sleeping in your vehicle regulations. When in doubt, look up the local police department’s non-emergency phone number and ask.

Always get permission if you plan to sleep in your car in the parking lot of a business. Stores like Walmart and Cracker Barrel will often welcome travelers whenever local ordinances allow them to. 

Just make sure you confirm whether or not they allow it so you can avoid any potential issues while you sleep.

Park Out of the Way

One of the worst things you can do when sleeping in your car is be in the way. Find a spot out of the way where you won’t block traffic. If you stop in a parking lot, stay between the lines of a parking space. 

Some stores will have large semi trucks coming and going throughout the night. If you block an entrance or an exit, you’ll likely get an angry truck driver, employee, or law enforcement official knocking on your window. 

When parking at places like Walmart, the best spots are the back corners of the parking lot. This allows you to get some sleep while traffic from customers or deliveries can freely come and go without any issues.

Stay as Short as Possible

Avoid staying any longer than necessary. You’ll likely want to arrive as late as possible and leave as early as possible. Doing so gives you the best chance of avoiding potential conflicts and helps you get back on the road quickly.

Even if you plan to stay the following night, you should pack up and leave during the day. These spots are not campsites, and you’re not entitled to park for the night. 

You’ll draw attention to yourself if you overstay your welcome. The longer you stay, the more likely you will have a negative encounter.

Lock Your Stuff

Always lock your gear and equipment. We’ve heard of far too many people having stuff stolen because they didn’t lock up their belongings. 

Pay special attention to any equipment that you have mounted on the outside of your vehicle. While locks won’t prevent thieves, they can make them think twice. 

They’re typically looking for an easy target that won’t risk drawing attention to themselves. Locks can take time to cut through and make noise. Many thieves will move on to the next vehicle instead of messing with you.

Crack the Windows

Depending on the weather and the situation, you’ll likely want to crack your window. While you have no risk of suffocating in a closed car, it can get stuffy. Opening a window can help increase air circulation and regulate the temperature inside your vehicle.

Be careful not to crack the windows so much that someone could reach into them through the window. You don’t want someone to unlock the doors and enter your vehicle while you sleep. A crack of an inch or two will get the job done.

Invest in Window Coverings

Window covers are a great investment, especially if you plan to sleep in your vehicle often. You can go online and find window coverings made specifically for your vehicle. However, creating your own using Reflectix foam insulation is very easy.

Window coverings increase your privacy and help insulate your vehicle. The last thing you want is some creepy person staring at you while you sleep. The thought of it is enough to give most people nightmares.

You want to stay on the right side of the law when trying to get some sleep in your car. However, it’s also important to remain aware of your safety.

There is a chance that someone will knock on your window and tell you that you must leave. If this happens, don’t argue or give an attitude. Apologize for the misunderstanding, and move on your way.

Arguing and causing a scene will only make the situation worse. However, you can find plenty of safe and quiet places to get a few hours of sleep while on the road.

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