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Is it illegal to sleep in your car?
Local laws are the deciding factor for car camping, including state and city parking laws.
Catching a snooze in your vehicle may or may not be allowed, depending on the state or city’s laws. Even in areas where it’s legal, you might not be allowed to park on city main streets, the highway or public property not designated for parking. However, you can find a few locations that are commonly open to overnight visitors.
Is sleeping in your car legal?
You won’t find a nationwide law banning people from sleeping in their cars. However, you must follow the state’s and city’s parking laws and any specific laws against sleeping in your car. In general, it’s best to find designated overnight parking areas ahead of time.
Sleeping in your car laws by state
|State||Overnight parking at rest stops||Sleeping in car laws|
|Arizona||Allowed, but no camping outside the car|
|Arkansas||Allowed for safety purposes only, no camping|
|California||8-hour limit at rest stops, no overnight parking or camping|
|Delaware||4-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Florida||3-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Idaho||Allowed with a 10-hour limit, no camping outside the vehicle|
|Illinois||3-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Iowa||Allowed for one night under special circumstances, such as emergencies, no campingo utside the vehicle|
|Kansas||Allowed for one night only, no camping outside the vehicle|
|Kentucky||4-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Maryland||3-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Michigan||4-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Minnesota||4-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Mississippi||Allowed, but no camping outside the vehicle|
|Missouri||Allowed, but no camping outside the vehicle|
|Montana||Allowed, but no camping outside the vehicle|
|Nebraska||10-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Nevada||Allowed with a 24-hour limit, camping allowed|
|New Hampshire||4-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|New Jersey||Overnight parking may be available in some areas, no camping|
|New Mexico||Allowed with a 24-hour limit, no camping|
|New York||3-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|North Carolina||4-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|North Dakota||Allowed, but no camping|
|Ohio||3-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Oklahoma||Allowed, but no camping|
|Oregon||Allowed with a 12-hour limit, no camping outside the vehicle|
|Pennsylvania||2-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Rhode Island||Allowed, but no camping|
|South Carolina||Not allowed|
|South Dakota||4-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Tennessee||2-hour limit for parking, no overnight parking or camping|
|Texas||Allowed with a 24-hour limit, no camping outside the vehicle|
|Utah||Not allowed overnight, extended stays are allowed at the police’s discretion|
|Washington||Allowed with an 8-hour limit, no camping outside the vehicle|
|West Virginia||Allowed, but no camping|
|Wyoming||Sleeping in vehicles is allowed for those who need rest to drive safely, no camping outside the vehicle or extended stays|
When is it illegal to sleep in your car?
It’s illegal if you’re sleeping in a city with ordinances specifically against sleeping in your car. Otherwise, you need to follow parking signs at rest areas, parking lots and on main streets to determine whether extended parking is allowed. Laws for overnight parking and sleeping in your car may vary by city because they have different consequences depending where you are. For example, overnight parking on main city streets could lead to a bottleneck in traffic flow.
But regardless of city or state laws, sleeping in your car while intoxicated is illegal in most states. Many states’ DUI laws include provisions against having control over your vehicle, even if it’s off and parked. This may include any intoxicated person being in the driver’s seat, with keys in the ignition or otherwise with the capability of driving the car. That means you could get a DUI even if you’re only sleeping in your car and don’t intend to drive it.
Is it illegal to sleep in other vehicles?
Parking laws and sleeping in car laws tend to apply to vehicles in general, which includes RVs. You should also be aware of any additional parking rules for oversized vehicles in cities. You may be allowed to sleep in your RV at truck stops or a designated overnight parking area, if you check the signs.
Where is it legal to sleep in your car?
While many cities have specific laws for car camping, you have several options for doing it legally. Those include:
- Rest areas. Many rest areas let you park to rest for a few hours, although many prohibit parking for a full night’s sleep.
- Campgrounds. This option won’t cost as much as a full-blown hotel but gives you the freedom to camp in your tent or car.
- 24-hour retailers. Some stores are known for their graciousness toward overnight visitors, such as some 24-hour Walmarts. You should ask for permission at stores or other private areas before spending the night there.
- Private property with permission. If you know someone with private land and get permission, you should be in the clear to stay overnight.
- Truck stops. Most truck stops are considered private property, so you might stay if the store allows overnight car or RV parking.
- Your own private property. You shouldn’t have a problem with car camping on your own property. However, follow residential parking laws if you’re parking in the street.
Is sleeping in your car safe?
Sleeping in your car offers less security than a locked home or private hotel room because of the car’s open view and fewer locks than a home.
Where you park your car matters
If you choose to get a night’s rest in your trusty vehicle, take care when choosing where you park. Some areas have higher crime rates than others, so you might stay away from alleys, or deserted or poorly lit sections of town. To pick a safe place to park, search for online crime maps or call the local police station to ask about crime in the area.
Don’t leave the engine running
Letting your engine run while you’re sleeping can be dangerous if carbon monoxide levels start to rise. This is especially risky if the car is parked in an enclosed area like a garage.
Carbon monoxide levels can rise:
- If the exhaust pipe gets blocked
- If you open your SUV or truck’s tailgate without opening the car’s vents or windows
- If a car malfunctions and blocks airflow
Hide your belongings in the car
Passers-by can see your belongings in full view when items are packed inside your car. If an experienced thief sees valuables, they may break into your car while you’re distracted or away.
Get a good night’s sleep
Consider the health implications of sleeping in your car, such as aggravating back or neck problems. Also, many avid car campers attest they don’t get as good a night’s rest as they do in a bed. Over time, these issues could take a toll on your health.
How does sleeping in your car affect car insurance?
Car insurance should still pay out whether you’re sleeping in your car or not. However, you may need extra coverage in some situations.
Coverage for your belongings
Keep in mind that standard car insurance policies don’t cover your belongings inside the car. A few companies may offer a personal effects add-on for these situations.
However, your home policy or renters insurance might cover stolen belongings if you have that coverage. If not, you could opt for a separate personal property insurance policy.
Collision with a parked car
Car insurance should cover you for these collisions as long as the driver has the proper coverage.
- If you collide with a parked car: You would need property damage liability to cover that car’s damage and collision coverage to repair your car.
- If someone collides with you: That person’s property damage liability should cover your car while bodily injury liability should cover any injuries you received.
- Uninsured or underinsured motorists: You might need uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to pay for your repairs if you’re hit by an underinsured driver.
Compare car insurance
If you choose to sleep in your car, make sure to abide by all local laws and pick safe areas to stay overnight. While car insurance should cover you the same wherever you lay your head, you might need extra car insurance coverage to protect against car damage. Consider multiple coverage and car insurance provider options to find what suits you best.
Frequently asked questions about sleeping in your car
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