Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car?

How To Legally Take A Car Nap

by Bill Flitter

The answer to the question “Is it illegal to sleep in your car?” is not an easy answer. It depends on several factors including which state your in and where you’ve parked.  Rather than driving drowsy, it’s always a safer bet to find a safe parking lot to sleep.

Right after I graduated college I packed up all I owned in a ’89 Grand Prix and moved from Wisconsin to California. I didn’t have much money and wasting the little I had on a hotel when I had a perfectly fine car to sleep in didn’t seem reasonable. Somewhere along the backroads of Utah after driving all day, I realized how tired I was. It was a shock to suddenly feel I needed to stop.

So I pulled over, eased the seat back, and closed my eyes. A local coming home late woke me up 20 minutes later. Apparently, I was still parked in the middle of the road—hey, it was dark with no street lights!

I was lucky he wasn’t a homicidal maniac (or a cop). I wish I could say I never slept in my car again. I’m a dad. We like our naps. A quick catnap while you’re waiting for your kids play practice to end is sometimes needed.

With that said, there are safe, and legal ways to sleep in your car.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car

The Best Ways To Sleep In Your Car


If it’s late at night and you need to pull over for a quick 20 minute nap, the best location would be the parking lot of a 24 hour business, such as 24 Hour Fitness, or, even better Walmart. Walmart is one of those rare businesses that allows people to car camp in their parking lots, legally.

You’ll want the security and safety of being around other people who are going about their regular business. Finding a KOA campsite or a church (or other sanctuary type establishment) is also a good location.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car


After you find a good place to park, you’ll want to get comfortable. If you have a pick up or SUV with a large bed or cargo space, you can spread out a sleeping bag to crawl into. You’ll also want pillows and blankets. If you have to sleep sitting up, then a neck pillow will come in handy.

If it’s hot outside, you might want to crack the windows. A screen with a suction cup would help block the sun and keep bugs out at the same time. If you don’t have a screen, you can hang a towel over the window (hold it in place by closing the door on it).

Is it illegal to sleep in your car

Courtesy of DogBuddy Blog


If you can’t fall asleep right away because of the awkwardness of sleeping in your car, then you might want to bring a book and a mini-flashlight (or play games on your tablet). Using your phone to listen to music is also helpful.

You won’t want to keep the engine running and you don’t want to kill your car battery using the radio and lights, so bringing a flashlight and a charger for your phone becomes essential.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car?


Before you start your road trip, make sure to pack some nutrition before you go. If you’re going to sleep in your car, you’ll want some bottled water and a small snack when you wake up.

Trail mix or any kind of nutrition or breakfast bar works well. Don’t get anything with chocolate though, it will melt in the heat of the sun.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

Courtesy of Maddie On Things Blog


If you’re on a very long multi-day road trip, like the time I drove from Wisconsin to California, you’re going to want to stay clean. Road grease is a real thing… If you’ve been driving with the windows open, you’ll develop a layer of dirt on your face.

Good places to get cleaned up is at a public beach with showers along the boardwalk, or make full use of the sink in the gas station bathroom or the highway rest area. You’ll sleep better being clean.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car?


This one might sound odd, but if you’re used to sleeping in your skivvies at home, don’t do that in the car. You’ll want to be dressed, as respectfully as possible, when sleeping in your car.

It might not be the most comfortable thing to do, but if a police officer or a local decides to tap on your window while you’re sleeping, you’ll want to be presentable.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car?


Is it illegal to sleep in your car? The bottom line according to Lawyers Plus, generally yes. However, local residents and police may view you suspiciously if caught. The best advice is to spend the money and get a cheap motel room. Or try to find a KOA campsite or a public parking lot with people walking about.

At first, you might be thinking privacy and you’ll want to park under a bridge or an alley. That’s where the criminals are lurking though. Stay safe by staying public. Pulling over to get some shut eye sounds fairly innocent. However, you really don’t know who else is out there.

Never drive drowsy though. If you’re feeling sleepy the safest thing to do is pull over in a safe area.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car

Courtesy of Home Sweet Road Blog

Over to You

Hopefully these tips will help you sleep more soundly in your car if you find yourself in this situation. Do you have any tips to add?


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