Sleeping in your car: Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

If you're wondering whether it's illegal to sleep in your car, you should know that no federal laws prohibit you from sleeping in your car unless you are trespassing, intoxicated, or falling asleep while driving. However, you may want to research local laws before choosing to sleep in your vehicle.

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UPDATED: Jun 2, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jun 2, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you need to know...

  • There are no federal laws against sleeping in your car unless you are trespassing, intoxicated, or falling asleep while driving
  • Some cities, counties, or states may prohibit sleeping in your car, either altogether, in specific locations, or over a certain period
  • Sleeping in your car may be banned to combat loitering and homelessness
  • Some safe and legal spots to park and sleep include truck stops, rest areas, campgrounds, federal land, or private property with permission

Is it illegal to sleep in your car? Depending on the location, it may be illegal to sleep in your car. However, along the major interstate highway system, rest areas allow drivers to park and rest for up to four hours. After all, keeping highways free from sleepy drivers is safer for everyone on the road.

Car insurance can help ensure your financial safety in case of an accident if you are traveling. Enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool above to get car insurance quotes quickly and easily.

Learn more about how to find a safe spot to park and sleep in your car below.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

Is sleeping in your car illegal? There are no federal laws against sleeping in a car. However, it is considered illegal if you are trespassing, intoxicated (even if the engine is turned off), or falling asleep while you are driving.

With that in mind, cities, counties, and states may have laws or ordinances against sleeping in your car. For example, some areas may ban sleeping in vehicles altogether, while others may set time limits or prohibit sleeping in certain areas. Be aware of “no parking” signs when looking for a place to park so you won’t get a ticket.

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

The laws and ordinances throughout the country can vary widely, so it’s always advisable to do your research before planning on sleeping in the car. Generally, pulling off the highway into a rest area will work just fine if you want to nap for a few hours. Here are a few details for some states:

In Florida, some parts of the state (including the Keys) have banned sleeping in your car everywhere. However, you can park and sleep in your car at rest areas along the state highways for up to three hours.

The laws in Georgia allow you to sleep at rest areas as long as you don’t pitch a tent on the grounds or sleep outside. You can even park and sleep in your car at the visitors’ centers as long as you leave by 11 p.m. when the restrooms close.

North and South Carolina prohibit overnight parking at rest stops. North Carolina defines “overnight parking” as more than four hours.

Most of Tennessee prohibits sleeping in your car for more than three hours.

Why is it illegal to sleep in your car?

If an area has banned sleeping in cars, it is generally to prevent loitering and homelessness. The lawmakers aim to push the homeless population into finding permanent residences or accommodations. Lawmakers also want to ensure that drivers are not trespassing on private property.

Some road trippers state that these ordinances aren’t typically enforced. The main factors determining whether you can sleep in your car are where you are parked and your reasons or intentions.

Where can I legally sleep in my car?

Is it legal to sleep in your car? Many states have places where it is perfectly legal to sleep in your vehicle.

Truck stops are a popular spot since truckers already stop to sleep there. Some truck stops also have security guards and other amenities, such as restrooms and food.

Another option for sleeping overnight is to find a campground. You may also be able to find free campsites on federal lands, such as National Forest land or areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Suppose you are driving an RV instead of a car. You may want to consider signing up for a website such as Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Hosts, which allows you to find private properties such as farms or wineries where owners allow you to park and sleep for a night. Harvest Hosts has an annual membership fee which equals about the cost of two nights at a campground.

Other apps can help you find places to park, including iOverlander and The Dyrt.

Can you sleep in your car at a store? Some 24-hour retail stores also allow you to sleep in their parking lots, but you should call ahead to be sure.

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How can I ensure I’m safe and comfortable while sleeping in my car?

Depending on the size of your vehicle, you may be able to fold down the seats and make room for a bed. You may even be able to find an inflatable mattress that fits your back seat and fills in the footwells. However, some people opt to recline their seats as far as possible and sleep there.

If you are sleeping in the rear of your car, you may want to use some type of tint or sunshade so that people can’t look through the windows. You can also block the front windows by putting up a sun shield.

To ensure your safety, you may want to do a few common sense things: Before going to sleep, call or text a friend or family member and tell them your location. Don’t leave your car running or the key in the ignition to avoid running down your car battery and also to prevent fumes from entering the inside of the car. Don’t leave any windows open, but leaving one open just slightly for ventilation is fine.

If you’re traveling, having car insurance is essential to ensure you are protected financially in case of an accident. Enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below to find affordable car insurance rates.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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