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Is It Illegal to Sleep In Your Car: Consequences Per State

There is no federal or state law that explicitly prohibits sleeping in your car. However, every municipality and jurisdiction has its own local ordinances that supersede state and federal laws. Of course, you can't sleep in your car on private property or in areas where it is illegal to park. On the other hand, some cities make sleeping in your car a crime, such as citing you for loitering.

Some cities make sleeping in your car a crime, such as citing you for loitering.

It is always a dicey proposition to park and rest in residential areas, but state rest areas, welcome centers, parks and service plazas offer designated places to park and sleep, though each place has its own restrictions. If you're living in your vehicle, insurance can protect your parked car when it's damaged by another vehicle or vandals. Here are some FAQs about sleeping in a car, and a detailed report on where and when you can and cannot sleep in your state.

Why Is It Illegal To Sleep in Your Car in Some States?

No matter where you live, it's illegal to sleep on another person's property without permission because it's trespassing. Also true is that if you're intoxicated while sleeping behind the wheel, that too is against the law regardless of which state you live in due to drinking and driving laws. Even public areas, like rest stops, in some states have limits for how many hours you can park. This is to prevent car camping, making a rest stop a temporary home and for the general safety of road weary travelers. The problem is not in sleeping but in parking for too long.

What States Is It Illegal To Sleep in Your Car?

There is no state or federal law that prohibits sleeping in your car. However, every jurisdiction has its own laws, restrictions and exceptions. Of course, you can always take a nap for a half hour in a supermarket parking lot, but, even then, law enforcement may see you as a suspicious person, especially if you are sleeping in the supermarket parking lot at night in a car with out-of-state plates.

If you want to sleep in your car in a particular municipality, the best course of action is to go to that municipality's official website to find out that municipality's particular laws regarding when, where and for how long drivers can sleep in their car as well as the municipality's general parking guidelines. Of course, you could always ask a local police officer where it would be legal to catch a few winks while in your vehicle.

Keeping that in mind -  each state's general restrictions are as follows:

AL - AK - AZ - AR - CA - CO - CT - DE - FL - GA - HI - ID - IL - IN - IA - KS - KY - LA - ME - MD - MA - MI - MN - MS - MO - MT - NE - NV - NH - NJ - NM - NY - NC - ND - OH - OK - OR - PA - RI - SC - SD - TN - TX - UT - VT - VA - WA - WV - WI - WY

Alabama

You can never park on highway shoulders, so you can't sleep in your car there, either. You can sleep at rest stops but not at night. Some cities ban sleeping in your car; others don't. In the Yellow Hammer state, you can be arrested for being intoxicated while sleeping in your car.

Alaska

You can always park on a highway shoulder or at a rest area to sleep in your car, day or night. While overnight parking is rarely forbidden, some cities may not allow you to park on public property. For example, Anchorage only allows 24-hour weekend parking in public streets or parking spaces.

Arizona

You can sleep in your car in the daytime or nighttime at any Arizona rest stop, but you can't camp there. (Click here to see a map of the state's rest areas.) You can be arrested for being intoxicated while sleeping in your vehicle. If you're needing a full night's rest, some folks recommend parking on Bureau of Land Management land or the desert, which can be rather chilly at night.

Arkansas

In the Toothpick State, you can sleep overnight at any rest stop, but only for emergency purposes and only for one night. (For a map of Arkansas rest areas, click here.) The state frowns on "car camping" at a rest stop. Further, every city in Arkansas has its own laws and regulations, so carefully read the information on parking signs.

California

You can sleep in your car for up to eight hours at any Golden State rest stop but not at night. (To see a map of the state's rest-stop locations, click here.) Also, you can't pitch a tent by your vehicle, as California has outlawed "car camping." Besides rest stops, there are designated areas for overnight parking, so look for those parking signs; otherwise, you can get more information on designated overnight parking areas at the official website of the municipality you're in. Parking on freeways is prohibited except for emergencies.

Colorado

You can slumber at a rest stop, but not at night. (For a list of the Centennial State's rest areas, go here.) Luckily, Colorado has designated parking lots for overnight parking, so check out the municipal website of the city you happen to be in. While some people recommend parking in a national forest or at a truck stop, others say sleeping in your car is no problem as long as you are outside of the big cities.

Connecticut

The Nutmeg State does not allow overnight parking at rest stops, but you can sleep there when the sun is up. For a list of the state's rest areas and service plazas, go here. Since the U.S. Forest Service considers overnight parking and camping to be the same thing, you can sleep in your vehicle at any national forest or grassland; however, privately owned and other designated areas are off-limits. Every jurisdiction has different laws and regulations, so be aware of the hours a parking sign specifies.

Delaware

You can sleep in a Delaware rest area for no more than four hours during the day, but overnight parking is forbidden. For a list of the Blue Hen State's rest stops, click here. Every city has its own laws and regulations, so pay attention to parking signs and check out the municipal website of the city you're visiting.

Florida

You can't sleep in your car anywhere in the Florida Keys. However, you can doze for up to three hours in the Sunshine State's rest areas, which are listed here. The highway shoulder is reserved for emergencies, not sleeping. Every city has its own rules and regulations, so be aware of all traffic signs. Some folks recommend sleeping in your vehicle in the parking lot of a 24-hour big-box store. In this state, you can be arrested for sleeping in your car while intoxicated.

Georgia

You can sleep in your vehicle until 11 p.m. at Peach State rest stops, which are mapped here, but you can't pitch a tent or sleep on a picnic table. Highway shoulders are reserved for emergency situations, not sleeping. You can also park your car, truck, or RV up to 11 p.m. at any Visitor Information Center. Many truck stops and 24-hour gas stations will let you get a little sleep, but ask politely first. As always, let parking signs be your guide.

Hawaii

You can't sleep in your vehicle between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on any public Aloha State roadway. However, you can sleep in your vehicle in any rest area during the day, but not at night. You can sleep on private property, but you would need to get the owner's permission first. Every county has its own rules. For example, Maui County, which includes the islands of Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui and Molokai, forbids parking on any road or highway for more than 60 minutes between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Idaho

You can sleep in your car for up to 10 hours at any interstate rest stop and up to 16 hours at all other rest stops; however, you cannot pitch a tent, roll out a sleeping bag on the grass or otherwise "camp" while there. (For a map of Idaho's rest areas, click here.) Stricter laws protect residential areas, so many sleepy drivers get their 40 winks in the parking lot of a 24-hour store or, say, a hospital.

Illinois

You can sleep in your car day or night at Illinois rest stops, which are mapped here. While there is a three-hour time limit, law enforcement officers will let you sleep for safety reasons if you really need to. In fact, the Prairie State has about 30 rest areas and 11 welcome centers on its highways. Chicago and other big cities have stricter parking laws, so read all parking signs carefully. In Illinois, you can be arrested for sleeping in your car while intoxicated.

Indiana

You can always catch some shut-eye at most Hoosier State rest stops, but certain well-trafficked rest stops prohibit overnight stays. For a list of Indiana's rest areas, click here. Highway shoulders should be used for emergencies only. If you're thinking about parking in a residential area, be sure to ask permission from the homeowner. Some travelers recommend sleeping in your car in the parking lot of a 24-hour Kroger supermarket or other big store.

Iowa

All Iowa rest areas allow you to park for one 24-hour period, but you can stay longer if you have a "reasonable justification," as the Iowa Dept. of Transportation puts it. (For a list of Iowa rest stops, click here.) The Hawkeye state does not allow drivers to sleep in Walmart parking lots. Every municipality has its own rules, so read all traffic signs carefully. If you sleep in your vehicle while intoxicated, you could be arrested.

Kansas

You can sleep in your vehicle at Wheat State rest stops for only one night. The six service areas along the Kansas Turnpike offer limited "customer" and "commuter" parking areas; while long-term parking is discouraged, you can doze there for up to 18 hours but no longer. Every jurisdiction has its own rules and regulations. In Lawrence, Kansas, for example, vehicles parked on the street must be moved every 48 hours. Further, RVs, campers and trailers must be at least 100 feet away from any intersection. When you get to a new town, check the municipal website for specific parking restrictions.

Kentucky

Kentucky rest stops have a four-hour parking limit for any one 24-hour period; further, overnight parking is forbidden at rest stops. (For a list of Bluegrass State rest areas, click here.) Every jurisdiction has its own ordinances, so let parking signs be your guide. For example, in Lexington, vehicles may not be parked on any street for more than 24 hours. If you park in a residential area, you should ask for the homeowner's permission first. If you park in a large parking lot, you probably can sleep for a while, but have your license, registration and insurance ID card handy.

Louisiana

Louisiana's rest stops are open 24 hours a day, and you can sleep in your car there, day or night. You can also sleep in your car during daytime and nighttime hours at certain Camping Worlds as well as the Costco and Home Depot parking lots. In New Orleans, some folks recommend the parking lots of fishing piers and on Elysian Fields Avenue near the river.

Maine

You can sleep in Maine's 24-hour rest areas and service plazas day or night. If you have a legitimate reason for parking overnight on state property, you can send a request to CapitolPolice@maine.gov with the subject line "Overnight parking request." The state's Park & Ride lots are reserved for commuters only, so don't think of sleeping in your car there. Every jurisdiction has its own ordinances, so go to the website of the municipality you're visiting, pay attention to parking signs or ask a cop for the best place to sleep in your car. 

Maryland

You can park up to three hours in the Free State's 24-hour rest areas and welcome centers, which are all listed here. However, you can't sleep in your car at night in either place. There is no official prohibition against snoozing at the state's two service plazas, located on I-95. Every county has its own ordinances. For example, Annapolis residents need a permit to park on the street, so you can't sleep in your car on a residential street unless you have a permit.

Massachusetts

Overnight parking is not allowed at Massachusetts rest stops and service stations, which are all listed here. Of course, you can always sleep in your vehicle in designated Bureau of Land Management areas and national forests. Generally speaking, if it's legal to park and set up a tent in a certain area, you can sleep in your car in that area. Every jurisdiction has its own ordinances, so check the website of the municipality you're visiting to find out more information on parking restrictions.

Michigan

If you don't have a medium-size or large RV, you can park and sleep in the parking lot of one of Michigan's 85 roadside parks. However, the 24-hour parks are only open from May 15 to late October. You can also sleep in the state's rest areas, but not overnight. You can always park on Bureau of Land Management land or in a national forest. Of course, parking in a residential area is tricky, so tired drivers might be better off catching a cat nap in the parking lot of a 24-hour big-box store.

Minnesota

You can snooze in your vehicle for up to four hours—and up to 10 hours, if you're a commercial driver—in any of the North Star State's many rest stops, which are mapped here. However, you cannot park at a rest stop overnight. National forests, Bureau of Land Management areas and state campgrounds have places where you can sleep in your car. Every jurisdiction has its own rules, so go to the municipal website to get specific information about parking. For example, Duluth's parking rules explicitly say that "anyone can utilize the street parking in front of a residence," but you must park at least seven feet from any driveways or alleys. But even if you do that, local homeowners may report you as a "suspicious character" to law enforcement, so it's always best to introduce yourself and ask permission.

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Mississippi

You can sleep up to eight hours in any of Mississippi's rest areas, day or night, but you can't pitch a tent or doze on a picnic table in your sleeping bag. Welcome Centers, national forests and certain Bureau of Land Management areas offer respite for the weary traveler. Every county has its own parking laws, so let parking signs be your guide or ask a friendly police officer for the best place to sleep in your car. In many towns, you may have to feed a parking meter for a hassle-free nap.  

Missouri

You can sleep in your vehicle at any of the Show Me State's rest areas, day or night, but only for up to 24 hours. Further, it is best to stay in your car while napping because camping is not permitted. Travelers should carefully read a parking sign before deciding to park. While campgrounds may offer a chance to sleep for a long time, you can always catch a nap in a large parking lot. If you park on a residential street, you should ask the homeowner for permission to park in front of their house. Missouri law enforcement can arrest you for sleeping in your car while intoxicated. 

Montana

Montana's rest stops are a great place to get a little sleep: These 24-hour facilities put no time limit on how long you can park there, day or night. (For a list of Montana's rest areas, click here.) As in other states, you can catch some shut-eye in national forests, designated Bureau of Land Management areas as well as the parking lots of Costco, Sam's Club and other big-box stores. Camping World offers refuge for the drowsy driver, but only a few of them allow overnight parking. If you find a parking sign to be confusing, ask a local police offer about the best place to sleep in your car. 

Nebraska

You can park up to 10 hours at Nebraska 24-hour rest stops during the day or night. If you do use a rest area to sleep in your car, you can't park on the grass, consume alcohol, smoke cigarettes or loiter. Drivers can always "car camp" in state-approved campgrounds. When it comes to where and when you can park somewhere, every jurisdiction is different, not only from day to day but from street to street, so be sure to read parking signs carefully before deciding on a spot.

Nevada

Nevada's rest stops offer a place to sleep in your vehicle, day or night, for up to 24 hours. Not only that, camping is allowed, so pitch that tent. In towns and cities, you cannot park on a sidewalk or crosswalk or within an intersection. Furthermore, parking within 30 feet of traffic signals, stop signs and yield signs is forbidden by law. So, no matter what Silver State community you find yourself in, read the parking signs carefully, check out the municipality's official website and use common sense. If a law enforcement officer taps on your window, you should have your license, registration and proof of insurance handy. In this state, it is possible to be charged with a DUI if you are intoxicated while sleeping in your vehicle.

New Hampshire

There is one major rule to sleeping in your car: Find a place where you can legally park. In the Granite State, many drowsy travelers prefer to sleep in one of the state's 24-hour rest areas. While most rest areas do not have a specified time limit for parking, some do, but none allow camping. National forests, Bureau of Land Management land and camp grounds always have designated areas for parking, so you can take a nap. Every municipality has its own rules and regulations, so read parking signs carefully and thoroughly. For example, parking in downtown Concord is always free, but you may have to feed a meter in other areas.

New Jersey

Yes, you can sleep in your vehicle in the Garden State, but there are certain areas where parking is prohibited. Tired, red-eyed travelers can always park and sleep in the state's scenic overlooks, service plazas and rest areas, where overnight parking is generally allowed but not camping. If you park on a residential street, a homeowner may report you as a "suspicious character" to law enforcement, so some drivers prefer to park in a national forest, a camp ground, a big-box store's parking lot or another, less conspicuous spot. 

New Mexico

There is a 24-hour limit to parking in New Mexico's rest areas. While camping is not allowed, the rest areas are open all day and all night. When looking for a place to sleep in a city or town, your best bet is to find a legal parking spot. If a parking sign is confusing, flag down a police officer or traffic cop for clarification. If a police officer flags you down, on the other hand, you should have your license, registration an insurance ID card. In the Land of Enchantment State, you can sleep off your intoxication while in your vehicle.

New York

New York's welcome centers, rest areas, scenic overlooks and parking areas offer a place to nap in your vehicle, but each area's exceptions and restrictions vary, so read all parking and other signs carefully. For example, every rest stop allows truckers up to 10 hours and other drivers up to three hours of sleep time. In state facilities along the New York State Thruway, non-commercial drivers can park up to four hours. While you should always obey all parking signs, you should also be aware of your surroundings: While some parking places may be legal, they may not necessarily be safe.

North Carolina

Four hours is the maximum time a driver can park in one of North Carolina's rest areas. If you are just parking on the street to grab a quick nap, you should be aware of the local laws. For example, drivers in Charlotte are not permitted to park within 25 feet of the curb line of an intersecting street, or within 15 feet of right-of-way lines that intersect if the street does not have a curb. Of course, no sign specifies that ordinance, so it's best to review a community's parking regulations on that community's official website. Remember, campgrounds, national forests and parks, as well as designated Bureau of Land Management areas, are all great places to sleep in your car. If you want to park your car on private property, you must get the owner's permission.

North Dakota

If you want to sleep in your sweet ride for an extended period of time, the best option may well be one of North Dakota's rest stops: While you cannot camp there, you can sleep there for as long as you want, day or night. However, the North Dakota Highway Patrol drops by to check up on things, so you may get a tap on your window from an officer. Besides rest stops and welcome centers, drivers can catch a few winks at state parks and campgrounds as well as on Bureau of Land Management land. If you're in Fargo, the Walmart Supercenter will let you park your RV, but you should seek permission first. Finally, a driver can get a DUI for sleeping in their vehicle while intoxicated in North Dakota. 

Ohio

Like other states, Ohio has a host of rest areas where travelers can sleep in their car, day or night, but some may have their own restrictions. The state offers eight service plazas for overnight RV parking, but a fee is attached. While state and federal scenic overlooks, parks and forests offer places to park and rest, travelers should think twice when parking on a street: If there are no parking signs, check out the municipality's official website to review the local parking guidelines. Some travelers nap in their cars in the parking lots of 24-hour big-box stores. Finally, if you are caught sleeping in your car while intoxicated, Ohio law enforcement can arrest you.

Oklahoma

You know why everyone likes Oklahoma? You can sleep in your vehicle at any of the state's rest areas, picnic areas or welcome centers, day or night and with no maximum time limit. What's more, each of these facilities is open 24 hours a day. Every jurisdiction has its own rules and ordinances, so pay close attention to all signage. For example, you can't park on a residential street in Tulsa because "parking is permitted on residential lots only on a legal driveway or in a garage," as the city's official website notes. If a law enforcement officer taps on your window, you should have your license, registration and proof of insurance at the ready. You can be convicted of a DUI for sleeping in your car while intoxicated in this state.  

Oregon

Every jurisdiction has their own parking laws, some of which are printed on street signs and some of which appear on the state DMV's or municipality's website. So, before you park, do your research. A great place to sleep in your car is at Oregon's rest stops, where you can snooze day or night, up to 12 hours. State and federal parks and forests offer designated areas for parking, so you can sleep in your car there. Of course, residential streets can be tricky if you're a stranger, so try napping in the parking lot of a 24-hour store or, say, a hospital.

Pennsylvania

You can sleep in your car in Pennsylvania, but you must find a legal parking space. Cat-napping shouldn't be a problem, even though law enforcement may make a welfare check to see if you are alright. In that case, just have your license, registration and proof of auto insurance at hand and be ready to explain that you needed to rest for others' and your own safety. If you want to park and rest in a residential area, you should ask the homeowner's permission. While the Keystone State's 24-hour rest areas only allow two hours for parking, the state's service plazas allow overnight park. Pennsylvania law allows for your arrest if you're sleeping in your car while intoxicated.

Rhode Island

You can sleep in your vehicle in Rhode Island, but you can get arrested for sleeping in your car while intoxicated. If you want to just catch a quick nap, any legal parking place should work. To find out if a parking space is legal, you should carefully read all traffic and parking signs, then go to the state DMV's or municipality's official website for general parking guidelines. At the Ocean State's 24/7 rest areas, you can sleep for as long as you need to recover, day or night, unless otherwise instructed.  

South Carolina

The Palmetto state has no law that prohibits sleeping in your car, but you can't just park anywhere. Street signs designate legal parking areas, but in other situations you may have to check out a municipality's website to review the official parking guidelines. Every jurisdiction has its own ordinances and rules, and every community has its own tolerance for suspicious characters. South Carolina's rest stops are open 24/7 but do not allow overnight parking, but that doesn't mean you can't sleep there for a few hours at night. It is important to keep in mind that while parking may be legal, it may not be safe, so be aware of your surroundings when sleeping in your ride.

South Dakota

You can sleep in your car in South Dakota, but you can be arrested for sleeping in your car while intoxicated. The Mountain Rushmore State offers parking at its welcome centers and information centers, which can point you to other parking areas where you can legally sleep. Parking at Mount Rushmore State rest stops is limited to 10 hours for commercial drivers and up to three hours for other drivers, but the rest areas are 24/7. State and national parks and forests as well as BLM land offer designated parking areas where you can get some sleep. If you want to take a short nap, any legal parking place should be fine, although law enforcement may approach you. 

Tennessee

The Volunteer State volunteers few places where drivers can sleep in their cars. While a cat nap in a supermarket parking lot is not a problem, many towns forbid drivers from sleeping in their cars on public and private property. You can park and rest at one of Tennessee's 24-hour rest stops, but only for a maximum of two hours, America's shortest time limit for parking in a rest area. Some drivers prefer to car-nap in a state or federal park or in the parking lot of a 24-hour big-box store.

Texas

You can sleep in your vehicle in Texas, but you can be arrested for DUI if you are sleeping in your vehicle while intoxicated. Different localities have different parking laws, so it always pays to double-check that where you're parking is legal. So, pay attention to traffic and parking signs and seek additional information from the state DMV's or municipality's website. While you can always grab a quick nap in a parking lot, drivers who want to sleep for an extended period of time should check out the Lone Star State's 24/7 rest areas. You can also sleep in your car at the state's picnic areas and travel information centers. 

Utah

There is no Utah state law that forbids sleeping in your car, although you can get arrested for sleeping in your vehicle while intoxicated. The Beehive State's rest areas always welcome drowsy drivers, who can sleep in the daytime or nighttime for as long as it takes them to recover. You can also sleep in your car at state and federal parks and forests as well as designated areas on Bureau of Land Management land. Even if you are parked in a perfectly legal spot, law enforcement may tap on your window just to make a welfare check on your condition. Always be polite, and always have your license, registration and auto insurance ID card ready.

Vermont

If a law enforcement officer wakes you up in your parked car, you should have your license, registration and proof of insurance ready. While there is no Vermont state law that prohibits sleeping in your car, you must park your car in a legal space; however, a police officer may conduct a welfare check when they see you sleeping in your car. Since parking in a residential area can be tricky, many sleepy drivers who want to take a long nap prefer the state's 24-hour rest stops, which allow overnight parking.

Virginia

Virginia's rest stops are a great place to get sleep for a long time: These 24-hour facilities put no time limit on how long you can park there, day or night, but you should stay inside your vehicle. (For a list of Virginia's rest areas, click here.) As in other states, you can catch some shut-eye in national forests and designated Bureau of Land Management land areas as well as the parking lots of Costco, Home Depot and other big-box stores. Overall, if you are planning on taking a nap in your car, any legal parking place will do; if you are planning on sleeping for an extended period of time, you should find a place that allows you to park and camp, even if you don't have any camping equipment. If you find a parking sign to be confusing, ask a local police offer about the best place to sleep in your car. 

Washington

Every jurisdiction has their own parking laws, some of which are printed on street signs and some of which appear on the state DMV's or municipality's website. So, before you park, do your research. A great place to sleep in your car is at Washington's rest stops, where you can snooze day or night but only up to eight hours. State and federal parks and forests offer designated areas for parking, so you can sleep in your car there. Of course, residential streets can be tricky if you're a stranger, so try napping in the parking lot of a 24-hour store or, say, a hospital.

West Virginia

West Virginia has no state law that prohibits sleeping in your vehicle, but parking laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you're just looking to take a quick nap, any legal parking lot will do. However, if you want to sleep overnight, your choices are more limited. While a Costco, Walmart or Home Depot 24-hour parking lot may do the trick, some drivers prefer to sleep overnight at one of the Mountain State's rest stops, welcome centers or turnpike travel plazas.  For example, the rest stops allow you to sleep in your car, day or night, although law enforcement may check on you. In West Virginia, you can be arrested for sleeping in your car while intoxicated.

Wisconsin

You can snooze in your vehicle in Wisconsin, but only if your vehicle is parked legally. For example, you can sleep in your car at any Badger State rest area or wayside, day or night, but for no more than 24 hours. Parking rules and ordinances vary from town to town and region to region, so it's best to read all parking signs carefully and check out the state DMV's or municipality's website. If you are approached by a police officer, you should have your license, registration and proof of insurance ready. In certain circumstances, you can get an OUI ("operating under the influence") for sleeping in your car while intoxicated in this state. 

Wyoming

At Wyoming 24-hour rest stops, you can sleep in your car for as long as you need to, day or night. There are 27 rest areas spread out across the state, so drivers who need a good, long nap should seek one out. While state or federal parks and forests offer places to park, each facility has its own parking times and restrictions. In cities and towns, drivers should follow all traffic and parking signs. Even if you park in a legal spot and sleep for only an hour, a law enforcement officer may tap on your window purely out of concern for your well-being.

Times People Commonly Sleep in Their Cars

There are many reasons why drivers opt to sleep in their cars. For example, some drivers may take a little nap in the parking lot before or after work, whereas other drivers need some sleep therapy while on the road for either business or pleasure. Still others may be not just sleeping but sleeping and living in their vehicle, such as the temporarily homeless or, say, drivers whose RV is their primary residence.

The Police May Stop You

If you are sleeping in your car and a law enforcement officer knocks on your window, you should have your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance ready at hand. If you are parked in an illegal spot, you may receive a citation or a ticket or you may just be asked to move on.

If an officer knocks on your window, you should have your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance ready at hand.

Of course, the situation could be much more serious—and costly—if you don't have your license, registration and proof of insurance. If you do receive a ticket, it will not affect your car insurance rate because it is a parking violation, not a moving violation. Here are some general guidelines when choosing a place to park and rest. 

  • Always obey all parking and traffic signs and signals.

  • Highway shoulders are typically for emergencies purposes only, not parking.

  • Don't park on private property without the owner's permission.

  • Avoid residential streets, as homeowners may call the police when they see a total stranger sleeping in their car. 

  • Avoid heavily trafficked streets and roads.

  • When sleeping in your car, make sure that you are safe in your surroundings. For example, drivers shouldn't park and sleep in an area that's unlit or hidden from public view.

Be Familiar with Rules and Jargon

"Parking enforcement" refers to an officer who monitors streets, ramps and parking lots to make sure the parking laws and regulations are not being broken. They check parking meters and issue citations for improperly or illegally parked vehicles. They also write tickets, scan plates and have cars towed.

A "city parking ordinance" refers to the violation codes, fines, rules and regulations for parking in a particular community. Every city has its own parking ordinance, so don't assume what's legal in your town is legal in the town you're visiting.

"Vehicle habitation laws" refer to a particular jurisdiction's violation codes, fines, rules and regulations that apply to people who are living in their vehicle. So, if you live in your vehicle and move to a new area, type "vehicle habitation laws" and the name of your new city to find out the local statutes.

DUI and "Sleeping It Off" in the Car

Some states have laws that allow you to be arrested for sleeping in your car while intoxicated: Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. In these states, you could get a DUI, which will hike your auto insurance and may require an SR-22 for up to three years.

These "actual physical control" laws mean you can get a DUI conviction even if your car is turned off but you exhibit an intent to drive, which can include the location and operability of your car and whether your keys are in the ignition or you're simply sitting behind the wheel, sleeping or not.

Sleeping in Your Car at Walmart

There are almost 5,000 Walmart stores and supercenters sprinkled across the U.S., which means almost 5,000 big, well-lit, well-trafficked parking lots in which to sleep behind the wheel. Walmarts have food, rest rooms and sometimes free Wi-Fi for the weary traveler. While Walmart has a general policy of allowing RVs and other vehicles to park overnight in their parking lots, some stores do not allow it and may post a "No overnight parking" sign. Ultimately, the store manager will make the final decision on whether you can park there.

If you want to locate a Walmart for sleep-in-your-car purposes, you can use Walmart's own store finder or "Walmart Overnight Parking" Allstays app. Unlike Walmart's store locator, the Allstays app is constantly updated with new information and reviews. It is always a good idea to call ahead and ask for permission. 

Car Insurance Considerations When Living in a Vehicle

If you are temporarily living in your vehicle, you still need your state's mandated minimum amount of auto insurance. While every state has its own car insurance requirements, the majority of states require liability insurance at the very least. Liability insurance protects the policyholder against bodily injury and property damage claims resulting from an accident the policyholder caused.

Other states require not only liability insurance but also uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which protects the policyholder when the at-fault driver has no auto insurance or not enough auto insurance, as well as personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage, both of which pay the policyholder's medical bills and those of their passengers. If someone hits your parked car, your insurance can help in several ways, depending on whether it was a hit-and-run accident and whether you have suffered bodily injury or property damage. 

Protecting Your Vehicle

Minimum auto insurance coverage does not protect a policyholder's own vehicle. In fact, only comprehensive insurance covers the theft of your car. Generally speaking, comprehensive and collision insurance—together, called "full coverage" insurance—protect your financial stability when your car is damaged or totaled. It is important to remember that full coverage insurance is "add-0n" coverage, meaning the state does not require it by law; in fact, no state requires either comprehensive or collision coverage. While purchasing full coverage will increase the cost of your auto insurance rate, it saves money for many auto insurance customers if something goes wrong. 

Protecting Your Valuables

Valuable property left in a vehicle should be hidden, either under a coat, under a seat or in the trunk. After all, quick-fingered thieves are more likely to break into a car with visible, eye-catching property than a car that looks empty of valuables. If you are the victim of theft, however, auto insurance does not cover personal property.

Personal property is covered by all home insurance policies, which extend to property stolen from your vehicle. When you file a personal property claim with your home insurance carrier, you will be expected to pay a deductible, so you should make sure the property is worth more than the deductible before deciding to file.

Renters insurance will also cover stolen property. You may be able to buy a policy from some carriers, even if you are not renting an apartment. If you do find an insurer that's willing to write you a renters policy, make sure you have high enough limits. 

Protecting Your Pets

Some auto insurance carriers offer pet coverage as a component of collision coverage, while others offer it as an endorsement, or additional insurance, on collision coverage. Still other carriers sell pet-specific insurance as add-on insurance products. 

If your pet is injured due to an at-fault driver, the at-fault driver's insurance company will pay for any veterinary bills, or final expenses, that result from your pet's injuries. In fact, insurance companies see your pet as your personal property, so the at-fault driver's property-damage liability insurance will reimburse you for your pet's medical costs.

What If Your Vehicle Gets Towed?

In 37 states, the towing company must notify the owner or driver when their car has been towed and where it is being stored, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). If you live in one of the other 13 states, you can locate your vehicle by calling 311. The operator will need your name, the make, model and year of the car, your insurance ID number or, perhaps, your license number. You can also visit your city's towed vehicle locator website, which will ask for your vehicle identification number (VIN) and/or license plate number. If a local business has towed your car, ask the business the name of the towing service they use.

In 20 states, the towing storage facility must give you access to all your personal property, according to PIRG. While state laws vary, you will most likely have to pay a fee to get back your vehicle. If you parked in an illegal parking spot, you may get a ticket and have to pay a fine. 

According to PIRG, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, and New Mexico provide the best protections and Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Vermont provide the least protection for drivers whose cars have been towed.

Don't Sleep on Your Car Insurance

You can sleep in your car in areas that are designated for parking, but some jurisdictions may disallow it altogether. For instance, you may be able to sleep at a rest stop during the day but not at night. Many drivers seek out state or federal parks and forests as well as BLM property, while others prefer to take a short nap in a Walmart, Home Depot, supermarket or hospital parking lot. In any case, driver's should always follow parking and traffic laws, referencing the state DMV's and local municipality's websites. If a police officer taps on your window, you should have your license, registration and proof of insurance ready.

The last thing you want when parking in any public area is to be visited by a police officer without proof of insurance. If you don't have car insurance, SmartFinancial can comparison-shop for you, using AI-enhanced algorithms to match you with the best policy and the best carrier for your budget and lifestyle. Enter your zip code or call  855-214-2291 to answer a few questions for free quotes.

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