Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

It can be illegal to sleep in your car depending on the circumstances. Here is everything you need to know about sleeping in your vehicle overnight

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jun 22, 2022

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Things to Remember

  • States have different laws when it comes to sleeping at rest areas and other locations in your vehicle
  • You can sleep in your car without any legal issues if you park in a Walmart parking lot or camping area
  • There are steps you should take to ensure you’re safe if you choose to sleep in your parked car

Driving long distances or for long periods can be exhausting. While it’s almost always possible to find a hotel to stay in, hotel rooms can be expensive. In this scenario, sleeping in your car sounds like a tempting idea, but it may not be the best idea.

Is sleeping in your car illegal? Just as the minimum car insurance required in each state can vary, rules about sleeping in personal vehicles do too. For example, in certain states, sleeping in your car is illegal, and if you choose to do so, you could end up with a significant fine or worse. However, sleeping in your car in certain areas, like a Walmart parking lot, is legal.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

If you’re wondering if sleeping in a car is illegal, it all depends on your location. Each state has rules concerning whether parking in a public area and sleeping in your vehicle is prohibited.

The table below shows overnight parking laws in each state.

StateState Parking Rules
Alabama-Parking overnight at rest stops is prohibited.
-Parking on highways is not allowed.
-Intoxicated drivers can be arrested for sleeping in their cars.
- Various cities have bans on sleeping in the car.
Alaska-Laws are city-specific.
Arizona-Overnight parking is allowed at rest stops.
-Drivers can be arrested for sleeping in their cars while intoxicated.
Arkansas-Overnight parking at rest stops is allowed.
California-Overnight parking at rest stops is prohibited.
-Overnight parking is only allowed in certain parking lots.
Colorado-Parking overnight at rest stops is prohibited.
-Overnight parking in certain lots is allowed.
-Intoxicated drivers can be arrested for sleeping in their cars.
-Parking on a highway is prohibited.
Connecticut-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Delaware-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Florida-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
-Intoxicated drivers can be arrested for sleeping in their cars.
Georgia-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Hawaii-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
-Sleeping in your vehicle is prohibited.
-Drivers cannot park overnight on private property without permission.
Idaho-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
Illinois-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Indiana-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Iowa-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed for one night only.
Kansas-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed for one night only.
Kentucky-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Louisiana-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Maine-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Maryland-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Massachusetts-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Michigan-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Minnesota-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Missouri-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
Montana-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
Nebraska-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Nevada-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
New Hampshire-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
New Jersey-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed at some rest stops.
New Mexico-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
New York-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
North Carolina-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
North Dakota-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
Ohio-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Oklahoma-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
Oregon-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Pennsylvania-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Rhode Island-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
South Carolina-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
South Dakota-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Tennessee-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Texas-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
Utah-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Vermont-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Virginia-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Washington-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
West Virginia-Parking overnight at a rest stop is allowed.
Wisconsin-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
Wyoming-Parking overnight at a rest stop is prohibited.
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It is illegal to sleep in a car at a rest area in certain states like Alabama. In fact, people can get arrested if they choose to sleep in their vehicles after drinking too much to drive home. Still, in other states, laws for sleeping in a car vary from one city to another.

If you’re on a road trip or have had a long night of driving, and you wonder if sleeping in your car is illegal, the answer depends on your location. Luckily, sleeping in your car isn’t illegal on a federal level, so you should be able to find a place to sleep in your vehicle without getting into trouble.

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Where is it legal to sleep in your vehicle?

Usually, it is legal to sleep in your car if you find the right location. If you’re looking for a place to stop and rest in your car, one of the best choices is in a Walmart parking lot. As crazy as it sounds, Walmart stores allow people to park their cars, trucks, vans, and RVs to get some shut-eye without worrying about getting in trouble. 

Anyone traveling in their vehicles for long periods, such as on a road trip, will occasionally want a place to stay that allows showering and cooking food. If this is something you’ll want while traveling, you should research different camping options in the area.

While campgrounds charge a fee for admission, the cost is usually much less than staying in a hotel room. In most cases, you’ll have access to a bathhouse and some unique scenery while you’re there.

Is it safe to sleep in my car overnight?

In terms of safety, sleeping overnight in your vehicle is questionable. First and foremost, sleeping in a car could compromise your security, particularly if you live in a dangerous area or someone breaks into your vehicle.

Additionally, there are plenty of scenarios where the conditions make sleeping in your car dangerous. For example, your body temperature could get too low if it’s too cold. Similarly, if it’s too hot outside, you could be in danger of a heat stroke.

You should always ventilate your vehicle if you plan to sleep in it. Keep windows cracked to get fresh air. Never leave your car running for heat if you’re in your car during a cold night.

Do I need auto insurance to sleep in my car?

Unless you’re sleeping in your vehicle on your property, you must have your car registration and insurance information when you park somewhere to sleep.

Law enforcement officers may approach you, and police can check your auto insurance. Since you had to drive to the spot where you’re sleeping, you’ll need proper insurance to avoid getting a citation.

The amount of car insurance you need depends on where you live. The table below shows how much car insurance coverage you need in each state.

Minimum Auto Insurance Liability Requirements by State
StatesCoverage TypesCoverage Limits
AlabamaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
AlaskaBodily injury and property damage liability50/100/25
ArizonaBodily injury and property damage liability15/30/10
ArkansasBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection25/50/25
CaliforniaBodily injury and property damage liability15/30/5
ColoradoBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/15
ConnecticutBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist protection25/50/20
DelawareBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection25/50/10
Washington, D.C.Bodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist protection25/50/10
FloridaProperty damage liability and personal injury protection10/20/10
GeorgiaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
HawaiiBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection20/40/10
IdahoBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/15
IllinoisBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist protection25/50/20
IndianaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
IowaBodily injury and property damage liability20/40/15
KansasBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection25/50/25
KentuckyBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection; uninsured/underinsured motorist protection25/50/25
LouisianaBodily injury and property damage liability15/30/25
MaineBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage; medical payments50/100/25
MarylandBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage30/60/15
MassachusettsBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection20/40/5
MichiganBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection20/40/10
MinnesotaBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage30/60/10
MississippiBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
MissouriBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/25
MontanaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/20
NebraskaBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/25
NevadaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/20
New HampshireFinancial responsibility only25/50/25
New JerseyBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage15/30/5
New MexicoBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/10
New YorkBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/10
North CarolinaBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage30/60/25
North DakotaBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/25
OhioBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
OklahomaBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
OregonBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/20
PennsylvaniaBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection15/30/5
Rhode IslandBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/25
South CarolinaBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/25
South DakotaBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/25
TennesseeBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/15
TexasBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection30/60/25
UtahBodily injury and property damage liability; personal injury protection25/65/15
VermontBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/10
VirginiaBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/20
WashingtonBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/10
West VirginiaBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage25/50/25
WisconsinBodily injury and property damage liability; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage; medical payments25/50/10
WyomingBodily injury and property damage liability25/50/20
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As you can see, all states require liability auto insurance coverage, and others have additional requirements, like personal injury protection, medical payments, and uninsured motorist coverage.

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Sleeping in Your Vehicle: The Bottom Line

According to federal laws, it’s not illegal to sleep in your car. However, you can get in trouble for sleeping in your vehicle in certain states, cities, or areas.

You can always park and sleep in a Walmart parking lot or anywhere that allows camping, though you’ll have to pay a fee for a campsite.

Suppose law enforcement officers approach you because it’s illegal to sleep in a vehicle where you parked. In that case, they will likely ask you for your license, registration, and insurance information. Anyone who does not have the proper insurance on their vehicle can get into significant trouble.

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