Sleeping in the Car: Is it Legal?

by Mike
Sleeping in the Car

Desperate times call for desperate solutions. Some of you might recall one day where they had been forced to sleep in their cars, be it because of an extra-long trip, or just an overwhelming amount of work. Regardless of the situation, you might find yourself in; you might be asking whether or not it’s legal to sleep in your car.

During times where accident rates are rising along with fatality rates (around 800 fatalities in 72,000 accidents), napping in the car is growing in popularity as driving while being tired is a surefire way to get in a car crash. This is where the question of whether or not sleeping in the car is illegal or not becomes more important.

Don’t worry though, as we’ll be answering this question in this article, as well as provide extra tips and tricks for you to sleep more comfortably and safely in your car.

Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

You never know when the situation will arise and you’ll find yourself forced to sleep in your car, but is it legal? The answer is not so clear-cut.

Over 81 towns have banned sleeping in cars or any other motor vehicle since 2014. This law was made in an attempt to limit the number of homeless people taking refuge inside a car. This has resulted in a significant backlash from organizations that are concerned with looking after the homeless.

Sleeping inside the car is slowly seeping into the lives of thousands of Americans with full-time jobs, becoming a regular thing. Temple University researchers published a 2018 survey[1] in which the Wisconsin HOPE Lab reported that more than 30% of college students don’t have stable housing.

The ever-rising cost of real estate In California is slowly driving families into moving to their motor vehicles instead. It has been estimated that 15,000 people live in vans, RVs, and cars in Los Angeles alone!

With all that said, the question still stands, “is it legal to sleep in your car?” Well, the answer can vary from state to state, and in some cases, even from city to city.

The section regarding vehicle code should contain a full breakdown by state of laws when it comes to car regulations and safety. is also an excellent place to find the answer to this question for each state. It’s a searchable database containing possible motor vehicle violations in each region, so make sure to check it out before hitting the sack in your vehicle while you’re on the road.

Is Sleeping in the Car Safe?

Sleeping in your car might seem risky; however, if you know where to stay, you should be all right.

One of the worst things you can do is park on a major highway or just any road in general. The main reason behind this is the fact that moving vehicles will always pose a threat to you. Choose a calm place to rest, like a parking lot or something of the sort, so that way the danger of moving vehicles will be minimal.

While on the subject of where to rest, you need to scout the area in order to identify any potential threats. Don’t park in any place as you can be assaulted, robbed, or even raped while you sleep. It’s important that you lock the door, make sure you’re parked in a safe space, and don’t be reckless.

There are great free online parking guides like AllStays[2] and HipCamp[3] that tell you about the best campgrounds, city parks, open spots, or casinos to park your car for long periods of time. There are also places that are dedicated to resting. Some states allow trucks and cars to park at a rest spot for upwards of 8 hours. That should be more than enough time for you to recover your energy and sleep.

Sleeping in the Car Like a Pro


One of the most important factors of sleeping is the feeling of safety. You can’t fall asleep in the middle of a crowd unless you’re exhausted. And even then, it’s far from being restful. Try and block your windows with some fabric. You should try and cover the sides that see the most activity, like the windows that face the traffic.

Another thing you’d be better off doing is pushing your belongings away from you in order to gain space. Sleeping in a cramped place is never a comfortable way of resting. Make sure you are on the back or on the dashboard so that the car isn’t as claustrophobic.


Keep your car fresh and avoid locking it off completely. If you keep the windows completely shut, the car will eventually become damp, smelly, and uncomfortably hot. You’ll eventually wake up feeling sticky and gross, which is the last thing you want.

If your car has a sunroof that can be opened, you can buy a small piece of window screen from the hardware store. Make sure it’s at least 2 inches longer on all the sides than your sunroof. Keep your sunroof open just enough to keep your car properly ventilated, but not big enough so that no animal or person can wedge through it.

By putting on the window screen, you’ll have the best of both worlds, a ventilated car, and no worrying about safety or even bugs.


Even though the car is far from the optimal sleeping place, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be made more comfortable, especially when compared to other mediums, such as the bus. Make do with what you have to make your car feel as comfortable as possible.

Don’t have a pillow? Use a backpack instead.

Need more padding? Use a sleeping bag in a sack, or you can even unroll it and use it as bedding instead.

If you can fold down the back seats of your car, then that should make things a lot more comfortable, since lying down is a lot more comfortable than sitting up in your front seat. If you’re taller than 6 feet, you can maximize space by sleeping at an angle. You can also ay on your side and slightly bend your legs.

Have you tried sleeping in your car before? How was it? Tell us in the comments!


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