Best places to sleep in your car

There are many places that you can sleep in your car. You can sleep in the back seat, front seat, or on the floor. You can also sleep in the trunk of your car. The best place to sleep is in a tent that is set up inside of your car. This way you don’t have to worry about bugs flying into your face or getting wet when it rains.

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Free places to sleep in car

Sometimes, you just want to get out of your home and explore the world. But if you’re not sure where to lay your head at night, we’ve got you covered.

Here are some of the best places to sleep in your car:

1. Walmart

You may have already heard that it is completely legal to park and sleep overnight in your vehicle at all Walmart parking lots. This has been true in all of our experiences. In fact, we have seen RV’s and campervans that are set up permanently at some Walmart locations. 

Advantages of Staying At Walmart

Walmart is at the top of the list because they are easy to find and located all across the country. It is such a relief when you find somewhere you can park overnight and know that you will not be told to move on in the middle of the night.

In addition, their parking lots are well lit for added security. Some Walmart’s are 24 hours so you know there is always going to be help nearby if needed and you will have access to their bathroom facilities.

Another bonus of Walmart? Most of the stores have free Wifi!

Disadvantages of Staying At Walmart

The only disadvantage of Walmart is that because it is well lit you may have trouble getting to sleep. And forget about sleeping in because shopper’s will be coming and going starting REALLY early in the morning!

2. Casinos

Casino’s are another great place to spend the night when it comes to feeling secure. They are always open 24 hours so you can be assured there are security officers patrolling all night long along with security camera’s in the parking lots.

We’re not sure if they actually mind folks parking overnight and sleeping in their vehicles but we have never had any trouble spending the night at a casino before. Especially in Las Vegas.

The fact that your vehicle is parked for over eight hours at a casino will not seem odd because people who gamble spend a large amount of time inside casino’s, usually into the wee hours of the morning. As long as staff think you are inside spending money, I am sure they won’t mind you parking overnight here.

As mentioned above, this tip works well for traveling in Las Vegas or road trips through the state of Nevada.

As always, be stealth about sleeping in your vehicle and be respectful of your surroundings. This means not attracting attention to yourself by listening to loud music, cooking outside, or constantly getting in and out of your vehicle. This is for your own sake and for the sake of others.

Firstly, you do not want to be told to move on by security or blow your chances of going back to the same spot the next night if needed. Secondly, you don’t want to ruin things for future road-tripping folks by having staff crack down on this type of situation.

Advantages of Staying At Casinos

Some more advantages of staying at casino parking lots besides security include access to bathroom facilities and the availability of food, tea and coffee at all hours. Most casino’s usually have reasonably priced menu item’s available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I suppose if you like to gamble there is that too. 

Disadvantages of Staying At Casinos

There are not many disadvantages of staying at casino parking lots except as mentioned above, it is not a place you can get in and out of your vehicle as you please because it will draw too much attention to your situation and you will risk being told to move on.

Casino’s can sometimes be hard to come by if gambling is illegal in the state you are driving through however you may still stumble across a few on Indian reservations.

3. Rest Stops

Rest stops are a great place to spend overnight sleeping in your car if you are still on the way to your destination but start to get sleepy and tired. You will most likely pass many rest stops driving on highways and interstate roads in the USA.  

Advantages of Staying At Rest Stops

Rest stops are a great place to stop and stay for one night or maybe even two because it is legal to do so. This means you won’t get a tap on your window during deep slumber!

Most rest stop’s have 24 hour bathroom facilities and some even have picnic tables. If you are lucky there may even be volunteers serving tea and coffee the next morning.

Disadvantages of Staying At Rest Stops

The only thing I would say is the downside to rest stops is that they can feel unsafe in some places. I am referring to those rest stops that are in the middle of nowhere and not lit very well but this is more than likely my over active imagination. I have watched one too many horror films that begin with a lonely rest stop. 

Even though there is probably nothing to worry about you should always be aware of your surroundings. If there are others car camping at the rest stop you can always park closer to them for safety. And if something doesn’t feel right just move on.

4. Welcome Information Centers

Once you have crossed a state line (for example from California into Oregon) you will encounter signs pointing you in the direction of a ‘Welcome Center’. These places usually have good sized parking lots that you could potentially park overnight and sleep just for one night if you are desperate.

Advantages of Staying At Welcome Information Centers

Advantages of staying overnight at these places is that you will more than likely have the whole place all to yourself because they are not a popular or obvious choice when looking for somewhere to car camp.

This means if you were to get out of your vehicle to cook a meal after hours you would not attract much attention (we like to cook on our Coleman gas stove outside of our van) and even if you were to get out and cook during opening hours I am sure the staff inside these Visitor Center’s would not pay any mind to you. I mean, they are there to cater for motorist’s traveling across the states.

An added bonus is that you will be able to obtain free maps and get some information on the state’s highlight’s and learn about things to do in the area once the center opens in the morning.

Disadvantages of Staying At Welcome Information Centers

The disadvantages are that you won’t be able to access bathroom facilities until the center opens in the morning.

5. BLM Land

BLM Land (Bureau of Land Management) offers dispersed camping for all so feel free to car camp without fear of getting into trouble with the law or if you have a tent with you, feel free to pitch your tent anywhere you like!

You can generally camp anywhere on BLM land as long as it is outside of designated campsite area’s or trail heads. 

Camping (or car camping) is allowed on BLM land for up to 14 days and sometimes up to 30 days FOR FREE!

If you do camp on these public lands, please make sure you follow the Leave No Trace principles to reduce your impact on the land. This means pack out all of your trash!

Advantages of Staying On BLM land

The best thing about staying on BLM land is that it is completely legal to do so. Not only that, but it is completely legal to spend a considerable amount of time on BLM land even if you are sleeping in your vehicle. And guess what? It’s free!

Of course the surrounding natural beauty, solitude and open spaces found on these lands are also a huge perk!

Disadvantages of Staying On BLM land

There are no real disadvantages to staying on BLM land except that most public lands are located in the western half of the United States. Basically, if you are road tripping through the eastern parts of the USA this might not be an option for you.

6. Grocery Stores, Shopping Malls & Fast Food Outlets, Parking Lots

All of the above have been grouped together as their advantages and disadvantages are similar.

If you are in suburban area’s you may be tempted to sleep in your car at any of these types of places because parking here is convenient and it may seem safe. 

Yes, they are well lit and some have security camera’s too for the added safeness factor, however do be aware that it is probably not legal and you may be told to move on during the night. Having said this, we have stayed at some grocery store parking lots for nights on end with no trouble at all.

Advantages of Staying At Grocery Stores and Shopping Malls

Grocery store and mall parking lots are convenient in suburban area’s as you do not need to drive very far to come across one.

And even though you shouldn’t cook here (it will draw too much attention) it won’t be a problem because you can just go grab something to eat from inside the store.

Also, it’s great having quick access to restroom facilities in the morning for freshening up and brushing your teeth.

Disadvantages of Staying At Grocery Stores and Shopping Malls

Once the grocery store or mall closes you should not get out of your vehicle as this will draw attention to your situation. You will risk getting a tap on your window from a police officer telling you to move on or worst case scenario it is illegal to sleep overnight in your vehicle and you are served a ticket.

Another thing to be aware of is that parking lots at malls are sometimes not very safe. Thieves may target your vehicle under the assumption it is unoccupied.

7. City Street Parking

Finding somewhere to park overnight and sleep in your car in cities or urban area’s can be tough. If you’re on a budget and trying to avoid the expensive costs of staying in a hotel your only option may be to park on… the street!

Advantages of City Street Parking

Depending on which city you are visiting (or area of the city you are visiting) it is probably pretty safe to sleep in your vehicle.

And the good news is that late night parking is usually free (as opposed to parking meters used in the day).

However, remember it is never legal to be sleeping inside a vehicle on city streets so therefore it is important to be inconspicuous.

Disadvantages of City Street Parking

The downside of sleeping on a city street is that there will be no nearby restroom facilities available which can be a tough situation for female’s. Especially when it’s 3 am in the morning and nature calls.

Other disadvantages are that it will be a noisy environment with pedestrians constantly walking by and loud traffic going past.

It is also not the greatest feeling in the world when you wake up not feeling very fresh surrounded by all those normal people who have showered and look fantastic.

Best places to sleep in your car

Now that we’ve talked about the best cars for sleeping in, the best cars to avoid when it comes to sleeping in, and what to do about finding a place to sleep that isn’t your car, we’re ready to wrap things up.

There are many factors that go into deciding what your perfect car is for sleeping in: how much space you need, how comfortable you want it to be, whether or not you want extra amenities like Bluetooth connectivity or a DVD player. But at the end of the day, no matter what kind of car you decide on, there are going to be certain issues that are unavoidable.

For example: noise pollution is going to be an issue no matter where you go—even if it’s just a quiet neighborhood where people rarely drive their cars at night. And even if there aren’t any people around who can hear you snoring or talking in your sleep (or singing loudly), there’s still all sorts of other sounds out there: crickets chirping, birds cawing… even other animals making noises as they walk by or through your campsite!

Apartment Complexes

Finding a place to stay while you’re traveling can be a huge hassle. You want something close to the city, but not too close, and you want it to be safe—and preferably with a pool.

But when you’re staying in an apartment complex, there’s another thing to consider: how many people actually live there. If there are plenty of units and few people living in them, then you may have found your perfect spot!

If you find yourself in such a situation, here are some tips for making the most of your stay:

-Be respectful of other residents by keeping noise to a minimum at night (and if you have loud friends who are staying with you, keep them away from their windows).

-Keep an eye on the parking lot so that no one suspects that someone is sleeping in their car or truck overnight. That might mean taking an evening walk around the complex just to check things out!

Religious Buildings

Religious buildings are another example of a place where you can sleep in your car.

Traditionally, religious buildings were seen as a place of refugee, a place you could come in and seek some assistance. Religious communities, of any faith, are often happy to help out someone in need so it’s worth opening the big doors and looking for someone to ask if it’s alright to use the parking lot. If it’s not their day of worship (many religions hold services between Friday and Sunday), they may be happy to oblige!

A fairly safe option, with pretty good lighting, depending on the location, but there probably won’t be any facilities to use. Most religious buildings will be closed during the week except for a small staff of personnel that are only operating under limited hours.

Bureau of Land Management-BLM Land

Beautiful scenery and connecting with the simpler side of life is what a road trip is all about and staying on BLM Land can keep you in the moment instead of having to step out of the adventure atmosphere and into a Motel 6.

BLM Land is national land maintained by the national government for the preservation of nature and the enjoyment of people. While they do have maintained campsites and facilities, you are also free to rough it on your own, but this does mean no access to furbished facilities. It can also be a little daunting, especially if you are road tripping on your own, to be so isolated.

Have you got an idea of your own? Feel free to recommend additional locations you think are the best places to sleep in your car while traveling.

Residential Neighborhoods

Know a friend of a friend? Second cousin twice removed? That one guy you met well road tripping through somewhere else who said “hey, if you’re ever in my neck of the woods…” then you could have a spot on their street (if not their couch)!

Residential neighborhoods can be very safe (depending on the area), with little traffic or late-night noise. Find a place that feels safe, but remember you are a guest near other people’s homes, you want them to feel safe too. So if you don’t know anyone in the area, find a safe spot and settle in for the night, keeping in mind once you’re in your car, you’re probably stuck there for the night.

Street Parking In The City

Sleeping in your car on the city streets is one of the more adventurous options available to you, you are right there in the middle of all the action. If you’re the kind that likes a little less ambiance, select your location wisely. Bonus points if you can find a stretch of parking along an empty lot or a blank concrete wall as you’re less likely to attract the attention of passerby.

This is one of our least favorite places to sleep in your car.

While it can be safe, it is important to use common sense and trust your intuition, if an area doesn’t feel right, scout out another option or spend the extra cash to have a safe night’s sleep. You are worth it.

Large Shopping Centres and Parking Lots

We know our article is called “10 Places you can Legally Park Overnight” but we know these are the big locations everyone thinks of first and we have to give you the bad news, these locations are illegal and you have a high probability of not only being moved along but possibly receiving a ticket as well.

These locations tend to be secure and well lit, with access to facilities and food during business hours, but the risk of being disturbed by security or someone looking to cause a little mischief around a car they believe to be empty is pretty high. If you are in a smaller town, it can be worth popping into a local business with a large parking lot and asking permission first. You could rest easy knowing you have their permission to be there!

Industrial Parks

Industrial parks are a ghost town after 5 pm on a weekday and all through the weekend.  Usually in out-of-the-way places with plenty of gate-free parking.  Speaking as a former security officer, do your research on what types of business are in the park.  If it is a bank headquarters or major software/tech company, forget about it.  Security will be on you in seconds and they will move you on.  You want companies where people sit at desks, file papers, and go home and the end of the day.  Usually well-lit and quiet, though these locations can attract young people looking for a little mischief in their cars or on their skateboards.

Traditional Campgrounds/ AirBNB

When all else fails, remember, we live in the golden age of Airbnb. If you are tired of being in your car, you don’t feel safe, or just have a little extra cash to throw around, booking into a campsite, AirBNB, or Motel gives you the opportunity to have a genuine rest with glorious facilities that you don’t have to feel slightly awkward about using.

Campgrounds are one of the safest places to sleep in your car. Even if you pay a small fee to stay there, you have the peace of mind that you are staying in a campground instead of a parking lot.

Hotel Parking Lot

A hotel parking lot is a great place to stop and rest for the night, and one I have personally used! Hotels are used to guests coming and going and all kinds of cars being in the parking lot. Select an inconspicuous space, well away from the main entrance, and keep yourself to yourself. You wouldn’t want to stay more than 1, two nights tops as some hotels do ask guests to register their license plates upon check-in.

Walmart Parking Lots

You’ve heard the rumors, and we can confirm, it is absolutely, 100% legal to sleep in your car overnight in the Walmart parking lot! With 24/hr access to facilities, food, and let’s face it, entertainment, Walmart can be a great place to rest for the night or stay for a day or two if it’s located in one of your road trip destinations.

Remember to be a courteous guest, parking in a safe space but not a space that’s too close to the main entrance as these are really reserved for the shoppers. Walmart parking lots are one of the most easy-to-find legal places to sleep in your car.

Safe Parking Program

With the cost of living rising, and pay rates staying the same, more and more people are living in their cars full time. Some cities and states have responded by creating Safe Parking Programs. These tell you where in the city you can safely, and legally, park and sleep in your car overnight.

24 Hr Gyms

24-hour gyms are a great place to park overnight as you constantly have people coming and going and most of the time they aren’t keeping track of cars in the parking lot.  You want to remain discreet here as this is another grey area legally.  You can be moved on if you are causing a disturbance.  It’s a great idea to actually purchase a membership so you have access to the facilities and can form relationships of trust with the owners or people who work there.

Rent a driveway/parking space

City dwellers may find it easier to get around on public transportation rather than deal with the daily hassle of traffic and parking fees.  If their home or apartment comes with free, off-road parking, they may rent it out for a little side hustle.  This is great news for people living in their cars.  You get a safe and consistent place to park with no chance of being disturbed overnight.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Cracker Barrel

Who knew???  This classic, southern general store usually doesn’t mind allowing overnight parking around the back of the building.  You may want to check in with the store manager on arrival, but there is always the do first, ask for forgiveness later option.  People have been allowed to keep their vehicles or even RV’s there overnight without a fee. 

Casino Parking Lots

This is one of those you might not have thought of but have some definite benefits. Casinos are open 24/hr and have regular patrons coming in and out at all hours, which means you’ll have access to bathroom facilities no matter the time of night, and food is usually pretty cheap. It’s a great spot to consider if you’re passing through Las Vegas.

While they have great security, they may or may not look kindly upon non-patrons sleeping in their parking lot. The key here is to be considerate and inconspicuous, try not to come in and out of your car too much, park well back from the main entrance, and you probably shouldn’t do any cooking outside the car. Casino’s are used to guests coming and staying long hours in the night, or overnight, but you don’t want to call unwanted attention to yourself.

The fact that casinos have good security can be a help or a hindrance. You may be more likely to be disturbed, but also have a set of eyes watching over the area. This adds weight to the argument that it’s an example of a safe parking lot to sleep in, but you should always make choices like this at your own risk. The safest option is to book a room for the night at a hotel.

Police Stations

Police station?  Are we crazy?  Stay with us for just a minute.  These are incredibly secure locations that operate 24/7 with lots of people coming and going.  Though this may not be a go-to or recurring location, it can be a safe option if you are just out of money, on your own, and desperate for a safe night’s sleep.  We recommend going into the station and checking with the officers on duty if they wouldn’t mind you crashing in their parking lot.  Though be prepared, they will want your details and will run them through the system.  

24 hr Business

Businesses that are open 24 hours naturally expect to have parked cars and customers coming and going at all hours.  If you keep to yourself and be a courteous guest, there is no reason you should draw any unwanted attention.  Pick a space far from the main doors, but not suspiciously far.  Why would someone park in the farthest back corner in the middle of the night? 

Rest Stops & Truck Stops

Rest Stops are probably the first thing that comes to mind when people consider where to pull over for the night on a long road trip. Easy to find, usually well lit, access to facilities and food, and a great place to top up on gas, these are the natural place to stop…and rest!

It is one of the first choices people think of when they are looking for safe places to sleep in a car while traveling. If you are considering doing this, make sure you assess the environment carefully and look for any risks or safety concerns before choosing to do so.

It can be loud and busy at a rest stop with lots of other visitors filtering in and out, or it can be desolate to the point of slightly unnerving. Don’t wait until you’re too tired to drive to pull over; you want to be able to check out the rest stop and make sure it has the right balance of security and privacy for you before making a commitment.

Free places to sleep overnight near me

If you’re looking for a place to park overnight in the following cities, we’ve got you covered!

The following businesses are known to allow overnight parking:

-Crosby’s Bar & Grill (Kansas City, MO)

-Houlihan’s (San Francisco)

-On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina (Houston)

-Uncle Julio’s (Dallas)

The following businesses have official policies permitting overnight parking:

-Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (San Diego; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; New York City; Washington D.C.; Orlando; Miami)

Stores and Restaurants

Many national retailers and restaurants allow people to park overnight in their parking lots as a gesture to the added business that usually results from the policy. Some of these businesses even have an official policy allowing overnight parking. You should always call ahead and confirm with management before parking overnight because local ordinances and parking restrictions supersede even the friendliest of store policies.

The parking is often available to anyone who asks, but only if space is available—so you may want to call ahead if you’re planning on staying more than one night. Most stores will not allow you to camp out or live in their parking lot, so don’t expect any free meals on your trip!

When you check with management at the specific location to see if overnight parking is allowed, you should also ask where in the parking lot they’d like you to park. Some will have designated parking spots or will ask that you stay away from Dumpsters or delivery areas. Once you arrive, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the management or night staff.

Below are some of the most popular stores and restaurants that allow free overnight parking. Because formal parking and sleeping rules are not usually documented on company websites, we consulted many travel and RV discussion boards to obtain reliable information from well-seasoned travelers. When available, we included company policies.

Bass Pro Shops
  • Policy: Bass Pro Shops has no official policy on overnight parking, but many locations do allow it for one night if you park in an out-of-the-way area of the lot.[1]
  • Find a Bass Pro Shop (There are locations in most of the eastern half of the U.S., as well as Arizona, California, Colorado, and Washington.)
  • Policy:Cabela’s often allows overnight parking. Many Cabela’s locations have dedicated RV areas with dump stations, and some even have hookups.[2]
  • Find a Cabela’s (There are locations in all states except California, Hawaii, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming)
Camping World
  • Policy: Camping World allows overnight parking at many locations, and many stores have electrical hookups for RVs. Some Camping World locations have campgrounds for overnight parking, and they will typically charge a fee for the service.[3] When you access the individual store’s page via the locator, scroll down and look for “overnight parking” under “RV services.”
  • Policy: There is no official policy, but according to several travel and RV blogs, many Costco locations allow overnight parking. Costco membership is not required for parking, but you should check with your intended location before parking overnight.
  • Find a Costco (There are locations in all states except Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wyoming)
Cracker Barrel
  • Policy: Cracker Barrel has no official policy for overnight parking, but some locations have marked RV parking. Generally, the more rural the location, the more likely it will be to offer overnight parking.[4]
  • Locations: Cracker Barrel has restaurants in the south, most East Coast states, and Arizona.
  • Find a Cracker Barrel (There are locations in the south, Arizona, and most East Coast states.)
Sam’s Club
  • Policy:The Sam’s Club’s website notes that overnight parking is permitted, but specifics vary by location because of city and state laws.[5] Contact a Sam’s Club manager for permission to park overnight.
  • Find a Sam’s Club
  • Policy: Overnight parking is allowed at most Walmart stores, according to Walmart’s corporate website.[6] There are no electric hookups or related services. You should check with store management before you park, but online customer reports estimate that about 80% to 90% of Walmart locations allow overnight guests.
  • Find a Walmar
Truck Stops

Truck stops are a reliable option when looking for a place to park overnight and sleep in your car. As the name suggests, truck stops serve trucks and truck drivers — specifically those carrying freight. However, they also usually have services for other overnight parkers, including road trippers in cars and RVs.

Many truck stops only have a single location, and you can search for them with tools like The Trucker’s Friend. We list a few nationwide truck stop chains and their policies below.

Pilot Flying J
  • Policy: Pilot Flying J truck stops allow you to park for up to 24 hours for free, provided you can find a spot. Some locations have paid “prime parking.”[7]
  • Services: Most locations offer restaurants, free Wi-Fi, and bathrooms with showers. Pilot Flying J also has a mobile app and rewards program that gives you access to discounts on gas.
  • Find a Pilot Flying
TravelCenters of America
  • Policy: Free parking is on a first-come, first-served basis. You can park for up to 23 hours — check-in is at 4 p.m. and check-out is at 3 p.m.[8]
  • Services: TravelCenters of America truck stops usually have convenience stores and restaurants. Drivers can also take advantage of coupon savings. For those with a commercial driver’s license, there is a rewards program. And, while most locations have showers, they are available only to professional drivers.

where can i sleep in my car if i’m homeless

If you’re homeless and looking for a place to sleep, here are some ideas.

First: if there’s any chance of rain or snow, bring an umbrella and/or a tent. You don’t want to get rained on or have snow fall on you while sleeping. That would be terrible.

If you can’t afford an umbrella, look for places where it’s dry. Maybe a covered porch? A covered parking lot? You could also try sleeping in a doorway or under an overhang where there’s no chance of getting wet.

If you can’t find somewhere dry, then just try to stay out of the wind as much as possible. If there’s no wind at all, great! Just make sure there aren’t any trees nearby that could fall on top of you in case one does happen to come down during the night (and yes, even strong trees sometimes fall over).

As far as I know, there isn’t really anywhere where you can legally sleep in your car if you’re homeless; but even if there were, it wouldn’t be safe because many cities require that cars be parked on level ground without obstructions underneath them like rocks or branches so no one gets hurt if they roll over unexpectedly.

If you’re homeless, you may be sleeping in your car. Don’t worry—there are plenty of places where you can park and sleep in your car legally.

The first thing to check is with your local law enforcement agency. They may have a program that allows people to park overnight on public streets for free or for a small fee. These programs are often called Safe Parking Programs or Safe Havens, and they’re designed to provide security and safety to people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets. If your local law enforcement doesn’t offer such a program, you may want to check with municipal parking departments or nearby churches and other organizations that provide services for the homeless.

You’ll also want to check what’s available at rest stops along major highways. Some states have passed laws allowing people without homes to sleep in their vehicles at rest stops. You’ll need to bring some sort of identification with you when using these facilities, but they are usually open 24 hours a day and have bathrooms available as well as security guards monitoring the area overnight so that no one gets hurt or inconvenienced by others’ behavior while trying to sleep peacefully there during an emergency situation .

We hope this guide has made it easier for you to decide where to sleep in your car. Remember, if you’re feeling unsafe or worried about your belongings, try to find a place that is well-lit and populated by other people. Also, if you’re planning on sleeping overnight in your car for any reason, make sure you have plenty of blankets and warm clothes ready so that even if something goes wrong, you’ll be prepared.

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