Can You Sleep in Your Car? (9 Best Practices Included)
Sleeping in a car is possible. In fact, it’s the reality for many people. Some of them can’t afford a roof over their head. Others like the feeling of freedom and adventure coming from living in their car. Others found themselves without a place for the night out of the blue.
Sometimes your girlfriend kicks you out because you dared to talk to another girl. She won’t be mad anymore tomorrow, I promise. Or at least, I hope so.
But you’re stuck without a place for the night. You don’t have money for a hotel room, and your friends can’t help you. Looks like it’s time to sleep in your trusted car.
Or maybe you’re doing a long drive and you find yourself in a place without good options for sleep. Drowsy driving makes you a threat for yourself and those around you, so it’s better to stop and sleep for a bit.
Is it possible to sleep in your car? Yes. Can you do it without breaking the law? Depends on the location. If you do your research, you’ll find places where you can park your car for the night. Some cities ban sleeping in your car, others let you do it only in certain areas.
In this article, we are going to analyze sleeping in our car. How to find out if it’s allowed, and how to do it well. You’ll be better equipped after finishing the article. You need little to sleep well in a car, but you must have the right equipment.
Editor’s note: there is a difference between stopping to take a power nap because you are doing a long drive, and getting a full night’s sleep. In this article, we are going to focus on the latter, since the former is allowed almost anywhere.
Are You Allowed to Sleep in Your Car?
It depends. Each state has its own rules, and cities might have additional ruling on car sleeping. You can sleep anywhere in some cities. In others, you can only sleep in designated areas. There are certain cities where you can’t sleep in your car at all. Doing so would cause an infraction of the law.
How do you find out if you’re allowed to sleep in your car?
Visit the city’s website. Look for the parking enforcement rules. If you don’t find any mention of parking for the night, your best bet is to contact the city’s department and ask. They’ll be able to tell you if you can sleep in your car, and where. They might also guide you towards good parking locations.
There are exceptions to the rules. For example, if you are sleeping in your car while drunk and waiting to sober up, you might get in trouble. The same goes if you are under the influence of drugs.
Drunk driving is a serious offense. The police can charge you of DUI (Driving Under Influence) even if you are sleeping. If you’re the car owner—and you have the car’s keys on you—you might get in trouble. Even if the car’s engine is off.
So, how do you avoid this unpleasant situation? Let’s say you are caught sleeping drunk in your car and you are brought to court with a DUI charge. The judge will analyze the situation and try to figure out if you were a threat to yourself and other people.
It’s all about the potential of becoming dangerous. So, for example. if you were sleeping in the front seat, you’d be considered more dangerous than if you slept in the back of the car. If the car’s engine is on, expect to be condemned for drunk driving, regardless of your status.
Cover your bases if you must sleep in your car while drunk. The absolute best way to go about it is to ask a friend to accompany you to the car, let you in, and then give them the key while you sleep. If the police find you sleeping, you tell them your friend has the keys. You made it impossible to start the car, so you can’t be a threat. This will save you from potential headaches.
Another exception is when you try to sleep with your engine on, even if you are sober. You shouldn’t do it in the first place because it’s dangerous. Your engine exhales noxious fumes while it’s on. If the car is standing still, it won’t exhaust them, and you risk choking yourself out in your sleep. This is a huge health hazard, avoid it at all costs.
I understand you don’t want to freeze and need the heating system to be on. I prepared a section where you’ll find the right equipment to sleep in your car without issues.
Where Can I Park My Car?
Let’s say you found a city that allows you to sleep in your car. Now it’s time to find out a suitable parking space. There are two key factors you should consider when picking a parking lot:
Good places to park your car include:
- Walmart: many stores keep their parking lot open 24-hours, and many allow people to park there and sleep for the night. Not all of them, though. Contact the store manager and ask if you can park your car for the night. The decision is up to them.
- 24-hour gyms: a brilliant solution for many people. Gyms are great because they offer a safe parking slot. Plus, if you have a gym membership, you can work out and/or shower in the morning.
- Rest stops: some states allow people to park overnight and sleep at rest stops. These are less safe than the previous two options, but they still work out fine.
Unsure where to park your car for the night? There are apps specifically made for it. You just input your location, and the app will find nearby spots where you can park your car and sleep in peace. Here’s one for example, but there are many others.
Warning: don’t trust these apps blindly. Many people like to take chances and then post a review saying they had the night of their lives. While it might be true, you should always contact the city’s department and ask if it’s ok to park your car there to sleep.
Can You Sleep in Your Car Comfortably?
Yes, you can absolutely sleep comfortably in your car, depending on a couple of factors.
First, your car’s size. If you have a big car, you’ll have lots of space for yourself, which is obviously better than sleeping cramped in a small city car. You can still salvage the situation in a city car, but it’ll take more work and not be as good.
Make sure you can lie down comfortably in your car. Do not sleep all cramped up in weird positions. It’s ok if it happens once, but do it 2 or 3 nights in a row, and your body will start protesting your choices.
Second, your size. This ties in directly with the previous point. If you are a big burly person, you need more space than someone with a smaller frame. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about this.
Third, your equipment. If sleeping comfortably was just a matter of lying down, we wouldn’t have beds. You need, at the very least, pillows and a blanket. The former will let you rest your head easily, the latter will ensure you stay heated through the night. Unless the temperatures are very high, you’ll need a blanket to sleep in your car.
Sleeping in a car doesn’t give you an excuse to ignore sleep quality. Poor sleep is linked to health issues, and it also makes you moody and unfocused. Always do everything in your power to maximize sleep quality.
What Are the Best Practices to Sleep in Your Car?
Taking the right precautions ensures you’ll sleep peacefully in your car. Here’s a checklist you can follow to make sure you have everything you need before going to bed:
- Pick a parking space where you may park your car and sleep in it. Also, make sure it is safe to stay there for the night.
- Have at least one pillow and one blanket with you. A sleeping bag is fine too. Anything that can make your sleep more comfortable. Here’s a good pillow set (1 for your head and 1 for your feet), and here’s a great sleeping bag.
- If you are parked on a sloped driveway, always sleep with your head towards the higher point. This ensures better circulation.
- Carry plenty of water and snacks with you. You must re-hydrate yourself in the morning, and you must also eat something to make sure you are in excellent form to resume driving.
- Turn off your car’s engine before going to bed. People have died by breathing the noxious fumes created by the engine during the night. Resist the temptation to sleep with your AC/heating system on.
- Park in a place that will be in shade when the sun is up. We’ve all entered a car that has been under the sun for some time. The metal structure of the car turns it into a furnace.
- Get sunshade covers. One for the front glass, one for the back glass, and then the ones for the lateral windows. These help keeping the car cooler (the glass acts as a magnifying lens making the insides of your car scorching) and also block the lights from coming here. Here is a cover for the front and back glasses, and here are sunscreens for the windows.
- Get a sleeping mask. The sunshade covers still let some light pass through. Your eyes pick up sun rays even when they are closed. Here’s one that ensures you will sleep without getting waken up by the light.
- Get cleaning products you can use to keep yourself clean. Wet wipes are a must, since they are extremely efficient at cleaning your hands and face, even if you don’t have access to running water. Other helpful products include disinfectant and shampoo, though you will need to find a water source to use the latter. Hygiene is important, doubly so when you can’t rely on showers or baths.
We already mentioned gyms as a great way to keep yourself clean. You can get a membership, or even just a daily pass and use the gym’s showers to clean yourself.
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Sleeping in your car is a unique experience from what you are used to, but it’s doable. In fact, it’s something everyone should try. There is an unmatched sense of freedom when you sleep in your car. You aren’t shackled to a single location, like when you are in a house/apartment.
You can move around freely right after waking up. You don’t have to come back to a certain place for the night. You are a free spirit.
The first thing you must do is gather information. Not all cities let you park overnight and sleep in your car, and not all places are legitimate. Make sure you pick a place where you may park, and where you’ll be safe for the night. It’s better to spend extra time to ensure you can have a peaceful night than learn you should have picked a different place the hard way.
Of course, doing it comes with its own set of challenges. There are many comforts you are giving up by sleeping in your car. The main one being a bed. Space is another concern, as some cars are too small to let you lie down. It also depends on your build.
It doesn’t matter if you were forced to sleep in your car because of your circumstances, or if you want to do it because you like the idea. You’ll have to deal with the situation to the best of your ability.
Now you have all you need to sleep in your car multiple nights in a row without feeling like a truck has run you over. You are also equipped to sleep there multiple nights in a row. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up enjoying it. Nobody is forcing you to live like everyone else. You are the hero of your story.