Can I Park My Car In A Parking Lot Overnight?

Looking for a place to stash your car overnight? Or maybe you're tired and want to rest your eyes in a safe spot for a few hours. If you've ever wondered if it's allowable to park a vehicle in a parking lot overnight, we can help you. We researched this question from multiple professional forums so that you'll know how to do so safely and legally.

So long as you have a property owner's permission and are not in violation of any local laws, you will be able to park your car overnight in a parking lot. These laws vary from place to place, so you should be aware that factors that determine the legality will include whether you are staying in the car while it is parked.

Now that we know that parking overnight in a parking lot is sometimes permissible, we'll look at why the laws and regulations will differ from place to place. You might also be curious if it's legal to live in your vehicle or if certain department stores allow overnight parking. For the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post to see what our research has shown.

Cars photographed at a parking lot, Can I Park My Car In A Parking Lot Overnight?

Why do the laws and regulations about parking overnight laws differ?

Simply parking your car on private property overnight will rarely pose a problem, so long as you have secured the owner's permission. Things can get tricky because of the amount of time it remains parked and whether or not you are in the vehicle.

Time limits

One night on the private property won't typically get you any citations. But many municipalities will have time limits on parking in public lots and on public streets. If you are in a taxpayer-owned parking lot or garage, there might very well be a law that states you can only be parked there for X amount of time before getting ticketed.

Know the local laws where you will be parking overnight, even if it's just for one night. And ALWAYS get the owner's permission when parking on any private property.

Sleeping in the vehicle

If you plan on sleeping overnight in your vehicle, you should be aware of a few items. We'll cover how doing so may or may not be illegal in this post. For now, understand that while sleeping in a parked car in a lot might be legal in some places, doing so when you are intoxicated will almost certainly not be.

Many states and local governments will cite you for a DUI if you are in any vehicle while intoxicated. This includes you being parked and in the back seat asleep. As dangerous as drinking and driving are, officials want to leave nothing to chance.

There is a difference between parking your car somewhere in a lot overnight and sleeping in a parked car overnight. Always educate yourself on the laws where you park and never trespass.

Where is the safest place to sleep in your car?

Sleeping in a car can open you up to some serious safety risks. After all, you are just a sheet of glass away from someone who might wish to do you harm. Choosing where to sleep in a car legally should always keep your safety a top priority.

Generally speaking, campgrounds that allow for car camping are safe. These places will sometimes have showers and other amenities as well. Just make sure you understand the campground's rules and regulations before pulling your car into a spot.

Well-lit and high-traffic areas are often among the safest places to sleep in a car. While they might not lend an ideal sleeping environment due to the noise and lights, you'll at least be among other people.

Is sleeping in your car illegal?

Two people sleeping inside their car at the parking lot

Unless there is a local ordinance against sleeping in your car, you will be able to do so on private property legally. But as we've pointed out earlier in this post, it's essential to have the property owner's permission before attempting to car camp. The last thing you'll want to wake up to is a police officer citing you for a trespassing charge.

Check with the local government where you're planning on staying to see if they have a law prohibiting sleeping in your vehicle. Some will have it illegal in all cases, while some will allow it on public and private property with the owner's permission. Be sure you understand the laws for each place to intend on traveling to before you tuck yourself in for the night.

Cars at a parking lot photographed in midnight

It's important to understand that just because it's legal in some places doesn't mean that it is safe. Use proper judgment in deciding where to legally sleep and make yourself aware of your surroundings.

Is it legal to live in your car?

Your car is your personal property, which might lead you to believe that you can spend as much time as you want in it. While this is true during your waking hours, it might not be the case when you slumber.

Most municipalities have rid their codebooks of vagrancy laws after a landmark Supreme Court case struck down a Florida law in 1972. But many places still have vehicle vagrancy laws and will limit the amount of time a vehicle can be parked on a public street or parking lot. And if the car isn't properly licensed, it will probably violate the law even if parked on private property.

There are also some logistical issues regarding vehicle dwelling. For example, changing your clothing could expose yourself to passersby and potentially get you a citation for indecent exposure.

Should you find yourself in a situation where you have to live in your car, know the local laws. This will help you determine what communities will allow it and how to do so without getting yourself in any legal trouble.

Where can I shower if I live in my car?

For those living in their cars, some of the necessities we take for granted in a home can be challenging. Being able to jump into a shower first thing in the morning can be an obstacle that will need some careful planning to overcome.

If you stay in one location for an extended period, consider joining a local gym or the Y. These places will have locker rooms and showers you can take advantage of with a paid membership. The local Y charges memberships based on income, making it affordable for many people.

Shower head pouring water

If you are staying at a campground that allows for car camping, select one that has a shower available. Many truck stops will have showers on-site for a fee, and some will let non-truckers use them.

Does Target allow overnight parking?

A Target store is often easily found when doing interstate traveling. Their large parking lots are mostly empty in the late evening and early morning hours, making them a great potential spot for sleeping overnight.

While no corporate policy prohibits overnight parking in a Target lot, there could be some issues with the local law if you are sleeping in your car. If you are tempted to stay overnight in this corporate lot or any other lot that a big box retailer owns, we recommend that you first check with the local government to see if it is legal.

Shopping cart outside target

If doing so will not break the law, you should secure permission from the store general manager before settling in for the night. We'd also recommend permission if you are using their parking lots to leave your car for carpooling.

Final thoughts

Cars photographed at a parking lot

Where you are legally allowed to park your car overnight will depend on whether you're in the car or not. Getting the property owner's permission is a must, as is checking to see if the local laws will allow it. If you car camp or need to live in your car, always be aware of the local laws where you are traveling and select the safest spots for your overnight stays. Travel safe!

We hope your questions were successfully answered. For more helpful information, we recommend the following automotive posts:

RV Laws in California You Should be Aware of [Inc. Parking Laws]

Does A Garage Protect A Car?

Should You Back Your Car Into The Garage?

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