Whether you're a California resident looking to buy an RV or a visitor from another state traveling in a motorhome or camper, you should familiarize yourself with California RV laws. With the Sunny State being such a popular destination, we did extensive research to bring you the answer.
According to the California DMV, the following RV rules apply in the state:
- Most cities in the state do not allow for overnight parking.
- You cannot triple tow in the state.
- For any towing, you need reflective signs or flares, a fire extinguisher, a breakaway switch, and/or a safety chain.
- Towing speed is limited to 55MpH
- Motorhomes are limited in length to 40 feet. In some cases, those vehicles with lengths of 65 to 75 feet are permitted.
In this article, we will explain each of these laws in more detail, as you don’t want to get caught in a legal loophole thousands of miles from home. You’ll now be able to travel safe and smart.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is not legal advice nor can it substitute legal counsel. Always check the California DMV website for updates and changes which may occur and if unsure, talk to a local lawyer.
RV length limitations in California
According to CalTrans, vehicles in the state of California are limited to the length of 40 feet.
That applies to all motorhomes, of every class (but pertains mostly to Class A motorhomes which tend to be larger).
Not sure what a Class A motorhome is? Check out our post about types of RV's.
What about overall length when towing? We'll get into more towing laws in California in a minute, but in terms of length, you're limited to 65 feet in total, including the hitch.
Read the length regulations for the State of California here.
Towing a Travel Trailer or 5th Wheel?
There are many laws in California that pertain to anyone who's hitching and towing any kind of trailer, campers and 5th wheels included.
Most of these are pretty straightforward, such as properly securing the towed unit and having brake lights. You can see the full list here.
To recap some of the laws that may not apply in other states -
- Your speed limit when towing is 55MPH [Source]
- You can actually have people riding in a towed camper, provided that they have a clear way out (but please make sure everyone has a seatbelt and that they're using it - for their own safety!)
23129. No person shall drive a motor vehicle upon which is mounted a camper containing any passengers unless there is at least one unobstructed exit capable of being opened from both the interior and exterior of such camper. [Source]
- You may need mud flaps installed in the back of your towed unit and possibly your truck too -
No person shall operate any motor vehicle having three or more wheels, any trailer, or semitrailer unless equipped with fenders, covers, or devices, including flaps or splash aprons, or unless the body of the vehicle or attachments thereto afford adequate protection to effectively minimize the spray or splash of water or mud to the rear of the vehicle and all such equipment or such body or attachments thereto shall be at least as wide as the tire tread. This section does not apply to those vehicles exempt from registration, trailers and semitrailers having an unladen weight of under 1,500 pounds, or any vehicles manufactured and first registered prior to January 1, 1971, having an unladen weight of under 1,500 pounds. [source]
- No triple towing allowed. You can't tow your ATV or boat behind your trailer.
No passenger vehicle regardless of weight, or any other motor vehicle under 4,000 pounds unladen, shall draw or tow more than one vehicle in combination, except that an auxiliary dolly or tow dolly may be used with the towed vehicle. [Source]
Local California RV Parking Laws
Parking regulations are almost always local. Each municipality has its own laws, based on the nature of the community.
We've researched San Diego and Los Angeles but do keep in mind that the rules in one part of the state don’t necessarily apply to another. What's more, Greater LA is made of many cities. Los Angeles city is just one of them.
If you plan on traveling to these cities in the Golden State, check the local parking regulations first just to confirm the rules.
Generally speaking, with a small discreet Class B RV, you can usually park on the street, just like you would with any other van.
With a large motorhome or a long towed combination, your RV is more likely to stick out and attract the wrong kind of attention. You're unlikely to be able to park in residential streets, for example, unless you've been invited to do so by one of the residents.
Your best bet is to look for one of these free places where you can safely park your RV.
In San Diego
Last August, San Diego’s federal judge made the decision to stop the passage of a municipal code that would have kept San Diego’s residents from having the ability to live in an RV or another vehicle full-time.
Had the code passed, it would have limited “any person to use a vehicle while it is parked or standing on any street as either temporary or permanent living quarters.”
Now, residents here cannot have their vehicles impounded, nor can they receive tickets for living in their RVs, says Courthouse News.
This doesn’t mean San Diego doesn’t have parking rules. Residents are banned from parking an “oversized vehicle” from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. This is in direct conflict with the blocked code, so we’ll see what happens next.
In Los Angeles
One of the most popular cities in California, Los Angeles, of course, has its own restrictive set of RV parking rules.
According to Do Your Park, more than 7,000 LA residents have made their RVs or cars their home. Still, there are no laws accommodating these people like those you’d find in San Diego.
Instead, from the morning and daytime hours of 6 a.m. through 9 p.m., you cannot be within 500 feet of a park, daycare, preschool, or a licensed school in your RV.
Where Can You Park?
Okay, so you know all the places where laws bar you from parking in California. What if you’re traveling through the state but you need to stop somewhere for the night? You want to play it safe, which means avoiding street parking. What other options do you have?
Try any of these.
California has a wealth of state parks, which you can view here courtesy of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Not every park on that list will welcome RVs and in some of them, this will be a PAID option.
With some parks, whether you’re allowed will depend on the size and length of your vehicle.
We recommend checking in with the park in question and asking before assuming you can squeeze right in.
If you want to Wallydock in Cali, you should be able to do so. Like with a campground or state park, do make sure you call Walmart ahead and ask if you can camp out for the evening.
Read more: Can I Park My RV at Walmart Overnight?
Cabela’s/Bass Pro Shops
There are only four Bass Pro Shops scattered across California as of this writing. They’re in San Jose, Rocklin, Rancho Cucamonga, and Manteca. They should all allow RVers, but get in touch to confirm that before venturing out of your way.
And don't forget to check out our post with 7 possible places where you can park your RV for a few hours.