Sleeping in One's Car: Any Troubles?

I’ve never taken more than a 15-minute doze in my car, but I’ve thought about it, especially on long trips when I didn’t feel like getting a motel room. Has anyone had any trouble doing this, i.e., harassment from Johnny Law, lot security, or intrusive passers-by? Are there better and worse places you’d recommend doing this?

Yes, any number of times on long trips by myself. I usually try and pick one of two sites, either something completely off the beaten path where I’m unlikely to ever be seen, much less disturbed, or someplace public without being in the middle of any congestion, something like the corner of a gas station parking lot.

One thing I’ve always remembered though, while I was dating a girl in college, her father was killed when his car was hit by a semi tractor trailer rig as he slept after pulling a little ways off a freeway.

I have been woken up by law enforcement a few times. Usually they’ll just make sure you’ve not been drinking and send you on your merry way.

ETA: If it’s winter, don’t leave your car running for warmth while you sleep, carbon monoxide through the floorboard and all that.

On longer than usual solo rides when I have begun to feel drowsy (or actually dozed off at the wheel) I have used the rest stop parking areas for what I assumed would be relative safety, long enough to get a nap before continuing the drive.

I’m not really sure I’d recommend that sort of thing, but when sleep is knocking, it’s better than just the side of the road or a place that may be prone to malicious intruders.

So far, I have had no bad luck from Law Enforcement.

Word of caution, though: rest areas have had some pretty horrifying kidnappings, murders and mayhem in this part of the country, so luck could play a role in how safe my choices would be for others.

Back in the '50s in central California, my father had dropped my mother off from a date and was trying to drive home, but the fog was so heavy he decided that the safest thing to do was to pull over and sleep in the car. He was awakened early in the morning by a police officer, because it turned out that he’d actually stopped the car in an intersection. Happily, the central valley’s rural roads apparently weren’t too busy back then.

Notably, Michael Jordan’s father was murdered while sleeping at a rest stop.

I’ve done it a number of times on road trips. On trips with a friend, we’ve just pulled over to rest areas in the middle of the night in Montana and Utah where other cars and semis were doing the same thing. For just a few hours, we felt secure. I had a road trip this summer where I had to stop a few times just because I was driving by myself and the driving was getting boring, ie tiring. I just stopped at rest areas, and a 5-15 minute nap was all I needed, and I was fine.

The only time I was bothered was at a music festival a few years ago. The shows had finished around 1:30 or 2am, and my friend and I got separated. We’d agreed to meet at the car as necessary, but it was a while before she got there. The parking lot was full and a number of people were walking back to their cars to head back to hotels, so it wasn’t very restful. At some point, with my eyes closed, there was a really loud bang on the car that scared the helll out of me. I thought a few people were going to be hasseling me until I realized one of the guys was just really drunk and had simply slipped down the berm that I was parked near. I doubt he even knew that he’d hit a car once he continued on his way. There’s nothing like a body hitting the hood to get your attention.

That’d make a good .sig line.

I had to take a trip to Texas due to family emergency about 20 years ago and we had to stop to rest. Not knowing where to find a rest stop we pulled over in a gas station parking lot. We weren’t there 30 minutes when a policeman came up to us. We explained our situation and he was cool enough to let us stay where we were for a few hours.

I don’t know if we’d get that lucky these days. I wouldn’t want to risk it.

Some years back I was going to the Rolex 3-Day Event (a big horse show) in Lexington. I drove up but got to my hotel very late at night. I decided to sleep in the parking lot and check in in the morning and save myself the cost of a room for the night. A couple hours later there’s a knock at the window and a flashlight shining in. It’s a cop checking on me. I thought my dog was going to tear him apart. He verified I was okay and let me go.


I don’t remember where I heard this, probably here, but some folks who regularly sleep in their vehicles stop in hospital parking lots. It makes sense, considering that there might be family members of people in the hospital sleeping in their cars.

I have never slept in my car; I always figured some crazy slasher dude would kill me.

Police might ask you to move if you are in an unsafe position or if you are trespassing (e.g., parked in a shop’s parking lot without being a customer). However, they ought to be very sympathetic to your needing to catch some sleep: going to sleep while driving because you’re too tired is a very common cause of traffic accidents.

Alternator trouble forced me to the highway roadside late one night after a concert, around 2:00 am. I meant to sleep until morning when I could see to fix it but a cop woke me up beforehand and said I needed to keep going, that a series of murders were happening along that stretch of I-35 in Texas. A few months later they caught him, Henry Lee Lucas.

Interstate highway rest areas often have time limits. They don’t mind you taking a nap for an hour or two, but they don’t want people camping there overnight.

Minivans come in real handy for this.

I will lay back my seat, set an alarm clock and kip for a nap in rest areas, I can sleep just about anywhere if I am tired. Noise and light doesn’t bother me.

We are actually thinking about getting a class B motorhome for road trips, mainly because throughway food and my guts have serious problems agreeing, and it would be nice to not have to carry luggage, and do the hotel thing, campgrounds are much cheaper =) and being not much bigger than a van we wouldn’t need to also tow around a car so we could still do the tourist trap thing along the way [which is half the fun of driving vacations!] It would be much nicer for the quicky naps along the way - mrAru can make lunch while I nap [I do all the driving] :smiley:

I’ve taken a few naps in my car at gas stations without any incident. I’ve taken a few naps in my car at business parking lots, but never overnight. The only places I’ve ever been harassed while taking a nap were at a college campus parking lot and a small church with adjacent cemetery. I never told the cops I was narcoleptic, I just said I had a bad headache and was resting my eyes from the headlights.

Is the Walmart thing only for motorhomes, or are they OK with people sleeping in their cars?

I slept overnight in a car once when I was about 7 years old.

We were on vacation in Florida, had just rented the car and headed out to our hotel, but when we arrived, we found out that (according to my dad) the hotel had screwed up our reservation and we didn’t actually have a room until the following day. We then drove around town for several hours looking for another hotel or motel, but everything was booked solid.

It was getting pretty late, and my dad eventually just pulled back into the parking lot of the hotel we were supposed to be staying at. I said, “Is this our hotel?” and my mom said, “Shh, just go to sleep.”

Next thing I knew, it was morning and we were still in the car, in the parking lot.

Funny thing was, at age 7, it didn’t even occur to me that this was an odd thing to have happen. Can’t get a hotel room? Just sleep in the car; no big deal.

A bit of info, and an odd anecdote:

Apparently, Wal*Marts across the US have a policy of letting RVs spent the night in the parking lot. It’s a symbiotic thing; the sleepers tend to buy something the next morning.

An old friend told me of the night of the day he bought a used Trans-Am. After some pub crawling, he drove home and turned the engine off. He sat there to listen to a song that was playing on his glorious car’s radio. He fell asleep/passed out before the song was over. Hours later, he woke up in silence and complete darkness. The radio had run the battery down. He soon discovered he was locked in, and he hadn’t yet learned where the lock controls were.

Desperate to get out and pee, he spent a few minutes feeling every inch of the door panel to finally locate the lock slider.


I used to do it all the time, when I roadtripped a lot.

Truckstops are the best. Park over near where the rigs are sleeping, just stay out of their way. There’s enough traffic & people around to be fairly safe from random marauders. I’ve never had anyone bother me in a truckstop parking lot.

Next choice is a rest stop with plenty of other people in it. One of those where the trucks are all pulled over. Never been hassled.

I’ve used a KOA campground a time or two, but I think those have gotten hard to find.

On the occasions when I’ve done it in town, I generally try to find a fairly good-sized apartment complex and park way in the back where people don’t go too often. That’s always worked for me, also. I figure no one expects someone sleeping back there, so my odds of being serial-slaughtered are low.

Another data point I just remembered:

Years ago, one of my fellow residents arrived from out of town with all her worldly goods packed in her car, and lived out of said car for the first month of her residency (showering at the hospital, etc.) Once she got her first paycheck, she was able to go rent an apartment.