Places to Park and Sleep in Your Car Overnight for Free (Legally)

Overnight Parking: Laws, Ordinances, and Safety

Before you park and sleep in your car, it’s important to check local parking rules. Some cities have ordinances prohibiting overnight parking for certain people or in certain areas. Keep an eye on parking signs posted on streets. If you park outside of a business, it’s best to check with the staff or management to find out if overnight parking is permitted.

Where overnight parking is allowed, it’s important to practice good etiquette. Find out the best location in the lot to park overnight, and make sure you aren’t blocking any routes for overnight deliveries. You might consider leaving information like your license plate number and car make and model with the business so you don’t get towed. Certain stores may have policies on towing cars that are parked overnight without permission.

When a business lets you use its lot, it’s best to stay one night only. If you’d like to stay longer, be sure to ask for more time. Additionally, be sure not to leave behind any trash or debris. When businesses let you stay overnight in their lots, they often expect that you’ll also provide them with business. Consider making a purchase or having a meal, if appropriate.

Above all else, keep safety in mind when sleeping in your car. Keep the doors locked, and crack windows enough for ventilation but not enough for anything to come into your car. Be mindful of the weather, and when possible, park in well-lit areas.

Businesses That Allow Overnight Parking

The following businesses have parking lots and either have official policies permitting overnight parkers or are known to let people park overnight, even without an official policy.

Stores and Restaurants

A number of 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.

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.
  • Locations: Bass Pro Shops has stores in most of the eastern half of the U.S., as well as California, Colorado, Washington, and Arizona.
  • Find a Bass Pro Shop

Cabela’s

  • Policy: Cabela’s often allows overnight parking. Many Cabela’s locations have dedicated RV areas with dump stations, and some even have hookups.
  • Locations: Cabela’s has stores in all states except California, Hawaii, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming.
  • Find a Cabela’s

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.
  • Locations: When you access the individual store’s page via the locator, scroll down and look for “overnight parking” under “RV services.”
  • Find a Camping World

Costco

  • 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.
  • Locations: Costco has locations in all states except Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wyoming
  • Find a Costco

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.
  • Locations: Cracker Barrel has restaurants in the south, most East Coast states, and Arizona.
  • Find a Cracker Barrel

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. Contact a Sam’s Club manager for permission to park overnight.
  • Locations: Sam’s Club has more than 600 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
  • Find a Sam’s Club

Walmart

  • Policy: Overnight parking is allowed at most Walmart stores, according to Walmart’s corporate website. 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.
  • Locations: There are more than 4,000 Walmart stores nationwide.
  • Find a Walmart

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 — 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.”
  • 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.
  • Locations: Pilot Flying J has locations nationwide.
  • Find a Pilot Flying J

Travel Centers 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.
  • Services: Travel Centers 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.
  • Location: Travel Centers of America has locations nationwide.
  • Find a Travel Centers of America

States With Overnight Rest Areas

According to federal regulations, free rest areas must be maintained for the public’s use because they are part of the interstate highway system. Rest areas are intended to be a place for tired drivers to rest so they can be more alert on the roads. States are allowed to set specific rules on parking in rest areas, and while most encourage drivers to nap in their cars if they’re feeling too tired to drive, few permit overnight parking. Many rest areas also have bathrooms, refreshments for purchase, and basic tourist information.

When parking at rest areas, keep your safety in mind — these areas are often poorly lit, and, unlike most businesses, they don’t have security or cameras.

Arizona

California

Minnesota

  • Policy: There are two rest areas in Minnesota where overnight parking is permitted. Minnesota also allows camping at these two sites.
  • Locations: Manitou Rapids Rest Area (on Rainy River, eight miles East of Birchdale on T.H. 11) and Pomme-de-Terre Rest Area (at Pomme-de-Terre River, North of Appleton on T.H. 12)

Nevada

Ohio

Oregon

Texas

Washington

Places That May Permit Parking and Sleeping

The following are not chain stores or state governments, so there are no uniform rules. Nonetheless, these locations often have parking lots and may not mind an overnight traveler, as long as you don’t overextend your stay or abuse their hospitality.

  • Churches, synagogues, and other religious buildings: You should check with the staff, if possible, and introduce yourself. Be aware of when services are held so your vehicle is not in the way. Also, be aware of signs with parking rules. Remember, even though religious buildings are often friendly to those in need, local ordinances may restrict overnight parking.
  • Businesses that are open 24 hours a day: This might not be the quietest place to sleep, but constant traffic and light posts mean more safety than some other options. If appropriate, ask management before parking and sleeping. It’s a good idea to find out what part of the parking lot is the best for you to sleep in so that you don’t block any deliveries to the business.
  • Casinos: These businesses often welcome overnight parkers because of the possible business, and they usually have security, so parkers feel safe. Some casinos have even built campgrounds to accommodate overnight guests with RVs or camping supplies. Casinos with campgrounds will generally charge for overnight parking.
  • Local police stations: If you feel comfortable parking at a police station, it’s worth a call to see if they’ll allow you to park for a night. Police stations are one of the safest places where you can park and sleep overnight.

Places That Do Not Allow Overnight Parking

The following businesses have no official overnight parking policy, and according to most travelers discussion boards, they don’t permit overnight parking. Nonetheless, these businesses often have large parking lots, so it may be worth calling to see if a particular location will allow overnight parking:

  • Kmart
  • Lowe’s
  • Target
  • The Home Depot

In Summary

Large retailers and restaurant chains are some of the more obvious choices for parking and sleeping overnight, and some even have a general policy of allowing over-nighters — subject to local parking ordinances. Truck stops and rest areas are other options and are ideally located if you are on a road trip. Whichever place you decide, be respectful of whoever has let you take up a spot, and always keep your own safety in mind.

If you’re a commercial or semi-truck driver, our article has the list of places where you can park a semi-truck or a commercial truck.

4 comments

  • I live full-time in my Class C, and have gotten tickets for parking. I have been parking at a Michaels off and on, and also 24-hour gyms, Walmarts, and industrial parks on weekends. The latter are usually quiet, all shops are closed. I found that as long as you move after 24 but no more than 48 hours, you are ok. I was asked to go when parked at a Michaels when I was on my 3rd night. I was not well and did not feel that it was safe for me to drive. The security gard let me stay another night, he was nice and gave me his number in case I needed help. I was better by the next day so I moved.

    I always look for other people that look like they sleep in their car, van, or RV. They always been most helpful, with suggestions on were to stay.
    Thank you for the article.

    • Lindsey Desmet says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Teresa! We are glad to hear that you appreciate our article.

  • You state that there is no Cabela’s in Iowa. There is one in Altoona, Iowa off of I-35.

    • Lindsey Desmet says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Mindy! Cabela’s has opened locations in several states since our article was originally published. We have updated our article to reflect this change.