Can cars sleep at truck stops? (11+ tips)

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can cars sleep at truck stops? We will give you some safety tips if you decide to sleep in your car, and also discuss the matter of whether it is legal to sleep in your car. 

Can cars sleep at truck stops?

It is not prohibited for cars to sleep at truck stops. The parking spots, however, are on a first-come-first-served basis, so you must think well and plan ahead your rest time on a long journey. 

Still, it is uncommon to see cars parking overnight at truck stops. Why is that? Because, well, even at the safest truck stop your car could be damaged or things could go missing. These rest areas are often remote and unfamiliar places, so it is important to be careful when stopping.

Thus, we do not recommend sleeping in a car at a truck stop, but if you have no choice or if you re just too tired to keep driving, at least take into consideration the following tips:

  • Keep alert – Just stop in a well-lit place. Park and immediately verify that you have cell phone coverage in that rest area. If you don’t have one, keep driving.
  • Protect your property – Take your cell phone with you wherever you go but leave your other belongings – such as cash, wallet, purse, and electronics – hidden in your vehicle under lock and key. Carrying these things could make you a potential target for thieves.
  • Do not go alone – Walk with someone to the bathroom, vending machines, and other areas. If you are travelling alone, try to avoid rest stops at night. Instead, choose to stop at a gas station or restaurant.
  • Avoiding staying overnight –  Sleeping in rest areas can make you vulnerable to attackers. In fact, many states have made sleeping at rest stops illegal. Instead, spend the night in a hotel or camp. These options can cost but the added security is worth the money.
  • Plan ahead – Before your trip, research the rest areas on your route to find the safest places to stop. If there are no attractive options, plan stops in the different cities or towns you will pass through. Information about rest areas on interstate highways in the United States may also be helpful.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car in the US? 

No, it is not illegal to sleep in your car in the US, unless you are drunk, trespassing or you fall asleep while driving! 

The law is the first to recommend stopping to rest every two hours or so on long journeys since one of the main causes of accidents is fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel. Therefore, if we notice that fatigue is winning the game, it is totally legal to park the car on a safe road and take a nap.

Counting on this premise and paying attention to the detail that a vehicle is a private space, we can affirm that sleeping in the car is totally legal. However, there are a series of conditions that we must meet if we do not want to be penalized and that in the end, the holidays turn out to be more expensive than they should. Take note!

First of all, we must make sure that the vehicle is correctly parked. That is to say, that it does not exceed the road markings or its time limit. 

Second, we must be careful not to cross the line between spending the night in the car and camping. Inside the vehicle, we can do any activity (always within the law), but this cannot be taken outside under any circumstances.

Spending the night in the car means developing all the activity within it. Taking furniture outside, opening casement windows, awnings, making noise or dirtying the space is already considered camping and is totally prohibited if the area is not equipped for it. 

Recommendations for sleeping in your car

Passenger cars allow you to sleep in any of the front seats, in the rear or in the trunk by folding down the seats. It is a practical and inexpensive solution and more and more adventurous spirits are joining this lifestyle. So much so that there are multiple products designed for it, such as custom-made inflatable mattresses.

However, if we plan to make a very long trip and visit different corners, the car may be a little too small for us and we will end up tense on the trip. For this reason, there are other options such as caravans, motorhomes or camper vans that, due to their greater space, will facilitate our stay on wheels.

It is true that many municipalities prohibit the parking of these vehicles in urban centres because they consider that they generate dirt and that they occupy the parking space of citizens. That is why you must read the regulations of all the places you are going to visit well and, thus, avoid problems.

However, in general, caravans, motorhomes and campervans well parked and complying with current regulations, cannot be subject to sanction. Spending the night in this type of vehicle is the best option and it is becoming a very common practice.

9 tips for a good sleep in the car at the truck stops

Either because of the economy or because of the lack of accommodation, the car can be the place where you will have to sleep some night, sometimes. Depending on the vehicle segment (tourism, minivan, SUV, etc.), the design of some cars allows you to sleep a few hours more or less comfortably. A sedan car is not that it has been specially designed to spend the night in, but we can ensure a safe and adequate rest by following the following tips.

  • Rest in the car only if you are safe. During the day we can take into account many tips to avoid falling asleep while driving, but if we make a long trip and the night falls on us, we must rest in a hotel or, in its absence, in the same car. Still, if the truck stop gives you bad vibes, get out of there!
  •  How to sleep in the car? Almost all passenger cars allow the rear seats to be reclined up to 90º in order to create a flat area. Adding a couple of sheets on top of them (and one more for us), the solution may be viable. 
  • Bring everything you need to sleep. Gather everything you need to sleep comfortably. This can be a snack, a litre of water, a flashlight (in case you need to get out of the car), a pillow, a couple of blankets and whatever else you need. 
  •  Don’t leave anything out of the car. To sleep peacefully and without fear, we will make sure to close the vehicle’s latches and not leave any belongings outside the vehicle.
  • Take a correct position when sleeping. Remember to carry a pillow in the trunk (it can be inflatable) if you are going to start a very long trip. If you don’t have a pillow, you can pile a few sweaters, the main thing is to take care of your neck.
  • When it’s hot in the car. If it is summer and it is very hot (either day or night), remember to open a rear window and the front one on the opposite side so that there is a little draft. We are not talking about fully opening the window, but taking the thickness of a finger as a measure. 
  • And when it’s cold. We all know that in order not to get cold, you just need to wrap yourself up with a blanket (or failing that, a coat) that we carry in the car. It may also be a good idea to cover the neck with a scarf to avoid pain in that area at dawn.
  • Get sleep privacy. Getting some roller or suction cup curtains for the car windows would be ideal to rest without fear of passers-by, although if this is not the case, it would be enough to “pinch” a T-shirt with the width of the windows. Be smart looking for the place to spend the night, choose remote but safe places, ideally with bathrooms nearby.
  • What does the law say about sleeping at truck stops? Nobody can fine a driver who uses his vehicle properly parked (never in motion) for eating or sleeping, since these are things we do of our own free will, for safety and on private property. 

Final tips for sleeping at truck stops

If you are on a long trip and need to rest at a truck stop, our final advice is to be vigilant. As long as you don’t give people reasons, you will be safe at any rest area. Read carefully our tips and make sure you are prepared no matter the situation.

If you have any questions or comments about this content, please let us know!

FAQ on Can cars sleep at truck stops?

Where is it forbidden to sleep in the car?

It is forbidden to sleep in the car in national parks. These are protected areas and therefore it is totally forbidden to camp and sleep (even in the car) in them.

Are truck stops dangerous?

Generally, truck stops are not dangerous places to rest for a few hours. Still, there are some risks that you must consider, and thus prepare yourself in order to rest. 

When you take a long trip, should you stop to rest?

Yes, when taking a long trip it is recommended to stop to rest, at least every 2 hours behind the wheel or every 150/200 kilometres travelled. In any case, the driver must rest whenever he needs it, even if the hours or kilometres indicated have not been reached.


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