Is it legal to live in your car in Canada?

In today’s blog post, we will discuss: Is it legal to live in your car in Canada? We will review the law regarding sleeping and living in your vehicle. We will also give you some valuable advice on how to sleep comfortably and safely in your car. 

Is it legal to live in your car in Canada?

Yes, it is legal to live in your car in Canada, but where you choose to park your car might be illegal. As a general rule: The only place you can’t park a car in Canada is where it says you can’t park. 

In Canada, you can legally park and sleep in your car in the following places:

  • Church
  • Dock
  • Cycle route stop
  • Public parking
  • Street
  • Shopping centres
  • WalMart.

What’s the law on living in your car in Canada?

A priori, no law prohibits sleeping in your car in Canada, but it comes with nuances. 

Moreover, the SAAQ, in its prevention of fatigue at the wheel, suggests a nap in a safe place to continue on the road.

In the parking lot of a rest area, a service area near the road, a business or any place where you have the right to stop your engine without compromising your safety and that of others. You can also stop at a relay village that offers all the necessary services for travellers. “(SAAQ, prevention and anti-fatigue solution).

Let’s discuss more particular cases:

  • Sleeping in your car on public roads: Thus, no law (provincial or federal) seems to prohibit spending the night in your car on public roads.

However, each municipality has its own bylaw to this effect. Some cities prohibit spending the night in a parked vehicle. Others only allow it in certain places, and some simply do not have any regulations to this effect.

For example, the municipal by-laws of the City of Quebec state that it “is forbidden for a person, without reasonable cause of which the proof is incumbent on him, to stroll, to wander or to sleep in a street or in a public place.

Another example, “in all the rest areas of the Ministry of Transport, it is forbidden to stop for a period of more than four hours or to spend the night there […]“.

The best thing to do is to get information directly from the municipality or the place you are visiting.

  • Sleeping in your car after drinking: Everyone knows it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. What is less well known is that it is also illegal to have care or control of a vehicle while impaired or having a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, whether the engine is running or not.

In fact, the Criminal Code (section 258), like the Highway Safety Code (section 5.1), does not distinguish between driving while intoxicated and having custody of a car while driving. is impaired whether the engine is running or not. Quebec law also provides for criminal charges in such cases.

According to the Criminal Code and the Highway Safety Code, if you are in your vehicle drunk, asleep or not, and your keys are accessible, you are considered to be able to start your car at any time. The penalties are the same as if you had driven while impaired. “

Living in your car in Canada: some advice

If you decide to sleep in your car in a parking area in summer, keep the windows slightly lowered to allow air to circulate and maybe turn on the air conditioner every now and then to cool the passenger compartment. If, on the other hand, you intend to rest in areas with low temperatures, turn on the heating from time to time, always stay awake while the engine is running.

Remove the keys from the ignition switch while parked: if you fall asleep with the keys inserted in the dashboard, there is the possibility that the car will be considered to be on, with a driver asleep. Do not leave the lights on to avoid the risk of draining the battery, lock the doors and keep the keys in your pocket.

You will probably use the front passenger seat to rest, properly reclined in order to stretch your body as much as possible; therefore cover it with a blanket and place a pillow on the headrest, in order to make the position of the neck a little more comfortable during the night. Alternatively, you can use the rear seats to stretch your back better, although it is more difficult to straighten your legs. Bring a sleeping bag, especially useful at night in case the temperatures drop excessively.

Other recommended tools include a bottle of water, a flashlight, a mobile phone to use to ask for assistance and set the alarm. A sort of emergency kit that every traveller should always carry with them.

Park your vehicle in a reasonably well-lit area; although it may seem counterintuitive when you are sleepy, it is best to stop somewhere not completely dark, for safety reasons.

How to choose the best place to sleep in your car

The most suitable places to sleep in the car are obviously the quietest ones and where you can rest in complete safety. When deciding where to stop, you must therefore keep in mind some aspects:

  • better to avoid areas that are too dark or isolated, as well as places most at risk;
  • it is advisable not to stop in private parking lots;
  • The most suitable places are parking areas inside campsites, service stations, shopping centres or supermarkets open at night which are often equipped with surveillance cameras.

Sleeping in the car in the parking lot of an equipped campsite is the best solution for those who want to take advantage of some services, such as bathrooms, showers and electricity. Camping with your car also has many other advantages: it is economical, practical and safe. 

On the other hand, there is the problem of space, unless you have a very large car, you can camp with a maximum of 2-3 people. To increase the space it is possible to attach a curtain to the car. The space thus obtained can be used to accommodate other people or to stay wider.

The essentials for sleeping and living in your car (and being comfortable!)

To sleep comfortably in the car, in addition to paying attention to where you stop, it is important to think about what to bring with you. Let’s see what to include in the perfect travel kit.

  • An inflatable mattress is to be placed on the seats to sleep more comfortably.
  • A sleeping bag to protect you from the cold.
  • An eye mask to avoid being awakened by the first light of dawn.
  • A repellent spray to ward off insects such as mosquitoes that could enter the car.
  • A pillow for bedtime and headrest.
  • A flashlight to illuminate when it gets dark.
  • Food supplies and plenty of spare water that is also useful for rinsing.
  • Speakers to listen to music and books to read before bed.

Tips for equipping the car and making it suitable for full-time living

How to equip the car before leaving for a trip, so as to make it comfortable even for resting? For example, you can put mosquito nets on the windows to prevent insects from entering, but also place sheets in such a way as to obscure the interior of the car and ward off prying eyes. 

The car must then be checked by the mechanic before setting off to make sure that everything is in order with the documents and that it is in good condition. Among other things, you have to think about changing the oil, checking that the air conditioning is working, checking the tires and brakes. 

If the car is dirty, it is advisable to have it washed before leaving, especially in the internal parts. When the time comes to leave, then, the spaces must be organized in the best possible way: the luggage must be few and well arranged so as to optimize the interior of the car to the maximum.

The bottom line

You can sleep in your car in Canada and whoever does it does not break any law. However, living in your car is a whole different story, and besides all the struggles that come with it, make sure you have the law on your side. Before making any decision, be prepared, find out about the regulations of the specific location and make sure you have everything you need to live this experience in safety.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

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