In today’s blog post, we will discuss: Is Van Life Legal? We will also discuss several important aspects of living in a van, so you can make the best of it.
Is Van Life Legal?
Yes, living in your van is legal in the US, however, finding a more permanent parking space is going to be a challenge. The law does not prohibit sleeping in your vehicle as long as parking is not dangerous, inconvenient or abusive.
Even if parking is authorized for a maximum of seven days, it is preferable not to sleep more than 24 hours in the same place and not to take your camping equipment outside because camping on public roads is prohibited. We advise you to install blackout curtains in order to spend the night away from prying eyes.
In addition, even if parking is theoretically authorized on public roads, some town halls in large agglomerations decide to limit parking by means of a municipal decree. Signs are then installed at the entrance to the city.
Finally, it should not be forgotten that in the US you cannot sleep in places where camping is generally prohibited (this is the case for protected areas: registered sites, classified sites, etc.).
Where can you legally sleep in a van in the US?
In the US, you can legally sleep in the following places:
- In the middle of nature – We start with our favourite spot on this list since for us the van is synonymous with nature and freedom! Wild camping is not only the perfect spot with a view of the desert or the sea, it can also be a space between two trees, in the bushes or near a river or in the forest.
- At camping sites – It is true that the camping site remains the simplest and most widespread solution. But certainly not the cheapest, yes, you can’t have it all. Camping on a well-defined site has many advantages but also some disadvantages …
- First of all, it gives you access to unlimited showers and toilets;
- A site where you can leave your van but also your belongings when you go wandering around;
- Often nice neighbours with whom to exchange good advice and drinks (yeah that’s important);
- And sometimes infrastructures such as a swimming pool and entertainment for crazy, frenzied nights on the dance floor (well, that’s according to your aspirations …)
On the other hand, there are also some drawbacks:
- Starting with the price. Admittedly, sleeping in a campsite often has a cost because you benefit from special services and infrastructures that have to be paid for;
- Proximity, then, is the second element that generally avoids being in campsites: neighbours are often very close.
However, campsites are often a good solution for roaming in areas where wild camping is limited or even impossible! (and we admit, campsites were often our shower areas during our travels ….)
- With local people – This solution is less known but tends to spread gradually. A few sites have also developed recently on this theme: going to sleep with locals. What is it about? Often it is Gamping, ie “camping in the garden”.
The advantages are numerous:
- It’s not expensive (cheaper than a camping pitch),
- This is often synonymous with great encounters with individuals who have the time to discuss and share their knowledge of the surroundings (tips and advice on the appointment),
- It’s quite intimate, we don’t find ourselves surrounded by camper vans and other converted vans.
The downsides, sometimes you have to reserve a little upstream, there are not 300 places in the gardens so sometimes the place is full or closed; if you are travelling with animals, make sure they are accepted.
Either way, with this sleeping solution, you are bound to find something that suits you, whether in terms of the environment or the budget!
- At a farm – Stop at a farm, often spend the night for free, in exchange for which you can buy some products and learn more about local specialities.
- In the street or in a parking lot – It depends a lot on the purposes of each one and it is often possible to park and spend the night in a simple parking space, showing a minimum of civic-mindedness and discretion (legally nothing forbids it unless prohibited by signs, we will talk about it again below).
- At Walmart – In the US it is often possible to sleep in supermarket car parks, especially Walmart, and yes, we admit this is a great option especially when the toilets are accessible until very late, or even all night!
What does Van Life look like and is it for you?
Everyone always seems to “need” an apartment or a bigger house, the dreams of owning their own house or maybe building their dream house is the wish of all of us. You are probably wondering if it is possible to live in such a small space as your van … The answer is yes!
All the van lifers will tell you… Life in a van is a perfect space! When the place is messy, it takes ten minutes to clean up. There’s plenty of room for two people, hanging out, working, and you’ll have a lot more storage space than you won’t know what to do with.
Freedom. When you travel by plane, you mainly visit large cities near airports. Road trips have more room for spontaneity, but there is a lot of planning that will determine which stops you make.
A “typical” day in a van can be about discovering campsites on top of a cliff, planning your route and quickly making friends with the owners of a craft store!
Community atmosphere. Whether you are travelling full time or taking extended trips, you will miss family and friends. It’s part of this way of life!
However, the van lifers community is one of the most open and welcoming. Plus, striking up a conversation with the locals is easy, as everyone wants to come and ask questions about your van!
Rainy days. Before deciding if van life is right for you, ask yourself if the sun is important to you. Whatever your planning, rain is coming and sometimes that means you’re stuck in the van all day. Even with all the comforts, rainy days are still difficult in a van … Rainy weather is perfect for visiting and meeting the local businesses.
Healthy eating. We all love to cook. But, the idea of a small kitchen with no oven, smoothie maker, little cupboards, a small refrigerator, and a single burner is perhaps the scariest part. Don’t worry, it is possible to survive!
You will become super organized when it comes to meal planning. With limited pantry space, you can’t just go to the supermarket and buy whatever you want – so you’re going to cut back on snacks. Your desires will become simpler and your kitchen will adapt accordingly.
Convenience. In the age of apps, convenience is king, it’s easy to do anything. From ordering take out food and shopping for goods online, to daily showers and watching Netflix, everything we want is instant and easy. But that’s not so much the case with van life.
On the one hand, you will not have a delivery address where you are camping. So if you want to order something online, you will either have to have it shipped to a friend and then pick it up, or just go without.
Winters in a van can be harsh. A good source of heating is essential when you live in a van during the winter months. It doesn’t matter whether you go for diesel heating or install a wood-burning stove in your little travel home. Just make sure you have enough fuel or wood to keep you warm when the temperatures are freezing outside.
Although many insurance companies do not insure self-build with wood burners inside, wood burners still produce good heat. Also, be sure to spend a lot of time choosing the best motorhome insulation for your construction.
Finally, to be able to live in a van legally, besides finding the perfect parking space, you also must ensure that:
- You have a bed or a seat that can be converted into a bed.
- You have to have some more furniture for storage; all rigidly anchored.
- You must have a kitchen.
- In addition, it is most advisable that the van is not too small and thus avoid space and comfort problems during the trip.
Please feel free to get in contact if you have any questions!
Other FAQs about Camper Vans that you may be interested in.
FAQ on Is Van Life Legal?
Can I sleep in my van?
Currently, it is completely legal to sleep in a van, a campervan or a camper van (vehicles classified as M1 have the same rights as a car). There is nothing in the law that prohibits it. In theory, you can therefore spend the night wherever you want.
How to sleep 4 in a van?
IF four people need to sleep comfortably in a van, consider equipping yourself with mattress toppers. These are thin mattresses that are placed on the bed, in order to reduce its rigidity, or even to hide the shapes of the bench.
Where to park with a van?
You can park a van just like a car. By parking is meant to park your vehicle on its 4 tires, for one day or one night. And you have the right to stay inside the vehicle. But be careful not to show signs of camping!
Where to stop with a motorhome?
A motorhome can stop in town in a parking space and spend the night there. It does not matter whether the motorhome operators are on board or not, as long as they comply with the regulations.
- Is It Legal To Live In A Van? – Van Life Wanderer
- Is Living In A Van Legal – Everything You Need To Know
- 9 Essential Tips for Surviving Van Life – Wandering Wheatleys