Is Sleeping in Your Car in a 24-Hour Gym Parking Lot Legal?

People camping in their car or a camper often struggle to find free places to park. Some vanlife enthusiasts swear by 24-Hour businesses, especially 24-hour gyms. These advocates point out that witnesses are unlikely to report a parked car, even late at night. That said, parking on private lots without permission is trespassing. Campers trespassing at a gym could be banned from the premises or even receive a ticket.

Sleeping in your car in any parking lot, without permission, is illegal

This is a UK gym. Is Sleeping in Your Car in a 24-Hour Gym Parking Lot Legal? | Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
A gym parking lot | Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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It is hard to find a spot to park an RV for free or spend the night in a car. Therefore, some people sleeping in their car resort to parking at 24-hour businesses. And while there is no federal law against sleeping in your vehicle, there is a law against trespassing on private property. A gym’s parking lot is private property. The lot is intended for patrons to use while in the business. Camping overnight, while a patron or not, is technically trespassing.

Some gyms hire security guards. At other gyms, managers may call the police. If you illegally sleep in your car outside a gym, you risk being asked to leave. You may even receive a ticket. A gym could ban members caught sleeping in the parking lot.

Some vanlife enthusiasts swear by sleeping in 24-hour gym parking lots

The empty Planet Fitness gym parking lot is not necessarily a legal place to sleep in your car. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
A Planet Fitness gym parking lot | Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

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It is not against the law to ask permission to sleep in a private parking lot. You can always ask a gym manager if you can park overnight. If you receive permission, you can sleep in your car without trespassing. If the gym does not allow you to stay overnight, it can still be a valuable resource as a place you can shower and work out.

Whenever you sleep in your car, make sure to shut off the engine before you go to sleep. Poisonous exhaust gases can build up around an idling car. In addition, cracking a window open will allow you to breathe easier. Read more hacks for sleeping in your car comfortably.

Alternatives to a 24-hour gym parking lot

This is the parking lot of a 25-hour Gold's Gym at night. | Alex Wong/Getty Images
Gold’s Gym at night | Alex Wong/Getty Images

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If your local 24-Hour gym turns you away, there are other businesses that may allow you to sleep in your car. In addition, city-sponsored programs or nonprofits may provide additional options.

Walmart stores often value overnight campers. Some Walmart stores even offer RVers, truckers, and car campers special coupons. But like gyms, Walmarts vary by location. Make certain to ask a manager’s permission on the day of your stay. Much like Walmarts, many casinos offer overnight campers a place to stay. Many casinos feature 24-hour bathrooms, restaurants, and security. Again, you must ask permission before staying over.

Many cities maintain a “Safe Parking Program.” These cities keep a list of lots where overnight campers can legally park. The city maintains some of these lots itself. Local businesses offer other lots. Nonprofits, such as churches, provide additional space. Simply Google your city name and “Safe Parking Program,” or call your city hall for more information.

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