Is Sleeping in Your Car in a Walmart Parking Lot Legal?

It is hard to find a parking lot to camp in your car or your camper. Some parking lots have security eager to run you off. Others may seem downright dangerous. Therefore, many vanlife enthusiasts and RV fans swear by sleeping in Walmart parking lots. But is sleeping in your car or RV in a Walmart parking lot legal?

It is illegal to sleep in a Walmart parking lot without permission

A photo of a Walmart parking. Many Walmarts allow overnight camping in cars and RVs | SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images
Walmart parking lot in Texas | SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

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There is no national law against sleeping in your car. That said, there are laws against trespassing. Therefore, sleeping in your car in a parking lot where you are trespassing is illegal. The same law applies even if you want to park your RV for free.

A Walmart parking lot is the property of the store’s owner. The owner intends the lot for leaving your car while shopping inside. To spend the entire night without becoming a trespasser, you will need permission. Such permission could be from the property owner or whoever they have designated to manage or secure their property.

All this legal jargon means that you need to ask permission before sleeping in a Walmart parking lot. You can do this with a call ahead to the store. You can also park at the store, go inside, find a manager, and ask to park in the lot overnight. As different managers may have different policies, make sure to double-check on the day of your arrival. See more hacks for sleeping in your car comfortably.

Many Walmarts allow you to sleep in your car or RV

Walmart parking lot. Many Walmarts offer free car or RV parking. | Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Walmart Supercenter parking lot in Florida | Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Walmart has long valued its RV-dwelling and road-tripping customers. For this reason, Walmart corporate is fine when store managers allow people to sleep in the parking lot.

The official site adds, “Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”

Some Walmart locations go out of their way to welcome overnight campers. Some locations offer coupons to anyone who spent the night. Other Walmarts host drive-in movies in the parking lots.

Overnight campers prefer Walmarts to other parking lots because many stores are open late and early. Amenities include bathrooms and sometimes in-store restaurants. In addition, many Walmarts have a security team and use security cameras all night, so their parking lots feel safer than other lots.

Alternatives to a Walmart parking lot

This is a Walmart parking lot where cars and RVs may be free to park overnight. | SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images
Walmart parking lot in Texas | SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

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Not every town has a Walmart. In addition, some stores do not welcome overnight campers. Luckily, there are many other places to park a car or RV overnight. 

Though Walmart is friendly to overnight campers, not every mall or box store is. But many 24-hour casinos welcome overnight guests. Like Walmart, these locations have bathrooms, restaurants, and good security. But, just like Walmarts, you will need to ask a manager’s permission over the phone or on arrival.

In addition, many cities maintain a “Safe Parking Program.” This is a listing of lots where you can legally park overnight. Sometimes, the city owns these lots, local businesses provide others, and local nonprofits such as churches offer some too.

Whenever you spend the night in your car, make sure to shut off the engine before going to sleep. Dangerous exhaust fumes can permeate a car running for a long time.

RELATED: Is Sleeping in Your Car Illegal?