Whether or not you plan to leave your vehicle at night will affect your overall car insurance cost. So, where do you park the car overnight? We park overnight at all the places listed below and we’ll go over all the factors involved and what you need to consider.
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Where You Can Park Overnight
Costco and Other Big Bulk Retailers
Costco is another popular option for night parking. Larger parking lots are easier to maneuver with longer RVs. Large cities often have laws prohibiting overnight or camping. Night parking is generally safe in small cities and rural areas. You don’t need a membership to spend the night in their parking lot.
Several campgrounds still allow overnight parking in their parking lots, but many have begun prohibiting them. In the past, some campgrounds also provided electricity and water connections for free. If the campground does not allow overnight parking in its parking lot, you can usually park along the street (city property) as long as there is no “No Parking” sign. Usually, the staff at Camping World will assume you came early for service work and won’t question it.
Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops
Both major sporting goods chains are now owned by Bass Pro stores. Night parking is allowed at both Cabela and Bass Pro stores. Generally speaking, there is no problem with a site owning its own land. However, locations where land is leased from property management companies often have police and security concerns.
The Cracker Barrel restaurant has become a popular nighttime parking option. Most places don’t mind you parking at night. However, most cookie bucket locations have small parking lots. Be aware that most of the cookie barrel’s business is as breakfast, which means you may find your rig clogged with other customers. The cookie bucket usually opens at 8 am, so if you can get out before then, you’ll be fine.
Home Improvement Stores
Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, and other home improvement chains are often popular options for overnight parking. Like Walmart, the store itself generally doesn’t mind. However, these cities may have laws against sleeping or camping in the car. Home improvement stores are popular because they open early, so security or law enforcement might think you were just there early when the store opened. Most home warehouses open at 5:00 am. Lowes, Menards, and others usually open their doors.
24-Hour Fitness Centers
Many fitness centers are open 24 hours a day. 24-Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and Planet Fitness are popular options for night parking. These places have smaller parking lots, so larger RVs may not be a wise choice to park here. Because these gyms are open 24 hours a day, security and parking enforcement won’t know if you’re sleeping in your car or working out.
Empty Dirt Lots
You can often scan the “satellite view” of Google Maps to find empty dumps. Many of these parking lots are not fenced, allowing trucks to park overnight. Many times, you’ll find these on the outskirts of town. Although these parcels are privately owned, they are rarely enforced. These parcels exist because they are planned for future development, but the owners are waiting for the local economy to improve before moving forward.
Some truck stops have longer parking lanes dedicated to RVs. These parking lots are usually far away from truck parking lots and usually offer free overnight parking. If you have a small RV or van, you can usually spend the night in the smaller driveway. Some truck stops allow you to park your RV in the truck driveway. Many of them charge a fee. However, some truck stops simply have a large dump where trucks can park for free. RVs can often be parked there as well.
If a section of the curb doesn’t have a “No Parking” sign, and the curb isn’t painted red, yellow, or any other color, then you can legally spend the night there. However, that doesn’t mean you can sleep in that car or RV.
In most large and medium-sized cities, it is generally illegal to spend the night in a car. However, some cities have established areas that allow overnight stays, often in barren areas of town.
But if you can make it look like there’s no one in the car, law enforcement will let you go. To do this, make sure no light is leaking through the windows at night. Block with Reflectix. Close doors and windows. Do not run the generator. Don’t play music or TV loudly.
Areas of the city that are zoned “industrial” are ideal for parking. This is because industrial parks rely on a steady stream of trucks to transport materials and finished goods. Trucks spending the night on these streets are common, and parking enforcement generally doesn’t patrol these areas. Dead ends in industrial parks are best because there is less traffic.
Also, note that parking enforcement officers typically stop working after 6:00 pm, but they resume work at 6:00 am. So if you can arrive after 6:00 pm and leave before 6:00 am, you can usually park in a “no parking zone”.
Most casinos have large parking lots, and many have reserved parking spaces for RVs and trucks. Most of them don’t mind you parking overnight. Many even allow you to stay up to three nights. Some people have their own dedicated RV parks that cost money to live in. But even then, these casinos usually let you spend the night in their regular parking lot, if only for one night.
Note: Pay attention to the parking lot pick-up driver. These drivers act as the eyes and ears of the casino parking lot. Casino security guards often rely on them to know which RVs are staying too long and which are not using the casino. If you want to stay a few nights, be sure to take the parking lot shuttle to the casino. Ask the driver if you will be staying a few nights and what safety issues you may have. Be sure to tip the driver, they will most likely have a nice word for you.
Rest Areas and Travel Centers
All states allow you to sleep in a car or RV in a rest area. However, many states have time limits on how long you can stay. Some limits are as low as two hours, while others are as high as a full 24 hours. Many other states have no restrictions at all. For a state breakdown of time limits, read “How Long Can You Stay in the Rest Area?”
Most states do not address overnight parking in rest areas, instead enforcing the matter with time limits. However, since all rest areas are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you can still arrive at the rest areas at night and stay for the specified time (which may actually be overnight). Camping and overnight parking are often seen as two different things, camping is a recreation, and night parking is a highway safety issue.
If you’re in a small motorhome or van, you can usually spend the night at the train station. Most passenger trains run 24 hours a day. Therefore, the car parks at the train stations are usually open 24 hours a day. Also, commuters who work the night shift often park at the train station and come back the next morning. Note that some train stations charge for parking, but most still don’t.
Walmart and Sam’s Club
Most Walmart stores and Sam’s Club allow overnight parking, but the cities where they are located may not. Large cities often have laws against sleeping or camping in the car. If you happen to be in an RV, they’ll think it’s “camping.” Meanwhile, Walmarts located in small towns or rural areas can often safely park overnight. It’s a good idea to call Walmart to ask about their overnight parking policy, but we’ve found that depending on who you talk to, the store manager or assistant manager, you’ll often get a different answer. 24-hour Walmart is better because it’s harder for security or law enforcement to determine if you’re staying overnight or parked to shop.
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How To Reduce Risks Of Parking Overnight
When you park at night, there are a few things you can do to protect your car from thieves and vandals.
It might be a good idea to install security lights activated by motion sensors on your garage door or driveway. This won’t lower the cost of your car insurance policy, but it will at least deter thieves and vandals, and improve the overall safety of your car, reducing the likelihood that you’ll need to claim.
Another quick way to improve your car’s security is to keep your keys safe at home. Most thieves know to look in obvious places near your front door – so having your keys elsewhere makes it harder for them to find. If thieves do find them, read our guide on what to do if you lose your car keys.
If you park your car on the street, try to park under a streetlight to deter any potential thieves, and consider installing an anti-theft device or siren in your car if it doesn’t already have one.
You can stay overnight at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Home Depot, Camping World, and several other big box stores. You can also park on most city streets, as long as you don’t see any “No Parking” signs. A seating area is also a good option. Most stores don’t mind parking overnight in the parking lot. Often, it’s the city that enacts laws that prohibit overnight parking, or “camping.” Occasionally, property owners enforce overnight bans.
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