Harvard University’s Joint Centre for Housing Studies has found that many Americans struggle to afford housing. Homeless people find their cars safe to live in or sleep at night. Apart from homeless people, those who stay away from home prefer living in a car.
Is it legal to live in your car in California or all over the United States? The answer is yes; you can legally stay in your vehicle. However, a few things could be improved by living in your car instead of your home or an apartment. For example, you might encounter issues with showering, human waste management, and more.
Apart from this, parking can be a crucial factor. For example, you can’t park your car in a parking space all day. On the other hand, local governments might have adopted different rules regarding parking your vehicle at a specific spot and staying in your car all night.
Let’s check out the challenges and rules of living in your vehicle in the U.S.
Living in a Car: Does Law Allow it?
Believe it or not, 13 million vehicle dwellers or nomads are all around the United States. However, there’s no nationwide law available regarding living in a car. Hence, it’s best to find out whether the state you live in or plan to go to allows you to live in a vehicle.
For example, is it legal to live in a car in Florida? Let’s find out what laws have to say when you are talking about living in a car in some popular states:
Is it legal to live in your car in Alabama? Well, this state restricts overnight parking at rest stops. However, you can sleep in your car if you obey a few conditions. For instance, you can’t park your vehicle on highways. Otherwise, the police can arrest you.
This particular state allows overnight parking at rest stops for safety reasons only. Additionally, vehicle dwellers must park their vehicles according to city traffic guidelines. It’s important to follow street parking time limits and signs.
The state won’t let you park your vehicle on a public property if it’s not labelled as an official parking spot. In addition, you can’t park on a public parking space, street, etc. for more than 24 hours. However, there’s an exception from Friday noon to Monday noon.
Is it illegal to live in a car in California? The state government allows an 8-hour limit at rest stops but no overnight camping or parking. In addition, numerous cities ban sleeping in a vehicle in undesignated areas. Moreover, you can’t park on freeways except for emergencies.
This state government allows overnight parking at rest spots, but you can’t camp outside your car. A few cities even ban camping. The police can arrest you for having control of your car while intoxicated.
Unfortunately, this state doesn’t allow overnight parking at rest stops since there are designated parking areas for overnight parking. In addition, you can’t park your vehicle on controlled-access highways. On the other hand, the state police can arrest you for having control of your car while intoxicated.
Is it illegal to live in a car in Georgia? According to this state government, overnight parking at rest spots is prohibited. However, you can find highway shoulders reserved for emergency vehicles. Ensure that you obey county parking signs and laws in Georgia.
You can get a 3-hour limit for parking in Florida, which discards overnight camping or parking. A few cities may restrict sleeping in cars. Furthermore, highway shoulders stay reserved for emergency vehicles.
Is it legal to live in a car in Illinois? Well, you will face the same 3-hour parking limit. Additionally, there are no guidelines about overnight camping or parking.
Unfortunately, this state government doesn’t allow overnight parking at rest stops. Additionally, it doesn’t state any specific laws associated with sleeping in a car. Similarly, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, Missouri, etc., states haven’t allotted particular laws about living and sleeping in a car.
Is it legal to live in a car in Mississippi? This particular state allows overnight parking at rest stops. However, you can’t camp outside your vehicle.
You can’t get overnight parking or camping in New York. Still, you can avail of a 4-hour limit for parking in this state. However, this state has not allotted specific laws about sleeping in a car.
On the other hand, Washington allows an 8-hour limit on parking. Wisconsin, Virginia, Vermont, and South Carolina don’t allow overnight parking at rest stops.
How Can You Live in Your Vehicle?
If you follow the state-based rules and traffic signs, living in your car is not illegal. However, living in your car isn’t as easy as it sounds. How can you live in your car? You can imagine all the challenges related to living in a car. For instance, you will face problems with bath or shower.
Additionally, you must seek a safe spot to park your car every night to nap. Furthermore, vehicle dwellers need help with toilet and waste management. If you are homeless, what will you do with all your belongings?
Your car can quickly become cluttered and not suitable for living at all. You can ask your friends or family to access a storage unit as a rescue. Thus, you can travel or stay in your car with only essentials.
However, what should be in your possession? Under the clothes and other essentials, your car should have the following things:
- An additional pair of shoes and socks
- Sleeping bag
- Blow-up mattress
- Casual and formal clothes
- Additional blanket
Make sure you carry toiletries, such as:
- Wet wipes
- Toilet paper
- Dry shampoo
- Hand sanitiser
- Roll-on deodorant
Since your daily life will be a bummer without electronics, don’t forget to pack the following items:
- Car phone charger
- Wi-Fi router
- Power bank
Besides this, you should keep a first-aid kit ready, and it should include:
- Bandages and band-aids in versatile sizes
- Antiseptic ointment
- Anti-diarrhoea medication
- Burn-care ointment
- Anti-nausea medication
- Rehydration solutions or powders with electrolytes
How Can You Take Care of Your Car?
Ensure you have a valid auto insurance policy, license, and car registration as long as you are on the road. Is it legal to live in a car? Since it is legal, you must not draw any kind of attention to yourself. Try to obey all traffic rules.
Additionally, learn about the city or state’s policy about overnight parking and sleeping in a car before you reach there. Otherwise, you can easily get one or more tickets issued against you. On a related note, keep your car maintained and checked.
Keep changing and refilling the oil regularly. Moreover, pay attention to your car’s door locks and windows. Overall, divide the journey uniformly so that your vehicle experiences less stress.
Safest Places to Park Your Car Overnight
Only a few places let you stay overnight in a car without making a scene in the United States. For instance, you can park your car at Walmart, rest stops, casinos, city street parking, grocery stores, shipping malls, Welcome Information Centre, fast food outlets, etc. However, you can’t sleep at private properties like McDonald’s.