Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car in Chicago?

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There are tons of possible reasons why people find a need to sleep in their cars. Some of these reasons are valid, like taking a nap when tired instead of forcing oneself to drive. But the main question, is this something considered illegal? The answer could be both yes and no; it depends on the laws and restrictions within each state.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car in Chicago? Although there is no specific state regulation in Illinois that restricts you from sleeping inside your vehicle, it is not recommended. You need to consider safety and also, parking restrictions. Moreover, there are various considerations you should take into account based on your current situation.

The majority of the Chicagoans explained in a public forum that napping inside your car is acceptable, especially in broad daylight. However, practically sleeping or living in it, day and night, is a different story. They also cited several insightful reasons why they think of it that way.

Skyway Chicago

Chicagoans’ Opinions About Sleeping Inside a Car

  • “It is suspicious.”
    It was mentioned in the forum that you have nothing to worry about the cops minding your sleeping business inside your car. What you should be paying attention more is the neighborhood around you while you park in public areas.

    Most of these citizens may end up calling the authorities. They will most likely think of you as a threat. Well, there is a little something fishy about noticing someone sit in their car for an extended period of hours, especially on late nights. This kind of situation may result in a cop asking you to move along from the area.
  • “It seems dangerous.”
    Aside from being mistaken as a criminal, Chicagoans also thought that sleeping inside a car overnight could put your safety at risk. Parking in public neighborhoods makes you vulnerable to various threats like robbery or theft.

    If you are in dire need to sleep inside your vehicle at some point, the best thing you should do is at least find a secure and legal area for parking. That way, you are guaranteed of a safer and unbothered slumber.

Good Areas Where to Sleep Inside a Car

Empty Parking Lot at Night

1. Walmart

One of the best places to park when you need some rest is at Walmart parking lots. It is legal to park your vehicle in there as long as you want, Vanlife, Road Trip Tips mentioned. You will notice several vans permanently set up around the premise.

Plus, Walmart establishments are everywhere. You can easily locate the nearest branch to your location, and you will have a temporary place to stay for the time being.


  • Accessible
  • Secured and Safe
  • Convenient and with bathrooms nearby
  • Free


  • Too bright for sleeping in the morning
  • Crowded and noisy

2. Rest Stops

Another place you can consider for an excellent parking stay, especially during the night is rest stops. You can find many of these on highways and spending the night in there for sleeping is worth it. It also is legal so that no one will wake you up in the middle of the night for interrogation.


  • Accessible bathrooms
  • Legal
  • A popular choice of most car campers


  • Some rest stops are not that safe
  • Some are found in secluded streets

3. City Street Parking

Parking overnight may prompt you with sudden expenses. Some of the safest parking areas have a hefty hourly rate. Being on a tight budget will cut down your options to street parking.


  • It is either free or cheap
  • Somehow safe


  • Not always legal to sleep inside cars on city street parking spaces.
  • No accessible bathroom facilities
  • Noisy
  • Crowded

4. Shopping Mall Parking Lots

Shopping malls are generally safe since there are securities around. Plus, you will find it very convenient to rest within such premises since you can access food stalls, coffee shops, and bathrooms during the day. However, not all malls allow overnight parking mainly sleeping inside your car.


  • Very convenient especially during day napping
  • Various accessible establishments around the corner
  • Safe


  • Not always legal; depends on the state
  • Can no longer get out of parking once the malls are closed
  • May have expensive parking fees

5. Welcome Information Centers

Vanlife, Road Trip Tips highly recommends Welcome Information Centers as the best option for a great overnight stay. It is perfect for road trippers. You can always see these signs once you passed beyond the state lines. It usually comes with enormous parking lots that you could take advantage of during the night.


  • Generally safe
  • Allows you to cook a meal
  • Can connect to free Wi-Fi
  • Usually free


  • Bathroom facilities are inaccessible when the center is closed

Risks of Sleeping Inside a Car

  1. Falling victims to crimes
    Streets that are dim and secluded are not suitable areas for parking, especially during the night. These corners are the criminals’ favorite lair for illegal negotiations, drug dealings, robberies, and more.
    As you sleep, you no longer have a clue of what is going on outside your car doors. So, that makes you an easier target for crimes.
  2. Exposure to harsh weather
    Sometimes the car roof is not enough to protect you from freezing during the blizzards of winter. It also is not capable of keeping you cool during broad summer daylight. It will get more and more uncomfortable in the long run.
    Aside from the discomfort, it could affect your health without you realizing it. Prolonged exposure to these harsh weather could be a leading cause of sickness. You can catch colds, fever, flu, and so on.
  3. Suffocation
    If your vehicle is not that spacious, it can be a risk as well. You do know that when the engine is off, there is no enough ventilation to circulate inside your car. Because of the enclosure, the amount of oxygen is nearly limited. As a result, there is no sufficient oxygen that runs through your lungs, and that could highly result in suffocation and breathing problems.
  4. Car’s mechanical components failure
    Leakage on the car’s exhaust is a serious threat. This threatens you to ingest and accumulate an unhealthy amount of carbon monoxide inside your body. According to experts, the worse thing this could lead to is death. A news article briefly explained how dangerous this could be.
  5. DUI charges
    Being knocked from the window by a police officer is a very common scenario when caught parking on public streets and sleeping inside the vehicle. Especially if you are in a state that highly prohibits such kind of activity. It can result in a court appearance, deduction of points on your license, and even fines depending on the penalty.

Safety of Sleeping Inside a Car

Although there are few downsides to sleeping inside a car, the positive impacts of this can’t be denied as well. Good sleep freshens you up and lets you gain few extra energies. On the brighter side, making it a habit to take a nap in your car when you need it can also somehow increase safety.

The leading reason why drivers tend to sleep in their vehicles is for them to catch some break after a tiresome drive. Other times, it is to get past intoxication from the aftermath of excessive liquor drinking. There is nothing wrong with that. It is a wise idea to rest when needed.

The trend of drowsy driving car accident statistics has been way too high in the past few years. Gaining back your alertness and sense of focus through a quality sleep prevents you from risking your life and other people’s life as well. Furthermore, it keeps you safe from being another casualty of drowsy driving.

Besides, vehicles are somehow comfortable enough to let your body relax. It also is enclosed, so it’s guaranteed that you and your belongings are perfectly safe from intruders within the enclosure of your car. Plus, you can always improve the safety level when you choose legal and appropriate parking areas for your temporary stay.

Conclusion – Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car in Chicago?

Even in states where sleeping inside a vehicle is legal, it is far more appropriate to know your limits. Overnight sleeping inside your car should be on the last slot of your list options. If you have other safer choices like a temporary hotel or motel rooms, opt for that instead.

This is not only about how safe your current parking location. The issue is more about your safety and health. Power naps inside a vehicle are beneficial occasionally. However, doing it constantly more than the maximum recommended hours can be fatal.

Bear in mind that it is considered illegal in some states not because it is a sort of crime but because it’s highly threatening. Authorities have prohibited it for a good reason. The best thing you can do as a responsible citizen is to abide by any implemented regulations on this matter for your own sake.

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