Is it Illegal to Sleep In Your Car in the UK? 

In this guide

You may want to or need to spend a night sleeping in your car for multiple reasons. If you’re ever in this situation, the good news is that it’s legal in most areas of the UK as long as you meet specific criteria.  

You can’t just pull over anywhere to get some shut-eye, though. In fact, there are a few strict rules you need to follow if you plan to sleep in your car overnight. 

When Are You Allowed to Sleep in Your Car? 

To be allowed to sleep in your car, the main thing you need to think about is where you park. You’re only allowed to sleep in your vehicle if you’ve parked in a legal way and do not cause a hazard for other road users. 

This means you can sleep in a car park, lay-by, or off-street parking spot. In contrast, you cannot sleep on the hard shoulder on a motorway or any other location where you can become a hazard to other road users. 

When sleeping in places like car parks, service stations, or off-street parking, be mindful of the restrictions of the area. Some sites will charge you if you spend a certain amount of time parked there, so you need to factor that into your thinking when working out where to park. In addition, you should also check if your chosen sleeping spot is permit holders only, as sleeping in these places can also cause fines. 

Another thing to consider before sleeping in your car is if you’re under the influence. You are only allowed to sleep in your vehicle if you are sober. You may think that it’s a sensible idea to sleep in your car after drinking to avoid the need to drive, but doing so can lead to you getting a hefty fine and other punishments. Even if the key isn’t in the ignition and you’re sleeping in the backseat, you can still get a penalty and have 10 points taken off your licence. 

Is it Safe to Sleep in Your Car? 

A few factors can determine how safe you’ll be when sleeping in your car. The main thing to consider is the location you plan to park and sleep in. Ideally, you don’t want to park near a road, as this puts you at risk of getting involved in collisions. You should always choose to sleep in a dedicated car park, ideally one with CCTV to deter theft and other issues. 

You should also sleep with the AC and engine off to improve safety. This makes the experience safer, as it prevents the risk of mechanical issues affecting your health, like a leaky exhaust system. Plus, running the engine, especially if you’re sleeping in a confined space, causes exhaust fumes to enter your vehicle, which can be poisonous. 

Sleeping with closed doors and windows is also safe, as most cars are not airtight. This means that air can circulate at night, meaning you’re not at risk of suffocating. That said, your car can get pretty warm if all the windows are shut.

To ensure maximum safety, consider telling a friend of your location before sleeping. This ensures that if anything happens to you or your car, it’ll be easier to locate you if you’re in trouble. It’s also wise to sleep with your seatbelt on, as this can help save you if your vehicle is collided while you sleep. 

Tips for Sleeping In Your Car 

Sleeping in your car should be considered a last resort. It’s not the most comfortable experience but it can also be potentially dangerous. To improve the experience, here are a few tips to follow if you’re ever in a position where you need to sleep in your car. 

  • Lock your car 

One of the biggest concerns for people sleeping in their cars is security. To reduce the risk of theft, ensure the car is locked from the inside. This prevents others from getting in, helping to keep you safe. 

  • Ventilate 

Cars can get extremely stuffy when they’re not running. It’s essential to create a bit of airflow so that you can breathe properly and that you don’t get too warm when sleeping in the car. Crack your window slightly, no more than a centimetre, to let in a breeze without compromising your security. 

  • Stock your car 

If you plan to sleep in your car, ensure you have all the necessary equipment to make it as comfortable as possible. Essentials include a blanket, torch, and water, as these will help you get through the night. You can also purchase an inflatable car mattress for extra comfort. 

  • Window covers 

Getting window covers is a great way to make sleeping in your car both safer and more comfortable. Blocking your windshield and passenger windows with a cover prevents passers-by from peering into your vehicle, giving you more privacy while making the car less exposed. As well as that, these window covers can also keep the cabin of the car nice and dark, meaning that you won’t be kept up by nearby streetlights or the rising sun. This can drastically improve your overall sleep quality and also helps to keep the cabin cool. 


There are many reasons why you may need to sleep in your car. You could be without accommodation for the night or simply need a small nap to ensure you’re not driving tired. Whatever the situation, you’re allowed to sleep in your car anywhere in the UK. 

As long as you park in a legal and safe space and are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you’re free to sleep in your car. Just be aware that it may not be as safe as sleeping in a hotel room, and it’s certainly not as comfortable either. If you know you’re going to be sleeping in your car beforehand, be sure to plan and get all the equipment you need, like a blanket, torch, and car mattress. 

Alexander Thomas
Alexander Thomas
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