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Legal Places to Sleep in Your Car in the UK

Written by, Bojana Atanasovska

Updated July, 6, 2023

Have you ever been in this situation: You have been driving for a few hours and are starting to doze off, but there is not a hotel in sight. Then, taking a nap in your car is probably the best option. 

But can you get in trouble for sleeping in your car? Are there any designed, legal places to sleep in a car in the UK? Can you park your vehicle and take a nap just about anywhere?

The answers are right below. 

Is Sleeping in a Car Illegal in the UK?

No. Pulling over and taking a short (or longer) nap in your vehicle is perfectly legal. 

Not only that but it is recommended as well. Over 25,000 people are seriously injured on UK roads every year, with fatigue being one of the major causes of car accidents. That’s why the Highway Code advises drivers to take a 15-minute break after two hours spent behind the wheel.

What Are the Legal Places to Sleep in a Car in the UK?

There are several suitable locations where you can sleep in the car across the country. 

Here is a brief overview of each:

Residential streets

You can legally park and sleep in a car in residential areas. However, you should be aware of any parking restrictions that might apply, so read the signs before stopping for a snooze in your vehicle. 

Even though it’s legal, try to avoid sleeping in a car on residential streets. Doing so might attract unwanted attention—the residents could fear for their safety and call the police.

Car parks

Car parks are also considered good places to sleep in your car. UK car parks are generally safe and you can stay as long as you want to without disturbing anyone. 

However, some have a 24-hour charging system which could be expensive even if you only stay one night. Others, for instance, close their gates at night so you might get locked in, while those in the town centres might have local bylaws that prevent overnight stays.

Car parks also have restrictions when it comes to height, so larger vehicles like lorries, caravans, and motorhomes might have difficulty parking there overnight.

Motorway service station

A motorway service station is the best option when it comes to sleeping in a car, thanks to their 24/7 availability. They offer free parking spots for up to two hours as well as a place to freshen up and get some food. 

Keep in mind that you might be charged if you exceed the resting limit.

When Is Sleeping in the Car Illegal? 

Undoubtedly, there are times when you can get into trouble for sleeping in your car in the UK. if violated, these rules might lead to certain legal charges and safety issues. 

Here are some things you should never do no matter how sleepy you feel:

  • Don’t park on the highway
  • If you own a larger car, make sure it isn’t obstructing the lanes when parked
  • Never park on the hard shoulder(this spot is only reserved for emergencies)

Sleeping in a Car when Drunk

Sleeping in a car in the UK while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal. The Highway Code has a specific rule that says drivers can’t sleep in their vehicles when intoxicated even if they are asleep in the back seat and the keys are not in the ignition. 

Motorists found asleep in their cars while under the influence of alcohol could get up to a £2,500 fine, 10 licence points or even face imprisonment. This applies even if you are snoozing in a car parked on your property. 

While many might find this rule a bit unfair, it is in place because there is no way to ensure that the person in the car will not get behind the wheel after waking up. 

Remember, a drunk driving conviction could increase the average cost of car insurance, while a driving ban may stop you from travelling abroad. 

So, if you’ve had a wild night out and are feeling too tipsy to drive home, don’t doze off in your car. Call a taxi or ask a friend to drop you off. 

How To Sleep in a Car Overnight?

Never forget about safety, even when resting for just a short while. Your comfort is really important, too, so you can continue your journey feeling rested and refreshed.

To that end, here are some tips on how to safely sleep in your car:

Get your gear ready

If you are planning on going for a longer trip, then packing pillows, a sleeping bag and blankets (think of it as a car sleepover) are a great idea. What’s more, if you are frequently travelling long distances in your car, it might be worth investing in an inflatable car mattress. 

Park in a safe and legal place

Opt for one of the legal places to sleep in a car in the UK and do not park where you feel vulnerable. If the area seems dodgy, it’s best to avoid it and find another spot.

Keep your vehicle stocked

Get some energy bars, snacks and water before setting off. Remember to always stay hydrated as this will help you stay focused on the road. 

Get in a comfortable position

Lie on the backseat so you can stretch out. It won’t feel as nice as sleeping on a high-end mattress, but you can try and get as comfy as possible. 

Lock your car doors

This is a must, even if you are in a car park. It is better to be safe than sorry. 

Think about ventilation 

Pull down the window slightly to let fresh air in. It’s best not to leave the air conditioner or heating on as this only wastes fuel and leaves the engine exhausted. 

Before You Doze Off Completely 

So, what are the best places to sleep in your car in the UK? Well, it depends on your current location. If you are out and about and you are feeling too tired to drive home, park in the street, or better yet a car park, and get some sleep. On the road, try and find a motorway service station to get some rest before continuing your journey. 

In any case, remember that sleeping in your vehicle while drunk can get you in legal trouble, even if you have parked in a legal place to sleep in your car. You wouldn’t want a fine on top of average car running costs

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

Can I sleep in my car?

Yes. If you are sober, you can sleep in your car. 

How far apart are motorway service stations?

According to the new regulations, the distance between service areas should be less than 28 miles or 30 minutes of travelling time. There are around 158 motorway services areas in the UK right now. 

Where can you sleep in your car in the UK?

Technically, you can park your car on the street and take a short nap. That said, of all the legal places to sleep in a car in the UK, car parks and motorway service areas are the best option. Both are safe and conveniently located, but remember not to overstay your welcome as you could get charged with a hefty bill.

Bojana is my name and writing is my game. I am a content writer from Bitola who is always interested in the latest research in almost all areas of life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and a perfectionist character, both of which help me find the most accurate data and information available. Although I have my head stuck in studies and reports most of the time, I still have a bit of free time during which I enjoy knitting and watching classic 90’s Disney movies.