How Long Can You Park in a Store Parking Lot?

By Carrie Wilder | Last Updated: June 14, 2024 

If you're here, there's a good chance you just Googled: “How long can you park in a grocery store parking lot” or something similar. And I've got answers for you!

Whether you're living in your vehicle, are on a road trip, or just need a free place to park for a while, you'll find all the answers here. In this article, you'll learn:

Let's get into it.

How Long Can You Park in a Retail or Grocery Store Parking Lot? 

You can park your car in a store parking lot for anywhere between 2-12 hours, depending on the store and location. In some cases you can even park overnight. This is a great option for people who are on a road trip, or who live in their car, van, or RV. 

Every store is different and has different rules. In addition to the store’s rules about their property, they also have to follow local laws and ordinances. 

For example, there are some national store chains that allow overnight parking and sleeping in their parking lots. However, if one of their stores is in a city or town that has laws against overnight parking or sleeping in your car, you won’t be allowed, even on their property. 

How Long Can You Park At Walmart?

Depending on the location, some Walmarts will allow you to park your car overnight on their parking lot. If you need to park longer than that, be sure to get it cleared with management.

In general, the Walmart stores that allow overnight parking would prefer if you arrived later in the evening and left early in the morning. So, no longer than you need to get a good night's sleep.

So, can you sleep in a Walmart parking lot? Yes, some! However, it's generally not acceptable to park in a Walmart parking lot for several days in a row, or more than 24 hours.

But sometimes your car breaks down and you have to leave it. In this case, talk to store management and give them a time frame for when you expect to remove your car from the parking lot. Be sure to get the manager's name, and leave a note with your phone number in your car window. Otherwise, they might tow it.

Can You Park in a Store Parking Lot Overnight?

It really depends on the store rules and local laws. In some cases, yes you can. But in others, either the store doesn’t allow it or local laws forbid it. 

If you need a safe parking lot to park overnight, you have a lot of options. However, since every store has different rules, it can feel a little overwhelming!

If you want to know if a store forbids overnight parking, look for signs on poles in the parking lot. If they don't allow it or it's illegal in the area, there are usually white and red signs like the photo above.

Parking lots are a great option if you need a safe place to sleep in your car. They’re well lit and centrally located, and most have security cameras that run all night long.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed when trying to find free overnight parking, don’t worry. We’ll cover exactly how to find them in the section called “How to Find Parking Lots Where you Can Park All Day or Overnight”.

Is It Illegal to Park In a Store Parking Lot After Hours?

Yes, sometimes. Some cities and towns have local laws and ordinances that outlaw overnight parking or sleeping in your car. It's best to check local ordinances to be sure.

If this is the case in your town, there will usually be signs in the parking lot that say “No Overnight Parking”. The signs may also reference the local law or ordinance number so you can look it up online for further reading. 

Can My Car Get Towed if I Leave it In a Store Parking Lot?

It really depends on the store. If a store doesn’t allow overnight parking and you leave your car there anyway, there is a good chance of it getting towed. Especially if your car looks abandoned. 

Grocery stores, Walmarts, and other local stores all have their own rules. And calling the towing company is up to the management’s discretion. 

If your car breaks down in a retail or grocery store parking lot, you may be able to leave it for a while. You should go in or call and talk to management and let them know what happened. If you get permission, be sure to get the manager's name.

Additionally, leave a clearly legible sign in the windshield and window with your phone number and something saying your car is broken down and you got permission to leave it for X amount of days. 

If you are sleeping in your car, van, or RV in a parking lot that doesn’t allow it, you will typically get a “knock” first. 

“The knock” is referenced in the vehicle dwelling community often. Sometimes a store manager will knock on your window to ask you to move, and other times it’s the police. If you don’t answer the knock, you might get towed. 

What Stores Allow Overnight Parking?

Common chain stores that allow overnight parking include Walmart, Lowes, Camping World, Cabelas, Cracker Barrel, Sam’s Club, Costco, Planet Fitness, Costco, Casinos, and more. 

You can typically find free overnight parking in places like 24-hour gyms, major department and retail stores, and even some churches.

These stores allow overnight parking to help road-weary travelers, roadtrippers, and vehicle dwellers to have a safe spot to sleep. 

However, it’s important to note that the rules aren’t the same in every city, or even at every store location in one city. 

If your city has ordinances about sleeping in cars, it will be illegal in every parking lot. 

Additionally, if the Walmart on the east side of town has issues with people trashing their parking lot, they may not allow you to stay, even if the Walmart on the west side still allows it. 

This is why it’s so important to check, whether you’re traveling or live in your vehicle in one town.

How to Find Parking Lots Where You Can Park All Day or Overnight

Parking overnight in my first RV at Walmart

The main methods is to either call or go in the store or use an app or website like:

All of these apps and websites are different, but they have a similar feature that shows you parking lots where you can legally park for free overnight. 

I have used most of these apps and websites myself. The majority of these apps and websites have user-generated information. This means that the data about whether or not it’s okay to park overnight is uploaded by it’s users. 

Because of this, not all the information is accurate. However, most of the time it’s up to date. 

Sometimes you may find that an app says overnight parking is allowed, but when you get to the parking lot you see signs that say no overnight parking. 

This happens occasionally and it’s because new laws and ordinances put in place, or an inaccurate report by a user. 

You can also read reviews about each of these places and learn about the safety and security of the parking lot, the noises and traffic overnight, and much more. 

In cases where you are unsure, call and ask the store management. Or, if you don’t see any signs forbidding overnight parking, you can try it out. But if you get a knock, be prepared to move.

Places where you can park your car for free overnight legally include many stores, churches, casinos, public BLM land, and even residential streets. 

If you live in your car, you will learn to become creative when seeking overnight parking areas. And if you live in your car in the same city, you should rotate your overnight parking areas every night. This will help avoid unwanted attention. 

Using the apps and websites shared in this article will help you find free overnight parking for your car, van, or RV. 

Parking Lot Etiquette For All Day or Overnight Parking

Sleeping in parking lots is common practice by tens of thousands of people, if not more. As a result, there are some unwritten rules about all day or overnight parking in a parking lot. 

The reason some towns and stores start banning overnight parking is because of people abusing the privilege. 

Abusing the privilege can include things like:

All of these things can cause a headache for store management and are likely to make them ban overnight parking. Here are the general rules and etiquette to follow. 

Last but not least, buy something from the store if you can! They’re allowing you to park for free. Buy yourself a snack as a ‘thank you’ for the exchange. 

Alternatives to Parking Lots for All Day and Overnight Parking

If you live in your car or are road-tripping and want a free, safe, and legal spot to park overnight, you don’t always have to choose parking lots! 

Parking lots are a great option, but you can also park for free on public lands. 

Public lands are generally wilderness areas outside of towns and cities and include Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recreation areas, National Forest roads, and more. 

You can use Campendium and filter by “Always Show FREE” to find all free (and legal) parking spots near you. 

What I love the most about Campendium is the ability to see reviews. The reviews tell you what the cell signal is like and the overall vibe of the place. This helps you avoid sketchy areas. Of all the camping apps, it’s my favorite.

Final Thoughts 

By now, you should know how long can you park in a store parking lot, or any store for that matter.

I know that it’s not always a ‘living in your car’ situation that may cause you to need to park for a long time in a parking lot. 

Maybe your car broke down, or maybe you want to park your car for free all day so you can explore the city. 

Whatever your reason is, the best bet is to check with store management. Generally, if you’re just parking for a few hours during the day, it will be fine. Store employees are parked there for 8+ hours a day, so you should be okay. 

But if your car breaks down and you need to leave it for several days, get permission from the store and leave a note in the window. 

And parking lots aren’t your only option. Get creative, use the apps mentioned here, and always remember: you can leave if it feels sketchy. Never stay in an area that has a weird vibe or feels unsafe.

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Carrie Wilder

Carrie has a passion for location independence and nomadic lifestyles. After traveling full-time in an RV and living the van life, she created Making Money and Traveling to help others make the switch to a remote lifestyle. Learn more about Carrie on the About page or connect on social media below.