Boondocking Basics

Learn the core concepts of off-grid camping, boondocking, and overnight parking

Is it Safe to Sleep in Your Car at Rest Stops?

Is it Safe to Sleep in Your Car at Rest Stops?


You want to sleep in your car at a rest stop, but is it safe? After all, there are a lot of cars and trucks coming in and going out. How safe is it to sleep in your car overnight at a rest stop?

safe to sleep in your car at a rest stop
Jordan Creek Rest Area, I-5, Oregon

Is it Safe to Sleep in Your Car at Rest Stops?

Yes, sleeping at a rest stop is probably the most safest place to overnight in your car despite the warnings of other articles. These articles instead recommend you overnight only in RV Parks or campgrounds, which we’ve already reported as being even more dangerous. Besides, you’re reading this because you want to overnight for free.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of sleeping in your car at a rest stop…


Rest Stops Have Limited Access – That is, the only way to get into a rest stop is from the highway. There’s only one way in, and one way out. This makes it less attractive to thieves, car jackers, rapists, or other undesirables who prefer several getaway options.

It’s More Difficult to Go Unnoticed – Because rest stops are generally small in size, people can maintain a close watch over their vehicle. Rest stops also have a lot of night-time lighting. That makes it more difficult for a criminal to approach your vehicle unnoticed.

Most Rest Stops Are Monitored by Camera – Rest stops located along Interstates, as well rest stops that receive a high volume of traffic, are all under video surveillance. All activity gets recorded.

Many Rest Stops Have On-Site Security Staff – Many states are now maintaining on-site security either by law enforcement officers and/or contracted security personnel.

Criminals Already Know You’re Inside Your Vehicle – They tend to leave vehicles alone at rest stops because they know someone is inside. It’s not like leaving your car at a shopping center where vehicles are left alone for an hour or longer. But this can be a “con” as well; see the last item under “Cons” below.


It’s More Difficult to Find Privacy – Because the parking area is smaller, and because there’s many drivers coming in and going out, it’s difficult to find privacy inside your car. Headlights often illuminate your cab, and people are always walking past you.

Truck Drivers Can Get Irritable – If you’re parked in the truck & RV spaces, some truck drivers can get angered by RVs taking up precious parking lanes. While we’ve not heard of truckers taking revenge on an RV, an angry, tired truck driver is probably someone you want to leave alone.

Night Time Can Be Scary for A Single Woman – Rest stops can feel frightening for a single woman sleeping in her car alone at night. There are a lot more lonely guys concentrated into a single area than compared to a Walmart.

Everyone Knows You’re There – Contrast that to sleeping in your car along a neighborhood street where you still have some stealth in your favor. At a rest stop everyone can see you. For a single woman, that might seem alarming.

How to Maximize Security at a Rest Stop

  • Park Away from Rest Stop Buildings – Park your vehicle further away from restroom facilities. The fewer people walking past your vehicle, the more privacy you enjoy.
  • Plan Ahead for Peeing – If you’re concerned about entering the restroom facility late at night, then plan ahead on how you’ll relieve yourself later on. Maybe you can find a place to park where you can pee on the ground behind your open car door.
  • Park Your Vehicle For a Quick Getaway – Instead of parking your car face-in, see if you can park it backed-in to allow for a quick getaway.
  • Arrive Before Dark – Get there while there are still a lot of cars and trucks pulling in and out. This way you can slip in unnoticed. By contrast, arriving well after dark, you will be noticed more easily by others.
  • Shade All of Your Windows – Buy window shades and place them in every window. Use Velcro or tape to make sure they stay up. People will know that you’re inside, but they won’t know if you’re a guy or a girl, or if you have another person with you.
  • Act Like You’re Talking to Someone – This is a great way to make others believe you have someone with you. Make sure your windows are first shaded for privacy. Then stand outside the driver’s seat, hold the door half-way open, and pretend you’re talking to someone in the passenger side.
  • Keep Weapons and Security Devices Ready – If you don’t have a gun, perhaps you have pepper spray, a stun gun, or an air-horn. Know where they are and keep them ready.

More Reading About Rest Areas

More About Overnighting at Rest Areas & Truck Stops

Available at

The Ultimate Truck Parking Guide 9th Edition Paperback – January 18, 2020, by LeRoy D Clemmer

Note: the above list of books are not endorsed by Boondocker's Bible, but are recommended because they provide information relevant to this article. Boondocker's Bible will earn a commission on the sales of these books to help support our goal of providing free boondocking education to the public.

Read Related Articles

3 thoughts on “Is it Safe to Sleep in Your Car at Rest Stops?”

  1. Hello my girlfriend and I are planning on moving to Denver Colorado one way where are some safe Rest areas along the way

  2. It was nice reading some of the positive notes and I would like to add a comment I visit 2 certain rest stops and they are very clean and friendly staff being a single women there’s a need for fresh clean air. And no dout a social distancing with out a lot of aroma.

  3. I’ve slept overnight at rest areas in OH, PA (turnpike only due to state laws), IN, MI, WI, MN, ND, and ME and never had a problem. Rest areas feel safe because there is usually a good amount of traffic throughout the night. Having a bathroom easily available is great. Every now and then you find a rest area in a lightly trafficked area that is set back from the road or hidden among trees; those I avoid.


Leave a Comment