This is a loaded question if there ever was one. Can you legally sleep in your car in Iowa? It depends. Let's start with where you can do it according to Smart Financial.


Despite the fact that they'll trust you to scan your own groceries, you cannot sleep in a Walmart parking lot in Iowa (nor should you cut across it to find a closer parking space or beat a red light). Believe it or not, some states allow nodding off in your car for the night while parked in the Wal-Mart lot (if you must). The exact verbiage on this, per Sleep Insider, says:

It is legal to sleep at most Walmarts around the country. Camping out in Walmart parking lots has been popular for years with many different communities.  While you might not find a welcoming committee when you arrive for your overnight stay it is free and you should not receive any trouble from law enforcement as long as you keep to yourself and do not cause problems.

Rest areas

Of course, you can sleep in your car in a rest area. That's why it's called that. But there's a catch.

All Iowa rest areas allow you to park for one 24-hour period, but you can stay longer if you have a "reasonable justification," as the Iowa Dept. of Transportation puts it.

It's mostly designed for truckers to stop and take a break, but say you're on a long trip and don't want to pay for a hotel, you can catch some zzz's for one night per rest area in Iowa. They just don't want you lounging around in your bathrobe (or less) all day. Here's a map of them from Smart Financial.

Once and for all, is it legal?

Once again, we ask Smart Financial:

There is no federal or state law that explicitly prohibits sleeping in your car. However, every municipality and jurisdiction has its own local ordinances that supersede state and federal laws. Of course, you can't sleep in your car on private property or in areas where it is illegal to park. On the other hand, some cities make sleeping in your car a crime, such as citing you for loitering.

With so many sketchy variations to the rules, I'd just suggest keeping a low profile if you're going to try sleeping in your car, and then wake up and move on. Let me know if there are any other locations that welcome this or frown upon it in Hawkeye state.


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