Is It Legal To Park A Camper On The Street?Anthony Day
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Knowing where and how long to park your camper on a public or residential street is essential to making your road trip a pleasant experience.
The towns and cities in the US have underestimated the desire for Americans to escape the confines of their homes and spread their wings after months of isolation during the pandemic lockdowns. There is a severe lack of overnight parking facilities and parking spaces for campers and RVs in most places.
Legal parking permits or guest permits for parking on public streets can be obtained from local sheriff or precinct police stations. The parking permit must be obtained before parking on the street and must be clearly displayed on the inside of the windscreen of the vehicle.
RVs and campers are large and can easily obstruct traffic or the visibility of other road users. There has also been a scourge of vehicles illegally abandoned or parked on public roads and exploited by the homeless for shelter. The removal, storage, and disposal of such vehicles is a big headache for many town and city authorities.
Against this background, you must plan your trip well and arrange for overnight camping sites in advance. You can park a camper or RV in public streets where there are no street signs prohibiting it but be aware that parking usually is not allowed for longer than three hours or overnight. Let’s look at where you are legally allowed to park, for how long such parking is allowed, and what to do to indicate approval to park.
How To Legally Park Your Camper On The Street?
Knowing what you are allowed to do in your camper varies from place to place as towns and cities all have differing local ordinances with regard to parking on public streets. So let’s first eliminate some obvious places where you are not allowed to park.
Five Places Where Parking Your Camper Is Illegal:
- Parking a Camper on residential streets is illegal – even when there are no street signs visible prohibiting the parking of Campers and RVs on residential roads, assume that it is illegal until you know otherwise.
- Rest stops are for parking for a limited number of hours but most do not allow overnight parking. Signs should convey for how long you are allowed to be parked at a rest stop.
- Parking on any private property is illegal without the consent of the owner. Private land owners have the right to grant you permission to park on their land. Ask for this approval in writing by the owner.
- It is illegal to park at campgrounds without being paid up for your stay in advance. You should have a receipt as proof of payment readily available to show that you are paid up and thus legally parked.
- It is illegal to park your camper or RV on public streets during the late afternoon, night time and early morning. Large vehicles pose the risk of obstructing traffic or the visibility of other road users during such times.
To make sure that you are on the right side of the law plan your route beforehand and determine the towns and cities through which you plan to travel. Look up the contact details of the local sheriffs or police stations of these towns and call them ahead of time.
Make arrangements to obtain guest parking permits upon your arrival in these towns and display these parking permits prominently on your camper. Check for the availability of parking or camping spots on private or public grounds beforehand.
Arriving at a town or city with no plan in mind is a recipe for endlessly driving around and becoming frustrated. You have to plan ahead as if you are the pilot of an airplane. Have your road planned out by day and know where you will find resources along the route.
Legally Parking Your Camper Overnight?
Planning your campervan trip is similar to flying a plane! You need to plan your trip and do your homework on where to stay, fill up on fuel and water, where to empty out your black and gray water tanks, and where to safely park for overnight stays.
There are a number of safe havens for camper holidays:
- Truck stops
- Wallmart parking lots
- RV Campgrounds
- National and State parks
There are also places where parking without making arrangements beforehand is illegal and will cause you serious problems if you violate the local regulations:
- City streets
- Private property
- Rest stops
- School grounds
Truck stops welcome drivers of large vehicles to overnight and make use of their facilities. The truck stops are designed to accommodate fueling up large vehicles and provide facilities to dispose of waste and take on fresh water.
Truck stops are geared to provide safe overnight parking for long-distance truckers and offer facilities to provide hot food and showers and a safe place to park your camper for the night.
Casinos are always looking to provide their patrons with parking for campers. They generally welcome all campervans to overnight in their specially allocated parking areas for RVs and motorhomes.
Casinos generally do not allow for long-term stays at their parking lots, but they will allow you to stay on for one or two nights, especially if you are planning to deposit some money into their slot machines.
Wallmart is well known for granting overnight parking to campervans. Although it is generally illegal to park on private property, and the Walmart parking lot is considered private property, Walmart has welcomed overnighters to park on their lots.
Find a parking spot as far away from the hustle and bustle of the parking lot and show your appreciation by supporting Walmart when stocking up on your food, drinks, and other forgotten essentials.
Campgrounds are an obvious choice to stay at but make sure that you do so by booking ahead of arrival. Campgrounds are private property, and the owner or operator has the right to refuse you entrance or allowing you to stay overnight.
Some campgrounds are faced with the problem of long-term campers refusing to vacate the grounds and trying to occupy the space illegally. Once inside and parked it is not so easy to get rid of unwanted campers, and the owners have to follow due process.
Make sure that your campervan is well maintained and will not be denied entrance if the campground owners assess you as a long-term risk. Your stay inside a campground is legal for as long as you have a pre-paid receipt allowing occupation.
As soon as your receipt has expired, you are no longer considered legally parked, and the campground owner may have your vehicle towed away at cost.
The US has a wealth of National and State Parks that offer campervan accommodation in the most beautiful locations. Visiting the National and State parks are on the Bucket list of many campervan adventurers.
Make sure to book in advance and call ahead to confirm. These parks are often fully booked for months in advance and can perhaps recommend alternatives should they not be able to accommodate you.
Free camping sites for campervans are also available on some undeveloped public lands that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). You can stay for as long as fourteen days on some of these BLM properties.
City streets and, more especially, residential streets are off-limits for overnight parking in most places in the US. Before parking on the street, call ahead to the local sheriff’s office or local police precinct, where you can arrange for a guest parking permit.
The guest parking permit will allow you to park in designated public streets for a defined period of time only. Residents seeking approval to park their campers in front of their residence must also obtain a parking permit from the police or sheriff’s office. This is not a long term parking option.
Parking on private property without approval in writing from the property owner is illegal and will get you into more trouble than it is worth. If you are having a breakdown emergency, find the owner and request approval to park while you are arranging for your vehicle to be repaired.
It is the property owner’s right to refuse you parking, and you may be forced to have your camper towed in for repairs. Take out some insurance for the cost of tow-in and breakdown repairs during your trip. If nothing happens, it is still worth the peace of mind.
Rest stops are just that! They are not places to overnight in your camper and generally do not allow you to park there for longer than three hours. If you are caught overnighting at a rest stop be prepared for a hefty penalty or even having your camper confiscated and impounded.
Stay with the program and stick to the rules as a good citizen and road user. There is, unfortunately, a negative bias against campervans due to the homeless problem in many US cities.
Some schools have large parking lots on their grounds and will allow you to park there by prior arrangement. Such arrangements should be seen as a last resort as schools are becoming very strict with security on their grounds.
It is worth a try but don’t’ be offended if the schools do not allow campervans to park and overnight on their grounds.