If you’ve taken delivery of your new RV, congratulations! And if you’re still in the planning stages, it will soon become a reality. Your first trip will be the start of many adventures, and there’s no stopping you now!
Talking of stopping, have you worked out where you will leave your motorhome during a trip? Do you know the local laws governing RV parking? Do you need a parking permit for your motorhome in your driveway, even for a short term? Can you park an RV on the street? In this article, we’ll do our best to cover all the options, both at home and while you’re on the road.
Parking an RV on a Residential Street
Generally speaking, parking an RV on a residential street is not allowed, except under certain conditions and for limited periods. It’s also a fact that regulations differ from state to state and city to city. While you can stop for a limited time to load, offload, or carry out emergency repairs, overnight parking is not permitted on a residential street.
Even in towns where you may park temporarily on a residential street, your RV is not allowed to restrict traffic flow on the street or sidewalk. This makes it difficult for larger RVs to park legally, but smaller vehicles should be fine. A Class-B RV, which at around 20 feet is not much longer than a van, would be less likely to break the local parking regulations than a 60-foot “fifth wheel” trailer.
If you’re visiting a residential area, look for notices which indicate what you may and may not do, and use your common sense, too. As a visitor, you should respect the rights of the residents to have clear access to their homes and free streets and sidewalks.
Whatever the local laws are, you can be assured that while you may be able to park your rig for a time on a residential street, you will certainly not be permitted to live in it or do any camping activities, and doing so may result in a heavy fine, or worse!
Can you park an RV on the street? (And 5 tips for doing that safely)
Parking an RV on the Street – When Is It Not Allowed?
Parking on the street is usually regulated in one of three ways. It may not be allowed at all; it may be authorized by granting a permit, or it may be allowed with certain conditions attached.
Parking your RV would be illegal, for example, on a one-way street, where it would block traffic flow. There aren’t any federal or state laws that prohibit motor homes, but they may be prohibited by local government in a particular area or even in a development by the Homeowners Association.
In most areas where parking regulations govern RVs, signs will be erected giving details of what you may or may not do on the city streets. Be aware of these notices and ensure you follow the rules to avoid prosecution.
Where it is illegal to leave your RV, for practical purposes, you are still allowed to stop for a brief time to load, offload, or maintain your motor home.
Parking may also not be allowed during certain hours of the day to prevent traffic congestion or after midnight to prevent camping overnight.
Parking an RV on the Street Allowed by Permit
To prevent uncontrolled use of streets for parking recreational vehicles, many cities have introduced permits allowing limited parking rights, usually for a fee. The terms of these permits will vary from town to town, but an example that is quite typical is from Gardena, California.
In Gardena, no RV can remain stationary on any public street, park, or public space from 10pm to 6am without a permit issued by the Chief of Police. With the necessary permit, the vehicle can park in a residential street within a specified block close to the residential address given on the permit application during the prohibited hours.
The permit is issued to a resident for his own RV or for a guest of the resident, who has to prove he is the owner of the vehicle and is, in fact, a guest of the resident. The permit must be prominently displayed on the windscreen and issued for a maximum of sixty days in any twelve-month period.
Strict conditions apply to the permit, including a ban on any electrical, water, or sewerage connections. The rig may not be used for habitation while parked. The permit can also be revoked if the vehicle falls into a state of disrepair or becomes a nuisance in the area.
Parking a Recreational Vehicle in a Rest Area
Rest stops are parking areas along highways and major roads designed to allow drivers to take a break, stretch their legs, and relax before returning to the road.
Because truck drivers operate under strict regulations, they are the most frequent and most important users of rest areas, so the first thing to remember is to keep your RV away from the parking area used by truckers.
A rule that applies in every state is that overnight camping is prohibited. That means no side tents, no fires, and no cooking will be permitted, and you will need to stay inside your RV while parked in a rest area.
Each state recognizes the need to stop, relax and possibly sleep for an extended period, so overnight parking is accepted in many. The time allowed differs quite markedly, from 2-4 hours in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, and Tennessee right up to 24 hours in Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Only five states prohibit overnight parking – North and South Carolina, Colorado, Tennessee, and Virginia. In certain other states, there are no specific laws regarding overnight parking, so you should be able to do so. In alphabetical order, these states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. In these states, you should still look for individual restrictions posted at rest areas.
Places Where RVs Can Be Parked
Small class B RVs fit into most normal parking bays, so they can be legally parked just about anywhere during the day as long as they follow the local parking regulations. Bigger RVs have a bigger problem – there are plenty of places where short-term RV parking is allowed, often for free, but it’s essential to know where these are. Here are some places to check out:
- Casinos are relatively secure places to park and allow overnight RV parking. Still, it is always better to check with management beforehand.
- Cracker Barrel parking lots offer 24-hour security and designated RV parking and are free – a first choice for many RV travelers.
- Cabela’s Sporting Goods Stores are RV-friendly, and while you might not find them as easily as a Walmart, they are a good option.
- Church sites often have parking areas that will provide quiet overnight parking for your RV, but it’s important to get permission first.
- Public Space: many towns throughout the US have parks and recreational areas with designated camping areas and RV facilities. Booking your space may be necessary beforehand.
- Private land: as mentioned, each city and suburb may have its own regulations, but parking an RV is legal in most cases, with limitations on how long one can park, with the permission of the owner of the land.
Apart from national and state park campsites, which are very popular and may not have space for your RV, there are BLM (Bureau of Land Management) sites in national forests and national monuments around the country, which offer no amenities like showers and bathrooms but are free, uncrowded and peaceful – great places to park and camp!
Parking at Walmart and Costco – Are They All Available?
Walmart and Costco parking lots are generally recommended as being RV-friendly if you need to stay over in a city. Both are spread across the country, and both have a corporate policy of welcoming RVs and allowing them to park overnight where possible.
Despite this policy, remember that local government regulations may not allow overnight parking. So, again it’s recommended that you check with the store manager whether staying over is permitted. In most cases, it will be but be sure to check.
There are some things that you cannot do when parked at a Walmart or Costco, and some that you should do – let’s list them briefly:
- Arrive as late as you can, and leave early, to minimize disruption to other customers
- Park as far as possible from the entrance so shoppers can take the most convenient parking spaces.
- Don’t stay more than one night – it’s a parking lot, not a campsite.
- Don’t put out your slides, minimize the space you occupy, and don’t put out camping equipment.
- Return the favor of being allowed to park by using the store to buy supplies.
- Don’t leave any trace of your overnight stay when you leave – take all your waste with you to dispose of later in the correct place.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve answered most, but here’s a brief summary of FAQs and their answers.
- Where is it legal to park my RV? Very few cities prohibit motor homes but regulate where they may park and for how long. Overnight parking is only generally allowed on city streets if a permit has been issued, but private land, parking lots, and designated RV areas can be used with the owner’s express permission.
- What are the rules for parking an RV on a residential street? Three possible restrictions apply – firstly, it may be prohibited altogether, or it may be allowed for a limited period with a permit, and thirdly it might be permitted for a certain number of hours during the day. Much depends on local government policy.
- What are the recreational vehicle parking restrictions? The RV may not be used as a base for any camping activity. It cannot be connected to any utilities. The period allowed to remain parked varies from 2 to 24 hours, depending on local regulations. It must not impede the access of other vehicles.
- Can you park an RV in front of your house? No federal laws prohibit parking your RV in front of your home. Still, HOA regulations or local by-laws may limit the period.
- How long can you park an RV on the street? It depends on the local regulations, but it can range from five hours in San Clemente to seventy-two hours in Los Angeles.
- Can you park an RV in a regular parking lot? A small van-type RV can park in a standard parking lot as long as it’s not used as accommodation.
- Where do people park their RVs when not in use? They may build an RV garage on their private land, fence the RV off in the back or side yard of their private property, and cover it with a custom-made fitted cover.
- Do any cities allow you to park your RV overnight for free? Yes, many cities will allow free overnight parking and don’t charge a permit fee as long as the local regulations are complied with.
- Can you park an RV in your driveway? In most cities in the US, there is no law preventing you from parking in your driveway. Local regulations may limit the number of days parking is allowed, or the Home Owners Association may insist on certain conditions being met.
- Can an RV park overnight at rest stops? Yes, for limited periods and with no camping activity allowed.
There are very few cities in the US where the answer to the question “Can you park your RV on the street?” is a definite ‘No.” Conversely, no town or city will allow RVs to park wherever they want, irrespective of whether they are blocking traffic or in any way unsafe.
Regulations apply in every city and town and vary considerably. At the end of the day, though, there will always be a safe place to park an RV. As long as RV trippers use care, courtesy, and common sense, they’ll never have a problem with the local authority.