There are many times where it may make sense to sleep in a hospital parking lot. You never know how long you’ll be waiting around when relatives are in the hospital. I spent a week at a hospital while my dad went through multiple surgeries. It didn’t make sense to drive home when I’d need to head right back up, and I was too worried to head home for the night. So I could either sleep in the waiting room or head out to my truck for a few hours sleep. I was worried about parking overnight at the hospital and sleeping in my car.
Can you park overnight at a hospital and sleep in your car? Yes, in most cases you can park overnight at a hospital and sleep in your car. This happens a lot with family members visiting relatives in the hospital. Some hospitals have policies banning overnight parking, but you can usually get a free overnight pass if a relative is having a surgery that day.
Whether or not you can get away with sleeping in your car in a car camping situation depends on the hospital. They probably won’t notice a stealth camper van in a large lot, but you won’t get away with pulling in a 5th wheel or RV.
If you do plan on camping/sleeping in a hospital parking lot, I recommend choosing a mid-sized hospital away from large cities. Most cities have laws banning sleeping in your car, so hospital security is more likely to kick you out.
You may want to check out one of my other posts: What Stores Allow Overnight Parking?
Can I Sleep In My Car In A Hospital Parking Lot?
It’s very common to see people sleeping in their car in a hospital parking lot. Most hospitals have overnight parking rules, but in most cases you can park overnight and sleep in your car. If you live out of town, it’s much cheaper sleep in your car than pay for a hotel room.
Many people visit hospitals for treatments or checkups, and some people may even stay overnight while they are there. However, many hospital parking policies do not allow overnight parking. Some hospitals have specific lot rules that prohibit overnight parking, while others may allow it only if you have a special permit. If you plan to stay overnight at a hospital, make sure to research the policy beforehand to ensure that you can park legally.
What If I’m Just Trying To Find A Place To Sleep For The Night?
Hospital parking lots are commonly used by the vanlife and stealth camping communities. It’s a safe and convenient place to park with lots of people coming in and out of the lot at all hours. Whether or not you’ll get away with camping in a hospital parking lot will depend on your rig.
A full-sized RV or Travel trailer will draw attention from security, but you can probably get away with camping overnight in a stealth cargo van or small campervan. Just don’t overstay your welcome! You may get away with it for 1 night, but hospitals always have security guards patrolling the lots. Anything that seems unusual will be investigated and you’ll be asked to leave.
Even Though it’s Private Property, You May Still Be Able To Sleep In Your Car
There’s a good chance you’ve heard the saying, “Whatever is not nailed down is mine” The idea behind this phrase is that if someone doesn’t take measures to protect their belongings, anyone can take them. This ideology extends to private property. Just because a piece of land or a building is privately owned doesn’t mean you can’t trespass or sleep on the premises. It should be ok if as long as there’s no security guards telling people to leave.
However, there are some limitations to what you can and can’t do on private property. If you’re going to sleep in your car on private property, be sure to ask the hospital first, because they may force you to leave. If the hospital asks you not to sleep on their land, don’t do it. It’s not worth the argument when you’re already stressed out.
If you are sleeping in your car, be sure to park it in a safe place and lock the doors. If you’re going to sleep on private property, be courteous and respectful of the property owner. You might not know all of their rules, but try to be respectful. Most hospitals won’t cause unnecessary stress on their patients families, just because they’re trying to get a few hours of sleep. A hospital is already stressful; they don’t want to make matters worse.
Some Hospitals Have Rules Against Overnight Parking
Some hospitals have rules banning overnight parking. That’s usually found at large downtown hospitals with multiple buildings. There are so many patients and employees coming in and out of the building that they can’t accommodate long term parking. Hospitals in those areas have rules against overnight parking.
The idea behind the ban is to make it easier for people who need to get around the hospital campus to do so. They want to get cars in and out of the lot fast to avoid causing congestion. It’s also seen as a way to keep the area surrounding the hospital clear for emergencies. There’s usually a 2 hour free parking limit for short visits, and you need to pay for extended stays.
The policy can be inconvenient for patients and their families, who may have to search for parking far from the hospital or pay to park in a lot nearby. They usually have exceptions for long term patients and for relatives with patients in surgery. They’ll wave the fee if you’re family/friend is currently undergoing surgery or you need to stay with a young child.
When my dad’s heart valve was replaced I arrived at 5am and I couldn’t see him until 3am the following morning. Paying $4 every 2 hours would have added up fast!
Rural Hospital Parking Lots Are Too Small For Overnight Stays
Rural hospitals are struggling to keep up with the needs of their patients. Many rural hospitals have small parking lots which can’t accommodate patients who need to stay overnight. This can cause a number of problems for the hospital and its patients.
Most small hospitals have an accessory lot that’s located a short walk away. I had to park in a massive dirt field after one of my surgeries. They usually force a friend or relative to pick you up, but I had just moved to the city. So they decided to make an exception to the rule and asked me to park in an employee lot a few blocks away. One of the elderly patient vans drove me to the lot once I was cleared to leave the hospital.
Hospitals that have small parking lots also have a hard time accommodating visitors, which can make it difficult for family members to see their loved ones. The lots are small so they can’t have visitors stay for more than a few hours at a time.
Beware of Hospital Security Staff If You’re Trying To Sleep In The Car
If you’re trying to sleep in your car outside of a hospital, be aware that security staff may ask you to leave. I learned this the hard way when I was caught sleeping in my car outside of a hospital in downtown Cleveland.
I had just finished a night shift and was visiting my uncle in the ER. So I decided to sleep in my car for a few hours before driving home. Within minutes of dozing off, a security guard came over and asked me to leave. I explained that I was just trying to get some rest before a long drive home, but he insisted that I had to go.
Since then, I’ve heard from multiple nurses that this is a common occurrence at hospitals across the country. So if you’re planning on sleeping in your car outside of a hospital, be prepared for possible harassment from security staff. You may have to get a nearby hotel room if you can’t sleep in your car.
Should I Call the Hospital and Ask for Permission?
Yes I would call the hospital before visiting to ask if you can park overnight and sleep in your car. This is especially important if you are in a remote location or driving long distances and need to skip the night’s sleep. I would also call the hospital to ask if you can park overnight, but not sleep there.
I probably wouldn’t ask for permission if you’re already at the hospital, and absolutely need to sleep. You don’t want to alert the security staff that you’ll be sleeping in the staff. They probably won’t notice if you’re not drawing attention to yourself.
It doesn’t matter what the local laws are, most police officers won’t go out of their way to harass a patients family for sleeping in a hospital parking lot. The parking lots are patrolled by private hospital security, so you won’t get in any legal trouble. The worst thing that can happen is they’ll ask you to leave or go back inside.
Tips for Overnight Parking at Hospital Parking Lots
There are a few things you should know before attempting to park at a hospital overnight. The parking lot may be closed at night, and some hospitals do not allow overnight parking. Additionally, many hospitals have restricted parking areas that are only accessible by hospital staff. If you decide to park at a hospital overnight, be sure to read the parking regulations carefully and familiarize yourself with the specific policy of the hospital you’re visiting. If you see a “Do Not Park Here” signs, turn around and find another place to park.
- Park in the designated lot: There are many rules that come with parking at a hospital, and one of them is to always park in the designated lot. Parking in the wrong spot can lead to a ticket, or worse, getting your car towed. So make sure you always check for signage when you’re looking for a place to park.
- Follow the hospital’s parking rules: When you visit a hospital, the last thing you want to worry about is parking. Unfortunately, many hospitals have confusing and ambiguous parking rules. To avoid any potential issues, it is important to familiarize yourself with the hospital’s parking rules before you visit. Typically, hospitals have reserved spaces for patients and their families, as well as employees. So if you’re not visiting someone who is hospitalized, then you should park in an area that is designated for visitors.
- Check For Time Restrictions: Some hospitals also have time restrictions in place, so make sure you’re aware of how long you can park in a particular spot.
- Park away from other cars: If you plan on sleeping in your car overnight, try to stay out of everybody’s way. Park your car at the far end of the lot so you’re not getting in the way of short term visitors. It’s rare for a security guard to bother you if you’re not causing a problem.
- Make sure your car is locked: Make sure your car is locked to avoid crimes of convenience. Most people won’t smash a window to get in your car, but they may open an unlocked door to grab something off the seat. I doubt you’ll be robbed if you’re sleeping in the car, but it’s nice to have the added safety of a locked car door.
- Keep valuables out of sight: This usually isn’t an issue if you’re sleeping in the car, but you don’t want to have valuables visible when you head inside. Break-ins are a regular occurrence since thieves know people leave their cars unattended for hours at a hospital.