Is It Legal To Sleep In Your Car In NSW?

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Whether you’re trying to save money on a long road trip, or you just need a place to sleep at night, sleeping in your car is something everyone has considered at least once. While sleeping in your car is never an ideal situation, it occurs more frequently than you may believe. It’s a cost effective, safe, and relatively comfortable option compared to splurging on hotels or camping outdoors. However, it might come as a shock to you to learn that sleeping in your car is illegal in some jurisdictions.

As there are currently no federal Australian laws against car camping, states and councils legislate the issue differently. With some regional variety from state to state, conducting research prior to sleeping in your car is extremely important to ensure you don’t end up with a hefty fine.

Can you sleep in your car in NSW?

Sleeping in your car in NSW is perfectly legal and even encouraged after alcohol consumption.

The NSW Local Government Act states that individuals sleeping or living in a car on a street is legal as long as the road permits parking. The NSW Roads and Maritime Services even encourages long distance drivers to take breaks between driving to park and rest. The only limitation to this rule is that you must not breach any parking laws which are occasionally placed in areas to prevent car campers from staying for extended periods of time. If you have parked your vehicle to sleep in a restricted area, you may be requested to move or issued a fine.

Recently, complaints made by Marrickville residents were received by the City of Sydney about backpackers camping in parking lots. To address this issue in response to the complaints, the council introduced new parking laws within Marrickville to prevent long term car campers. Since then, councils have introduced firmer time limits on parking to discourage people from sleeping in their cars for long periods. Beaches are a good example of using parking limits in order to stop drivers from sleeping in their cars. Additionally, Sydney’s CBD is another location that is extremely difficult to park a vehicle for extended periods of time. The safest option if you’re intending to sleep in your car is driving away from popular tourist destinations where parking for extended periods is easier and lawful.  

Sleeping in your car after consuming alcohol

When it comes to sleeping in your car after consuming alcohol, you may still get sanctioned for drunk driving even if you may not have been physically driving. In fact, cases have been brought forward where individuals with the intention of sleeping in their car have been penalised. This is because possessing car keys while sitting in the driver’s seat is enough to demonstrate an intention to drive. If you intend to sleep in your car after drinking, ensure you sleep in the backseat of your car or distance your keys from your car’s ignition.

Conclusion

In NSW, sleeping in your car is perfectly legal as long as individuals abide by parking laws, particularly around backpacker and tourists’ areas. Contacting the Local Council is a safe way of ensuring if you can sleep in a certain area in your vehicle, without being interrupted and breaking local laws.