Look, we’ve all been there. Whether it’s after a big night, on a road trip, or because your cousin snores like a freight train, sleeping in your car sometimes seems like your best option. Of course, sleeping in your car is never an ideal choice, but it’s more common than you might think.

is it illegal to sleep in your car

So, is it illegal to sleep in your car?

Because Australian road rules are set by states, there is some regional variety.

With the exception of Queensland, it’s generally not illegal to sleep in your car in Australia. In most states, if you can legally park somewhere, you can sleep in your car there. However, it is illegal to sleep in your car in Queensland, and some councils have by-laws making it illegal.

In Queensland sleeping in your car is illegal, certainly when parked on the street. In QLD, sleeping in your car is considered a form of camping, and state law prohibits camping outside designated campgrounds. The Northern Territory has similar laws – it’s not technically illegal to camp in a public place, but it’s frowned upon.

Sleeping in your car in NSW is legal and is actually encouraged to avoid driver fatigue. The only limitation to sleeping in your car in NSW is that it must be legal for you to park there. The ACT has similar laws to NSW about sleeping in your car.

In Victoria it’s not illegal to sleep in your car, but many councils have by-laws on the topic. If you’re travelling through Victoria and plan to sleep in your car, you’re best to check with the local council ahead of time.

The remaining states are somewhere in between the extremes of NSW and QLD. It’s not illegal to sleep in your car in Tasmania, South Australia, or Western Australia, but there are stricter laws around doing so near beaches and in parks.

Even in NSW and Victoria, there are some councils that use local parking and camping restrictions to limit the ability to sleep in your car. Byron Bay Council is notorious for this – your best bet is to triple-check street signs nearby for any rules around parking and camping.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car after drinking alcohol?

While it’s often fine to sleep in your car, it’s a different story if you’re over the legal blood alcohol driving limit. If you sleep in your car while over your legal limit (eg 0.05) you could be considered ‘in control’ of your vehicle with the intention to drive, and you could be charged.

That being said, if you’ve had a big night out, sleeping off the booze in your car is always a better idea than driving drunk. You should under no circumstances drive under the influence! However, sleeping in your car while drunk can be interpreted by police as illegal, so do whatever you can to avoid it.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car to avoid fatigue?

Driver fatigue is a major risk factor on country roads – it’s also an illegal form of distracted driving. Pulling over and sleeping in your car is a good way to avoid driver fatigue, and is actually encouraged by some states.

However, as irrational as it might seem, sleeping in your car to avoid driver fatigue is not always legal. For example, sleeping in your car, regardless of your intentions, is still illegal in Queensland.

Is it illegal to live in your car?

No, it’s not illegal to live in your car, as long as you’re legally allowed to sleep in your car wherever you happen to be. We’ve listed the places you’re allowed to sleep in your car above, so keep to that and you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Is it safe to sleep in your car?

Yes and no. In urban areas, it’s generally not a good idea to sleep in a public place, as you’re relatively unprotected from the aggression of others. Sleeping in your car does put you behind a locked door, but you can generally still be seen from outside your car, which increases your risk.

On a rural road, the risk factors are different. Pulling over doesn’t make your car immune from the impact of another vehicle, so you should park your car as far from the road as is practical. Rest stops are a safer place to sleep in your car as they take you off the highway completely.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.