Here’s what you need to know about sleeping in your car in Santa Barbara, California. Utilizing your own car, RV, or suv to sleep in at times can be a rewarding experience. Many individuals or couples end up sleeping in their car for pure convenience, saving time, or planning their trip on a budget to save a few extra bucks.

Sleeping in your car may not be as comfortable as you might imagine, but this is actually more popular than you think.

Before scrolling down this list of places you can sleep in your car in Santa Barbara, California, check out these similar recommendations: Where Can You Sleep in Your Car in San Diego? or Where Can You Sleep in Your Car in San Francisco California

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Why people sleep in their cars

Often times, many people find themselves sleeping in their car for various reasons. For one, it saves you a lot of time when getting to your next destination. You can quickly pull off to a convenient and safe location to experience car camping with scenic views. Nonetheless, you are saving money along the way! If you can sacrifice comfort, we definitely recommend car camping to save money and get a head start on your day.

Places to sleep in your car in Santa Barbara, California

When visiting Santa Barbara, take in a visual feast around every corner and on each paseo. This destination was created for Instagram, with sparkling oceanfronts, Spanish-inspired buildings, lavish gardens, and sunsets that deserve the hashtag #nofilter. Many areas below, especially the campgrounds, will offer next-level scenes to inspire your car-camping adventures.


First on the list of places to sleep in your car in Santa Barbara, California, would be Walmart. There are several locations located all throughout the United States. It is never hard to find a local Walmart nearby. Now, be advised, that some Walmart locations vary so be sure to check signs or call the store manager to double-check.

Below is a list of Walmarts near Santa Barbara:

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Casino Parking Lots

Drinking and gambling go hand in hand late into the night. Many casinos expect you from the beginning to be gambling at odd hours of the day. Therefore, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary to be sleeping in your car in a casino parking lot.

Below is a list of casinos near Santa Barbara:

24-Hour Gyms

24-hour gyms say it all in their name. The below gym locations are open 24 hours a day. If need be, you could probably get by a night or two sleeping in your car in a 24-hour gym because cars are expected to be in the parking lot late evenings or early mornings.

Below is a list of 24-hour gyms in Santa Barbara:


There are plenty of campgrounds located in Santa Barbara for a reason. Santa Barbara is a beautiful city in itself, located along the coastline of California offering stunning views every which way. It is known for its lengthy, sunny, and sandy beaches so you might as well catch some waves while you’re stopping in this city. Some campgrounds are free, come on a first-serve basis, or have a small entry fee. Be sure to check online and reserve ahead of time if need be.

Below is a list of campgrounds in Santa Barbara:

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Rest Areas and Truck Stops

Rest areas are for resting! Find one along your route to or from Santa Barbara. These are convenient to stop here for a quick overnight rest. The truck stops are utilized for truck drivers on their route when they work long hours. Note, that truck stops are not just for trucks. Many other vehicles will sleep in their car if they are too tired to drive. Rest areas or truck stops usually have bathrooms or picnic tables too.

Residential Parking or Apartment Complexes

Apartment complexes come with plenty of parking spaces designated for guests. Stealth car camping should be pretty easy as there is a wide selection of residential parking so long as you do not need a permit in that neighborhood. Beware of the occasional street sweeping during the weekdays. Often times you’ll either get a ticket or a warning if you are parked during those hours of street sweeping.

Large Shopping Centers

Generally speaking, sleeping in your car in a large shopping center overnight is not permitted. Although, some shopping centers have security patrolling the outer edges of the parking lot to ensure their safety. If you need to sleep in a parking lot in a shopping center, be as stealthy as possible using our tips below.

Below is a list of shopping centers in Santa Barbara:


The same goes for sleeping in your car at a church parking lot. Most of the time you need permission to overnight car camp here. Some religions endeavor to make their holy places into refuges for the needy. As a result, certain churches–as well as other sites of worship–allow visitors to sleep in the parking lot.

Many churches and other places of worship are designated as secure residences. For example, several municipalities have established a “Safe Parking Program.” The city maintains a list of sites where individuals can park and stay the night in this initiative. Some of these parking lots are municipal-owned while others belong to business owners or nonprofits.

Below is a list of churches in Santa Barbara:

Hotel Parking Lots

Finally, hotels often have their own parking lots, which means that you are essentially on private property if you park there. They may certainly boot you off the lot if you are caught trying to sleep there without paying for a room.

Below is a list of hotels in Santa Barbara:

Tips for sleeping in your car in Santa Barbara, California

  • Turn off your vehicle wherever you sleep. Don’t risk carbon monoxide buildup or waking up to a dead car battery. Also, if your car is constantly running, you will burn through the gas quickly.
  • Put some shades over the windows to cover up the interior. This will also avoid the chances of theft. To cover up the windows, you can use dark sheets or blankets draped down. Tinting the windows also help.
  • Keeps your car keys near you but not in the ignition.
  • If it gets hot, crack open a window.
  • Move on to a new parking lot or location each night.
  • The later in the evening that you park, the better. Try not to let anyone see you park your car and not get out. Drive off early in the morning before anyone has a chance to walk by and look inside your car.

What to pack for sleeping in your car

  • Towels
  • Toiletries such as wipes, hair brush, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Phone charger
  • Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, or an air mattress if your car is big enough
  • Cooler
  • Clothes
  • Plenty of water and snacks
  • First aid kit
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Trash bags

Additional fun car camping essentials to pack:

  • Camping games and cards
  • Light backpacks for day hiking
  • Books and journals to write in
  • Camera
  • Portal chargers

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Sleep in Your Car in Santa Barbara?

Many cities, like Santa Barbara, do not make it easy for their homeless inhabitants: City legislation prohibits people from sleeping in their automobiles, and fines imposed on those who do might result in the loss of their only home.

However, the Safe Parking program in Santa Barbara, run by the nonprofit New Beginnings Counseling Center, offers over 23 private parking lots throughout the city for vehicles to park overnight. There are bathrooms and some security in each lot. But amenities vary by lot. This has helped countless of homeless individuals each night. Other cities are catching on slowly and incorporating more Safe Parking programs.

Why are cities banning you from sleeping in your car in Santa Barbara?

With the rise of inflation and increase in rent, more people have experienced homelessness. Some cities have put in an effort to address homelessness and monitor the streets to keep a clean environment.

Although, lifting people out of unsheltered homelessness is a problem that each city faces differently—by constructing more and more affordable housing, increasing the number of shelter beds, improving mental health treatment, and amending eviction laws.

Sleeping in Your Car in Santa Barbara Law Enforcements

Sleeping in your car is preferable to driving while exhausted, and you are unlikely to get in trouble with the police for taking a nap. However, there are numerous laws regulating vehicle operation and parking in public and private spaces. Municipal legislation establishes additional rules.

Conclusion for sleeping in your car in Santa Barbara, California

Living or sleeping in a vehicle is usually not explicitly prohibited, but certain parking spots at specific times and places may be off-limits, and some states have outright banned the practice. Be aware of certain laws that pertain to sleeping in your car in each city. Typically, most areas listed here are the safest options for stealth car camping so long as you read the signs in your surrounding areas or when in doubt, ask. Therefore, you should conduct the necessary research prior to parking overnight.

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