Sleeping in Your Car in Montana? Here’s Some Advice
If you take a drive around any of Montana's larger cities, you'll likely find areas where cars, RVs, and camp trailers are parked with people living inside of them.
The cost of renting or buying a home in Montana has become increasingly unreasonable in recent years. Many people simply can't afford to live in places like Bozeman or Missoula anymore. You may have even noticed people living in their vehicles along neighborhood streets. It's quite sad, to say the least.
Many of the people living in vehicles aren't doing so by choice. The fact is, they don't have anywhere else to go. It's easy to be judgmental, but most people are just trying to get by. They work full-time jobs and are productive members of society. You can't blame people for wanting to live in Montana, even if it means sleeping in a car every night for some.
Can You Legally Sleep in Your Car in Montana?
Fortunately, it's not illegal to sleep in your car in Montana. You just need to make sure you're not on private property and that overnight parking is permitted. Some larger retailers allow overnight stays in their parking lots, but you'll need to ask for permission first. The City of Bozeman has specified areas for individuals living in vehicles.
If you need to sleep in your car for a few nights, it's important to ask for permission. Don't assume that sleeping in your car is permitted. If you don't ask for permission, you could get charged with trespassing or worse. If you're traveling from state to state, here's a handy guide so that you know the rules about sleeping in your car. According to Montana law, a vehicle can't be parked on the side of a public highway for longer than 48 hours or on a city street or state, county, or city property for longer than 5 days.
Can You Sleep Overnight at Rest Areas in Montana?
There are no overnight stays allowed at Montana rest areas, but that doesn't mean you can't stop for a quick nap during the day. If you're traveling and feel exhausted, it might be a good idea to pull over and take a break. For a list of rules at Montana rest areas, click here.
To sum things up, yes, sleeping in your car in Montana is legal as long you're mindful of private property and don't cause problems. With that being said, if you're able to, you should avoid sleeping in your car during the winter.