If you are a new RV owner, or if you are renting an RV, you probably have an idea of how hard it is to park an RV, especially in cities. So, can you park an RV in a parking lot?
Here’s what I’ve learned in parking mine:
Most paid parking lots do not accept RVs as they would take up 2 or more spaces. Usually, the best parking spots for RVs are on the street. But stores such as Target or Walmart do allow RV parking while shopping in their stores, and some Walmarts allow overnight parking.
It’s also worth noting that most parking garages often do not have the clearance to accommodate the height of an RV.
But that’s not all there is to know about parking your RV in the city or on the way to the city. And are there some paid lots (or free ones) that allow you to take up 2 or more spaces?
Just keep reading to learn more!
That there’s an RV.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) July 28, 2018
Can you just park an RV anywhere?
RVs can be parked in metered spots on the street, provided all spaces used to park are being paid for. Most paid surface lots do not accept RVs. Long driveway at private residences can also work provided there is not an HOA restriction against RVs.
Generally, large retail stores, like Walmart, Cabela’s, and Costco, will let you park in their parking lots. And about half of the Walmart stores will let you camp overnight in their lots.
In large cities, like New York, you likely won’t find such stores within the city limits.
The best way to know if the Walmart nearby allows it is with the AllStays Walmart app.
Currently, it’s for iOS only, although you can go to their web browser on a computer or android and access their complete list of Walmart locations that allow boondocking. The website list is free, and the app has a pro version that’s currently $30 or a basic version for $3.00.
And street parking is a huge hassle. In that instance, you would need to park your RV in a campground and take public transportation to your destination.
Most truck stops will allow you to stay overnight, but you should ask first. They usually have showers and free dump stations, too!
Generally, rest areas will allow overnight parking, but rules may vary from state to state. And most will have a 1 night maximum.
If you see a “No Camping” sign, don’t worry, those signs mean that you can’t pitch a tent or sleep on the ground. Sometimes you can find overnight parking at restaurants, city parks, visitor centers, and convention centers.
Always check with the manager of where you want to stay before you do so, though.
This is the RV that has taken up residence between my office and the parking lot. I’m pretty sure nothing bad happens in there. Murder’s not bad, right? https://t.co/ckzIA3xjUZ pic.twitter.com/eyyvvMRHEj
— Tolkien Negro (@marcbernardin) September 25, 2018
Do paid parking lots allow RV parking?
Some paid lots allow RV parking, but most do not, as it limits the number of cars they can accommodate, and it can be hard to navigate an RV through a small parking lot. However, if they do not allow RVs, it will be clearly posted on a sign.
If they do, they may charge more, or they may just allow you to pull through a couple of spots.
You may even be able to find a parking garage to park in. Just keep in mind that there are going to be height restrictions. Make sure you know exactly how tall your RV is before you attempt to pull into a parking garage.
Parking in paid lots is fine during the day, but you might run into some trouble if you try to park overnight.
Some parking lots will allow you to park in them overnight, but not all will. So be sure to ask before you park.
Most people know that the term RV stands for Recreational Vehicle.
Some also know the term motorhome. But did you know that not all RVs are motorhomes? If it is a fifth-wheel or tag-along trailer, it’s an RV, but not a motorhome.
To read more about the differences between RVs and motorhomes, check out this recent article.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Some folks camped out in the mall parking lot after being given pre-evacuation orders at their RV Park. They said the smoke was so bad, it wasn’t worth it to stay and wait it out. #MuseumFire #Flagstaff #azfamily pic.twitter.com/4caP4iKnfh
— Kim Powell (@KimPowellTV) July 23, 2019
Do parking lots charge more for RV parking?
Most parking lots will charge more for oversized vehicles as they require more than 1 space which they normally would get paid separately for. But some charge an hourly rate, no matter what size.
Parking lot rates vary for a variety of reasons.
Some lots will charge a regular flat-rate during the week but have free parking on weekends. Others may charge an hourly rate, with different rates for passenger vehicles, vans, and oversized vehicles.
If there is an area you want to stay in, and you know which lot you want to park in, you should call ahead first to discuss their rates and whether you can park overnight.
If you park in a retail lot, you can park there for free.
Large stores like Walmart, Cabela’s, Costco, and Lowe’s are just a few of the stores that have put out the proverbial “welcome mat” for campers.
Before you park in a retail lot overnight, make sure you ask permission from the store manager and make sure you don’t drink alcohol, as it is possible to get a DUI doing that. There may be municipal regulations that prohibit overnight parking.
Even if you see other RVs parked there, you should still ask permission. It would be terribly inconvenient to get booted out of the parking lot in the middle of the night.
If you stay in a retail parking lot, understand that you can’t treat it like a campground.
Don’t bring out the grill and the camping chairs. And don’t use automatic levelers, as they can damage the pavement. And leave no trace behind.
Make sure you only stay 1 night and take all of your trash with you.
As I travel around all 39 counties in #IA04 for a third time, I wonder if I am the only congressional candidate that sleeps in a RV in a Walmart parking lot? #CantFakeShowingUp pic.twitter.com/xt1X1D9zjy
— J.D. Scholten (@JDScholten) September 23, 2018
Can you park your RV at Walmart or Target while shopping there?
Yes. Walmart and Target are very RV-friendly. Their parking lots are large enough to maneuver RVs through. But generally, it will be easier to park at the back of the lot where there are fewer cars.
Walmart, Target, Costco, Cracker Barrel, and many other businesses love RVers. They will generally have nice, spacious parking lots with room to maneuver even large RVs around.
You can certainly park your RV at any of these places to shop. They will often let you stay overnight, even if you aren’t spending money there.
These places see RVers as great customers, even if you don’t spend money at that store. They know you will spend money with them at other stores.
If you are considering purchasing an RV to live in, there are a few factors you will want to consider.
If you are going to be spending a lot of time on the road, a Class A has all the space and amenities of a home. If you plan on staying long-term in a campground, a fifth-wheel is a more reasonably priced option. To read more about buying an RV to live in, check out this recent article.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Passing by a wide-open Walmart parking lot…
RV owners: pic.twitter.com/he3EQEys0j
— Ben (@Ben_in_yeg) September 10, 2020
Is it safer to park an RV in a parking lot than on the street?
As a general rule, it is safer to park in a parking lot than on the street. Lots are well-lit and often have other overnighters staying nearby, such as 18-wheeler trucks and other RVs. There is safety in numbers.
Street parking allows you to be more exposed to outsiders.
And it may not be allowed in many places. Plus, with many RVs being wider than cars, the possibility of being struck by a passing vehicle is greater too.
If you park in a retail lot, it will be well-lit and may even have security guards. Cracker Barrel and Cabela’s will often have designated RV parking spots and 24/7 surveillance.
Unless you know the city where you are parking on the street, whether it is under surveillance will be hit or miss.
Most truck stops are super RV-friendly.
They offer free overnight parking, and lots of them have free RV dump stations and potable water. They usually cater to truck drivers, which means they have bathrooms and showers available, too. You can even fill your propane tanks at most of them for a fee.
Rest areas are pretty safe, too.
No matter where you stay, be sure to lock your doors and be sensible about your safety. If you ever feel unsafe in an area, or if it just looks sketchy, don’t be afraid to pack up and leave.
Did I answer everything you wanted to know about whether you can park an RV in a parking lot?
There are tons of businesses that offer free overnight parking to RVers. If you choose to stay at a truck stop or retail business, don’t plan on staying for more than one night.
Though, you could probably stay a couple of nights at a truck stop. Don’t forget to take all of your trash with you when you leave.
Remember, it’s not “real” camping but a stop along the way to your final destination.