Some Walmart stores no longer allow overnight parking for any vehicles because of changes to local rules, regulations, or laws. Approximately 58% of U.S. locations still allow RV parking, but that is much lower than the 78% that permitted it in 2010.
When Sam Walton was in charge of Walmart, he knew the value of having customers calling the parking lot of a store home. If someone needed something, they could walk into the building to grab it.
The problem with overnight parking at Walmart involves how people treat this opportunity. In rural areas, most are respectful of the space they use and treat the parking spot as a place to relax and sleep.
Urban Walmart stores are more likely to see long-term camping, people grilling, with sustained trash and waste buildups.
The decision on whether overnight parking is allowed is up to the manager of each store when laws don’t restrict this activity. Please note that a city ordinance overrides the manager’s decision.
Why Is Walmart the Preferred Destination for RVs?
The cost of an RV is already significant for many families. Even with a hefty down payment, the monthly financing is usually several hundred dollars per month.
If you have a large family, the price could be comparable to what you’d spend on a single-family house in some markets.
If Walmart parking lots are not your style, check out Campgrounds Near Me.
When you travel in an RV, you’ve got the added fuel expenses to consider. Although you can save some money by purchasing groceries instead of eating at restaurants, the increased costs accumulate quickly.
Once you add another $25 to $60 per night on your RV parking costs, it doesn’t feel like a feasible transportation option.
That’s why the lure of the Walmart parking lot is tempting for RVs. Most stores have excellent security that patrols the lot, many are open 24-7, and you’ve got plenty of space to stretch out when needed.
Most stores even have a Redbox, which means you can rent a movie after a long day of driving, relax with your family or friends, and get ready for the next day.
Even if you spend the night alone, you know that it will be a peaceful place to get some sleep. With other RVers stopping for the same reasons, you can meet new people, make some friends, and enjoy this lifestyle without added costs tacked on at every stop.
Why Are Overnight Parking Restrictions Happening?
City ordinances that block overnight parking in lots, curbs, or residential streets are not new concepts. The Bay Area’s Menlo Park has enforced strict rules keeping vehicles off of the streets since 1963.
Proponents of these measures say that keeping RVs out of parking lots or on side streets keeps crime levels lower. Officials often say that it reduces congestion, keeps the area clean, and that those benefits lead to safer results.
The law in Menlo Park restricts parking between the hours of 2-5 AM on all residential streets or within 300 feet of a residential area. Local residents can request up to 100 temporary permits each year.
First-time offenses receive a courtesy warning, which means a single overnight stay in an RV wouldn’t be prohibitive. Even the fines issued ($37) for subsequent contacts are often cheaper than the site rental costs in the area.
By keeping the streets and parking lots empty, it is easier to clean and maintain them. Emergency responders appreciate the ordinance because it simplifies the processes of accessing a residence during the overnight areas.
Outside of the RV population that opposes these measures, some homeowners say that it forces them to use their garage for their vehicle instead of as storage or for converted living space.
If you were to ask Sam Walton today what he thought, he’d likely find himself still supporting RVs in his parking lot. Even the company’s website notes that RV families are some of the store’s best customers.
How to Find a Walmart That Allows Overnight Camping
The easiest way to determine if a local Walmart allows overnight RV camping is to contact the store’s manager. Although most know the local rules and have policies that abide by them, getting a “yes” isn’t a guarantee that your stay is legal.
It helps to look for the overnight parking statutes in each community where you plan to travel to see what is possible.
AllStays offers an app for Walmart parking and RV owners to provide this information without making a call.
If you need to find the phone number for a Walmart store to ask about overnight parking, you can search for the company’s website’s closest location. Google My Business also offers this information.
Some Walmart stores have signs posted in their parking lots that say you cannot loiter, solicit, or panhandle on the premises. If you see this information or something similar, you can expect that local ordinances probably prohibit an overnight stay.
Walmart also recommends that you contact the manager at each store before parking your RV to ensure accommodations are available.
If you arrive late in the evening and see several RVs in the Walmart parking lot, it is relatively safe to assume you can park. Most rural stores have fewer restrictions, but it is always better to ask permission than to get a knock on your door late at night from a police officer.
How Safe Is It to Park an RV at a Walmart Store?
Most Walmart stores have security guards that monitor the parking lot at each location. You might not see them patrol in vehicles, but they are reviewing the live camera footage to reduce the risk of problems.
Please keep in mind that most Walmart security guards are not trained to handle potentially violent incidents. They call the police for help in those situations.
Most lots are well-lit, which dissuades the average person from trying to break into your RV. When you add the threat of camera footage identifying them as a suspect, most places are relatively safe.
You can increase your safety by parking in the open, away from others, while staying underneath the available lighting.
Parking at Walmart won’t give you access to electrical or water hookups, but it does offer a free place to spend the night. You can settle into your comfortable bed, read for a while, or drift right off to sleep without worrying any more than you would if you were at home.
What Are the Rules for RV Camping at a Walmart?
Although the primary rules are to obtain permission from the manager and obey whatever posted regulations exist, a few additional considerations should be part of your decision to park overnight at Walmart when driving an RV.
The first rule is to stay one night only. Once you turn it into a multi-evening affair, you’ll start getting more knocks on your door. This issue happens because of the local and national rules on squatting. Walmart is extremely active against any adverse possession threat.
Walmart doesn’t allow grills, lawn chairs, or extended awnings in the parking lot. You can typically take up a single parking space. If you have a longer RV, you’ll want to speak with the manager about how much room you’ll need.
Please remember not to use a hydraulic jack on any soft surface. That includes the parking lot’s asphalt.
It is also a good idea to leave the area cleaner than when you found it. If the current situation makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t stay at that Walmart.
Most RVers say that buying food, supplies, and fuel from the store as a thank you for staying is the best practice.
An additional rule to consider: if you have pets, keep them on a leash. Don’t be those people who leave their waste behind for others to manage.
Where Can I Park My RV at Walmart?
Each Walmart is a little different when managing the exact placement of RVs in the parking lot. One rule applies everywhere: don’t put your vehicle near the front of the store.
You’re typically asked to park along the side of the lot. If the area is spacious, you might be shown a place as far from the store as possible.
Some Walmart parking lots have designated areas with trees, benches, and even picnic tables to use during your stay.
Even when you have permission to spend the night, it is essential to remember that staying at a Walmart is rarely a quiet experience. It’s free and easy to use, but those benefits come at the price of unpredictability.
If you need to hook up to electrical or water, Walmart is not the place to go. Several free hookup RV sites might be in your area that could be close to a store. Combining these two resources can create a low-cost way to travel.
Living the RV life can be lots of fun. When you take advantage of a Walmart parking lot when available, it makes things a little easier to manage.
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