I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
Many RV owners may not realize this, but it is their responsibility to park their motor homes, travel trailers and campers according to the laws of the areas they either live in or are visiting.
Some buy into the dream that ownership gives them the right to camp or park freely no matter where they are, but this is far from true.
In the past this was not much of an issue, but in recent years recreational vehicle ownership has become hugely popular. Millions of Americans own live and travel in these units and some find themselves with problems because they did not take the time to research the, camping, parking and storage regulations of the geographic areas in which they live or visit.
As a result, they are shocked when they receive citations, are towed or are asked to move their travel units to other places, even when their units are parked on their own property! Can I Live in an RV on My Own Property? explains more about this specific problem, and those planning to live in a travel unit on their own land would be wise to read it before they make their plans.
Regulations Can Be Confusing
Because federal, state and local governments all make their own rules, people cannot just assume that each area has the same regulations. They don’t. Here is an example of the regulations from Gardena, California.
A simple example is that one county may allow unlimited overnight on street motor home parking, but the one right next store may limit it to three nights or may totally ban it!
To avoid problems, the best thing RV owners can do is to research the rules before choosing where to stay unless they plan to camp in a designated, legal area.
One helpful article has been posted online by AVVO, a group of attorneys that people can access for general access and information on a variety of topics. It gives a brief overview of places where RVers can park without running into problems.
Many who read it will question the rationale behind the decisions various governments make, and some will become angry because they will feel as though they are being discriminated against, but the truth is that common sense should be what guides people when it comes to these issues.
- travelers should always look for signs that provide information about where and when they can park their vehicles and follow the guidelines given in those signs,
- they should also make sure they understand which lands are denoted as public and which are private and
- if unsure, they should always seek permission to park or store their travel units.
People should also remember that ignorance of the law is no excuse. “I didn’t see the sign” or “I had no idea this land was part of somebody’s ranch” will not be accepted as excuses for parking illegally.
Sneak Camping Is Always a Mistake
People who buy recreational vehicles thinking they can save money by parking overnight in questionable areas really can create serious problems for themselves.
Just because there is space on a residential street it does not mean that one has the right to park his travel unit in it overnight, even if it is located near or in front of the home of a friend or relative.
Most people don’t take kindly to having large vehicles sitting in front of their homes, and they especially dislike it when the owners spend the night in them.
They pay a good deal of money for their houses and don’t want strangers staying in front of them in vehicles that
- block their views,
- take up their parking areas or
- deplete the values of their neighborhoods
A fair number of people choose to sneak camp regularly. This behavior has led to increasing numbers of regulations that result in fairly serious consequences such as being towed or being fined because sneak camping is a form of trespassing.
Until they get caught, those who do sneak camp love doing it, and apparently don’t realize that they are stepping on the toes of fellow citizens.
The bottom line here is that if you cannot afford to camp properly and with respect to other people, you should forget about RVing!
Where Can One Park Legally?
As stated above, there are designated areas all over the country where RV owners can park, store or camp in their travel units.
These include but are not limited to
- places where city or county zoning allows legal parking,
- certain city and county parks,
- areas that display signage that permits such parking,
- businesses that have given permission for people to park on their property,
- public and private campgrounds that allow free parking,
- certain casino campgrounds,
- private property that is zoned for RV parking and
- fairground camping areas that give permission
It is important to note here that not all businesses with the same name have similar parking rules. For example, some Walmart stores allow overnight parking but others do not. This is why people should always ask before parking!
Why RV Parking Laws Exist
Someone with an extremely expensive motor home is unlikely to understand why he cannot park it on the common element of the condo he owns. However, it is for his own safety and that of his neighbors that zoning laws like this exist.
Large vehicles make vision difficult for others, can cause accidents and can make walking and parking automobiles unsafe. Further, many feel that having them on the grounds lowers property values.
They cause arguments between residents and make for general hard feelings between them.
People who own homes and condominiums want them to look nice and not be “littered” with outsized vehicles.
Also, some owners use their units as housing for visitors, and others even go so far as to empty sewage on property. Some rest areas have even closed their gates because of this disrespectful and unsanitary practice on the part of some RV owners.
The only thing that keeps people who do such things under control is the threat of consequences, and you cannot have consequences if you don’t have laws!
These Tips Also Apply to Illegally Parking an RV
The Bottom Line
Those who own motor homes, travel trailers and campers need to pay attention to the zoning laws where they live and travel so that they don’t create problems for themselves or others.
They may not like the rules, but they have to understand that the properties and highways in this country are meant to be shared, so that everybody can enjoy nice driving and living experiences.
This can be easily accomplished when people know their limits and abide by them, which means knowing ahead of time where you can legally park your RV.
If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of doing the research, all you have to do is stay in campgrounds and pay to store your RV in privately owned facilities. It may cost a few dollars, but it can save you a world of problems.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on September 26, 2019:
Yep, times have changed
Liz Westwood from UK on September 26, 2019:
I remember years ago when RV owners could park overlooking the Mediterranean sea in the South of France. Then someone in the French government had the bright idea of putting height restricting barriers across the entrances. I guess as RVing has become more popular the parking restrictions have increased. This is a very useful article for RV owners.