Is it safe? Is it smart? Is it even legal?
Broadly speaking, the answer to all three of the above is often "yes".
Let's start with the most fundamental of these questions: "is it legal"?
While there are still plenty of municipalities that have laws on the books making sleeping in a vehicle illegal, the trend over the past few years has been towards repealing these laws. Despite insane rents and looming affordable housing crises, sleeping in your vehicle is now legal in San Francisco and even New York. Who'd have thought, huh? A judge in Los Angeles recently overturned a 31-year-old law making it illegal to sleep in your car, rightfully pointing out that the law clearly discriminated against the economically disadvantaged, the poor and the homeless.
As to the questions of safety and intelligence, a little due diligence goes a long way. Survey the area before picking a spot to spend the night. Listen to your street smarts and don't make yourself a target. Try and spend the night in populated neighborhoods and try to park on streets with decent lighting. If a certain neighborhood looks suspect, move on. Listen to your gut. If you are planning to spend the night in a quiet residential neighborhood, be sure to be mindful and considerate of your neighbors, and respect private property. Don't remain in any one place for an excessively long time. And make sure you pay attention to parking regulations, nobody wants to get a ticket!
So, next time you find yourself wondering whether or not to give urban camping a shot, take a few minutes to read up on the laws in your chosen city... you might be surprised to find out it's neither as difficult or as scary as you thought!
Lastly, always be mindful of the fact that if you are intoxicated and asleep in your vehicle, there is a chance you can still be charged with DUI. Even if the charges are dropped, it really isn't worth the hassle.
Questions/thoughts? Let us know in the comments.