Walmart’s overnight parking policy was a well-known secret for years. Not only could people park their vehicles, but they could also set up campers and sleep there, too. Many a traveler, or just people who found themselves down on their luck, have taken advantage of this. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated it. Between people not cleaning up after themselves or overstaying their welcome, many stores have started banning this practice, which leads many to wonder, “Will Walmart tow my car?”
If the location allows overnight parking and you have made arrangements with the store manager, they will likely not tow your vehicle. However, not all locations offer overnight parking, and they do have the legal right to have your vehicle towed.
You should talk with the store manager before planning to stay. If they are not aware of your plans, they may believe the vehicle was abandoned and have it towed. This is especially true if the car remains there for an extended period. If your car breaks down and you need a few days to arrange a tow, talk to the storage manager about your options. It’s never a good idea to assume your vehicle will be safe because it is in a parking lot.
Can Walmart Legally Have My Car Towed?
While it may seem like an outrage to have your vehicle stolen by a tow truck and held hostage in an impound lot, it’s technically legal. Walmart is a private company and, as such, they do have the ability to remove any vehicles that are considered abandoned.
Most of the time, this can be avoided by talking to the store manager. They will either tell you that you can stay there, and will not call the police, or they will tell you that you cannot stay, and you’ll know not to park in a place where you will be towed. Additionally, if you have stayed for an extended period, they have the right to ask you to leave, even if they allow overnight parking.
It is also worth noting that just because you went into Walmart earlier in the day does not mean that you are still a “customer” in the parking lot.
Most of the time, the police will give you a chance to move if you are sleeping in your vehicle. They may tap on your window, explain the rules, and ask that you leave. However, if you leave your vehicle in the parking lot, they may not be able to contact you prior to having the car towed. This content belongs to moc.sotuaytsur
There have also been reports of people who had their vehicle booted while they were sleeping in the car. They were told they had to pay a fine before the boot would be removed, and if they did not pay it, the car would be towed.
Why Does Walmart Allow People to Park Overnight?
There are those who say that Walmart started allowing customers to park overnight because the founder, Sam Walton, had a soft spot for truckers and would allow them to sleep in the parking lots when making local deliveries. However, others have pointed out a much more obvious reason—money.
Many Walmart stores are now open 24 hours a day and it would be difficult to determine who’s shopping and who’s not. It seems likely that someone realized this and decided to use it to their advantage as a marketing ploy to gain a competitive edge over their competition.
Why Have Some Walmart Stores Banned People from Staying Overnight?
It’s possible that both theories are true. Maybe the founder did have a soft spot for truckers, maybe he realized the potential to bring in customers, or maybe he traveled a lot and understood how beneficial this service could be. Either way, it was well-received, maybe too well received.
The idea was to allow travelers a place to stay for one night, but there were those who made it their full-time home. Due to Walmart allowing this practice, it was often difficult for them to remove people from the property if they stayed too long. This forced many stores to stop allowing overnight parking altogether. Vandalism, laws, and local ordinances also forced the stores to re-examine their overnight policy.
Why Would People Sleep in a Walmart Parking Lot?
There are many reasons why someone may end up needing to sleep in a parking lot, but why would someone choose to sleep in Walmart’s parking lot?
- Money: The price of a hotel room for one night is between $70-$170 dollars, and that doesn’t include suites or rooms with extra amenities. During long road trips, or periods when someone has found themselves in between homes, paying that every night just for a place to sleep can become a massive drain on the wallet. Especially if they don’t have the money to spend.
- Availability: If you sleep in a parking lot, you don’t have to worry about which hotels will have rooms available or making reservations well in advance. Simply drive in and park. Additionally, you do not have to adhere to strict rules regarding when you can check-in and when you have to check out.
- Shopping: When you stay in a store parking lot, you can park, sleep, and buy any supplies you might need all at one stop. This can save you a lot of time and hassle if you are driving an RV. Additionally, some stores have gas stations and restaurants built into them, which is a bonus.
How Can I Find Out If a Walmart Allows Overnight Parking?
Although some stores have banned overnight parking at their location, others still allow people to park for one or two nights. There are websites and apps that claim to hold a list of Walmarts that allow overnight stays, but these may be outdated, and you could quickly find yourself getting removed from the property in the middle of the night if you’re not careful.
The best practice is to call ahead of time and inquire about the store policy. You’ll want to call the location where you plan to stay because the store policies change from location to location. Furthermore, sometimes it comes down to which manager is on duty that evening.
Always remember the name of the employee who you spoke with about staying because if their shift ends, and another employee comes on and calls the police, you’ll be able to prove that you have spoken with someone prior to parking your vehicle for the night.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.