Best Cars to Sleep in for Camping - Dick Hannah Dealerships

Best Cars to Sleep in for Camping

Some of the best cars to sleep in for camping are very practical. These cars accommodate sleeping bags, coolers, heaters, and other types of camping gear.

Essential qualities of a car to sleep in for camping include the following:

Space – a large trunk and a folding backseat are a great starting point for a roomy car to sleep in for camping

Towing capacity – some campers prefer to tow their favorite outdoor and sports equipment such as dirt bikes, kayaks, or mountain bikes

Sufficient engine power – while all-wheel drive isn’t mandatory, it’s good to have sufficient engine power to get off the beaten path with a camping car

Car type and layout that is best for sleeping

When the open road calls you, sometimes you need a vehicle that serves as more than just transportation. If you’re someone who likes to travel, enjoys camping, or seeks out adventure, then you’ve probably thought about sleeping in your vehicle at one point or another. Here at Dick Hannah Dealerships, serving the Portland, Vancouver, and surrounding Pacific Northwest area, we are committed to helping you find the right fit. Let’s explore the best car types and layouts for sleeping.

Spacious SUVs

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are a popular choice for those who intend to sleep in their vehicle. Many of these vehicles come with ample cargo space that can be converted into a comfortable sleeping area by folding down the rear seats. Models such as the Subaru Outback and the Honda CR-V are worth considering, due to their spacious interiors and flat-folding seats.

For a more luxurious option, check out SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban or the Cadillac Escalade. These full-size SUVs provide an even larger sleeping area and premium comfort features, like advanced climate control and plush seating materials, that can make your nights more enjoyable.

Roomy Vans

Vans are another excellent option, especially for extended trips. Their boxy shape and larger dimensions offer more space and flexibility than most other vehicles. Models such as the Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, and the Honda Odyssey are popular choices for their expansive interiors and features like Stow ‘n Go seating, which allows you to create a flat, roomy sleeping area.

Compact Campers

If you’re serious about your road trips and need something designed for sleeping, consider a compact camper. Volkswagen’s modern take on the classic VW Bus, the Volkswagen ID. Buzz, offers a cozy, retro-feel sleeping experience with all the amenities of modern vehicles.

Crossovers and Wagons

If a full-size SUV or van seems like too much, crossovers and wagons can provide a good balance of space, comfort, and drivability. The Subaru Forester, for example, boasts impressive cargo space with its rear seats folded down.

Considerations for Sleeping Comfort

While the type and size of the vehicle are important, there are other factors to consider as well. Look for vehicles with flat-folding rear seats to create a comfortable, level sleeping surface. Privacy can be crucial, so tinted windows or the availability of sunshades might be desirable. Climate control that can run for extended periods without the engine on is also a beneficial feature for those chilly nights.

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Best Vehicles to Sleep In

The following cars and SUVs are known to meet the essential qualities of a car to sleep in. These vehicles are ideal for one-night sleeping as well as for multi-day camping trips.

Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback is a wagon that acts like an SUV. Its tall ground clearance allows you to reach almost any camping destination you want. Subaru’s reliability also makes it one of the best cars to sleep in for camping.

Improved maneuverability makes the Outback feel like a car. A taller driving position makes drivers feel in control, similar to SUVs.

The Outback is spacious. Its trunk allows small mattresses for 1-2 sleepers given its backseats fold down.

The Outback has a 32.5 cubic feet trunk capacity. This is quite large given it’s not a full SUV. This trunk space almost doubles when you fold down the seats in the back to 76.7 cubic feet. Ideal for 1-5 day camping trips, this is one of the most reliable options for new and dedicated campers.


  • High ground clearance (above 8.7 inches)
  • Ideal for rocky terrains
  • Available in all-wheel drive


  • Not as tall as an SUV for rooftop awnings

Nissan Pathfinder

As a true off-road vehicle, Nissan Pathfinder is recommended for some of the most demanding terrains for camping. Pathfinder is a true workhorse when it comes to dealing with heavy loads.

The 2022 version of the Pathfinder comes with a 284 horsepower V6 engine that’s made to last.

Campers love the Pathfinder for its powerful engines, high ground clearance, excellent towing capacity, and roomy interior that allows sleeping for 1-2 sleepers. With folded seats, the Pathfinder has a 79.5 cubic feet trunk capacity.


  • Very good off-road capabilities
  • 2WD and 4WD driving modes
  • Great for towing (up to 6.000 lbs)


  • 360-degree camera system not available on the base model

Subaru Forester

The new Subaru Forester is one of the most reliable Subaru cars you can sleep in. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable starting at just over $20.000. This makes it a good deal and even if it comes with a less potent engine, it can still do well in just about any camping situation.

Its trunk space is smaller than in other SUVs. However, it can be expanded to a maximum of 63 cubic feet which means you can sleep in it both with air mattresses and with sleeping bags.


  • Affordable
  • Economic fuel consumption
  • 5 in-ground clearance


  • Smaller trunk compared to its rivals

Jeep Wrangler

The classic Wrangler is one of the most sought-after vehicles for sleeping in while camping. It’s compatible with many rooftop tents as well as offers the space to sleep inside the off-road vehicle.

Jeep offers up to 67.4 cubic feet of trunk space with folded seats on its new Wrangler. This is a bit less than on the Toyota 4Runner but the vehicle is known for excellent off-road capabilities, recommended for some of the most remote camping locations.

With impressive 9.7” ground clearance, Jeep Wranglers are recommended for rocky terrains and just about any remote off-road camping spot an off-road vehicle can reach.


  • High ground clearance (9.7 inches)
  • Large access trunk door
  • Rugged durable construction


  • Not the most refined choice of engines

Toyota 4Runner

Toyota 4Runner is one of the roomiest cars you can sleep in. This Toyota comes with a maximum trunk size of 89.7 cubic feet, making it ideal for mattresses, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, and all other camping gear you need.

Very high ground clearance recommends the 4Runner for almost any camping terrain. Its 5-speed automatic electronic transmission does a good job even when the car is fully loaded.

A powerful V6 engine of almost 300 horsepower further recommends it for easy highway miles. You won’t struggle to get to your destination driving such a powerful engine.


  • Roomy interior for sleeping
  • High ground clearance (9.6 inches)
  • 4L V6 engine


  • Not the most fuel-efficient choice

Volkswagen Golf

Golf cars are arguably the best hatchbacks to sleep in. Given this is a hatchback, modern Golf doesn’t go the distance when it comes to stretching your legs. You might even need to sleep in the front seat at times. But it works for short camping trips of only 1-2 nights.

The compact Golf is a good choice for occasional campers. It doesn’t have the ground clearance of other vehicles but it has good fuel economy and a practical size that allows you to park it easily once back home as this is a true city car.

The Golf comes in many versions. The Golf R is ideal for the ultimate engine power. But the R is overkill for camping as the MK8 does a good job for those who love outdoor adventures.

The main problem with the Golf is that its trunk space is limited to a maximum of 34.5 cubic feet with folded seats, which means it’s not the most comfortable car for multiple nights of in-car sleeping. But it works for 1-2 nights alone.


  • Easy to park
  • Highly reliable
  • Up to 320 horsepower


  • Expensive compared to its rivals
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Where Can You Sleep in Your Car to Camp?

There are several places where you can sleep in your car to camp, but it’s crucial to ensure it’s legal and safe before settling in for the night. Here are a few options:

  1. Campgrounds: Many campgrounds allow car camping, and this can often be the safest and most comfortable option. They usually offer facilities like restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and fire pits, and some may even have electric hookups. Check the campground’s rules before you arrive, as some may require you to stay within a tent, even if it’s just a tent set up beside your car.
  2. Walmart Parking Lots: Many Walmart locations across the country allow overnight parking. It’s always best to check with the store management before you settle in for the night.
  3. Truck Stops: Some truck stops may allow overnight parking. They typically have 24-hour restrooms and often have showers, though there may be a fee to use them.
  4. Rest Areas: Rest areas along highways often allow overnight parking. These areas are usually well lit and have 24-hour restroom facilities, but they can also be noisy due to the constant traffic.
  5. BLM Land and National Forests: Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and national forests often allow dispersed camping, which includes sleeping in your car. However, there are usually no facilities, so you need to be prepared to be entirely self-sufficient.

Final Verdict

Some of the best cars to sleep in for camping are high-ground clearance vehicles with large trunk sizes.

However, it’s worth noting that one doesn’t necessarily need a large SUV or a specialized camping vehicle to enjoy a pleasant overnight stay in nature. Even hatchbacks like the MK8 Golf can offer a viable and budget-friendly alternative. Despite their smaller size, these versatile hatchbacks can still provide a cozy sleeping area for campers who plan to spend a few nights under the stars.

So, whether you opt for a high-clearance SUV or a compact hatchback, the choice ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences. Both types of vehicles can provide a comfortable and satisfying camping experience, allowing you to appreciate the beauty of nature while enjoying a restful sleep at night.

Before you decide, we encourage you to come to Dick Hannah Dealerships and test out the space for yourself. Try folding down the seats and imagine how you would arrange your sleeping space. Our team will be happy to help you find the perfect car to make your road-trip dreams a reality.

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