Last Updated on June 12, 2023 by Paul S.
Camping, Road trip, Overlanding, Hiking, and Biking, are only some of the reasons that you may need to sleep in your SUV. It may be a one night deal if you need to get up early to start a very tough day hike or you may be months on the road if you are planning on Overlanding on a budget.
Whatever your reason, sleeping in your SUV can be great for many reasons. Hotel costs are the first thing that I typically think of. Why do you need to spend $200+ on a quick night when you don’t care about using all the amenities you are paying for.
Sometimes sleeping in your car can get you a prime location. If you ever need to start early on a trail then sleeping at the trail head and getting a couple hours more sleep could be better than paying for a hotel and then spending the time commuting over to the trailhead.
In this article, we cover some of the best SUVs to sleep in. Obviously bigger is better but most of the time that big SUV is going to run you some BIG bucks so we cover the smallest to the largest to give you some perspective.
Table of Contents
SUV Sleeping Metrics
We try to provide the most accurate information regarding the length of the back of the vehicle when the seats are folded down. This measurement will vary because there are many variables that come into play to find this measurement like how far the front seats are pushed forward or inclined.
The flat length the SUV can provide ensures comfortability during sleep, especially for taller people. Typically the width should not be an issue for most of these vehicles as they typically range from 36 inches between the wheel well to around 48 inches.
Another consideration for these reviews are the humps that are created when the seats are folded down. Most of the small SUVs have these humps because the seats simply cannot fold flat. The larger SUVs can fold flat so even if you have a small sleeping pad you will not notice the transitions from the third row of seating to the second row of seating.
So start your reading below to learn which SUVs are the best to sleep in!
Best Small Suv To Sleep In
The Forester is known for its incredible all-wheel drive and relatively high ground clearance. With this being a popular vehicle for people to camp in and explore the wilderness, it makes it a great vehicle to sleep in if things get rough outside.
The length of the cargo area from the door to the folded-down seat is around 60 inches. If you move the front seats forward you can get a total of around 79 inches which is roughly 6.5 feet. This should be great for most people to get some sleep in. As with most vehicles on this list, you will need something to fit into the gap between the second row and the front row seats to support your head.
Here are some discussions on Reddit regarding sleeping in your forester you might find helpful.
Honda discontinued the Element in 2011 but if you can find one of these on the used car market jump on it quick and here is why. The Element was geared for car camping as the interior was easily transformed into a space to lay down.
The interior length of the element wasn’t anything special coming in around 66 inches or 5.5 feet. The way to make it longer is by folding down the tailgate which adds around another 18 inches or 1.5 feet. The tailgate is made to fold down and provide a flat surface.
This flat surface makes it great for placing a camping mattress down to improve your sleep.
This by far is the best choice because you are not going to be sleeping on seats that don’t fold down flat all the way. There are only two problems. One is that it may be difficult to locate a Honda Element for sale. The second problem is that you will need to put a tent over the folded-down hatchback to protect you from the elements.
Check out autotrader.com for a quick look to see if you have a Honda Element close by.
The Honda CRV definitely looks like a smaller SUV but it has a length of 70 inches when the middle seats are folded down. The newer CRVs fold down nicely and create a flat surface.
With 34 mpg on the highway, it may be a decent option if you are planning on being on the road for a while.
The Jeep Renegade is a very small SUV. So when trying to sleep in this vehicle be ready to curl up and get cozy if you are around 6 feet tall. The total length from the rear door to the front seats is around 66 inches to 68 inches depending on how far you have the front seats pushed up.
Here is some discussion from a renegade forum regarding sleeping in the back of a Renegade and people’s experiences. Check it out to get an understanding of how you would fit into one.
The Ford Escape provides one of the smaller spaces to sleep in. The total support it provides when the back seats are folded down is around 5 feet. But there is a gap of around 7 inches between the folded seat and the front row of seats so if you can find something to gap that distance it can make it a little more comfortable.
Overall this is an SUV we wouldn’t recommend to sleep in for long adventures but you can definitely make it work for a short time frame.
The biggest issue with sleeping in a CX5 is that the seats do not fold all the way down to create a flat surface. If you have a lot of gear that also makes it a very tight squeeze.
From researching comments from owners of the CX5 if you are around 6’1 you can definitely make it work as long as you pull the passenger seat forward and tilt it upright.
As with all SUVs, the gap between the seat and the folded down seats will need to be filled. To solve the issue of the seats not folding down all the way you could try and smooth that out with some foam from a DIY store and then place your camping mattress over that.
Best Mid Size SUVs to Sleep In
The Chevy Equinox is not typically known as a camping vehicle but its total length after folding the seats is not too bad. The Equinox comes in at 69 inches or 5.7 feet.
With the Equinox the issue is that seats do not fold down flat but give a little slope on the back of the seats. This may not be an issue for some people as it could be similar to their bed setups.
The Subaru Outback has to be one of the most slept-in vehicles in the world. This is just a guess because Outback people tend to be on the road camping somewhere almost every weekend.
It is a great camping vehicle because it has great clearance and all wheel drive.
The total length of the Outback when the seats are folded down is around 76 inches which translate to 6.3 feet. Not bad for a mid-size vehicle!
Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
With a ground clearance of up to 10.8 inches, the Trailhawk is a great option for off-roading and camping in remote destinations. But can you sleep in this SUV?
With the rear seats folded down the Trailhawk has about 68 inches or 5.6 feet of length to stretch out in. It’s probably not great for the people at 6 feet tall but could be an okay option if you don’t mind a squeeze for a couple of nights.
The Cherokee Trailhawk can promise one thing and that is getting you to amazing hard to get to locations to sleep at!
The Passport is on the smaller side when you fold the seats down. The total length from the back door to the back of the front seat is around 68 inches. That equates to 5.6 feet which isn’t the best for a taller person.
Don’t forget about the gap between the seat headrest and the front seat. An inflatable mattress is best to bridge that gap to take advantage of the full length.
The Honda Pilot is a little larger than the Honda Passport so that translates into a little longer cargo space for sleeping. The total lengths when the two rows of seats are folded down are around 84 inches or 7 feet. That distance all depends on how far you extend the front row seats to the front.
Check out how this Honda Pilot build to what they had to do to make the Pilot comfortable for sleeping.
First off, don’t think about sleeping in a two door Wrangler. This is only for our 4 door Wranglers / Unlimiteds.
The Jeep Wrangler’s length when the seats are folded down is around 67.5 inches which is 5.6 feet. This isn’t the best if you are tall but you can possibly gain a little more space by moving the front chairs up a bit.
The Wrangler also has a bit of an issue with the seats not folding down all the way but using some foam padding could help alleviate it a bit.
To understand the cargo space dimensions for a Jeep Wrangler 4 door see our write up here.
The FJ Cruiser is another vehicle that has been discontinued. It was discontinued in 2014 but demand for the vehicle is still there and they hold their value like crazy!
I have slept in the back of one of these and I am around 6 foot. It was definitely doable but I wouldn’t recommend it for a long period of time. The total length when the seats are folded is around 60 inches long or 5 feet.
The downside is the bump at the seats folding up and the fact that they don’t fold down all the way.
The newest amazing 4×4 in the offroading world is a great option to sleep in because it boasts around 6.5 feet of space from the trunk to the back of the front seats.
What is even better is if the temperature and weather are right the sleeping space length can extend to 8 feet when you open up the tailgate to lay flat.
With an estimated 3.5 inches of width, it’s a viable option for even two people.
The 4runner is definitely a mainstay in the camping and offroad world. It offers a great base to create the adventure mobile of your dreams. Many people opt for rooftop tents when needing to utilize them for sleeping but let’s determine if you can sleep in one!
The length of the back of the 4Runner with the seats folded down is around 70 inches. This is around 5.8 feet which provides a decent length and a little more than its rival the Jeep Wrangler.
This length is probably suitable for most people under the 6 foot mark because most 6 footers will have to curl up to be the most comfortable.
Check out this great solution from the 4runner forum for getting over the 4runner’s backseat hump. They used a modified rubber truck bed mat that provides a smooth transition and takes out some of the bumps the seat creates.
Best Full Size SUV to Sleep in
The Chevy Tahoe starts our list of the big boy SUVs. The Tahoe boasts around 81.4 inches from the back of the vehicle to the front row seats. That is roughly 6.78 feet! This is great for the big humans of the camping and 4×4 world.
To get this length you are going to have to remove the third row seat and fold down the second row of seats. If you have a newer Tahoe both rows of the seats will fold down. The only issue is that the 2nd row of seating in the newer Tahoes are captain’s chairs so there will be a gap between the driver’s side and the passenger side.
A thicker air mattress should be able to bridge that gap but you will want to make sure that no pressure is put on that because it could stress the mattress out too much.
Include the 49.5 inches of width and that provides palatial room for two people and maybe even a child!
A new Tahoe starts at $52,000 at the time of this article so if you are on a budget and want one it’s probably best to start looking at used Tahoes.
The Ford Expedition has similar dimensions to the Chevy Tahoe. It comes in at 82.5 inches from the back door to the front row of seats.
The seating situation is similar to the Tahoe in that both seats fold down for the newer versions and older versions are limited.
The Toyota Sequoia makes way for an estimated 91 inches of length for sleeping when both rows of seats are folded down. 91 inches converts to around 7.5 feet of length. This is more than enough for even the tallest of drivers. If you need more length then maybe we need to start looking at RVs!
The only issue with the Sequoia is if you have a center console instead of bench seating in the second row. This console will stick out and will be a problem with laying down a mattress flat. The good thing is that it can be removed but you will then have the gap like the other SUVs do. Some Sequoias will have a complete bench seating in the second row so it might not be an issue.
Otherwise, the back seats will lay really nice and flat so even if you have to jump back there in an emergency it should be relatively comfortable.
At this time we have not been able to confirm the dimensions of the back cargo area of the Jeep Wagoneer. We will hopefully have an update soon.
The GMC Yukon is great for sleeping in the back because of the space you have after you fold down the seats. The Yukon XL is even better. This is because the XL is 20.5 inches longer than the regular sized Yukon.
When the seats are folded down this gives XL a total length of around 100 inches which is around 8.3 feet!
Like the rest of the SUVs, there will be some gaps between the captain’s chairs.
Safe Places To Park And Sleep
When you’re on the road you need a safe place to park and sleep. Not only for your security but for a good night’s rest so you are not worrying about getting into trouble.
The quickest place to park and sleep that is understood to be safe is Walmart. In most locations, you can park overnight there. It is recommended to double check with the store prior to sleeping because some locations may not allow it and it even could be against the law in some Cities. If you do stay at one just remember to respect the property and to leave no trace.
Another place to stay for a quick snooze is highway rest stops. I have used these for a quick 4 hours of sleep prior to hitting the road again. The plus is that you have a place to use the restroom and maybe even get some unhealthy snacks. The negative is that people will be coming and going slamming their doors and being loud at all times of the night.
To get some quick shut eye another place to check out is at a truck stop/gas station off the highway. These are even better than the public rest stops because most of them have showers and can sometimes have various restaurants located in them. My go-to is the Loves stops. Most of them are clean and great for travelers.
Also, a free wilderness place to car camp for a night or two is dispersed camping sites. These are going to be free sites where you can sleep typically in the woods away from cities. I have camped many times in these. The only problem is that they do not have any public toilet facilities and no fire rings as a normal campground would. When using these please leave no trace and always drown out your fires if you start one. Forest fires are becoming an issue with these sites.
Best SUV to Sleep In
Let’s finalize this and get to our top picks for SUVs to sleep in! Remember that most of the choices above are great options to choose from and it will just come down to budget and what you can afford.
Best Small SUVs to Sleep in
For the small SUVs, we had a tie between the Forester and the Element. But to conclude let’s go with the Forester because it is still being manufactured and is an awesome vehicle that can push the limits of a non 4×4 vehicle while offroading. The 79 inches that can be achieved by pushing the seats forward helps you stretch out during sleep. To save space inside for sleeping you can take advantage of their roof rails that comes with most of the trim levels and stick your gear up top.
Best Mid Size SUV to Sleep In
The best mid size SUV to sleep in has to go to the new Ford Bronco. With the ability to fold down the tailgate and get an overall 8 feet of length is a game changer. Even if it’s colder and you need to close the tailgate you still get 6.5 feet.
The best part of the Bronco is the places you can go to get your amazing sleep. The Bronco is unstoppable so imagine all of the amazing sunrises you can get to that others can’t.
Best Full Size SUV to Sleep In
The best Full Size SUV to sleep in is the GMC Yukon. It has a total of 100 inches or 8.3 feet to stretch out, store your gear/luggage, and just have overall more space to make your night experience better!
Whatever vehicle you choose just remember it is about the adventure and all of these SUVs are going to save you money, time, and give you amazing experiences you just can’t get from a hotel room in the City.
Once you have chosen your SUV check out our article on how to sleep comfortably in it!
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