It isn’t even really hot yet in Idaho and I’m already leaving my car windows cracked when I park or looking for a tree to use as shade so I don’t melt when I get back in my car. The AC in my car doesn’t work very well so I have to plan ahead. It’s only going to get hotter over the next few months and you may be tempted to run your car with the AC blasting while you aren’t in it. But you might be breaking the law if you do.

Can You Legally Cool Off Your Car Unattended in Idaho?

Here’s why I say you ‘might be’ breaking the law: in Idaho, it is illegal to leave your car unattended and running unless you take precautionary steps first. Old Idaho code said ‘No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition.’ but the law was recently updated in Idaho Statute 49-602 to include the following:

No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first locking the vehicle if the engine is running.

Idaho does allow you to cool off your car in the summer and heat it up in the winter unattended as long as you lock the doors. That law does not apply when your car is on private property. If you don't lock your doors and let your car run in the grocery store parking lot, you're breaking the law. But, just because it is allowed in some cases doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Should You Let Your Car Run Unattended to Cool Off in Idaho?

A running car is a car ready to be stolen. Locking the doors is just a small obstacle for thieves and if your car is already running and unattended you’ve done half the work for them. There’s also the debate about whether running your car idle for extended amounts of time is worth the wear on the engine and other components.

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You won’t get a ticket in Idaho for cooling off or heating up your car, but you do need to weigh the risks and make sure you lock the doors…and don’t lock the keys in the car. That would be bad too.

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