Nope. You must be out of your mind! Why would I ever live in a car? Thinking of living in your car isn’t going to be a very protected place.
But calamity doesn’t knock on the door before entering. It could be a natural disaster, enormous debt, an abusive family, or just plain-old recklessness, that might lead you to abandon your home and head out for a better life. It can strike you at any point in your life. You can be a teenager running away from home, a fresh graduate struggling to pay off your student loan, or a well-established middle-aged person living in instability but suddenly realizing that life has lost its spark.
No matter what your reason,
the fact is you’re homeless and you need a place to stay. Most people, in this situation, would ask friends or family to help them out but if you can’t, for some reason, it’s not the end of the world. You still have a lot of options and one of them is living in your car.
Now, I know it’s rather unusual and fraught with unknown perils but if you do it right, it can be the solution to all your problems.
So, here is a detailed guide to lessen your suspicions, with tips from people who have made their cars their home.
23 Ideal Ways to Live in a Car
At first glance, it can seem quite a challenge but once you’ve taken care of some practical problems, you’re good to go. Start with getting rid of all the unnecessary stuff and keep only the bare essentials you need for your daily life. Adopting the minimalist style of life will help you greatly in this case.
(1) Comfortably Sleep While Living in Your Van
The obvious answer is to hop on the back seat to sleep but it can be very cramped and lead to various health issues. The second option is to lower the front seats to make enough space to stretch your legs but it, too, can lead to back pains because car seats are not manufactured for comfortable sleep. The best option, however, is to buy a soft and cozy mattress that fits inside your car or convert your vehicle into a camper.
(2) Why It Is Not Good to Live Out of Your Ride?
The car provides you with safety and protection against extreme weather elements like rain, storms, harsh sunlight, etc. It also provides you with freedom of mobility as well as independence. You can move around as much as you please and get away from dangerous situations or natural disasters. It’s far better than imposing on a friend or taking refuge in a public shelter with many strangers. Moreover, it’s a great way to cut back on expenses and save money.
(3) Get an Appropriate Car
One of the most significant aspects of living in a car successfully is to find a suitable car. Sure, you won’t be in this situation if you had enough money to buy a new car, in the first place. But you have to admit, living in a big car or truck is definitely easier than living in a small one. Get a car that is not only spacious but also inconspicuous.
(4) Use your Permanent Address
Life can get sticky if people find out that you’re homeless. Although unjustified and unfair, it is the way of the world. Regardless of whether your situation is temporary or not, you need a permanent address. It is even more important if your goal is to get back on your feet and own a house one day because being homeless limits your opportunities.
So, before you start living out of your car, make sure to use your permanent address to rent a new PO Box, store valuables in a safety deposit box in the bank, and alter any paperwork that requires an address. In this way, you won’t miss any mail or parcel sent to you.
(5) Think About Personal Protection First: Locate a Safe Place to Park
Ensure that you always have something at hand to protect yourself. It can be a Taser, pepper spray, or anything that can be used as a weapon in a dangerous situation. Do not park your car in abandoned places at night. Park at some place where you won’t draw attention towards yourself.
(6) Do a Tradition Build-Out
If you plan on staying in your car for a long time, you’ll benefit from making custom alterations to suit your lifestyle. You can take out the back seats and install a bed in its place. Also, you can customize the space for more storage. You can either do it yourself or spend some money on professional service.
(7) Is It Legal to Sleep in Your Motor?
Fortunately, No. But only in some places. However, it is not as illegal as it is frowned upon. Since it’s an unusual practice and people in most societies, no matter how different, like to conform to norms, individuals living in their cars have a tough time dealing with stares and judgment. As far as the law and police are concerned though, they’ll question you but won’t put you in jail for it.
For more details check out
Why is it illegal to live or sleep in your car?
(8) Where to Park your Car at Night to Sleep?
The best place to park your car at night is somewhere populated enough to not be dangerous but with fewer people around so as to not cause suspicions. Church parking lots are the best option but you can also use the parking lot at the gym or community college. Places like Walmart and shopping malls also allow people to stay overnight in their parking lot.
(9) What to Do if You Can’t Park on Your Land?
If you can’t park on your land, camping grounds should be your first choice. They do charge a fee for letting you stay at the ground but it should be no problem for one night or two.
(10) Don’t Look Like You’re Living in Your Truck!
You’ll really have to go the extra mile to take care of your appearance or else you’ll start looking like you live in your car. If you don’t want to reek of poverty or homelessness, invest time in personal hygiene. You can use washrooms at rest stops, petrol stations, restaurants, cafes, a library, or other places open to the public to groom yourself.
(11) What to Do About Hygiene?
You can bet on gyms to get that load off your mind. Hygiene is really important when living in your car not only to keep up your appearance but also to stay healthy. You don’t wanna be sick while living in your car. So, get a gym membership for free showers. You can also indulge yourself with a luxurious bath at hotels and motels, occasionally.
(12) Keep Dirty Clothes Separate in Plastic Bags
You don’t want your whole car to smell like dirty clothes. It should be obvious that you need to keep clean and dirty clothes separate. Using plastic bags for storage is a convenient and cheap option. Make sure to dry your clothes completely at the laundromat, otherwise, they’ll smell like mildew.
(13) Get a Good Night’s Rest
When living in a car, every day can seem like a struggle to survive. With avoiding getting into trouble, fending off stares, looking for the basic necessities at cheap prices, and continuously moving around, getting a good night’s sleep is no less than a challenge. However, if you want to survive and live successfully every day, you’ll need to get adequate sleep.
(14) Keep Yourself Tidy While Occupation in the Car
Like I said before, public places are the best to clean up and groom yourself. But if, for some reason, you cannot access them, always keep wet wipes with you. Thoroughly clean your body, cut your nails and brush your teeth every day. Also, go for professional haircuts periodically as well.
(15) How to Live in Your Car in the Winter
You can use your car heater to stay warm while living inside your car but it can cost you a fortune in terms of gas. In which case, keeping hot packs can come in handy. Don’t forget to bundle up with warm clothes, especially in winter, when it snows a lot. You can also go inside cafes and libraries with the proper heating system.
(16) How to Stay Cool
Similarly, the car air conditioner is the best but you can’t use it all the time. Lowering the windows in your car would be another option but it leaves you vulnerable and exposes your situation to people. You should buy sun shades, blinds, or curtains for your car to block the sunlight. Also, you won’t regret investing in a portable fan.
(17) A Better Way to Get Connected With Others
Communication is probably the least of your worries when living in a car since everything is connected through the internet these days. Keep in contact with friends and family through your smartphone, laptop, and numerous social network sites. You can use free Wi-Fi available at public places or buy a mobile Hotspot plan to go with your laptop.
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Smart Ways to Get Wi-Fi In Your Car
(18) Places to Spend your Spare Time
The library would be my first answer because you can read as many books as you can. And you can never read enough books. Not only it’s a great place to spend your spare time but it also allows you to stock up on knowledge that’ll come in handy when living off-grid. You can always go to movie theatres, community pools, shopping malls, cafes, and other recreational spots.
(19) Wear a Better Outfit When Living in the Motor Car
Inconspicuously. Wear clothes that’ll draw the least attention because you don’t want people to notice you and your situation. Dress up like any other person on the street. Also, buy clothes that are easy to clean and don’t wrinkle much because you won’t have the luxury of ironing them in your car. But more importantly, wear clean clothes.
(20) What to Do for Your Diet
Fast food would be the most convenient option. It’s tasty and cheap but not quite when you’re living off of it. I’d advise eating healthy foods such as cereals, oatmeal, fresh fruits, and salads. Instant noodles and pasta are other options. Snacks like granola, protein bars, and crackers should satisfy your midnight hunger pangs.
Or you can cook for yourself. But most people wouldn’t like this option because it’s a hassle. You’ll have to arrange for an electric or gas stove, get cooking pots and utensils, get ingredients and seasonings and lastly, actually be able to cook. Otherwise, you’ll have to eat burnt food. However, if you get the hang of it, your food problems will be solved.
(21) Stay in Touch With Society
Living off-grid doesn’t mean going off the radar. It doesn’t mean you’re no longer a part of society and even if you die, no one will take notice. It is necessary that you stay under the radar and keep in contact with your friends and family members. Or else the legal authorities can consider you missing or lost.
(22) Manage Your Valuable Stuff Within the Car
There’s already too little space in a car that buying essentials for an off-grid living can make it even more chaotic. And lord forbids if you lose something in there, you’ll never find it. This means you need to store your stuff wisely. First, store everything separately by categories. Second, label them. Finally, place everything in order of use, from most frequently used to least frequently used. There are many storage units made for cars, available in the market that you can buy.
(23) Maintain a Backup for Electricity
You’ll need electricity to charge your phone, laptop, fan, car refrigerator or any other appliance you may have. Using the car battery for all of this will result in a breakdown. Alternative ways of generating electricity include having another battery or installing a solar system in your car. A solar system is your best bet.
Key Essential Factors for Safety when Living in a Car
Additionally, here are some things you need to make your life comfortable. Plus, other tips to keep in mind that can prove to be a lifesaver in times of need.
Keep Your Personal Identification with You
Make sure to have all your documents with you at all times, most specifically, your ID card and Driver’s license.
Protect your Car’s Steering with Column Lock
Prevent your car from getting stolen with a steering column lock because if you lose it, you’ll lose your home all over again.
Keep yourself safe from Suffocation: Carbon Monoxide
It is very much possible that you suffocate while sleeping in your car and die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Leave your windows a little open to allow fresh air inside the car.
Medication: First Aid Kit
Always keep a first aid kit close by to treat minor injuries. It should include, painkillers, alcohol wipes, disinfectants, bandages, and other OTC drugs.
Do not underestimate the inconvenience of living in a car. It’s imperative that you’ll suffer from back pain, neck pain, stiff legs, etc due to unusual sleeping positions. Painkillers are a must to have in your car.
Extra Storage of Drinking Water
While living in a car, you won’t have access to water freely. Drinkable water would be even scarier. That’s why you’ll need to store water in bottles and keep it cool in a car refrigerator.
Buy enough quantity of snacks that will last you a month, especially for the end of the month days when you’ve run out of your salary. You might have to live off of them.
Disorder Prevention: Vitamin C
Like any other nutrient, your body needs Vitamin C to keep functioning properly. It can help you fight joint pain, common cold and prevent other disorders you’re likely to encounter while living in your car.
Restful Sleep from Noise: Ear Plugs
When camping at campgrounds or sleeping in noising streets, you’ll need earplugs to block out all sounds and have a restful sleep.
Suffer from Insomnia?
Living in a car is stressful, to say the least. It can lead to physical and mental health issues, prominently insomnia. Use essential oils such as lavender oil to help you sleep. Its soothing aroma will calm your nerves and improve your health overall.
Comfortable Sleep: Mattress & Pillows
Considering the size of the car, an inflatable mattress is ideal. However, it is not very comfortable. When buying a mattress, comfort should be your priority. It might seem insignificant but it can have a major impact on your life in a car. A soft pillow will make you sleep like a baby. In addition to buying a regular pillow, you can also consider a neck pillow.
Sleeping Bag and a Wool Blanket
You’ll need a sleeping bag for sleeping outdoors, when you get tired of staying in cramped quarters, provided you’re at a safe place. And wool blankets to keep away the chill at night.
Portable Car Fan
A portable cooler or a fan is indispensable for hot summer days, especially in a car.
In order to use appliances such as electric stove, car refrigerator, cooler, fan, etc that run on Alternating Current, you’ll need a Power Inverter. Because the car operates on Direct Current, a power inverter can convert AC power to DC and allow you to use them in a car.
Even if your car is brand new, it will break down at some point. And a workshop might not be around all the time, so you’ll need jumper cables to jump-start your car on your own.
Spare Key Container
It is very likely to lose your car keys or lock your keys in your car. Losing your car keys means getting locked out of your house. That’s why make sure to have spare keys in a container. You can leave them with a friend for safekeeping.
Separate your Personal Items
All your personal items such as undergarments, sanitary pads, razors, toothbrush, paste, etc, go in separate bags that are easy to access.
Emergency Roadside Kit
You need to take care of your car as much as you take care of yourself. It is very much important to have an emergency roadside kit in your car. Learn how to fix basic car problems so that you can perform them anywhere anytime.
Protect yourself with Net Sleeping Bag
Camping grounds swarm with bugs and mosquitoes. Keep them out with a bugout bag. It is especially necessary if you live in a truck.
Keep a Spare Battery/Air compressor
Like I said, your car is bound to break down if you run it all the time. Having a backup battery makes sense. Similarly, having a backup air compressor is also important because your car’s AC can malfunction during summers. You can suffer from heatstroke if you don’t keep yourself adequately cool.
Few Extra Living out of Your Vehicle Tips
Here are a few extra tips that I think are essential for people who plan on living in their cars. We’ve discussed many of the practical problems you’re likely to face while staying in your car. However, it also has an emotional and psychological aspect as well.
Don’t let Life Drag you Down When Living in Cars
It will seem pretty hopeless at times, with no prospect of the future but don’t let this feeling get to you. Remind yourself that this situation is temporary, that you’re heading towards a better life. The only thing constant about time is that it keeps changing. Your situation will change too.
Keep your Sense of Humor Alive When Living in Car Campers
Humour has a deep impact on our lives. It isn’t limited to laughing at jokes. People who have the ability to laugh at themselves are better at handling problems of life and recuperating from tragedies.
Don’t be alone
You don’t have to be alone. It is better for your mental health if someone else is living with you in your car. Human companionship can reduce the negative effect of your situation. Keep in touch with friends. Invite them to live in your car sometimes.
Don’t hesitate to get Help
If your situation becomes too dire, get help. Social workers and public service agents are always there to lend a sympathetic ear and help you out.
Always keep trying to Get a Job
Your life in a car is only successful if you have funds to back it up. The expenses are not much but they’re there. Get a job or multiple part-time jobs to support your life in a car.
Living in a car can be quite hectic, stressful, and inconvenient but the freedom and independence that comes with it are indescribable. It’ll be an experience you can share with your loved ones after all of it is over and reminisce about it in your old age.