THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE SEE MY DISCLOSURES. FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Are you curious about how to live in your car?
Living in your car can be a great way to save money, a fun adventure, or a necessity when you’ve fallen on hard times and can’t afford your own space.
While it can be challenging to live in such a small space, there are ways you can make the most of it.
Living in your car requires several important things, namely:
- The right vehicle with enough space and proper car insurance
- Essential items (cooking supplies, sleeping bag, personal hygiene supplies, safety equipment)
- A safe deposit box or storage unit to store valuable belongings and a post office box for mail
- A safe place to park your car (parking lots, truck stops, rest stops)
Of course, there’s much more to it than that.
Keep reading to find out about living in your car hacks like what kind of equipment you need, which parking lots are safe, and how to find financial freedom through living in your car.
Table of Contents
How To Live In Your Car | The Essential Tips You Need
How Can I Live Comfortably In My Car?
I won’t sugarcoat it.
Living in your car is definitely rough, even if it does save money.
But don’t worry, getting the car living essentials down can make all the difference.
So, if you’re wondering how to live in your car, what do you need to live in your car comfortably?
Find The Right Car
Finding the right car is a huge first step.
Some cars will be more comfortable to sleep and live in than others.
So what kind of traits make a vehicle more livable?
You want to capitalize on space because you won’t have much of it.
A larger vehicle like a van or SUV is an excellent choice because of the extra room for storage, sleeping, and cooking.
#2. No Windows
Living in your car is frowned upon or illegal in many areas, so you want to do your best to avoid being seen.
A windowless delivery van works wonders for this, as you can store your living equipment and sleep in the windowless bed or back seats.
In contrast to the window issue, a sunroof can be excellent for living in your car.
People usually can’t see through it, and you can open it for fresh air without being conspicuous.
#4. Good Condition
Since your car is your home, you want it to be reliable.
A car in good repair will take you further with fewer issues.
Even though an old car may be cheaper, you’ll pay for it in the long run with expensive maintenance, not to mention the stress.
You don’t want a dead car battery or flat tire leaving you stranded.
Get The Right Equipment
When you live in your car, you can’t take anything for granted.
You need all the necessary supplies, but storage space is at a premium, so you’ll have to do some serious downsizing.
So what do you need to get started living in your car?
#1. Steering Column Lock
Living in your car does put you in a vulnerable position.
Besides, if your car gets stolen (even with car insurance), that’s your entire home.
Items like a steering column lock are excellent to have on hand as they keep your car secure and are pretty cheap.
- Read now: Here are the best tools to pawn
#2. Safety Equipment
For your safety, there are a few items you want to have on hand when you live in your car.
A window cover can help keep you hidden.
You can also get tinted windows to prevent people from seeing inside, making your living situation more secure.
#3. Sleeping Bag And Mattress
Sleeping in your car isn’t comfortable, so how can you improve it?
Get a nice sleeping bag (rated for whatever temperatures you anticipate you may experience on the road) and a memory foam mattress topper for added comfort.
#4. Cooking Equipment
Camping supplies are great for this.
You can easily collapse or combine them for easy storage when you’re finished with your food preparation.
A camp stove is also necessary and easy to store and take anywhere, with fuel readily available.
This is an essential item for preparing food and storing healthy snacks.
You’ll want a waterproof cooler to avoid condensation inside your vehicle.
An electric cooler can work wonders if you have a power supply.
- Read now: Learn if hybrids will save you money
#6. Storage Containers
You’ll need a way to stay organized in your car.
Keeps bags and boxes on hand to sort things like dirty clothes vs. clean clothes, personal hygiene supplies, and bedding if your space allows.
Keeping your belongings discreet will help you avoid detection and clean up your living space.
#7. Hygiene Supplies
Though you can’t get hot water in your car, you can keep items like baby wipes on hand to clean up.
If you want to take a hot shower, sign up for a gym membership to use their facilities.
Gym membership like Planet Fitness are greatly appreciated for their various locations and ease of use.
#8. Portable Toilet
A portable toilet can be purchased for about $100 and make your living situation easier.
After all, the last thing you want to have to do is drive around trying to find a public restroom.
Or worse, running into the dark woods late at night.
Being a car dweller means you’ll have to deal with a lot of background noise as you’re trying to sleep.
Earplugs can make your living situation much more tolerable.
A church parking lot is a great place to avoid noise as well.
Get The Necessary Documents In Order
When wondering how to live in your car, many people want to know what to do with your essential documents and valuable items.
With a risky lifestyle and not much space, there are important items that you want to keep safe.
So what should you do?
#1. Get A Safe Deposit Box
Keep your valuables out of your car by placing them in a safe deposit box or storage unit.
- Read now: Here are the pros and cons of renting storage units
- Read now: See the best places to hide money in your car
Use your current and up to date address to open these before moving to your vehicle full time.
#2. Get A PO Box
Head to the post office and set up a private mailbox to receive mail while you’re on the road or hanging out in parking lots.
You’ll need a mailing address to keep your car insurance up to date.
#3. Keep Your IDs On Hand
You’ll need identification like your driver’s license and social security while you live in your car.
A driver’s license is crucial if you get pulled over for an inspection.
Frequently Asked Questions
I get asked a lot of questions about life living in a car.
Here are the most common ones.
Is It Smart To Live In Your Car?
For many people, living in your car would be considered a last resort, and I’d have to agree.
Before going straight to living in your car, try to find other places to stay, like with friends or family members, or use different methods to save money.
If you’re interested in going car camping, I’d recommend taking an RV or camper van with appropriate camping supplies.
Places like national forests have free camping and will allow you to sleep in your car, but you’ll probably have a better time exploring a national forest with good camping supplies.
Is It Safe To Live In Your Car?
Your personal safety should be you first priority.
As long as you are smart, staying in your car is not very risky.
The most important things to remember are to always keep your doors locked and not to draw attention to the fact you are living in your car.
Don’t be predictable either.
While we all like routines, having one makes it easy for someone to know when you are not in your car to steal it or what’s inside.
From there, you want to park in areas that are safe.
Don’t park in seedy looking areas as much as you can help it.
And don’t just randomly park on the side of the road either.
When you do stay in these locations, you are just asking for trouble.
How Much Money Does It Take To Live In Your Car?
Being a car dweller helps you avoid paying rent, which is typically your largest expense.
You could live in your car comfortably for around $500 a month or less.
As far as saving money goes, living in your car isn’t a bad idea, but I’d suggest finding other alternatives first.
- Read now: Discover how to turn coins into cash
- Read now: Here are the best places to find spare change
Can You Legally Live In Your Car?
Living in your car is illegal in many areas, which is another reason why I wouldn’t recommend doing it, even to save money.
However, you can take steps to make car living safer and avoid detection:
- Rotate parking lots every night to avoid raising suspicion.
- Use window covers or a car cover, and always keep a window open a crack (not large enough for someone to reach in) to allow air to flow, avoiding the buildup of condensation in your small space.
- Keep dirty clothes, clean clothes, bedding, and living supplies out of view. Don’t store items like these in the driver’s seat. Keep them in the back seat in their own separate bag. If you can, store larger items with a family member.
- Find safe places to park, like a church parking lot, Walmart, camp grounds, truck stops or rest stops, or a hotel parking lot. Church parking lots are often empty during weekdays.
- If you can afford it, stay at a cheap motel to sleep so you aren’t always sleeping in your car. You’ll at least have access to hot water to take some nice hot showers.
How Can I Survive In My Car In The Summer?
If possible, you want to live farther up north where the weather isn’t as hot.
Living in Phoenix during the hottest summer months is going to be brutal.
In fact, you won’t be able to stay in your car at all during the day.
You’ll have to find a public place that is air conditioned like a shopping mall.
Even the nights won’t be enjoyable as your car will be very hot.
If you can’t move to a cooler climate, you need to find a place out of direct sunlight and keep your windows open all the way so you can have fresh air.
You might even want to buy a fan so you can have air moving around.
A spray bottle of water can help too, as you can mist yourself from time to time to keep cooler.
How Can I Survive In My Car In The Winter?
Moving to a warmer climate is the best option here.
But if that is not possible, you need to have the right supplies to keep you warm.
Since it is not safe or recommended to have a fire in your car, you need extra blankets and an extra warm sleeping back to survive the cold.
Ideally, you can go inside somewhere during the day to keep warm.
Parking your car out of the exposure to the wind is also key.
This could mean finding some parking garages you can rotate through every few nights or parking between two larger vehicles.
- Read now: Use these tips for free gas
Where Can I Shower If I Live In My Car?
The best places to use are truck stops and cheap motels.
If money is tight, you could try gyms.
Walk in and ask if they offer a free one day trial.
Then spend some time lifting weights or walking on a treadmill, and then use the showers.
The downside to this idea is if you visit different locations of the same chain, they will have you in the system.
A final option to is ask a family member if you can use their shower once in a while.
There are the tips you need to know for how to live in your car.
It is possible and doing so will save you thousands of dollars over paying monthly rent or a mortgage payment.
But it’s not for everyone as daily life in your car is hard.
For this reason, it could be best used as a short term solution as you get back on your feet or to quickly save a large amount of money.
- Read now: Learn how to lower your monthly bills
- Read now: Here is how to get back on your feet
- Read now: Discover how to survive on $1,00 a month
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.