Some people opt to live in their car as a lifestyle choice for the freedom of the open road while others are forced to do so through necessity.
However, whatever the reason you need to live in your car, there are certain tips and skills that will apply to anyone. If you are looking for information about the basics, here’s our guide to how to live in your car.
For a longer look at life on the road, check out this video that gives you plenty of extra tips.
How to Live in Your Car
1. Choose your car
If you are planning to live on the road as a lifestyle choice, this will be easier since you will have more time to find a car – but even if you are forced into it, you may know long enough in advance to acquire a vehicle that is more suited to the purpose.
The best choice is a van, preferably one with no windows in the back. This will give you somewhere to place a bed, you will be hidden from prying eyes and you won’t need to worry about blocking out the light.
2. Adapt your vehicle
If you are planning to live in a car and it’s practical, you can make the necessary adaptations before you move in. For example, installing a skylight or hatch in the roof of a van will make it much more comfortable.
A skylight will let light in without allowing nosy passers-by to see inside, and a hatch will give you some ventilation while you sleep at night.
3. Organize your documents
If you know you are going to be living in your car, one priority is to make sure all your necessary documents are in order – things like your driving license and your insurance papers, for example.
Once you begin living in your car, taking care things like this can become more problematic since they require a fixed address to process.
4. Get a post office box or a private mailbox
When you are living in your car, you will still need to receive mail, so you should rent a post office box.
An even better option is to rent a private mailbox. This might be more expensive, but many have addresses that make it look like you have a real residence. This will make it easier if you need to take care of any official business – like renewing documents, for example.
Of course, if you have friends or family who are willing to help you, you can ask to use their address, which would be a much easier solution.
5. Organize storage
Even if you live in a car or van and have few possessions, it’s still easy to lose things, so one of the keys to living comfortably in a vehicle is to be very organized when it comes to storage.
Invest in some plastic bins to keep your stuff tidy – it will make your life much easier.
Also, have somewhere to keep clean clothes and dirty clothes separate. You don’t want the dirty ones making the clean ones smelly too.
6. Have the essential equipment
There are a few basic items you will need to make living in your car reasonably comfortable. The first things you require are a pillow and a blanket – being as comfortable as possible and sleeping well is important, especially if you will be living in your car for a longer period.
If you are living in a vehicle with windows, you will need something to black them out at night. A proper blackout curtain is best for this, and acquiring an effective system should be a priority.
You will also need a decent flashlight – and a good-sized one can double up as a weapon if you ever need to defend yourself.
Also, think about buying a basic pay-as-you-go telephone. Owning a modern smartphone with a contract might not be possible, but having a phoneline where people can contact you or to use in emergencies is vital.
One final essential is a cool box for storing food. Make sure you choose one that doesn’t leak and one that doesn’t allow condensation to collect on the outside.
7. Know where to park
Once you have your car and the essential equipment, one of the biggest issues when living in your vehicle is finding places to park.
Try to find places that are inconspicuous and where you won’t be bothered. Parking lots for large businesses can be a good idea, and you can also try churches, hotel parking lots and so on.
Another idea is parking areas for truckers. They have the added advantage that you may be able to use the washing facilities there.
The main points to remember are that you shouldn’t park in the same place more often than once a week – and you should try to arrive late and leave early to avoid being noticed.
Here’s a useful video with more details on this subject.
8. Dress well and keep clean
It is important that you always try to look presentable – you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you are homeless.
You might consider joining an inexpensive gym to use the shower facilities for example – this will also allow you to have regular contact with other people.
Try not to appear dirty or disheveled – this will only bring unwanted attention.
9. Stay safe
Use your common sense and avoid anywhere that could be dangerous. Remember, you are outside and alone, so don’t park anywhere that puts your safety at risk.
Another important point to remember is that since your vehicle is your home, you need to do everything you can to protect it. Don’t leave it in a place where it could be stolen – and you should consider buying a steering lock, an inexpensive way to help protect your car from theft.
Experience will help
Although we have given you the basics here, there is so much you will learn by experience. If you have decided to live in your car by choice, learning how to do it will be an exciting adventure.
However, if you are being forced into living in your car through losing your home or some other similar situation, above all, stay positive and remind yourself that things will eventually improve.