Tips on How to Live in Your Car

ScottHallock By ScottHallock, 22nd Jun 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Outdoor>Survival Skills

Are you thinking about living in your car? Are you wondering how you would do it? Here are some helpful tips from my own personal experience.

Tips on How to Live in Your Car

Check out and read my related article, *Living in Your Car* The Pros and Cons (click here)

You would be surprised now days at how many people are living in their cars either, because they are forced to or by choice. The economy has left many folks having to re-think their financial strategies and apparently, renting is low on the list of priorities.

You may have some warning that your finances are about to end, or you might be going through a divorce and have no place to stay. Living in your car may be by choice because you are tired of giving 70% of your income away to some bank or property owner, and you want to save your money for yourself.

I have made a list of helpful hints. This list comes from my experience of living in my car for the past 2 years.


If you are in the position where you can plan, prepare and make a smooth transition from an apartment or home into your car then you will be that much more ahead. If not, then you will have to make do with what you have already.

Obviously, a Van, RV or SUV is ideal for the type of car that is more comfortable. I slept in the passenger seat of my STS Cadillac for the first year and then traded it in for an FJ Cruiser SUV and the difference was so much more comfortable.

Space inside your car is extremely limited so you will have to scale down to nothing but the essentials and keep just what you need. You can survive very well carrying a week’s worth of clothes, toiletries, laundry soap and three plastic containers and a cooler. Keep your clean clothes in one container, dirty clothes in the other and the rest of your supplies in the last one and the cooler to keep dry food and water.

Mental preparedness

It may be difficult not to think of yourself as a loser. You are not a loser. Society has judged the homeless very unfairly because they do not know the reasons, why that person is in the situation they are in.

I suppose by society standards, I am considered homeless, because I live in my car but if someone were to judge me then they would truly be off track. I have a career. I make over $93,000.000 per year. I am sane, well respected, and I do not have any issues. Yes, due to the economy, I lost my home, my wife left me and was left in serious debt, but, I now choose to live in my car and I have a plan to invest the money I would normally have to pay for rent. Therefore, the stigma that is put on the homeless of being poor, dirty and living in broken down cars does not apply anymore.

The only difference of living in a 2,500 square foot home and a 40 square foot car is 2,460 square feet. However, what is the difference from the spot you sleep in on the bed in that 2,500 square foot house in comparison to the spot you sleep in that 40 square foot car, not very much a difference at all?

Where to park and not park

Finding a clean safe spot is extremely important. It should be noted that many states have laws prohibiting overnight parking, camping with-in city limits and living in your car on the street. Therefore, you will need to know what the law is in your area.

Some suggestions for safe parking spots are

Getting written permission from friends, the Church you attend or a business that says you have their permission to stay on the property parked.

Campgrounds either in the mountains or on beaches are great places and usually have bathroom facilities, grills to cook food and trash receptacles.

Some Wall Marts allow overnight parking and are OK with you sleeping in your car and businesses that are open 24 hours most likely will not bother you. You can always let the security know who you are, so they will not bother you in the middle of the night.

Rest stops are good and are patrolled by the Police and Highway patrol, and they have bathroom facilities.

Police station areas are a great place. I am not surprised that I see at least ten people parked and sleeping in their cars around the Station streets. It works for me, why not for them.

Areas that are not a good idea to park

Airports are not good due to increased security, not to mention the price of parking.

Neighborhood streets are not a good idea because most neighborhoods are part of a Neighborhood Watch Group and the Police will be called if anyone suspicious is parked that does not belong or not recognized.

Public parks are not a good idea because most parks close after dark so expect the Police to check you out and ask you to leave.

Hospitals, malls and schools are patrolled heavily by security and are not a good idea for parking.

Your parking spot

Once you have a found a good spot to park, make sure you respect others by being quiet. Do not play your radio loudly or have any other unnecessary noises.

Keep your area clean of any trash, papers or discarded food items.

Staying clean

This is very important but can seem difficult. Find a place like the YMCA, your gym, or public showers. For me, I can use the gym; I belong to that is open 24 hours or my job that has a bathroom and showers.

Many campsites and beaches also have bathroom and showers.

Staying warm or cool

Staying warm is vital to survival and will depend on a few things. First, the bedding you have is very important, and I suggest you invest in a good quality sleeping bag. I have two sleeping bags that I use depending on the weather. I use one in the winter for zero degree weather and the other used for summer and warmer times. When I use either sleeping bag, the other bag is stored underneath for softer comfort. I also use an 8-inch foam mattress, which not only is comfortable but also keeps out the cold from underneath.

It is difficult to keep the inside of a car warm, in fact, because of the moisture that collects inside the car it most likely can get colder so make sure, even in colder weather, that you crack the window to let in the fresh air.

You can use an electric or battery-operated heater but never use kerosene, diesel or a gas heater inside a closed car, EVER!

They also have battery-operated blankets available that produce warmth.

Wear a warm beanie on your head plus socks for your feet and a cotton pair of sweatshirt and pants or long underwear in extreme cold.

Staying cool can be a breeze if you just roll down the windows. If you live in an area, where mosquitoes are a problem then invest in insect netting, which you can cut to fit your windows.

Electric or battery-operated fans will cool you down as well. Also, make sure you are sleeping on a natural fabric that breathes rather than a synthetic material, which will trap moisture and cause you to sweat.

The bathroom

Finding a bathroom during the day will not be hard, but once you have retired for the night the last thing you want to worry about is waking up in the middle of the night having to go to the bathroom. Two key tricks to remember are, first make sure you stop drinking any liquids a few hours before you are going to go to sleep. Second, make sure you use the bathroom right before you go to bed.

It is important that you always carry your own wipes and toilet paper in case there is none and disinfectant spray to sanitize toilet seats.

Positive attitude

It is so important to continue to try to have a positive attitude. Whether it is your decision and choice to live in your car it can become disheartening at times. Keep telling yourself that things will get better, or that you will never give up until you reach your goals.

I know that times may be tough right now but things will get better. When I begin to feel bad, I just remind myself of last winter. One day as I was leaving to go outside of a nice warm building, I tried to open the front door but a woman was huddled up against the door on the cold ground. She scooted over and moved just enough so I could get out, I could tell she did not want to give up what little warmth she was getting coming from the crack between the door.

That day, I realized how lucky I was, and that I even have a car to sleep in and that there is always someone who has it worse.

Never complain, always look up and forever be grateful.

This article also posted on and by Scott Hallock


Bankrupt, Car, Divorce, Homeless, Shelter

Meet the author

author avatar ScottHallock
I have been a Police Officer for over 28 years. I love writing articles on, "How Not to Become a Victim", Human Nature and Health / Fitness.

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author avatar Zane
2nd Dec 2011 (#)

Very nice article Scott. I too live in my Toyota FJ Cruiser at times. I was wondering if you could elaborate a little more on those 3 containers and your foam mattress that you sleep on. Where did you get the foam mattress and how long is it and how do you position it on your FJ? I find it very hard to fit from rear to front or vice versa with the back seats folded down. I usually end up just sleeping sideways on the back seats stretching my legs up towards the front front door. What kind of containers are they and how big and what kind of cooler? I just use bags and was wondering how to fit these things in the FJ. Also, who would you contact to find out the law about sleeping in your car?

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