What I Wish I Knew Before Living in My Car

Do you dream of escaping on a long trip, fully experiencing life and visiting national parks or other cool places along the way? Could you use a break from the grind of your career and normal life?

I’ve been there. 

But then, logistics make that escape and adventure seem impossible. There are many things involved in running away – be it for a week, month, or even longer. It makes you begin to think it might not ever happen for you.

Sound familiar?

If you’re going to camp in a tent, you have to book campsites, be prepared to set up and take down camp every few days and buy lots of gear to make yourself comfortable. Booking hotel rooms for the trip involves similar requirements, but with a much more significant cost. To travel in an RV or campervan is a serious financial investment too, plus you need to handle general maintenance and find places to park.

For an option that’s as comfortable and easy as an RV, but with even less cost than camping in tents, consider using your car for a long getaway. Living in a car doesn’t have the stigma of the past, particularly when combined with a goal of extensive travel.

Using a car as your home is a safe, affordable way to live life on the road without driving and maintaining a huge RV or being uncomfortable and camping outdoors.

When planning a long trip living in your car, there are a few things to keep in mind that are often best learned from experience. I’ll save you the time and struggle in figuring it out on your own, by sharing my discoveries from adventuring through the Western U.S. while living in my Honda CR-V for a year.

Being able to sit up in bed makes a huge difference. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of sacrificing head room in your sleeping space for the sake of more storage. Don’t do it! There’s bound to be a rainy day where you’re stuck inside the car or a point when you need a lazy afternoon to recharge. If you have nowhere comfortable to lay down, you’ll potentially find yourself miserable and reconsidering your decision to live on the road.

If you plan to build a sleeping platform or store items under your bed, take some time to sit up and move around the space before you take off. Sometimes foam or padding will take up more space than you realize and a comfortable fit quickly becomes snug and awkward.

Window covers or privacy curtains help with temperature control and comfort.

Even if your windows are tinted, or you’ll never attempt to sleep in spaces with others around, consider making window covers or privacy curtains for your car anyway. Their most apparent benefit is blocking light from coming in – from the full moon, the early sunrise, streetlights, or other vehicles passing by.

Plus, reflective window coverings or light-blocking curtains help keep your car cool in the summer, stopping the warm sun from getting in, and warm in the winter, preventing the warmth from escaping.

The whole point of creating a tiny home on wheels is to have a comfortable, safe space. Keeping it private and cozy is part of making that happen.

A battery-powered fan and bug screens can change your life. 

A common mindset for people moving into cars is that everything is supposed to feel like you’re roughing it. However, you’re in your car and not sleeping out under the stars for a reason! It’s okay to take a few extra steps to enjoy a few comforts of home. The first night you spend covered in mosquitoes, or not sleeping because it’s both hot and raining (so the windows can’t stay open), you’ll be ready for something to change.

Most big box stores and Amazon have a large variety of fans that can run on batteries or power from your cigarette lighter. These retailers also carry window screens specifically made to slide over your car door and protect you from the elements and insect bites. Both products are small investments and money well spent.

Are you ready to hit the road with your car for a home? 

Without having to learn these lessons the hard way, you’re already ahead of others beginning their car life journeys. As a low-commitment, more affordable option for long-term travel that’s still comfortable and easy, living in a car becomes a fantastic choice.

If you’re looking for more information on fully equipping your car or SUV, check out the TireBuyer post on converting an SUV for travel and adventure.  Though a conversion is not necessary for a successful stint living in a vehicle, it can make everything that much more luxurious.


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