I’ve lived in my car. More than once. Several times, actually. It’s not that hard. You just have to know what to do and how to do it. If you do find yourself suddenly living in your vehicle, it is not the end of the world. Living in your vehicle is definitely a lot better than living on the streets. You can store your belongings in your car. You can sleep in your car. It protects you from the elements (for the most part). You are less vulnerable living in your vehicle than you would be if you did not have any shelter. Here I will give you some advice that will take you from living in your vehicle a more stable situation. You can survive living paycheck to paycheck in your car, truck or van.
Living in your car requires organization. Everything needs to have it’s place. Whether you are living in a Car, an SUV, or a Van, you must be organized. You will need storage tubs for your clothes, whatever food items you want to keep. You may need a small cooler if you choose to keep items that need refrigeration. Your bathroom items can either go in a tub, or I prefer a bag. You will need food, drinks, blankets, pillows, and reading materials.
If you are forced to live in your vehicle, take a day to assess what you really need to live, and either throw the rest away or donate it to Goodwill®.
Before it happens:
If you have the means, upgrade your car to a Van or SUV. Preferably one that has tinted windows or a cargo van with no windows. If you do not have the means, make sure you can cover your windows. You can purchase sun shades for the front and back windows. To cover the side windows, if you can, tint them. If not, you can Velcro® some dark material over the windows just so that people cannot see into your vehicle.
Can you sell your household items? If not, donate them to Goodwill®. If your home is about to be foreclosed, use the money to buy a vehicle to live in rather than giving it to the banks.
Establish how you will sleep:
If you are in a car, will you sleep in the front seat or back? In an SUV or Van, you can make a bed in the back that would be more comfortable. We bought foam from the local Walmart® and made a bed in the back of our SUV. I am fairly short, so I fit perfectly on it and it sure beat sleeping in the front seat. However, my husband did sleep in the driver’s seat (uncomfortably) for the duration of the time that we were in the vehicle.
Make sure you have enough blankets to keep you warm at night. Some nights get really cold and it is not economical, nor good for the engine, to run the heater in your vehicle all night. Thrift stores sell blankets at reasonable prices, so make sure you stock up. I also recommend hand and foot warmers for those times when you just cannot get warm enough. These are great, and they last up to 8 hours. You can find these in the camping section of your local Walmart®.
The first priority when you find yourself living in your vehicle is safety!
Keep your doors locked at all times!
This may seem like common sense, but really it is your first line of defense if some outsider decides you look like a good target. If you choose your parking spot wisely, you will not have to worry as much about someone trying to break in to your car. If you live in a low income area, drive to the other side of the city to find your sleeping area. If you are working, look for work in the new area so that you do not have to spend your money all in fuel. You may work for a company that will let you transfer to a different location.
You may want to have some sort of weaponry with you to make you feel more safe. If you choose to do so, make sure that you are complying with local and state laws and that you know how to use your weapon in the time of need.
Let’s talk about hygiene:
There are several options on how to stay clean when you are living in your car. All of the options have different costs as well. It is one thing to be forced into a situation where you need to live in your vehcile; there is really no reason why you can’t take care of yourself.
State Park Showers:
Usually coin operated with Hot Showers for campers. Some charge admission, some states have a general yearly pass for all of their state parks. For instance, I live in Washington. In Washington, you can purchase a that allows you access to all state parks for only $30.00 per year. The Discover Pass offers you access to millions of acres of state recreation lands in Washington, including:
- More than 100 developed state parks
- More than 350 primitive recreation sites, including campgrounds and picnic areas
- Nearly 700 water-access points
- Nearly 2,000 miles of designated water and land recreation trails
- More than 80 natural areas
- More than 30 wildlife areas
The Discover pass is transferable between two vehicles, but you may only use it on one vehicle at a time. For example, if you wanted to take both vehicles to your destination, each vehicle would have to have it’s own pass. So it is best to carpool when you can. Parks and Recreation officials do check passes and issue tickets to those who do not comply. The fine for not having a pass is $99.00, so it is definitely cheaper to just buy two passes if you are planning to take two vehicles.
Rest Areas and Park Restrooms:
Here you need to be very discreet about what you are doing. It can be embarrassing, and it makes other people uncomfortable when you are bathing in a public restroom. Be patient and wait for the right time. Try to go during an non peak time, have your items all ready so that when you go in, you can work as quickly as possible and get back out without being noticed. I tend to do as much as possible in the bathroom stall. Of course if you are wanting to wash your hair, you will need to use the sink for a few minutes. Always clean up after yourself and do not leave any trash on the counters or floors.
Truck stops are accustomed to travelers. They have great amenities for travelers including hot showers and lounges. The showers range in price, but sometimes the luxury of not having to rush or hide or be embarrassed is worth the money. I would save the truck stop for a day when you need to de-stress. Take your time and enjoy that nice hot shower.
Daily Hygiene Tips:
Try to stay cool. The less you sweat, the less you stink. I know sometimes this is hard, but try to find a place in the shade that will help you keep out of the beating sun in the summer time.
Use personal wipes to freshen up with. You can buy packs of these from Walmart very inexpensively, and they are great to use anytime. Make sure you have deodorant, and use it! If you use an antiperspirant, you can also apply this to areas other than just your armpits to combat some of the sweatiness.
Is there a lake or river nearby that you can go for a swim in? Not only is it refreshing, but it is relaxing, and a great way to spend the day!
Whether you are choosing to live in your vehicle for financial reasons or feeling that it is your only option, you can live in your car comfortably. Make the most of your time, stay active during the day. If you can afford it, visit all the parks in your area and decide which one you like the most. Get out and walk or jog. If you have a camera, take some pictures. Keeping yourself busy during the day will help you sleep better at night.
For tips on looking for work while living in your vehicle, visit my page: