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When we go on road trips, Tom and I really like sleeping in the Prius. Not only does it save a ton of money on hotels, but we don’t have to deal with bed bugs and nasty sheets. The last time we stayed in a hotel was in 2016, and it cost $120 and was disgusting. There were stains and hairs on the sheets and the floors were dingy. We’d rather stay in our own space, even if its tiny. This has prompted some people to ask: “Is it illegal to sleep in your car?”
In fact, it is still illegal in many states and municipalities, and Tom and I have found a way around that, which I’ll answer below.
We started living in a tent and in Tom’s Toyota Prius back in 2015, when we both moved out of our apartments to save money by going “intentionally homeless“ for four months. I think it totally weirded people out that we were comfortable sleeping in a Prius, and I ended up getting the same questions over and over again about living. So, I wanted to address those questions and tell people what it’s really like living in a car.
1. Where do you go to the bathroom?
I’ve gotten this question so many times that I’ve gotten very comfortable talking about my bathroom habits. Never in my life have so many people been so interested in where I pee at night. The truth of the matter is this: I don’t pee at night. When we first started living in the Prius, I felt like I had to go through some painful training to “teach” my body not to go. First of all, I’d limit my fluid intake a couple hours before going to sleep. Second of all, we’d find a bathroom and use it to pee and brush our teeth right before bed. Thirdly, I learned that if you kinda have to go, you really can hold it a few more hours. Eventually, I was trained and now I hardly ever get up to go in the night, even when I’m sleeping in a house.
2. Where do you shower?
This is another bathroom-related question we often get. When we lived in the car and camped full-time near San Francisco, we were both members of the Bay Club, an upscale gym in San Francisco. Every morning, we’d go there before work and exercise, shower, sit on the couches and use our laptops. They even have free coffee. 🙂
Now, when we sleep in the car on our road trips, we find places to shower. Certain marinas and campgrounds have paid showers, which are much cheaper than going for a hotel room to wash up. If we’re at a national park, we’ll often make a “Jet Boil” shower, which includes heating up water on our camp stove and pouring it over ourselves somewhere in the woods. Either way, we do find ways to keep clean while sleeping or living in the car.
3. What do you do in the evenings without a TV and a couch?
We did have many evenings to fill when we lived in the car for four months. We actually spent most of that time in a storage unit in Sausalito, which we fixed up as a jam space. Tom plays electric guitar and I’m a beginning drummer. We had amps, microphones, and a stand-up drumset in a shipping container sized-unit. We’d play and drink beer almost every night, and other people at the facility started calling us the “storage unit rockers.”
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When we were doing that, we were at happy hours, or we’d park near a Starbucks for the wi-fi, curl up in the back of a Prius, and watch a show. Filling our evenings wasn’t very hard after all.
Now, when we’re on a road-trip, we fill the evenings by going on walks, seeing movies, or hanging out in pubs with wi-fi.
4. How in the world are you comfortable sleeping in a Prius?
When we tell friends and family we like sleeping in a Prius on road trips, they often wonder how we do it. Some people imagine us simply reclining the seats and covering up with a blanket. But no. That would be very uncomfortable. When you lay down the back seats in the Prius, it turns out to be fairly roomy. It’s bigger than our two-person backpacking tent. We lay out or sleeping pads and bags and put a couple pillows near the two front seats. The windows are tinted so nobody can see in, and we leave them cracked for fresh air. It’s actually quite comfortable!
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5. Where do you park?
Parking the car is interesting, it is illegal in many places. When we’re on road trips, we sometimes park at rest stops, where it’s legal to sleep. We’ll also sleep in marinas, at campgrounds, and at national parks. A couple of times, we’ve slept in neighborhoods, but that’s not ideal because it could weird people out. The good thing about a new Toyota Prius V is that most people won’t think there are two people sleeping inside. It’s pretty incognito.
It’s also allowed to sleep in Wal-Mart and Costco parking lots, which we haven’t tried yet.
So, that’s that. Those are the five most common questions we get about sleeping in a Prius.
Have you ever slept in a car? What others questions do you have?