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Rents are too high, you want an adventurous life, you want a stealth camper – there are many reasons you might want to try living in a car. If you’re wondering how to live in your car and pull it off, I have some tips and tricks for you.

I lived in a Prius camper for four months in San Francisco to pay off my debt, something more and more people are doing.

Even well-paid techies in San Francisco are opting to live in their cars, not able to justify skyrocketing rents.

If you are interested in living in your car, you should know that it’s still illegal in many states and municipalities, but there are ways to get around that.

For more information, check out this article: Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

We started living in a tent and in my boyfriend’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, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Here are some things to consider when living out of your car.

How to take a shower when living out of your car

How to find showers when living in a car
Some people living in their cars are lucky and their workplaces offer showers, bathrooms and free food. But most people have to join a local gym in order to keep clean. When I was living out of the Prius in San Francisco I joined the Bay Club, which is very expensive but worth it to me. At the Bay Club, you get workspaces, showers, wi-fi, free coffee, happy hour drinks, sauna/jacuzzi/steam room. It’s worth it to me when not paying for a traditional home to have some extra perks in my gym.

But I know a high-end gym is not really convenient when living out of your car on the road.

Here are some highly recommended gyms that are affordable and have many locations:

Here are some options if you don’t want to join a gym:

  • A truck stop like Love’s or Pilot
  • Use your own solar shower
  • Campground showers
  • Beach showers
  • Marina showers
  • Heat up hot water and use a washcloth

Also, maybe you don’t have to shower all that often when living in your car. This YouTube video from CheapRVLiving has some great tips on how to stay clean.

How to prepare for living in your car

When Tom and I first started out turning his car into a Prius camper, we did several things. Here is how we made our car super stealth so we could park anywhere with anyone knowing.

  • We tinted all the windows to make it hard to see inside the Prius
  • We bought dark blankets and bedding to stay hidden if someone were to walk close to us. One of those blankets we draped over the two front seats so someone walking in front of the car couldn’t see us in back
  • We bought a sunshade for the car’s windshield to keep us hidden
  • Also, we got some window deflectors so we could roll the windows down a little even when rainy, to keep the car from steaming up
  • When we went to sleep, we’d hang clothes or other articles from the back windows

We made our Prius camper comfortable by folding down the two back seats so we had a nice bit of space to lie down in.

Then, we put a futon mattress back there and a couple of pillows. Other people opt for memory foam.

You can also use camping mats and sleeping bags, which we now do when we sleep in the Prius.

It’s important to consider a bed that is easy to fold up and doesn’t take up a lot of space, so you can dismantle and put your bed together easily.

If you want to see an example of someone who turned a car into an awesome Prius camper, check out what this guy did:

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How to get Wi-Fi when living in a car

There are several good places to get WiFi when you’re living out of a car.

One option is to get a phone plan that includes a mobile hotspot. I use Project Fi, which is a Google phone service where you pay per gig. This is a great option if you just need a bit of data for WiFi here and there. Other people love using AT&T and T-Mobile to create hotspots.

I also use a Verizon MiFi device, which in my experience has better coverage than Project Fi. With Verizon, you’ll pay $50 per month for 4 gigs or $85 for unlimited WiFi.

You can also park your car near or go inside a place that offers free WiFi. Here are some ideas:

  • Starbucks
  • McDonalds
  • A public library

If you’re traveling to remote places and still need wireless internet for your job, check out this guide on how to get internet by the Mobile Internet Resource Center:

 Where to park when living in a car

When we lived in the Prius camper in San Francisco, we parked all over the place. Even though we no longer live in the Prius, we still use what we learned to park and sleep safely.

Here are some great places to sleep in your car:

  • A local marina
  • A campground
  • A rest stop
  • Some big-box retailers allow you to sleep in their parking lots, such as WalMart and Cabela’s, but call that individual store to be on the safe side
  • On city streets. This is illegal in many cities and has to be done with great care and caution. We’ve slept on city streets in Newport Beach even and avoid getting detected. To do this, you have to have a newer car with tinted windows, and be sure to get there late and leave early in the morning
  • At a truck stop
  • In a national park parking lot.

For a more information about where to live in your car legally, check out this post: Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

We are also sure to prepare our Prius bed

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What type of car should be used for car living?

A Prius is a great option when you're considering living in a car

The Prius or some other hatchback is good if you’re planning on living in your car. The hatchback offers a lot of extra space that you wouldn’t find in a sedan.

That being said, I have spoken to several people who make it work living in a sedan with both one and two people. They position their sleeping area so their head is in the trunk, fold down their back seats, and then stretch their legs out toward the two driver’s seats.

I think this method of living in a car sounds really uncomfortable and claustrophobic.

One benefit of a Prius camper is that you can run the air conditioning and heat 24/7, as the car can idle and run on its battery. This is also great for stealth camping, if that’s important to you.

A Jeep Cherokee is another good option. It’s more stealth than a van and bigger than a sedan or a hatchback.

Although to some people, size doesn’t matter. Check out this woman who’s converted a Smart Car. Incredible!

Why do you want to start living in a car?

Before you start living in a car, it’s good to think about the reasons why and what you want to accomplish. It can be a stressful and scary thing to do, especially if you’re going at it alone.

However, if you’re living in a car for the right reasons – to save money, to travel, to have adventures, to pay off debt, then by all means, go for it!

The good news is that now, so many people are living in cars and vans that you’ll have no problem finding community wherever you go.

What are your biggest concerns about living in a car? Comment below and let me know!

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