How to Live in Your Car (and Keep It Insured)

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Man living in his insured car

People live in their cars for many reasons. Some choose a nomadic lifestyle and travel the country in their vehicles. Some people live in a car temporarily during a road trip, while others are forced to live in their vehicle because of homelessness. Cars provide shelter and mobility, and they can make for a temporary home. 

No matter the reason why you will be living in your car, you will want to be prepared for the unique challenges that you will face. 

You will need to be flexible and creative when living in a vehicle, but the following tips can make your life easier. 


Key Takeaways:

  • If your car is going to double as transportation and your home, take the right measure to ensure you have what you need and can live this way comfortably.
  • Living in your car can feel like you’re cut off from the world. Make sure you have access to WiFi and your mail to stay connected.
  • Having auto insurance is crucial for everyone, but when your vehicle is your home it’s even more important. You want adequate coverage in case your house on wheels gets stolen or damaged in an accident or from a weather related event.

Develop a Hygiene Routine

Taking a shower can be a challenge when you live in a car, but there are many workarounds to this issue. You can head to a local recreation center or even opt for a cheap gym membership that will give you access to their shower facilities. Some truck stops and rest stops also have shower facilities that you can pay to use. 

Alternatively, you might set up your own shower station when the weather is warm. If you’re parked in a remote location, you can use a portable camping shower to stay clean while you’re on the road. 

Get Protection

When you’re living out of your car, you are probably spending long periods of time alone and may be parked in a remote location. It’s important to consider your safety and security during these times. 

You might want to invest in a can of mace. Installing a steering wheel lock can help to prevent vehicle theft when you aren’t at your car. Keeping your cell phone charged at all times is also an important security measure. A cell phone charger with solar panels can help you to keep your phone charged no matter where you are, and a backup battery can also be ideal. 

If you have valuable items, you may want to store them in a safe deposit box at your bank, rather than storing those items in your car

Additionally, choose your location with security in mind. If possible, see if you can park at a safe place like a campground or RV site where there are other people around and the risk of crime is reduced. If you’re parking in a more remote location, make sure that your vehicle isn’t visible from the road, and change up where you park each night. 

Plan Your Meals

family cooking in their car

With a little creativity, you can enjoy cooked meals even when living out of your car. You can use a small camp stove to heat water and cook small, one-pot dishes. With hot water, you can enjoy dehydrated meals, cook oatmeal, cook vegetables, and make soups. 

You will need to plan ways to get potable water. You can purchase gallons at grocery stores, or you can use a tarp or other system to collect rainwater. 

Use the Bathroom

You can create your own portable toilet in multiple ways. You might decide to invest in a chemical toilet, which uses chemicals to help cut down on odors. Alternatively, if you’re parked near the woods, you could dig a hole or create a basic camping toilet using a bucket. 

Have Enough Storage 

Keeping things organized when you’re living in your car, especially a small car with limited space, can be a challenge, but it’s important. A cluttered car full of gear can attract unwanted attention from local homeowners or police, and clutter makes it difficult for you to find the items you need. 

If you’re going to be traveling, you might want to rent a storage unit so you can unload some of the items that you won’t need in the near future. A storage locker allows you to pack more lightly, so you’ll have extra space in your vehicle. 

If you can’t leave belongings behind, then staying well-organized becomes even more important. Invest in storage containers and organizers that can help you to make the most of the space that you have. If you have items packed in plastic containers, you can put those containers outside at night, leaving you more space to sleep. 

Creating a bed platform in your backseat or cargo area can maximize the space you have while letting you store extra gear underneath. You’ll want food storage that protects your food from rodents and the elements. You’ll also want to use different laundry bags or a storage system that keeps clean clothes separate from dirty clothes

Get Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi keeps you connected to the rest of the world, and it’s essential if you will be working while you’re traveling. One of the easiest ways to get reliable Wi-Fi access is to use your smartphone as a hotspot, but this requires a monthly subscription and those costs can quickly add up. 

Alternatively, you may be able to use a local library’s free WiFi, and sometimes you can even get a signal from the parking lot. Other options include local coffee shops and even fast food locations like McDonald’s. Just keep in mind that you will need to buy something and may only be able to stay for a few hours at a time. 

Manage Your Mail

woman getting a package from the po box

You will need a mailing address so you can receive mail when you’re living in your car. If you will be staying in the same general area, then you might want to rent a post office box. Alternatively, if you have friends or family members nearby, they might be willing to allow you to have your mail sent to their address in their care. 

Stay Warm or Cool

You’ll need to be proactive in maintaining the temperature in your car during extreme weather. If you’re dealing with cold climates, then a well-insulated, good sleeping bag can help to keep you warm. Park your car in an area where it’s out of direct wind, and plan on wearing wool socks, gloves, and a hat to bed. 

In hot weather, keeping your windows open can help to reduce heat buildup. You can use battery powered fans to keep air circulating, or even better, sleep outside in a hammock. Taking a shower just before you go to bed can also help to keep you comfortable. You can hang a large tarp over your vehicle to create additional shade, too. 

Ensure Your Privacy

You’ll want some privacy when you’re sleeping or changing. You can hang window shades that you can pull down when needed to block out bright lights, or use materials like sheets or cardboard to block out your car windows as needed. 

Insure Your Vehicle

When you’re living in your car, it’s also important to make sure that your vehicle is insured. Car insurance protects you when you’re on the road, and it can help you to avoid being financially responsible for damages resulting from a car accident. Car insurance can also help to pay for damage to your car caused by events like animal strikes, floods, or falling trees. That coverage becomes extra important when your car is also your house, since it ensures that you can get your vehicle repaired even if you don’t have the money to pay for those repairs out-of-pocket. 

It’s also a good idea to explore personal property coverage that will cover the cost of the belongings you keep in your vehicle. This could be a lifesaver if your things are stolen or destroyed by a flood or fire.

Car insurance doesn’t have to be expensive. You can explore different deductibles and policy limits to keep your monthly payments down. 

To get the best deal on car insurance, take the time to shop around and compare quotes. This is easy when you use Compare.com. You just need to take five minutes to fill out the quote request form, then you’ll receive personalized quotes from up to 65 different insurance companies. You can easily compare the quotes to determine which option gives you the best deal, and you can easily sign up for car insurance. Compare.com users save an average of $720 per year on car insurance, which can go a long way when you’re living out of your car.


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FAQs About How to Live in Your Car

Can I just live in my car

You can live in your car, but it isn’t always an ideal situation. It’s difficult to deal with extreme heat and cold weather, and you will need to plan ahead for necessities like showering and mail delivery. While living in a car can be tough, when you’re doing it for a specific purpose, like taking a road trip or exploring a nomadic lifestyle, it can also be highly rewarding. 

Is it illegal to live in your car in the US?

There aren’t laws prohibiting you from living in your car in the US, but you will need to follow state and local laws. Those laws may limit available overnight parking areas, so if possible, always park at a designated area like an RV park or camping site.  

How do you start living in a car

If you have some time and advance notice that you will be living in a car, then you can do some valuable planning that will make the experience easier. If possible, purchase a larger car like a camper van or SUV so you have extra space. Invest in equipment that will be helpful, like an air mattress and a camp stove, and explore different ways to maximize the storage space available in the vehicle. 

Where should I sleep if I live in a car

You can sleep in any space that you can make comfortable. If you have a small SUV, it might be easiest to fold down your back seats, while sleeping in the backseat of a sedan might be the most comfortable. You can use a mattress pad and air mattress to make a space suitable for sleeping.

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