Vehicle Survival: How to Successfully Live in Your Car (By Someone Who’s Done It)

by Erich

The following is a guest post by Javier C. who spent over a year living successfully out of his car. He shares his insights in this article. Keep in mind many of these tactics Javier details here would easily apply if you were ever forced to bug out with your vehicle. For more information on his experiences, you can find his book on Amazon here:


From August 25th 2012 until over a year later, I slept and lived in my car in Los Angeles, California. I moved to Los Angeles for a dream and did not realize how expensive it was to live there.

So I began planning in my head and thinking how I might save money and how I might get out of the frustrating living situation I was in at the time. I decided living and sleeping in my car would be an idea that would satisfy both of those things I wanted for my life in Los Angeles.

It was truly a survival experience…

Throughout my time sleeping and living in my car, I learned a tremendous amount. Although it was very tough, it did in fact help me achieve my goals of saving money and being
able to live on my “own” in my car.

It didn’t come easy getting used to that life though. There were many learning experiences. I began writing a book while I was sleeping in my car. About how to survive living in one’s car.
There are many different aspects when it comes to sleeping and living in your car successfully — many of which require a plethora of survival skills. In all truthfulness, it really is a “survival” experience.

I was doing this so I could save money and get ahead in life. After all, it takes sacrifice if you want to get ahead in life. That’s what I have learned. Especially in this economy today, you never know when hardship may hit and having these survival skills in your pocket may just save your life one day when you really experience hardship.

All in all, I saved a great deal of money and had extra money I wouldn’t have had if I was paying rent somewhere.

In this article I’m going to go over a few key aspects it takes to successfully live in your car. Even if you never have to live in your car in your life, it’s good to be prepared. You never know what life may throw your way one day.

How to Successfully Live in Your Car

What to do for Food

When it comes to food, there are many options when living in your car. My purpose living in my car was to save as much money as I could so my food choices were dictated by that purpose:

  • Canned Foods: There are canned foods such as beans, pastas, and tuna. Have a can opener ready or preferably have an easy to open top. That makes things much easier. Canned fruits or fruits in plastic cups work as well. They store well too.
  • Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches: These are easy to make in a car and only require a knife to spread it.
  • Homeless shelters: Homeless shelters are a good source of free food. Just find one in your local area.
  • Protein Bars: These are pre-packaged, somewhat healthy and easy to eat on the go.
  • Fast Food: This is a somewhat cheap and accessible option but I generally went for the foods that were in a grocery store as they were cheaper. In grocery stores, they usually have a bakery or already-cooked foods section and these are somewhat affordable as well. I used to get 2 pieces of fried chicken and some potatoes and it was decently priced and nice to have some “real” food for a changes sometimes.

Where to Sleep

Finding the right parking place is probably one of the most key elements of sleeping in your car. A good sleeping area can make or break you living in your car. You have to find a place that is safe but also a place where you can stay on the down-low enough to not be noticed.

I personally parked in the lot of a 24-hour grocery store I used to work at. I lucked out. But I’d say if you can manage to sleep at a 24-hour store somewhere that would be good. Or in a neighborhood that is safe where you can stay under the radar.

Once you do find that place, you have to ensure you do everything you can not to be noticed. Part of that is making sure your car is properly “prepared”.

For example, I had dark tint on my windows. If you don’t, another option is to put dark towels up in front of the windows. You have to be inconspicuous though and make sure no one is around when you put them up. Just go to your spot, park, shut the car off and set the towels up. That is what I did.

Make sure you choose the same place for sleeping every night. It makes things a lot easier. Don’t tell anyone where you sleep.

Have the radio off long before you get to your spot so you don’t draw any attention to yourself.

Additional tip: do not open your doors once you get to your spot or get out of your car at all. It only draws more attention to yourself.

Where to take Showers:

Keeping good hygiene is absolutely key to living out of your car without being noticed. The more attention your draw, the easier it will be for you to be noticed and ultimately kicked out. It’s key that you don’t appear to be homeless and get identified as a squatter. For that reason hygiene is very important.

I took showers at a gym. I got a monthly gym membership. It was only $40 a month. So it was not much. I got to both work out and get clean. I recommend having a backpack with everything you need for the shower and a combination lock to lock up your stuff while you are in the shower.

Killing Time

Here are a few options of where to hang out on your day off work or when you have free time:

  • Fast food chains: They usually have free WiFi for laptops. If you keep a low profile, it’s likely you will go generally unnoticed. Just make sure to keep to yourself for the most part. I didn’t even buy anything much of the time and no one cared to be honest.
  • Public libraries are great places to hang out in your spare time especially if you have a laptop. There is free WiFi that does not expire like many food places. There are usually a good amount of seats. It is nice and cool inside or warm depending on the climate where you live.
  • Malls are a decent area to hang out at as well. To find a seat and read a book or walk around. Just as long as you don’t have to pay for parking to be at a mall then it’s great.
  • The gym is a great place as well. You can work out for a while to kill time and be inside.
  • Friends: Having social connections are obviously a great way to pass the time.

Key items to Keep in your Car

  • Gallon of drinking water: It’s important to always stay hydrated when living in your car. You are always going, always on the move much of the time. There were many times it was after work and I hadn’t had any water. It was always nice to have my gallon of water in the backseat under a towel. It costs about $.25 to fill it up at a grocery store.
  • Pain medicine: Very useful when you have any kind of pain. There were many times while I was living in my car, it was late at night and my head was throbbing. It was nice to reach in my little soccer bag and take some pain medicine and be able to sleep peacefully after that.
  • Car Fan: At night time I find it tough to sleep without some background noise, so this came in handy. It costs about $20 at an automotive store. It is enough wattage to be on all night and not kill the battery. Many nights it is too hot to sleep in a car without a fan.

    In the summer time, if I didn’t have a fan I would have suffered greatly.

  • Power Inverter: This is a device you can plug into your cigarette lighter and charge your laptop, cell phone, or any other electronic device as long it is a small enough wattage. It costs about $20 at many stores. Be careful what you charge. Some things will kill the battery if you charge it too long. Try to charge things while driving when possible because it doesn’t use the battery. The one I had had was 100 watts, which means anything you charge has to generally generate less electricity than that.
  • Sleeping Bag: A good sleeping bag is key in any environment. Even in Los Angeles, in the winter and many times other seasons of the year as well I needed it. If I hadn’t had a good sleeping bag, I would have frozen and been very uncomfortable the entire night.
  • Snacks/Food: It is important to always have some sort of food in your car. Preferably on the floor on the passenger seat side as I did. I used that section for my food. It was easy when I got hungry, I could just reach over and grab a banana to eat when I needed it. It’s crucial to always have at least some stuff ready to eat anytime you may need it. Not eating can cause many problems. There were many times after work I was extremely hungry and was leaving work and had a piece of fruit I reached for and ate right from my car.
  • Jumper Cables: Sometimes for a couple different reasons, I found that my car battery died and I needed a jump. Most likely because I left the lights on or I charged my electronics too long without driving. It was a pain standing in front of a store asking people if they had jumper cables. I eventually got some jumper cables so when my car battery died, all I had to do was ask anyone who had a car around me if they could give me a jump rather than also having to ask them if they had jumper cables too.
  • Vitamin C: Living in your car is not a normal thing obviously. There is more wear and tear and hardship than if you had a place to live. So it’s important to keep your immune system up. Vitamin C boosts the immune system. Anything you can consume with a lot of Vitamin C is great. Oranges or any drinks that have vitamin C in them are great. You cannot afford to get sick in your car when you already have enough other things to worry about.
  • Spare Keys Container: Having spare keys around are very important while sleeping in your car. You never know when you may need them. I kept a spare key for my car always in my wallet. Also, I went to an automotive store and got 2 containers for about $10 that store keys and have a magnetic cylinder on the back so you can connect it to any metal at the bottom of your car for when you lose or lock your keys in your car.

    Make sure to put it where no one can see it. Make sure no one knows it is there. Only you.

  • Conclusion

    There are many important aspects to surviving living in one’s car. These are a few of the key ones. The important thing is keeping a low profile in all you do. That way, you can have the longevity to stay in your car as long as you need to.

    You have to stay mentally strong and continually aware and focused of everyone and everything around you. Keep your head up. Always know it is not forever and is only a temporary situation.

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Comment by Jason
2015-06-07 19:59:31

I, kinda’, live in my E-150. To be truthful, the only reason I am preparing for getting a house or apartment (slowly) is because my girlfriend is high maintenance XD Barring that, I find the rear bench seat/bed very comfortable (more-so than the pad I sleep on on my parents’ floor), the option of mobility is both exciting and comforting and camping is, well, a lot less planning and preparing. The idea written here about food, one must realize in states where we actually have freezing winters, canned food should actually be either bought by the day or stored in the gym locker noted in the article. Once it freezes, the juices solidify and never go liquid. I have a folding Coleman grill in the back, and when I tried to cook up some Spaghetti-Os, found it looking very unappetizing and tossed the whole can. I now have a full dufflebag of canned foods I’m not sure I wanna even try, but WILL eat in emergencies. But I love the idea of a gym membership, for both storage and for showering. I’ve found that Walmart parking lots are great for sleeping in. Nobody cares you’re there, it’s big so it’s nice and open for all the breezes to get in your windows and, really, if you LOOK like a bum…it’s Walmart, who cares, it’s expected. But even having said that, I still look around me when getting out to get in back, so I plan to take out the tube tv that sits between the front seats and putting in a flat screen somewhere, so I can go straight from Driver seat to the back. Sun shades are a great alternative to towels over the windows, as towels, in themselves, look suspicious and out of place as opposed to sun shades which are made for cars. But I only need them on windshield and back windows and, really, rarely use them. My 3 largest windows have the typical E-150 pull-down shades. I bought this van for WAY above what it’s worth ($8,000 for a 1999 E-150 with a bowing ceiling, AC/Heating issues and multiple cosmetic problems), but it looks good from the outside and has paid itself off in all the fun I’ve gotten from it in the year and a half of ownership, and I’ll have it paid off in 2 weeks and will be fixing it up to be an ultimate bugout van, all the way up til late Autumn.

Comment by Gary
2015-07-07 19:59:18

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Comment by jeanette
2015-09-09 00:11:55

There were some things that were over looked. I was homeless with my husband and 3 small children. So I learned a few things too. Truck stops can be a good place to get showers. Dry goods can be a great blessing. As well as bottled water. Picnic areas with grills are good for a hot meal. Chanel locks with a rubber grip are great to pick up hot cans off the grill. Just use them for cooking only. Rolling clothes helps save space. Bag dirty clothes and use a method of keeping it closed to prevent smell. That is just a few things I did.

Comment by Mike
2016-01-26 23:58:01

Dont marry her:). Doesnt get better

Comment by car living
2016-02-13 06:01:46

Can some one please describe how you take care toilet business?

Some need to get up few times in one night. To release blader.

How do u guy take care the morning glory?C7Yv

Comment by Arkman
2016-02-23 21:54:26

I use yellow Nalgene bottles and simply dump it in the morning. I wash it out in a bathroom sink once dumped in a toilet. It does not look unnatural to have a bottle of water in hand or clipped on a belt or even in a small pack. This can be done while in a sleeping bag and sealed up. I have even tossed the 98.6 fluid container in the bottom of my bag to warm my feet. You learn to get creative as you get older.

Comment by Jake
2016-04-12 02:23:58

Ask for a cup of hot water at a diner (usually free) and add ketchup. Instant tomato soup!!
Grocery stores that have free food samples like Costco.

Comment by Will
2016-10-04 02:41:23

I lived in the back of my toyota pick up on and off for 2 years. I didn’t make enough to pay my child support and put a roof over my head at the I make enough to continue prepping and fix up my truck. But I never how it felt to be poor and learned a lot about off grid living.

Comment by Will
2016-10-04 02:51:04

I used space bags. Packed each day in one and kept a small vacuum around. A weeks worth fit in 2 drawers.

Comment by MichiganDogman
2017-01-10 03:29:45

I found staying in hospital parking lots (usually in the back) to be very safe. Most hospitals have cafeterias and the meals are cheap. They also have clean bathrooms. People are always coming and going at hospitals so it is easy to stay unnoticed. Also, hospitals have nice waiting rooms where you can get out of the cold or heat. If asked, all you have to say is that you are there visiting your mother, father, sister, brother or friend, etc. I was once asked by a guard what I was doing in the parking lot and I simply told them I was there to visit my mother and I had driven half the night and all day and I needed a few hours of sleep so I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel while driving to a motel.

Comment by Cloodjo
2017-04-03 14:56:40

It’s a brilliant idea to take showers at a gym. Comes out adequate in respect of the price. But I think such living in the car it’s not suitable for ladies.

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Comment by TravelStore
2018-06-22 16:30:15

This is rightly named as the age of traveler-centricity and with
the evolution of the new era of individualized travel it is primary to research
and improvement of a host of new so-named smart providers.
The command-and-control perspectives of touring have changed a great deal from the earlier and the concentrate has shifted much more on the
traveler and the productiveness of every excursion.
It has become important to preserve that the travelers have the biggest return on investment on each and every trip.

New generations of young staff and professionals, who have been rising up and dwelling in a digital age,
are transferring up the ranks as tourists.
It has develop into necessary to understand the want for greater adaptability acknowledging that the employees who travel on company excursions also think about a
percentage of their excursion to be a leisure outlet.
With raising globalization and increase in providers sending their staff abroad
to network and join with their offshore potential clients/customers/suppliers,
company travel is a extremely successful tourism phase.
Before we communicate about how tourism organizations can improved
cater to company tourists, permit us very first seem at why they like to use specialised corporate businesses above common agents

Why do enterprises use Company Travel Agencies?

This could be the most standard dilemma for a vacation agency as to why they
need to use businesses specializing in company vacation when there are lots of typical travel
brokers in the industry. Right here is the importance of company journey agencies who have online units which permit company travelers obtain to their comprehensive itinerary.

The pursuing details is at the fingertips of the CTAs:-

comprehensive business itinerary information
up-to-day monitoring information of flights (which includes delays or rescheduling)
clear facts about further fees these types of as baggage
costs or in-flight fees
vacation alerts, if any, in the destined region
full and up-to-date specifics about the visa
procurement insurance policies and identification demanded
forex necessity and conversion fees
What do company consumers hope from Company Vacation Agencies?

Negotiated Fares

The Corporate Organizations have a tendency to have tie-ups with lodges, motor vehicle rentals,
flights and many others. supplying them accessibility to lessen fares which can be made use of only by the repeated organization vacationers.
Discounted charges are not the only gain although as they also provide flight upgrades,
room updates, and VIP verify-in strains as required.

In-depth information and facts about the journey market

Company travel brokers have access to several journey resources and most importantly, immediately, than any other leisure vacation agent.
Extra info allows to make the small business visits handy and snug.

Variations in Itinerary

When an airline ticket demands to get rescheduled
or cancelled, prospects are the airline or the on line service provider will demand lofty fees.
When scheduling with a company travel agent, most of the times
schedule variations can be accomplished at zero or minimum excess costs.

Viable crisis contacts

It is essential for the business tourists to attain the proper individual
at the need of issues. Company travel brokers have the encounter and professionalism to minimize worry for
each the traveler and the business.

What you have to have to consider as corporate travel raises?

Business enterprise Vacation Barometer claimed that
corporate travel is witnessing an accelerated growth.
Even so, when improperly managed, it may well be no for a longer time an advantage to corporations and might, in truth turn out
to be a stress. There are some factors which the firms and
CTAs will have to take into account to get the best out of the time
spent touring.

Adopting a travel policy

The company will have to define a vacation plan which is
relevant to and respected by travelers at all stages.
This plan really should be utilised to create
the requirements which will enable to observe the advancement of business enterprise travel.
It will at some point support to cut down the expenditures of the
whole package.

Do not restrict the traveler’s autonomy

The administration is accountable for budgeting the travel policy which can help to boost expense administration even so, it is also necessary to give a diploma of autonomy to
the traveler. The coverage ought to be versatile adequate to permit the
staff to adapt the excursion as for each the predicament.

Traveler’s safety really should be a significant concern

Organization vacationers have to have to have stability in place.
The organization needs to stick to its definition of criteria to guarantee the employee’s integrity.
The CTAs should have trusted companions (journey insurance coverage, airlines, lodge chains and many others.).

Mobility and automation

To optimize time and simplicity the procedures, the administration of administration platforms really should have automatic processes.
This suggests they should really undertake mobile solutions where by look for alternatives, vacation alerts, ticket reservations and many others.
can be accessed speedily, very easily and on the go.

Corporate Travel Developments in 2016

Corporate journey tendencies have a tendency
to alter often. 2016 has also not been any distinctive and the
travel administration businesses (TMCs) and corporate journey
businesses (CTAs) are pretty centered to present continuous if not sturdy axis all over.
A increasing MICE sector, investments in mobile and massive
information and increased aim on responsibility
of treatment are some of their spots of target.

Mounting prices

The consolidated buzzword between worldwide suppliers, airfares, lodge
premiums and many others. is the rising fares. It is at times the transfer of the suppliers
to deliver reductions which inspire vacation if there is a solid decrease in demand.
A positive 2016 world economy has been bringing an improve in air fares of a number
of proportion points, accommodations are predicted
to see 4%-six% increase in ordinary world-wide rates and the level of
competition will stay moderate in the car rental expert services.

Responsibility of treatment

Risk administration is one particular of the big points of emphasis for businesses.
Corporate consumers are enabling new guidelines and enhanced technologies to keep an eye
on employees’ place in case of an emergency, especially when they
are travelling to foreign destinations. For occasion, Concur Chance Messaging allows to
identify the vacationers shifting about in the earth and
alerts them with alternate vacation arrangement as and when necessary.

Concentrating on MICE

Meetings sector is a significant expanding sector and the corporate
vacation craze is developing on it. The company travel organizations ought to
better begin aligning the various conference procurement methodologies with its transient journey sourcing.

One particular of the approaches could be to broaden the
range of conference products and services by incorporating incentive visits
inside of it.

Investing in technological innovation

A sharper focus on growing worth and turning out to be extra traveler-centric can be performed by bringing in cell helpful technologies.
Cell and large knowledge are unquestionably the two most significant technological investments which any company
travel company must aim to make their platform additional appealing.

Company vacation investigation immediately after Brexit

Following Brexit, ACTE and CAPA shared their
speculations. According to them, the greatest shorter-expression results on the travel sector will appear from the
weakening of the pound versus other environment currencies.
Greeley Koch, executive director for the Association of Corporate Journey Executives said
that the small business vacation industry will craze on forex fluctuations with some
companies getting benefit of the weaker pound and traveling extra, although others may withhold business vacation till globe marketplaces obtain their very own degree.

Impact of terrorism on company tourists

Travel coverage makers and administrators need to
be guided by increasing terrorism scare. For executives and
workers endeavor travel on behalf of enterprises, the travel brokers and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) ought to demonstrate the reassurance for their basic safety as a result of
the travel guidelines. It is much more than very likely that the surveys conducted around
company travelers reflect the standard issue of the world wide organization vacationers
about the spate of terrorism. Nevertheless, there is no denying the reality that terrorist menace is transforming the designs of small business vacation. The key effects of this is to continue to keep in thoughts that the firms offering travel companies for
organization vacationers need to have to boost their concentration on stability
and the involved dangers in providing the companies to
company shoppers. In accordance to a recent obtaining, vacation professionals have increased estimation of
their policy’s effectiveness in addressing threat compared
to skeptical business vacationers.

Comment by Juan
2018-08-09 01:57:02

I spent 7 months living in my car in Michigan for work, from November to June. The Michigan winter was cold, it got down to -6 degrees. A couple of strategies I would use to stay warm, besides having a warm sleeping bag, I would warm my car up as hot as I could get it before shutting it off, I would also urinate in empty water bottles inside my bag so I wouldn’t have to get out of my bag and lose all the body heat I built up in my bag. I did the same thing in the summer except I used the a/c. The parking is a critical aspect of this lifestyle. Walmart parking lots work very well but not all allow overnight parking, make sure you call ahead and verify. I’ve been rudely awakened by police knocking on my window, rudely ordering me to leave within 2 min or face arrest. It’s not pretty, verify. On street parking can be treacherous as well. Some cities have ordinances against overnight street parking and will happily tow your vehicle. I recommend spending a few nights reconning the area. Drive around at 2 or 3 in the morning and see where cars are parked, this will give you an idea of where you can hide in plain sight. If there are cars parked there at 3 in the morning, the site likely allows overnight parking, at the very least, if you keep a low enough profile, you should be able to get several hours before having to move on. Target parking lots will usually allow overnight parking as well. I’ll usually call ahead and say something like, “Hello, I’m on a trip and I’ll be passing through your area on my way. Would it be ok if I rested in your parking lot for a few hour before heading back on the road?” This serves 2 purposes, 1. You find out if the store is officially ok with overnight parkers and 2. If confronted, you can say that you’ve recieved permission from store management to be there. This can go a long way if confronted by asshole police that seek to harrassment you.
Food – Eating well is more difficult without a kitchen. Kroger and Walmart have great prepackaged salads. Fresh and canned fruit are excellent options. Steak and Shake is open 24 hrs and have a great deal, 2 burgers for $3. Always keep water on hand to stay hydrated. Skinny pop and oatmeal pies were staples as well as canned peaches and mangoes. Cup of noodles are really good if it’s cold out. If the get a small burger or item from a fast food place, you can ask for a cup of hot water for free. Most of the time I would boil water on a mini camping propane stove. It doesn’t take long and doesn’t put out alot of light and the fuel is pretty inexpensive. The benefit in the winter is that it keeps your car warm a little longer.
Avoid bad or even minority neighborhoods. They usually have heavier police patrols and if they encounter you sleeping in your car, they are more likely to react poorly and treat you as if you are homeless or vagrant or worse. I’m speaking from experience. Keeping a low profile is very important. Draw no attention to your when “in place”.
Hygiene – It’s very important to shower at least every couple of days. I got lucky, my work had a shower so I used that. Its another aspect of keeping a low profile, no one should know you live in your car or at least it shouldn’t be obvious. A Gym or YMCA membership work well, truck stops have showers you can rent, but are expensive ($12 a shower). In a pinch you can use wet wipes to freshen up, although that method long term would be tougher. You can also bath in a sink at a gas station of fast food joint. If you use this method, scout one that you can lock so you don’t get interupted. Good luck to all. Live free!

Comment by Humminbirdgpl
2020-12-12 03:48:41

way. Handwritten book

Comment by Infraredbfg
2020-12-18 16:33:15

for Countess Louise of Savoy

Comment by Haywardlyz
2021-01-08 18:59:08

ancient and medieval Latin,

Comment by Extractioncso
2021-01-13 04:15:42

The most common form

Comment by Vintageqee
2021-01-22 12:54:08

handwritten by the author.

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