Driven By Savings: Living, Working, and Traveling in Your Personal Vehicle

“Homeless” is often associated with someone sleeping in their car, but some people choose to make their car their home so they can afford to travel or save money. If you picture living out of your car as sleeping uncomfortably curled up in the backseat of a compact car with a Wal-Mart parking lot light shining in your face all night, you haven’t seen what people are doing these days to turn personal vehicles into mini-campers. Is living out of the back of a minivan going to be as comfortable as living in your own house or apartment? No. But is it safer than living in a tent? Yes. Does it give you more privacy and independence than sleeping on a friend’s couch? Yes. Is it more comfortable than sleeping under your desk at the office? Yes.

Vehicles allow you to “stealth camp”—i.e. to live out of your car without anyone knowing you’re living out of your car. Years ago, I came across the story of one Silicon Valley tech, fresh out of college, who found he couldn’t afford rent anywhere near his office, so he turned a box truck into a small apartment and he stealth camped right in the parking lot at work. But anywhere you can safely leave a car overnight is a place you can stealth camp: a rest area, a parking lot at a 24-hour store, a truck stop, the driveway at a friend or family member’s home (stealth-camping out of your car might get you around HOA regulations—at least for a period of time—which can block other alternative housing arrangements on the property), a state park or campground, federal BLM land, etc.

Because there are so many options for building out a vehicle–from cheap, no-build solutions, to elaborate, hand-crafted builds with carpentry, electrical and plumbing systems on par with a camper–I have them divided up based on vehicle type.

Do note that these only cover personal vehicles that anyone might have sitting in their driveway right now. I will cover commercial-grade vehicles, like cargo vans, box trucks, buses, and ambulances–i.e. things you have to go out and buy specifically to convert into a mobile home–in a separate post. Campers, whether home-made or not, are also a separate post.

How to live out of your:

Are you interested in other types of nomadic housing? Check out this post: On the Road Again – Exploring Nomadic Housing Options

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