Move In, Not Out: Moving Vans and Box Trucks as Tiny Houses

For couples who are going nomadic, box trucks are a great option because they give you more living space than a person vehicle or commercial van. Masquerading as a moving or cargo truck, they can still be stealth, like vans, but they keep you from feeling so claustrophobic. They’re also a better option for taller or bigger people who would find the previously-featured vehicles too cramped. They come in a variety of sizes, from small and easier to park, to large moving trucks that give you enough space to actually have separate rooms.

Tip: If you don’t want to put windows in the side of your box truck or cargo van because it will look less stealth, you can always add skylights. These will allow you to enjoy natural light and see the sky without anyone suspecting you might be living in the back of your truck. Small external security cameras that you can monitor on your phone, TV, or dedicated control pad will allow you to keep an eye on what’s going on outside your vehicle.

This is the first build I’ve seen in a snack delivery truck. (Apparently these are called step-vans.) It has a rustic, cabin vibe to it and was built by a college student to save money on rent.

Amazingly, this large step-van is home to a paraplegic man who built it out himself and he travels with just a dog. Everything is handicap-accessible, proving if there’s a will, there’s a way.

I have to admit, this is the first vehicle conversion, of any kind, that I’ve seen that features a built-in hamster habitat. I’ve seen people with room for dogs and occasionally a cat, but never an on-the-road hamster before.

This small box truck is so stealth, the owner has invented a fake company logo for it and teases people who ask about it with made-up answers about what the company researches. The truck is set up to tow a small off-road vehicle behind it, allowing it to stay parked while the owner goes off on adventures. (And given the great price he paid for it, it was probably cheaper than retrofitting the truck to be off-road.) The truck itself was only $1500, but he put another $2500 into maintenance.

I like that his TV is set up to have an aquarium (he said he also uses a fireplace) for a screen saver; it looks neat. (You could also set it up to have an outdoor picture, giving you the feeling of a window.) Money and effort was saved by using standard Lowe’s cabinets in the kitchen and for storage, so it wouldn’t need a huge amount of carpentry skill to build out.

This European box truck looks like a cluttered tiny house, showing that your mobile home doesn’t have to look any certain way; it should fit your personality and your lifestyle. Something interesting she’s done with her truck is she has a side door and she can actually operate a mobile tea/juice/smoothie shop out of it as a side hustle. (This is more difficult to do in the U.S. because of health department permits and regulations and business licenses, etc. but it’s not impossible. And you could at least avoid the health department issues by selling pre-packaged goods, like water, colas, candy, etc.)

One thing she did that was really clever was take the cover off a footstool pillow and pack it full of out-of-season clothes or soft camping gear, like a sleeping bag. This is just one more way to make maximum use of storage. Another neat hack is she has her guitar—a bulky item that normally takes up a lot of valuable real estate—attached with straps on the ceiling above her bed, where it doesn’t get in the way of her headspace.

This custom-made box truck is more expensive than the build-it-yourself type, but it can be a source of inspiration with its modern, industrial loft look. One thing that’s really cleaver is that they put in a window above the table/workstation for ventilation, but because the client wanted the truck to be 100% stealth, they hid the window on the outside using a vent cover. This allows in fresh air right where the owner is working, but it’s also something that could be easily unscrewed if the truck is parked somewhere for a while where stealth is not needed, so the window can be enjoyed.

This is also a stealth box truck, but homemade. There is no external door; it can only be entered from the cab of the truck. It features a garage in the back, where bikes and other gear can be kept, plus a porch. Inside, it has a large galley kitchen, wet bath, couch, and a large workstation. The bed is in a loft and you actually have to duck under it in order to enter the back of the truck. (Although part of the bed is in the over-the-cab space, so you’re not walking under the entire width of the bed.) This wouldn’t be my idea of a good time, but I’m also a bit older (and stiffer) than the owner. If you don’t need the garage space to be vertical, you could swap the bed and the bathroom and still have some garage space under the bed. Alternatively, you could swap the sectional sofa for a futon or homemade pull-out bed and eliminate the bed entirely, giving you more storage space. A twin bed, instead of a full, in the attic space would also eliminate most of the ducking.

The owner had the same idea for hiding a window behind a vent, but he took it up a notch and put a large window behind an A/C vent and put the vent on gas struts so he can easily open it if he doesn’t need to be stealth. Otherwise, it works well for air circulation. Two small skylights make the living area feel open and bright.

This box truck is not meant to be stealth; instead, it was retrofitted to go off-road. So it’s basically the comfort of an RV with the range a Land Rover. Although plain on the outside, I love the color scheme on the inside. The original roll-up door was replaced with a solid piece which folds down and makes a porch. The side door allows access to the living space without having to put down the porch. I’m not sure why their bed is on the floor instead of being up at normal height; it seems like a waste of space. But in one image, I saw a small child, so it’s possible this bed is down low to make it easier for him to get in and out, or it may fold up, like a Japanese futon, to create a play space for him.

Are you interested in these larger vehicles as a potential home? Check out other large commercial vehicles to full explore all the possible options: Adapting Commercial Vehicles for Affordable Long-Term Living

Want to be nomadic, but don’t want to buy a commercial vehicle? Check out: On the Road Again – Exploring Nomadic Housing Options

Van Life DIY: Transforming Commercial Vans into Tiny Homes

Need cheap housing or want to travel without breaking the bank? Explore a myriad of options for budget, DIY, and custom commercial van buildouts.

Emergency Shelter: Ambulance to Tiny House Conversions

Explore how turning an ambulance into a tiny home opens doors to frugal and adventurous living.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *