VAN LIFE: Things you need to do if you have to live in your vehicle
By Olivia Cook // Oct 20, 2023

Some people adopt van life to live a nomadic lifestyle. Being able to move anywhere that's accessible by car no longer requires looking for houses, signing a lease, packing all your belongings or dealing with housemates. But some people may have been forced to live in their vehicles due to unfortunate events.

Whatever the circumstances, here's a list of things you need to remember if you have to live in your vehicle.

Find the best vehicle to live in

There are a lot of vehicle types out there but choosing the right one for you is as overwhelming as it is fun. Check out the pros and cons of vehicles you can live in and convert into your new home on wheels.

People have proven that they can stealth camp in any type of vehicle. The internet can provide numerous examples of clever camper set-ups in small vehicles so there is a lot of room for creativityAs long as you can figure out how to create a comfortable bed in your car and feel safe sleeping in it at night, you have a vehicle that you can use for stealth camping.

Once you have a car that you feel ready for stealth camping, try it out for a night in the city, or on a weekend camping trip at a parking lot, to see how it feels. From there, you can get a sense of what's lacking and figure out what you can do to improve it.

Establish a mailing address

You can put down the name of a friend or a family relation who is cool with your using their address. Or, you can opt to use a commercial mail-receiving agency or CMRA – a service that you pay a monthly fee to have your mail receivable from a temporary address. Unlike a post office box, the address you will be given looks like a regular home address.

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Become a member of a 24-hour fitness club

The benefits you can enjoy for being a member of a 24-hour fitness club could include access to their gym amenities, such as parking, private restrooms, private showers, free WiFi, etc. You could also have access to all their locations.

Find safe and inconspicuous places to park

The goal is to find a spot where people will pay attention to your vehicle or just don't care if you're sleeping/living in your car. The ideal parking spot is where you can safely park your car every night and have everything within walking distance or a short commute away.

Park next to open areas or non-residential structures, like churches or public buildings. Some bus or train stations have large parking lots that have free overnight parking with no limits. There's usually parking near the beach. Some of them have free day parking but no overnight parking while some are just the opposite – free overnight parking and paid day parking.

Eat healthy

Not having access to a kitchen while living in an expensive city will make it challenging to keep food costs down. You can cook outside your car using a portable stove; ask a friend to use their kitchen to prepare your meals once a week; get free meals at a soup kitchen or volunteer at a soup kitchen if you want to work for that meal. The most important thing to remember about food is to prioritize eating healthy over reducing costs.

Deal with temperatures

In the winter, park where the sun will hit your car early in the morning. This can help warm your car in the morning as you're getting up. In the summer, park in the shade of buildings or trees for as much of the day as possible to keep your car cool.

Deflectors for your windows are great because they allow you to keep your windows open while you’re sleeping for fresh air to come in and reduce condensation building up on the inside of your windshield. They allow you to keep your window open even when it's raining or snowing.

Organize the essentials

Keep things in order to save you a lot of hassle. Losing things can be extremely easy. Keeping things neat inside your car will draw less attention from people passing by who happen to look in the windows.

Get quality, sturdy cases for all of your belongings. If there's not enough room in your car for your clothes and supplies, try to leave them at a friend's house for safekeeping. (Related: How to store emergency water in your vehicle.)

Check out this complete list of van life essentials to make living in any vehicle bearable and safe.

Stay positive

Living out of a vehicle can be embarrassing and stressful because you are stripped of basic amenities that a home has when you live out of a car. (Related: Don’t let fear stop you: How to prep without succumbing to your worries.)

However, living within the bounds of a city in your vehicle means that you can still have access to those amenities, such as public restrooms, hot showers at a gym, free WiFi and electrical outlets at a local library or coffee shops, etc.

According to those who are into van life, the beauty of this lifestyle is that it is flexible.

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Watch the following video about the top seven things you need to start living in your car.

This video is from the Emily Windsor, Truth OR Dogma channel on

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Sources include: 1 2

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