How Can We Help?

Prison Break, Part II: How to live in a Car or SUV

You are here:
< All Topics

My wonderful friend Suanne takes 6 month long trips in this Prius, and she loves it! if you are going to live in a car, you MUST read her story here:

In my last post I talked about how the bad economy has trapped many people into very difficult situations. Paying for a house takes every penny they have and they can’t save any money to buy a van or RV to live in. In this post I want to lay out a plan of action that can help you break out of your prison.
I am beginning with the assumption that you don’t have a lease and are able to leave your apartment or home. As scary as it sounds the first thing you should do is move out of your apartment and into your vehicle. Up to now you have been paying your landlord on the first of every month, but from now on you are going to keep making the payment, but you are going to pay yourself. You are going to become the LORD of your own life.

A friend spent most of the summer with me in the Sierras living in this tent and her car.

If you are going to live in a vehicle you want it to be in a van because they are so much larger you will be more comfortable than in a car. However, in this post I’m assuming you already have a car or a small SUV and very little money. Our goal will be to make the car as comfortable as possible so you can live in it long enough to save enough money to buy a good van to live in. If you scrupulously save all your money it won’t be long before you have enough in the bank and can buy whatever you to want to live in. It’s the opposite of a prison, its freedom.

A friend lived in a tent out of his Chevy Malibu. The desert wind was too much for him and the next year he was in a van.

Next you have to decide where you are going to live. You have two choices: 1) Live in the city, 2) Live in the country on public land. The two are different enough that I will break the rest of the post into two parts and address each differently. I’m just hitting each of these topics lightly here. In the blog and my websites I have written at great length about all these things so do some research and find them for more details.


There are lots of advantages to living in the city in a car:

  • You can get a gym membership to take showers.
  • There are many public restrooms where you can relieve yourself.
  • There are more jobs so you can probably work while you live in your car.
  • There are tons of grocery stores so you can buy food in small sizes and you may not need a cooler.
  • There are many restaurants of all sizes and costs so you may not need to cook for yourself.
  • You probably already have a support system of friends and family in your home city so that helps you in every way.
  •  In nearly every city there are lots of thrift stores, garage sales and craigslist so you have easy access to cheap (but still good) used items. Before you buy anything new, search them first.
  • If you are truly broke, there are many resources in cities to help you (there is very little reason to go hungry in America). Take advantage of them! For example:
    1. food banks
    2. shelters
    3. churches
    4. soup kitchens
    5. dumpster diving
Looking in back hatch of my friends car.

Looking in back hatch of my friends car.

Here are the steps to take if you are going to live in a city :
HOW TO GET PRIVACY? You need privacy so here are some ideas:

  1. Buy Reflectix and cover all your windows. You can buy it at most hardware stores like Home Depot or at (here is a link to Amazon: Reflectix 24-Inch by 25-Feet Bubble Pack Insulation).
  2. Here are some ways to mount Reflectix, No-see-Um mosquito netting, cardboard, or anything else to your windows. (You want No-see-um Netting, not the cheaper stuff. Here is a link to it on Amazon: Packaged No-See-Um Netting)

    1. Compression: just cut it slightly large and force it in. It works surprisingly well
    2. Double sided Velcro tape. Velcro Brand Industrial Strength Tape (2 Inches X 4 Feet)
    3. Rare Earth Magnets: Use duct tape to tape the magnet to the item your attaching to the window. Your car will probably have mostly plastic trim so you will have to duct tape a large steel washer to it so the magnets can stick to it.10 Neodymium Super Strong Extremely Powerful Rare Earth Magnets 1/2 x 1/8 Inch
    4. Duct tape
  3. Reflectix is best, but what if you have no money? You can buy a can of spray paint for a dollar and spray paint the inside of the windows.
  4. Or you can get some boxes at a grocery store and cut pieces out to fit in the windows. Either spray paint them black or glue black fabric to it. Get the fabric at a thrift store by getting cheap black clothes and cutting it to fit. Walmart sells aerosol spray glue that should work well.
  5. You can run string around the car and hang towels or sheets over the windows.

When you fold the seats down, a gap like this is easy to fill in with plywood, or you can just stuff gear in their to level it off.

HOW WILL YOU SLEEP? Fold down the back seats and the passenger seat and measure how long that is. Can you sleep in that space behind the front seats either at a diagonal or straight across? If not, can you sleep with your feet back near the back window, on top of the passenger seat and your head near the glove box? How flat is it? Some seats fold down flush into the floor and so they are very easy to work with, you just put down your foam sleeping pad and you are done. If it is very convoluted can you lay a piece of plywood on top of it to smooth it out (all you have to do is measure and Home Depot will cut the plywood to fit). If that leaves dips and valleys you can fill those in with things you are storing to support the plywood. Look at the pictures in this post and you will see how some people did it. Finally, how much head room does that leave you? Can you sit up without hitting your head? Will you feel claustrophobic? If you removed the seats would it solve all those problems and give you a lot more room? If so you may want to take them out. If you can’t sleep any other way, can you sleep sitting in one of the front seats or curled up across the back seat?
What will you use for a mattress? If it fits, a thick backpackers sleeping pad is ideal, but expensive. Another good choice is to go to an upholstery shop and get them to cut a piece of foam to your size. Be sure it is “furniture grade foam”. That is very high quality and will give you a good nights sleep for a long time. But it is expensive also. The cheapest is to go to Walmart and buy one of their toppers. They are cheap so you may have to use a double layer (or even more) to be comfortable. You can just cut it to fit. I own this Thermarest sleeping pad and it is very comfortable, warm, and will last a lifetime (here’s a link to buy it from Amazon: Therm-A-Rest Basecamp Sleeping Pad

My friends Malibu with his seats down. He cut plywood to level it all off.

HOW WILL YOU GET MAIL? For an address, do you have family and friends that will receive your mail and forward it to you? That is by far the best. They will give you both a physical address and mailing address. If you don’t I would find out if there are any mail forwarders in your town. If there are they will give you both a physical and mailing address. If the state won’t accept their address as your physical address, then just keep using your old address, no one will know or care because all your mail will go to your forwarder. You can always use the UPS Store for your mailing address. They are expensive ($17 a month) so they are a last resort. I’m sure you can find a private mail box somewhere near you. I’ve nearly always been able to find one and they are usually $10 to $12 a month and they will forward your mail. Why not use the Post Office Box? They don’t receive UPS or FedEx so how will you order off the internet? They almost always require physical proof of residency and you probably won’t have one. All the UPS Store or Private Mail Box will ask for is two pieces of ID.

A friend lives in this SUV. Notice the cargo box on top, lots of extra room!


My friends SUV from the hatchback. Notice all the organizers he uses. They really are critical to living comfortably in a tiny space.

YOU MUST STAY ORGANIZED! Living in that small a space means you have to be organized and use every inch of space well. It’s not hard. The cheapest way is to go to a grocery store and get a bunch of different sized cardboard boxes and keep your stuff organized in them. Keep all the cooking items in one, clothes in another, health and beauty in another and so on. Write down on the box what each has in it. If you have a little more money buy plastic boxes and drawers.
MAKE THE CAR YOUR BEDROOM AND THE CITY YOUR LIVING ROOM. The car is so small you might want to spend all your time somewhere else during the day and just sleep in the car at night. For ideas of where to stealth park see these blog posts:
Here are some ideas of where to spend your day:

  • PARKS: When I lived in a city I found parks to be my sanctuary. I could walk, cook on the picnic table, and stay cool under a shade tree—all in the beauty of nature!
  • LIBRARY: You can get free entertainment in comfortable chairs! Of course there is wifi, free books, magazines, newspapers and DVDs. Put all your electronic devices in a back pack, plug them into a power strip, set the pack at your feet and discreetly plug the cord to the powerstrip into an outlet and you can charge all your devices while you are reading or surfing the net.
  • COFFEE SHOPS-CAFES: Speaks for itself.
  • BARNES AND NOBLES: I always loved lounging at Barnes and Noble in my time off in the city.



Most things will be the same as living in a city, so just follow my advice from above. But there are some unique advantages to living on public land:

A friend lived in this tent to get her through a crisis in her life.

You can be a snowbird and avoid temperature extremes.  Living in a car in extreme heat or cold in the city is just miserable–this is a great way to avoid that and get to travel at the same time.
I have a dear friend who lived in this PT Cruiser and camped with me for 6 months while she saved money to buy a van. Using very little money she built a little tent room over the hatch of the car. It made her 6 months in the car much more pleasant.

I have a dear friend who lived in this PT Cruiser and camped with me for 6 months while she saved money to buy a van. Using very little money she built a little tent room over the hatch of the car. It made her 6 months in the car much more pleasant.

It’s easy to live very cheaply on public land. In the winter we live in the desert on BLM land and in the summer we move up into the mountains and camp in National Forests. There is no rent and not very many places to spend your money so many of can actually save money even on very small budgets.
The tent-room she made gave her pleasant shade in the heat and was a joy to just sit in. I think she must have been an engineer in a previous life because it wa ingenious how she built it.

The tent-room she made gave her pleasant shade in the heat and was a joy to just sit in. I think she must have been an engineer in a previous life because it was ingenious how she built it.

You can spend most of your time outside the car. Just get a cheap tent and camp chair and go outside! That’s perfect in the mountains in the summer, however, the desert has extremely strong wind storms that make living in a tent very miserable! I’ve known lots of people who set out to live in a tent in the desert and they all give up on it because of the wind. It just isn’t practical. If you want to do this long term, you really do need a minivan, van or small trailer. A tent makes an excellent addition to a car for the summer but in times of extended (weeks) of bad weather, you need to be able to move inside and stay comfortable.
The PT Cruiser from the back. The shelf was part of the car and she slept with her feet under it. You can see it was a very comfortable home. However, I saw the wind flatten it literally dozens of times. The owner of this car is one tough lady because she always just rebuilt it and gathered her stuff from around the desert and kept on keeping-on. The universe rewarded her by providing a really great high-top conversion van in great shape for $1200!! And she had earned it!

The PT Cruiser from the back. The shelf was part of the car and she slept with her feet under it. You can see it was a very comfortable home. However, I saw the wind flatten it literally dozens of times. The owner of this car is one tough lady because she always just rebuilt it and gathered her stuff from around the desert and kept on keeping-on. The universe rewarded her by providing a really great high-top conversion van in great shape for $1200!! And she had earned it!

Live in a trailer. Because you don’t have to worry about stealth, you can get a small trailer like a Tear Drop or Pop-Up and be MUCH more comfortable. Or you can buy a very cheap Harbor Freight trailer for a few hundred dollars and use it for storage. You could even build a simple aluminum frame for it and bungee on Tarps and make a little cabin out of it that came apart when you moved.
I have a friend who tows this Teardrop trailer with a Geo Metro and still gets 35 mpg. But you can't do this in the city.

I have a friend who tows this Teardrop trailer with a Geo Metro and still gets 35 mpg. But you can’t do this in the city.

You have more storage options. You can get a cargo basket and mount it on the roof to carry more stuff or get a “Hitch Haul” carrier that goes into your receiver hitch and use it for storage.
You can work as a campground host in the National Forest in the summer and draw unemployment in the winter.
What you will need’

  • The desert can be surprisingly cold and wet so bring cold weather clothes and rain gear. All your clothes should be strong, durable and multi-use. This isn’t a place for frills!
  • There are not many restaurants on public land so you will need a propane stove, cooler and pots, pans and cooking utensils.
  • You will need water jugs to carry water.
  • You can either dig a cat hole to poop in or bring a 5 gallon bucket and bags or a porta-potti.
  • A solar shower makes bathing easy and pleasant
  • Solar power works great in the country!

Finally, I want to say in all sincerity that you are welcome to camp with me and my group indefinitely while you learn the ropes. While you are here you will make lots of new friends and develop your own community.


  1. Desert Rat

    People should be aware that any kind of camping is hard physically if you’re a bit stoved up – as many of us oldtimers are, a bit arthritic. Crawling ina nd out of things is hard on bad backs, too.
    For me, tent camping is the best and easiest way, and I could never urban camp liek some folks do.

    • Bob

      I agree Desert Rat. That’s one reason I recommend a high-top conversion van for most people. They are so much more comfortable than anything else. But if you have a limited budget tents are a great solution and they also expand your living area if you are in a van.

    • DrBill

      Four months ago I started traveling in my Subaru Forester L. I call it the caR-V. It is Solar Powered. Yes it is tight but I do my living outdoors (unless it’s raining). Rain is rare in the desert.

  2. OpenSpaceMan

    Great idea with the small power strip in the backpack for chargin’ stuff at the library.
    Even though I still have a job making half of what I made just a few years ago…your blog showing these resilient folks living in small cars is a real eye opener. I’m grateful for the information you provide…but your actions speak louder than words…helping people get their sea legs “figuratively speaking” when they’re running out of options.
    You’re an F’ing doer…and you should be proud.

    • Bob

      thanks Openspaceman! I appreciate your kid words!


        I have been doing research on living in my SUV; your blog is superior to any other. You share the important details which are essential: what to use to block windows, power sources/options, casual camp/sleep camp, safe parking and more. Your information has given me a sense of confidence and comfort during this transition: end of apartment lease and into my SUV. I cannot thank you enough!

        • Bob

          Kat, I’m very glad to be of help in your transition! Have you joined the forum yet? It is a wonderful community of people and not only will they answer any questions you have but the will encourage you and you can make friendships and be part of a tribe.
          To join, just click on the “Forum” tab at the top of the page on and sign up at the forum.
          If there is anything I can do to help you, feel free to ask!

  3. McBeef

    I’m living in my car right now, and yeah, it really is just a place to sleep for the time being until I get my van in late October/early November. And you’re totally right about having to be organized in such a small living space. I learned that the hard way early on. What I really need right now is a place where I can receive packages and use as an address.

    • Bob

      McBeef, it sounds like you are making the very best of a hard situation! Good for you, hopefully something good is waiting for you just around the corner (like the perfect van!). Most larger towns have a UPS Store and they are expensive but they do a good job. I’d be surprised if there weren’t a private (mom n pop) mailbox company there. For a physical address you can just pick any residence, no one is ever going to check to see if you live there and even if they ried it would be hard to do. Big apartment complexes are a good choice because mail is always getting mixed up or mislabeled. the problem is if someone asks for physical proof of residency like a rent receipt or utility bill. You may have to rent a space in an RV park for a month to use for proof.

  4. Kim

    I love it when you highlight the various possibilities. Car/Van/Tent/RV dwellers are a resourceful group of folks! And I never stop learning from them.
    I’m reading a book right now by economist Elizabeth Warren entitled “The Two-Income Trap”. It’s an enlightening exploration of the death of the middle-class. Her contention is that families must now have two incomes to afford the American Dream. Well, we all know that.
    But what’s interesting is how much people are willing to sacrifice for the right (i.e. safe) house in the right (i.e. good school district) neighborhood.
    Warren maintains that the tendency to blame middle-class money woes on consumer consumption is a myth. People are in a “bidding war” for good neighborhoods, NOT expensive vacations, pools, new cars, or designer clothes, as the media insists. They just want to be able to afford school supplies and Boy Scout fees. Not to mention health care.
    In my parents’ generation, few women worked. When a couple, in which the wife worked, went to a mortgage company, it was industry practice for the lender not to count the wife’s wages as income. People figured that the wife would, at some point, quit work to take care of the home and the children (a likely scenario).
    By contrast, in our generation, few people can qualify for home-ownership on just one income. Even two incomes are now questionable. So you are trapped – now you can’t afford NOT to both work, nor can you afford the house you want because ….. everyone else wants it too. TRAP is the operative word here.
    If the middle-class goes down, the country goes with it. IMO, the goose that lays the golden egg is dying.
    I once saw a bumper-sticker that stated “The war on drugs is a total failure but the war on the middle-class is coming along nicely”.
    Hope I didn’t go too off-topic but, to me, it’s all tied together.

    • Bob

      Wow Kim, look at you getting all serious! But, you are making total sense , that’s the scary part!! Trap is the operative word!

      • Jim K

        have ya’ll seen that new word, apocoloptimist? it means you’re sure it’s all going to shat, but you are hoping you are wrong, anyway.

        • Bob

          Jim, that’s a new one on me, never heard that before.
          Okay, let me offend everybody!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          I don’t hope I am wrong.
          Sometime recently I wrote of living by a new Land Ethic. Most of you thought that was a nice essay, but I thought of it as a way of life. I honestly believe that a true morality requires that we see the earth, and all species of the earth as of equal worth. Humans are not worth one tiny bit more than the others. Humans are a cancer on the earth and threaten the lives of the whole. The cancer needs to be cut out before it kills the patient. 4-6 billion people need to die. The people who are doing the most harm need to die first, that means those of us in first world countries. That means me and my mother and children and most of you. We are the most malignant of the cancer cells. We are doing the most to kill the earth so we should go first and I think we will go first.
          Because of my spiritual beliefs, I also don’t see that as the horrible thing most of you do. Death isn’t the end, it is simply a transition into something else, I don’t know what but I totally believe we will go on and it will be alright.

          • lonewolf

            I totally agree with you Bob…the herd needs to be culled before it is too late! (though that may be the case already). the only difference we have seems to be a matter of belief..I believe in God,so I feel heaven is where I’ll end up when I die..but,each to his own on that front!

          • Bob

            lonewolf, I believe in god, just not “the one true god” you believe in.

          • Erynn reiss

            May I have,some evidence of this transition? Please don’t refer to any “holy book” as they are written by Bronze Age hearing desert dwellers who had absolutely no special insight I to anything. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

          • Bob

            Erynn, I’m sure you are referring to the Bible but that’s thinking much too small. The best anthropological evidence is that virtually all primitive hunter-gatherers were animists which is idea that the world is alive with “spirit.” There is rarely any definition of what that means because they simply didn’t know. Most told creation stories but it was understood that they were symbolic. Children need to hear a story so they told them a story. Not until we adopted agriculture and became “civilized” were there holy books that dared to define what “spirit” meant in specific detail and give it a name.
            Why is that nearly universal among humans? Because if your only teacher is nature and not holy books then what you see everywhere and in almost everything is a circle of life: birth>death>birth>death, dark>light>dark>light. That circle infuses everything in nature.
            If everything dies and comes back, and modern science tells us energy can’t be destroyed but only transformed, to me the idea that death is only a transition into something else is by far the most logical understanding of what my eyes show me. And every new discovery in physics makes me believe even more.
            I totally understand if you don’t agree and I’m more than willing to agree to disagree.

          • Tricia Nicasio

            I have known this in my soul since I can remember thinking. I am almost 60 now and I am ready as well. 😉 Not offensive. Just a truth. Thank you for everything.

          • Bob

            Tricia, it’s never too late to be free. maybe today is the day to start down that path?

          • Van

            “I believe in god, just not ‘the one true god’ you believe in.” Then the god you believe in is not God.

          • Bob

            Thanks for clarifying that for me.

          • Jeremy Todd

            I can’t believe that I’ve actually heard someone else say this. I’ve been bringing this up for the better part of the year, and ppl that I tell usually don’t have an opinion about it.
            There isn’t a real cure to this that doesn’t involve taking people’s rights. And without a mass killing of millions of folks the only other option I see is ppl need to take responsibility. How many ppl who can’t afford to live a basic life have child after child? These children in more cases will live 80 or so years during which time they are going to have multiple children. It’s a domino effect that no one wants to either address or do anything about. We will pass laws about the most insignificant things while not addressing real life problems. I had 2 children and then got snipped, I worked like a mule 20 years until they are ready to be on there own, and I feel that I did what I was supposed to do.

  5. CAE

    I have a Honda Civic that gets 35 mpg. Way better than my van. I’m thinking about making a “tent extension” to it out the hatch back. Sleep in the car and have the tent as the living room. As usual, your DIY examples are great stuff.
    You’re helping a lot of people. Good on ya!!!

    • Bob

      Thanks CAE. Wow, it’s hard to argue with 35 mpg and the Honda Civic is legendary for its reliability. Sounds like the perfect rig to travel in. Good luck rigging something up for a tent. I’m sure an upholstery shop could help you design and create something.

  6. Marshall

    Great post again, Bob!
    When I finally reached a pain level that was no longer tolerable emotionally, mentally and spiritually regarding all the hypocrisy and BS of “The American Dream” I MOVED.
    And I’m still moving. I did not die, become a bum or some other type who languishes at others expense. I became strong and free.
    Now, instead of holding me down the government fears a man like me. Even though I preach no evil and do no evil, by not buying into the Plan they fear.
    The free life is simple, but not easy. You must run on common sense and stay three steps ahead. Self reliance and organization are key. Cleanliness of self and vehicle is not only helpful, but a must. If not for the fact it keeps the wolves away, it also shows the world you are on your game.
    When you live and project a life that is morally, spiritually and physically doable on the road others will more happily listen and understand and eventually make the break, too.
    The free life is out there for the taking. You just have to be smart about how you live it and project it. Don’t be a pig or argumentative. Blend. Find serenity in contentment. Lose your pride. Be helpful to others. You will live like you did in a house, but on the road.
    There is nothing to be afraid of living on the road. You will find inner qualities and strengths in yourself you never knew existed. Just ask the greatest homeless man that ever lived: Jesus. In fact, not one of the great prophets from any religion had a home. They were all on the Move living the free life. Amazing when you think about it. How do you get what they had unless you live it like they did, right?
    MOVE and go find the REAL you! Its fun!
    Bob, you are a logistics hero! Good job!

    • Diane

      Well said Marshall!!!!!!

    • Martin Hamilton

      Marshall that is right on. Freedom is worth $1000 per day to me. Getting low on money is scary but there are legal ways to make it work. I’m a rich man because this lifestyle has awarded me freedom at a young age.

    • Bob

      Marshall, what a great comment! Plumb full of common sense truth. Thank you!

    • BanjoIsMyBFF

      Loving this post; such sense and truth. There is an inner strength in all of us, but we have to recognize and embrace it when it calls…

  7. LaVonne

    Thanks for the great examples and pics, Bob. Very helpful. Since I’m sharing the car I use now (living in a sticks & bricks) I will have to buy a vehicle in order to do this. Ironically, the car I share is a station wagon I bought with the intention of living in it someday, but now it would cost too much to make it travel-worthy, so I’m giving it to my kids to compensate for all the repairs they’ve paid for.
    I have thought of buying a Geo Metro and a tent for my first year or two of traveling before I settle down to a snowbird life. But a van would cost about the same and be much more comfortable, not to mention offer shelter in conditions/locations where a tent wouldn’t be feasible. So for me, it’s a tradeoff: save on gas or be comfortable. I go back and forth a lot on this decision as I save up my pennies.

    • Bob

      LaVonne, I can totally relate! I gave serious thought to living and traveling in a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle pulling a trailer. In fact ultimately the only reason I didn’t was because I couldn’t have a dog! I think a Geo Metro would be a terrific choice! But, like you said, there WILL be times of extended bad weather and being stuck in a tent or in the Geo just down’t appeal to me. I’d rather travel less and be much more comfortable along the way in a van!

  8. ILDan

    Yet again, Bob, you have made the scary seem approachable.

    • Bob

      ILDan I was terrified when I first moved into a van and as I broke it down part by part and found the solutions for all the problems, it got much easier. My goal in this post was to just break it down problem by problem and offer some solutions. I’m glad to hear I succeeded to some degree!

  9. Marshall

    LaVonne, start with the van, especially if the pennies are tight and all decisions must be fruitful.
    We winter in FL at all the free camps (over 150 of them) and we always run into the ones who start out to save money and go with the tent. Big plans of living well and going out rich.
    It’s cool. But guess what? When it rains or gets really cold and windy or when loud and careless with fires neighbors camp next to them, they have problems and we always hear the next morning how they wish they would have started with a van. Always! All that plus they get lonely because everybody else went into their rig for the night.
    That sucks because then they end up spending WAY more by going to motels and out to eat and it turns into an expensive merry go round. Its not as easy to put up those kinds of conditions as you might think. Plus, most camps are somewhat of a distance from shopping so then gas becomes a concern, too.
    With the van all that gets solved with no real learning curve or better yet, cost. Shelter with cooking and some storage and security way beat the tent.
    I have learned in life you get what you pay for and those in their senior years should not be too cheap about it. The stress of bad decisions will kill a hoped for good life and the body so quick its crazy. We see it every winter and its sad because for just a few bucks more it didn’t have to happen. Worst part is that most who end up in this rut had the money to start with, but lacked common sense on their way about it.
    On the road plan for worse case scenarios and nothing in life will heed your progress.
    Go get’em girl!

    • Choe

      Marshall, could you share the FL free camps (over 150 of them)

      • Bob

        I’d be glad to know that too!

        • Marshall

          There are so many free camps in Florida its crazy. From dispersed camping in all the National Forests there to all the free camps offered by the State of Florida one could live the free life full time real easy if you only had AC.
          There are so many free camps that offer water and some even free HOT showers! We have been to them and they are a staple of our winter life.
          Google up the water districts of Florida. There are five of them covering all parts of the state. Click on recreation and viola! You just choose. If you are having trouble email the rec contact. They are nice and helpful. They provide permits and lock combinations. Almost all have water (95%) but none have electricity. Many have hot showers. Not all require permits.
          It is all free! They used public money or the land was a donation when they got it with the free stipulation.
          Go and have fun on the great citizens of Florida. Spend some money locally and you will be loved forever. I guarantee it! We do it every winter and have the times of our lives. No joke!
          The old timers hate it when I share this info. Elitist BS I say! They will shut these camps down if more people don’t use them. Admin has told us that. Adios old timers!
          Our personal favorite is DuPuis Management Center, an old horse camp between the Atlantic and Lake Okeechobee west of Indiantown that has hot showers and water hookups. They family campground has a beautiful pond in the center of camp and is for tents and vandwellers only. All the oldtimers know this place.
          There are so many more. Why do you think the Canadians love FL so much? Free camping everywhere! Be respectful and stay clean and all will be great. They will not put up with pigs. The sheriff will be called quickly.
          Florida wants people there. The economy depends on it so they make it easy for everybody. There was even a camp five miles from my house and we never knew. You just have to know where to start looking and I just shared that.
          Good luck!

          • Choe

            It is awesome. Thank you for valuable info.

          • Bob

            You’re welcome Choe, I hope it is helpful to you!

    • LaVonne

      Great advice, thanks Marshall! Decision made. 🙂

    • Bob

      Marshall, I’ve heard of people who loved their car and tent, but I’ve never met them. I don’t know anyone who started out in a tent who didn’t end up in a van or RV.So I agree with you totally!

  10. Offroad

    would like to see a link to more discussion of living in a car, specific parking locations possible and legal status in the city. 1) job related. 2) shelter that has a park-sleep area 3) free locations and limits(like park sleeping during the day). There is just so many ways to stop and prevent you from sleeping in your vehicle in your car in the city. there needs to be several articles defining locations, and do not see anything yet, but if someone can reference please post a response.

    • Bob

      I’m sorry offroad, I don’t know about any either.

  11. Sharon Gulezian

    Hi Bob.
    I have not posted in a while. I was traveling in my car from Florida through the mountains to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I slept in the car a few times but was lucky enough to stop at friends along the way. I spent 3 months before I came home. Your article makes me want to pack up again. I have been waiting until my car payments are done and then going to buy a conversion van. This articles makes me feel I don’t have to wait. I want to go see Arizona so bad. Its been my dream for years now. When is a good time to stay in Arizona in the desert. I might take you up on your offer of joining your group to learn the how to live in the desert. Have a lot of preperation to do and things to buy first. I am getting so excited just thinking about it. Florid is wonderful, I can use my sons address as my residence. Its so hot here right now, but I do love the heat. Would love to travel in the summer and maybe stay in Fl. during the winters. Its great in the winters. Looking forward to more information about using your car or van and getting started. Thanks Bob.

    • Bob

      Sharon, I know you won’t like this answer, but there is NO good time to stay in a car in the Arizona desert. In the winter the wind blows too much to make tents practical and it will force you into the car for days on end=not much fun. In the summer the desert is unbearably hot! on the other hand the national Forests of Arizona are pretty nice in the summer, although they can rain a lot.
      The very best place to spend the summer in a car is the Sierras of California=perfect weather! When you get out here, you are always welcome in my camp!

  12. Sameer

    This is wonderful information! A key to success is to study Bob’s Blog, the website and the forum. Everyone will help. Attitude and your own perception of what you are doing is also an essential key to your success You must think of yourself as a winner, innovator, citizen of the planet and not a victim of unfortunate circumstances. You must celebrate ‘true’ Freedom every moment and follow your dreams.

    • Bob

      Sameer you are so right, attitude is everything! A good attitude is THE MAIN KEY to a good life! Thanks for reminding us of that!

  13. JohnNTx

    What is the white car the 6’4″ male is living in? Toyota Yaris.

    • Kim

      Honda Fit.

      • JohnNTx

        Thanks Kim.

  14. cimi

    Well, cardwelling is ok I guess. However In the UK there are small caravans like this one:
    That will BLOW the American mind. But,they are not cheap.Then again it gets fifty miles per gallon. Yes, I said 50. This kind of innovation is not possible on this side of the pond, as fuel is cheap, therefore we build big stupid gas guzzling RV’s.

    • Bob

      cimi, cardwelling is pretty much just for people with very little money, so an RV is pretty much not even a consideration.
      I could be wrong but I am pretty sure we don;t have any very high mpg vehicles is because they can’t meet our higher EPA emissions standards. Look at the Smart car, it is tiny but by the time it met US emission standards it only got around 35-40 mpg which is pathetic for a tiny little car.
      Another reason our cars get such poor mpg is ethanol. It alone will cost any engine to get 10% poorer mpg. For diesels its our sulfar standards. They are much tougher than European and greatly reduces the mpg.

  15. Marshie

    I used the Reflectix on my Toyota motorhome windows, but I bought a big piece of black felt, on sale, and lined all the Reflectix pieces so it looks jet black from the outside. All the pieces are a little bigger than the windows, so I stapled the felt to the foil, real close to the edges. Then I stapled sticky back velcro to the felt. Make sure you use the hard bumpy side of the Velcro on the felt, and the soft fuzzy Velcro on the frame or window, because it grabs the felt anywhere it touches. Found out the hard way. LOL

    • Bob

      Thanks Marshie, those are great tips!

    • cimi

      Did you find adding black felt to the outside (ie, sun facing surface) increases your solar gain? I wanted the black out effect, but was concerned I’d be shooting myself in the foot. In my truck camper shell I added the reflectix that had one side white and one side silver, obviously I put the white side out. I believe that white sided reflectix was sold as concrete insulation, ie, to be put on the ground before you poured the concrete. It performed ok.

    • Van

      Jed over on the Into The Mystery 13 YouTube channel used black felt on Reflectix as well, but he used a type of 3M spray on adhesive to afix the felt to the Reflectix.

      • Bob

        Yes, that is a great way to do it!

  16. Bob

    I didn’t mention it white trash, but that is a good idea. Farmsteading sounds great but it may be hard to find. Another choice is WWOOFing where you work at an organic farm in exchange for room and board.
    Thanks for the creative idea!

  17. HoboJoe

    Thanks for all the wonderful info Bob. Comeing that way soon…..HoboJoe

    • Bob

      You’re welcome Joe!

  18. Roadwarrior


  19. Roadwarrior

    Ha, sorry. I was just checking to see if it would let me leave a comment.
    This is all REALLY good stuff. So glad I found this blog.
    So, I am entertaining the idea of living out of a cargo van to save money to pay back my student loans. I owe twice as much that the “average” college grad owes after graduating. I’m not shy about it, it’s roughly 39 grand. I was smart though, I went to college for something I believed in and knew that finding a job would be easy.
    My occupation…Traveling Field Engineer/Wind Turbine technician. My job is awesome, I get paid to travel and live all over the country working on wind turbines. It sounds like I make a lot of money right? Well, it is good but when you have rent, utilities, food, gas, phone, internet, and a large monthly loan payment, money starts to get VERY tight and at times nonexistent.
    I’ve been interested in vandwelling and simple living for years and I honestly think it’s time to make the change. I’ve even found a guy who is willing to trade me his 2001 Dodge 2500 cargo van for my 1991 Chevy k1500 pickup truck. To be honest when he said yes to the trade I got cold feet. The questions of am I really going to save money popped into my head and what am I going to do in the winter? What am I going to tell my parents? How will people look at me? Will I hate it? All the questions I’m sure everybody had at first.
    I am scared to make the change and I know that nothing ties you down more than debt and that scares me even more. I guess my huge concern is gas and if the fuel costs will be close to or more than what I pay in rent and utilities.
    Other than what is available on this site, can you offer me any other advice?

    • Bob

      Roadwarrior, I’m not sure I understand your question. I would assume if your employer was sending you across the country to work on a wind turbine they would pay for your trip expenses. Is that true? Depending on how far they are sending you, flying would probably be cheaper than driving and paying for gas. But wouldn’t they also pay per diem and pay for a motel? You could pocket that money.
      if you are asking will you save money while you are home and living in the van, my answer is “Of course you will!!” How could you not!? Every month you will will pay yourself instead of a landlord and the utility companies. You will be your own LandLord! Many people find they burn less gas because they can find a place to stealth park closer to work so their commuting costs go down. I suggest to people to find a route around work and find parking places, a gym and grocery stores within a few miles of work and your gaas expenses can go down drastically.
      I lived in a box van for 6 years in Anchorage, Alaska and I promise you can find a way to stay warm. A cargo van has an advantage in that it is easier to insulate from bare walls.
      Will you like it or hate it? Of course I can’t answer that but given your previous interest in simple living , and your heavy debt load, I think you should give it a try. What is the worst thing that can happen? Let’s say you give it a fair shake and live in the van for 1 year. I think it is very likely you will love it and keep doing it for a long time. But what if you decide you don’t really like it? You still have a good van and I can almost guarantee you that in a few years you will look back at your time in the van and smile and think to yourself, “Vandwelling wasn’t for me, but that sure was a great adventure!”
      Go for it! You have lots to gain and nothing to lose!

  20. Curtis Miller

    “Finally, I want to say in all sincerity that you are welcome to camp with me and my group indefinitely while you learn the ropes. While you are here you will make lots of new friends and develop your own community.”
    You can always tell where peoples heart is by statements like this.
    It is one thing to give folks great information, another thing entirely to put action to your words.
    The Bible says Faith without works,(action is dead), does not accomplish anything.
    Bob you are a man of inspiring words and also of great actions, thank you.

    • Bob

      Curtis, not bad for a sell-out huh!
      The spiritual path I follow teaches me that “the spiritual life is not a theory, we have to live it.” I firmly believe that I have been granted a daily reprieve from the tyranny of my own self-obsession, but it is based 100% on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. if I serve others, I can have a good life. If I serve myself I will have a horrible life.
      Everyday the choice is mine.

      • Curtis Miller

        You requested our comments on your other post about a rvliving film.
        The comment was based on my reading the post and reviewing other folks reactions.:)
        Wrong choice of words? Very possibly.:)
        Like many folks no matter how old I get I am still learning something new every day.:)
        And if you are following your heart then my choice of words was wrong and I apologize.

        • Bob

          Not at all necessary Curtis. I just wanted to be sure I knew what you meant. Glad we cleared it up!

  21. Rvnutty

    How does one join your group Bob? I am a wannabe ready to be-A-be.
    I have a question for anyone willing to answer it, which car would be
    the best to purchase if one wanted to live out of a car or mini-van?
    I am in the market for used. Thinking used since I know in the future I am going to want to upgrade to a conversion van or work van when I find one the right price.
    Taking into consideration- seats that fold or seats that one can remove, wheel-wells,
    windows, sliding doors or not, rear trunk that opens, etc.

    • Bob

      Rvnutty, that’s such a complex question it’s difficult to answer. Check out this post!
      Some people love the Astro/Safari minivan, I know several people living in them and they think they are great. Honda or Toyota both have the best reliability.
      For cars, you can live in almost anything, just fold the seats all down and climb in to see if you can lay out flat. If there are humps or valleys you can fill them in with plywood. I have a friend with a Chevy Malibu and I was very impressed with how the seats folded down. He laid a piece of plywood over them and it was a perfect bed. I know several people who live in a Prius and the seats fold down for them to sleep in them.
      I’d give serious thought to a Runaway trailer. You can tow it with whatever car you have now and either keep it and tow it when you upgrade or sell it.
      I’d strongly suggest joining my forum and asking this question there. You will get lots of great advice and also make friends!

  22. virginia glasser

    I am so glad I found your website. I am very interested in this lifestyle for when I am an empty nester. For now, I am stuck in the life I live because I have a 13 year old son. But truly I want to be out there on the road and free for once in my life. When I was little I used to fantasize about living in a train car in the forest. Silly but true. That’s how I know this lifestyle could work for me. I’m sick of the rat race and so called American dream. Thank you so very much for being brave and blazing a trail. 🙂

    • Bob

      Virginia, you sound like vandwelling is in your blood, I’m really glad you found us! A train car in the forest sounds like heaven to me!

      • Van

        Except, a train car cannot be moved like a vehicle. 😉

        • Bob

          Very true!!

  23. David Ainley

    Can you put me in contact with your friend who drives the black Crossover SUV. It looks just like mine. I would really like to get some ideas from him. You can give him my email address. Just be sure he says in the subject line something about CRLV so I’ll know it’s not spam.

    • Bob

      Hi David, I’m sorry I can’t, he was at the RTR three years ago and I don’t have his contact info anymore.

  24. R J

    Hi Bob , I am very interested , would like to take ur invitation to join u , did not find any contact info , plse help . Thx. RJ

    • Bob

      RJ, I’m not certain what you mean. Do you want to join me in camp? Do you want to join us at RTR? In the summer I move a lot so you will have to let me know when you want to join me. In the winter I usually don’t move very often so it’s easy to find me.
      You may want to email me at

  25. Kennyboy

    While I am not a full timer, and I probably never will be, I find the articles and information on this website so useful to what I love to do, which is get away camping. I have a vintage 1969 11 foot trailer by Security, a manufacturer which no longer exists, and I pull it with a 2002 Dodge Durango. But even with gas at two bucks a gallon here in Tucson (right now, anyway), at ten miles to the gallon this rig bites deep into my budget to go anywhere real far. So recently, inspired by people who live out of their cars, as per articles on this website, I took off camping to state parks in southwestern New Mexico in my commuting car, a 2009 Kia Spectra, which gets 35 plus mpg on highway trips. I “live out of my car” four hours a day as I’m a school bus driver, and I have a break between a.m and p.m. routes every day. So it wasn’t a total new experience. I carry a tent and other camping supplies in the trunk, and sleep with the passenger seat folded down. When I fully retire, hopefully in about a year, I hope to go on much longer trips. So far my longest expeditions have been a week (with the trailer and Durango). The point is I have gained so much useful knowledge from this website and I appreciate that. I plan to build a small teardrop on a Harbor Freight chassis to pull behind the Spectra. I expect I would still get at least 25 mpg.
    Anyway, appreciate your website, thanks again.

    • Bob

      Thanks Kennyboy, I’m very glad to help! Traveling in your car works really well for trips but for long term it can be more difficult. But it is certainly much cheaper than the travel trailer!! A tear drop is a very good idea, I think you’re right about the 25 MPG. But make sure you get one of the better Harbor Freight trailers. The cheapest ones are pretty low quality and may not be good in the long run. Check out the speed rating of the tires and I wouldn’t get any that aren’t rated for freeway speeds.

  26. Snuffer Joe

    Heyo Bob- found your site just today, and I think it may have answered the questions I had been brooding on for a few weeks now. Most of those question started with ‘how can I afford-‘ or ‘why am I so miserable when I have-‘. I am somewhat in debt- Credit Cards have murdered me, though at least I have learned my lesson. There is also the matter of a college education that turned out to be for a program that is defunct when oil prices are down (power engineer). I am sick of living with and around people, have never been good with people to begin with, and am all-around done with paying obscene amounts for what I considered to be ‘necessary’, such as a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in.
    All I have to my name despite having a job is a paid-for Ford Explorer and… nothing really else. Some books, a laptop, a few rifles (all that is left of a WW2 collection,) and some RC aircraft that I built myself. I own nothing, yet I owe everything.
    Winter is here in Canuckistan, but I have access to a garage, my mind, my tools, and experience both as a sheet metal tech and engineer, and a buddy who was a carpenter. I think my Explorer is going to be going through a metamorphosis this winter, and I am pleased to say that you’re website here is going to be a guide. I am hoping to abandon apartment slavery this March.

    • Bob

      Snuffer Joe, that seems like a great plan to me! I’m glad to help in any way I can! Keep putting one foot in front of the other and your dreams can come true.

  27. april

    Bob, I love you.

    • Bob

      Wow, thanks April!

  28. michele

    Hey Bob! How would someone find where you are? I am going across country in my 2-door jeep this summer/fall and would like to meet up and meet you. It is so helpful to read all your blogs.

    • Bob

      Michele, you can email me anytime and I’ll tell you! My email is I’m usually behind on my blog posts but it will give you the general area I’m in. Right now I am in Pahrump, NV and up next is Zion NP and then the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine CA.

  29. RickB1

    Bob and All,
    I too am working towards my goal of living free. My Ex turned me onto your site and I love what you are doing and the fact that you so freely share your Experience, Strength and hope with all of us. You are truly a gift and an inspiring man.
    My goal of freedom at this time are about 6 months off. I just inherited a nice property in San Diego area and am most grateful for it as it has saved me financially. However, I am retired and living on a fixed budget which, Until I can hit 62, is being eaten up by property taxes and other expenses related to living here. I just want to touch bases with you and the people here and am extremely excited to find such a vast amount of information all geared towards helping others live happy joyus and free. Great Job to all of you and I’ll be in touch so that when I take my leap I’ll know where to land!

    • Bob

      Rick, it sounds like you have a great plan! 6 months puts you about time for the RTR, hopefully you can make it over to meet your new tribe and second family. Hope to see you then!

  30. Sally

    Hi Bob.
    I too, am very interested in getting into this lifestyle. For the past months, instead of watching movies or tv shows, I’ve been watching all your youtube videos….I think I’ve seen every one of them!! lol I have a Buick Rainer which is why I’m in this section of your website. I’m pretty old, 63, and a bit handicapped…but I really believe I can do this and will love it. I would very much love to hook up with your group….hopefully at the RTR. I especially wanted to thank you SO MUCH for all the valuable information and inspiration you’ve put out into the universe. You’ve given me hope that I can live instead of just exist.

    • Bob

      Sally, your comment is music to my ears! Life is to precious to just exist through it! I hope very much to meet you at the RTR in January. I think it will be life-changing for you! Bob

  31. Kathleen Wilt

    Hi, my name is Kathleen, I have been following you for awhile. It was my plan to work till I was 66, by a van, and escape! I was laid off last Sept, been downhill ever since.. Currently I owe to much on a car I bought to get to my last job, (long story) I am broke and tired of looking for yet another bad job. I have to be ought of apt the 1st. I am hoping to hang out with you and your friends till I learn the ropes. Where will you be the 1st of Sept? What necessities do I absolutely need to get???? Have SS so I can get a few things.

    • Bob

      Kathleen, since you and are communicating by email, I’ll answer you there. Bob

  32. Vananna

    I have watched many of your videos and love the creativity of those who set up cars to live in. I watched the lady with car essentials who travels in a Prius. Not to be indelicate but I have wondered why she uses a bucket for a toilet when she is covering a front seat. Why not get a bed pan? Seems that would be so much more comfortable and a good alternative. Just a thought.

  33. Connie Staggs

    I saw your very kind offer to allow people to come and stay in your camps while learning the ropes. Because that comment was in 2013 and I realize how much busier you have gotten, I wanted to know if that is still an option. Because I’m not sure if I will be notified of replies on this thread, if you can email your response, that would be appreciated. I watched your video of what started you on this path. The story of the lady with three kids had me in tears, and your efforts to help people warms my heart.

  34. James in wa

    hi bob want to do this lifestile im sick of the rat race!!! i got a van just got to get it set up may see u at next rtr???

  35. Tom Minnich

    Just found you. Years ago I found Loners On Wheels. Spent a little time in Deming. I was about 50 then. Now I am crowding 80 (Gads) and am wondering a number of things. Have a 2002 Grand Caravan with 166,000 miles on it. Too many miles? At 79 and Medicare how do you keep your medical on the move? And, Am I just too old to take a shot at this. Also I have no cash saved up. Just got divorced. I get $1,600 a month. that should be enough I believe. I know folks are doing on a good deal less. Really have enjoyed the articles you and your readers have posted. I think I could make the dodge work. Could use a plan on setting it up. Thanks, Tom

  36. Rachel

    To block the Windows a great friend told me to get the reflective sheets they use in greenhouses, I think I used aluminum foil but the real trick was using a spray bottle with a bit of dish soap mixed in to make it adhere to the Windows. I did this when I got stranded in my Jeep Liberty at burning man. Worked fabulous, reflected the lights I had inside the car so I needed less, stayed in place through desert heat and cold, I had to peel it off and of course clean up was a breeze because it’s soap! You could even re-use the foil, no problem. One other tip… Leave a patch or flap open, it gets very disorienting when you can’t see if it’s day or night inside the car.

  37. Hojd

    Really great article Bob. Thank you. We are going around Europe and I just installed some serious electrical juice into our RV hoping that it’ll be able to charge our electric scooters before we ride

  38. Cold N Holefield

    You can visualize how much time and work you have put into this website. For that, I would like to give my thanks! Overflowing with helpful content. I have spent two hours reading through posts, looked at the clock, and thought it had only been 15 minutes. I have a keen interest in van and RV life. Now it has been almost 20 years since I began a drastic lifestyle change. Trying to be more environmentally conscious, giving up material necessities, and even going as far as setting up a Yurt in my backyard which has brought me much happiness and allowed me to connect with a life outside the bubble. Last summer (’18) I rented a conversion van and hit the pavement. I was introduced to 23 states. What I thought would be a journey of self exploration changed my life. I realized van and RV life is where I belong. I love this life of freedom. I can’t contain my excitement over my purchase. As of high noon yesterday, I became a first time van owner. I could burst with excitement I feel like a kid again where the world is at my fingertips. All I need to do is turn that metal key and put my foot on the gas!

  39. Martin

    Can’t imagine never living in a house, but I think it must be a great experience. I’d have to get rid of A LOT of stuff to live in an RV full time, but then that would probably be a good thing. I’d definitely like to try some RV living, but just for travelling purposes I think. At least until the kids are grown up and flown the nest. I’m looking into buying a cheap one to get started and maybe take a few weeks off to travel.

  40. Adrey Paul

    This is the most amazing and unique article I have read. How to live in a car. It’s superb. But for good sleep air mattress is necessary. Keep posting unique “How’s To ” Content like this, I think you should also post How To Sleep Comfortably In a Car. Will be waiting for that post from your side.

  41. Jack Danny

    I have watched many of your videos and love the creativity of builders to live. But I want to ask you, is it comfortable to live with such a car? Conditions will certainly be inadequate so I find life like that difficult

  42. Roberta

    When I retired over a year ago all I dreamed of was traveling and seeing so much of this beautiful country that I had not seen before. Things didn’t go as planned but am back to that dream now. I have a small SUV that will not haul much weight so an RV is out of the picture. And I cannot afford an RV that will pull my car. I have watched tons of you tube videos on car conversions and figured I would put a carrier on the back of my vehicle (have a tow hitch, no roof rack). Considered getting one of those tents that can be attached to the back of my car also for longer stays. Really don’t plan on sitting still much. I am good with small spaces and living out of my car is not what is concerning me though. I can live very minimal actually. I also have a decent sized pension so money isn’t to much of a problem. I have dreamed of doing this for years, but now the world has become so scary that I really don’t know how safe I would be. I am a 62 year old woman and although I do carry. it still scares me to be out there alone. I also thought maybe I would house sit around the country and so would not be spending all my time in my car. I guess what I am getting at is just how safe is it for an older woman alone?

  43. Golfiron Advisor

    I have read your Post. Great Post!

Table of Contents