Practical tips for living in your car, if you have to

Times can be so unpredictable. One day, you’re enjoying the comforts of home. The next day, disaster or a financial problem strikes, and you’re forced to flee. You have to wait out the storm in the car, or live in it after the bank forecloses your property or your landlady asks you to leave after many months of not paying the rent.

As many people have shown, it’s possible to live in a car. It allows you the freedom to move around. It simplifies your life. It even helps you meet more people because you’re not confined to a single neighborhood where you know the family who lives next door.

But it’s not as easy as it seems. You should exercise extra care in protecting yourself. Here are important things to consider. (h/t to

  • Stealth — For your safety, it’s important that you don’t call attention to yourself and people don’t know you’re living in the car. They shouldn’t know where you park your car and where you keep your supplies. During the 2016 flooding in Louisiana, a man packed his family and supplies in his car and went to a shelter. The shelter, which housed over 500 people, didn’t have water and food. The man had to conceal his supplies from others and slept in his car instead of camping out in the shelter. To stay inconspicuous, you’ll have to put tint or cover your car windows completely. Try installing dark curtains by the window or buy dark cloth with stick-on Velcro that works. You can also use car shades. Avoid turning on the light in your car at night. This will attract attention to yourself and your belongings.
  • Sleep — You’re at your most vulnerable when you’re asleep in your car. Park at a 24/7 store or business to avoid suspicion. Hotels and campgrounds also offer safe parking places. Stay away from areas that could attract criminals, because they will likely rob or harm you. Instead, try parking in a place that’s inconspicuous from the street, or where people can mistake your car for an abandoned vehicle. Never block yourself in. You need to escape fast if someone tries to break into your vehicle. Park at high ground during heavy rains and floods. When it’s cold and windy, try parking next to a wall to keep car temperature up.
  • Food — You’ll need simple, easy-to-prepare meals. You can eat oatmeal, soup, and noodles using an electric teapot in your car. Keep your meals warm for a long time with a thermos. Keep non-perishable, odorless food in containers. A smelly car, and the odor of freshly cooked food will attract people and animals.
  • Water –A water filter will save you money and keep you going. You can store the water in large jugs to ensure that your supply will last longer.
  • Hygiene — If possible, try to enroll in a gym where you can have access to a shower. Otherwise, you’ll need regular sponge baths that require a  steady supply of face cloths and sponges. It helps to know where the public washrooms are. You can also try using the washrooms of big establishments because chances are, the store clerks won’t notice that you just went there to clean yourself, not to buy something. (Related: Husband and wife ditch fancy house and cars to live happily in a van.)
  • Mind matters — Avoid confrontations about your situation. Start your day earlier, so the sound of people walking won’t jolt you awake in the morning. Keep yourself busy with books, board games and other things that don’t require a power source.

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Living on the go has its ups and downs. It just requires a new set of skills and the right tools for survival. Hopefully, you’ll have both before you even decide to go on that long adventure with your car.

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