Adventures with Debra and Robert

Behind the Scenes, Nomad Tips, Tools, and DIY

Living in a Car by Choice or Necessity

Photo: Robert's car at a campground in Idaho

Living in a van or RV is often challenging compared to a house. Living in a car or other small vehicle is harder yet.

The bottom line is that I do not recommend living in a car if you have a choice. It is cramped, uncomfortable, difficult to deal with during heat or cold – or inclement weather, and has limited storage space. In many cars it is also impossible to install a bed for comfortable sleep. And I have done it and know many others who are still living in a car, whether by choice or necessity. It is possible, but far from ideal for most people.

Of course, there are some benefits to a small vehicle for a nomad. The most obvious is fuel efficiency. My little Toyota Echo that we originally purchased to be a tow-behind vehicle averages 45+ mpg on open roads if I keep the speed to 65 or lower. That kind of fuel efficiency makes a big difference to any nomad on a tight budget. Other reasons that are commonly cited include ease of driving, low maintenance costs, and stealth capability (if you are able to set the car up so that you are out of sight at night).

Why talk about living in a car if it is not something that I recommend? Simply because I have experience doing it and I know that others want or need to learn how to do it as well.

I recently had a viewer on my YouTube channel ask about some details around living in a car. Rather than attempting to answer all of the questions in a comment, I decided to make a video with my answers. In this video I touched on several topics that are of particular concern to anyone trying to live in a car or other small vehicle. These topics include:

  • Drinking
  • Cooking
  • Storage
  • Heat and Cold
  • Privacy
  • Restroom
  • Sleeping

The video is linked below if you would like to watch. My recommendation is usually to start with a van – whether full-size or minivan – if you are not sure what vehicle will best suit your needs. The reason for this is that a van is a pretty good balance between the qualities of different vehicles – cost, space, fuel efficiency, handling, access, etc. You can always replace the van with something larger or smaller if you decide it is not right, but it will likely work well enough until you make that decision. For those who are considering using a car though, this video will point out some of the big challenges and provides some possible solutions.

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    I haven’t seen anyone address health care.

    • Comment by post author

      We have addressed health care in other videos, and also plan to cover it in more detail at some point in time. Long story short, it is pretty much the same for nomads as for anyone else – often challenging, always expensive, and frequently frustrating. There are some unique challenges for nomads, but unless a person is dealing with a major, chronic disease that requires frequent visits with specialists it is much the same whether as a nomad or otherwise. More than anything it takes a bit of preplanning.

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