There are a number of unfortunate circumstances that could lead to a person having to abandon their home and live in their car, from financial struggles to a disaster scenario. In all of these circumstances, though, one common factor remains: living out of a car isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t fun.
Nevertheless, there may come a day when living out of your car is the most viable option for survival. If that day comes, you’ll want to be prepared. In this guide, we’ll take a look at some tips to make living in your car safer, more convenient, and as tolerable as possible.
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Before we get started, though, it’s important to note that every situation is different, and the strategies that would apply if you were living out of a car for financial reasons are going to be quite different than the strategies that would apply if you are living out of your car because society has collapsed and your home is no longer a safe place to be.
We’ll cover a wide range of tips that may or may not apply to the situation you are preparing for, so be sure to keep that in mind. With that said, let’s dive into the things you’ll want to consider if you have to live in your car.
Keep a Low Profile
Living in your car is not illegal, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to attract the attention of people passing by and, eventually, the attention of police officers. For a number of reasons, it’s best to avoid as much of this attention as possible.
Start by covering the windows of your car using car shades. These are common accessories that people place over their windows when parking their car to keep it cool and to keep the sunlight from fading their interior, so people won’t question a parked vehicle that they can’t see inside of nearly as much as a vehicle filled with supplies.
Related: 18 Tips For Bug Out Vehicles
At night, if you use a flashlight or other form of light inside your car, you may have to use an even thicker, darker shade to keep yourself hidden from view. You can use foam tubes and blackout curtains to make a shade that you can put up at night.
Another aspect of keeping a low profile is to be careful where you park. For starters, never park in the same place more than once in a given week. As for the places that are safe to park, apartment complexes are a good bet. People come and go from apartment complexes quite frequently, and most of the people living there aren’t going to be nearly as familiar with all of their neighbors and what they drive as the people living in a housing district. Large parking lots next to stores that are open 24 hours are another safe bet.
Have a Plan for Maintaining Your Hygiene
It’s easy enough to eat and drink out of your car, even if the meals that you can prepare are going to be quite limited. Likewise, using the restroom is as easy as driving to a gas station. However, regularly bathing is going to require a little more preparation.
If you can afford it and if you have the option available, joining a health club is going to be the most convenient way to maintain your hygiene when living out of your car. Health clubs have showers that you can use at any time. They’ll also provide you with a way to stay physically active, which is a huge plus seeing as living out of a car creates a very sedentary lifestyle.
If you aren’t able to join a health club, get used to giving yourself a sponge bath out of a sink in a public restroom. Just be sure to choose a location with a single stall restroom and a door that locks rather than a restroom that is built to accommodate multiple people at a time. Having someone walk in to see you unclothed, bathing yourself out of the sink will certainly attract the unwanted attention that you’re trying to avoid.
Keep Yourself Entertained
As you might imagine, living out of a car is not going to be great for your mental health. It’s going to be emotionally exhausting, painfully boring, and the constant confinement alone is enough to really wear on a person. To keep yourself sane, plan for as many entertainment options as you can.
Having a radio in your car is a good place to start. You can listen to music, news, talk shows, and anything else that you can tune into. Getting a library card is another good option. It won’t cost you anything, and you’ll be able to check out books and magazines to read, audiobooks that you can play in your car, and movies that you can play from a laptop if you have one.
Having a library card will also allow you to use their computers and internet whenever the library is open. You can even charge your phone, laptop, and other electronics while you are browsing the internet if your library has outlets available for public use.
In addition to providing you with a place to shower, health clubs can provide you with some entertainment options as well. Working out can be a form of entertainment if you enjoy it. Many health clubs also have a swimming pool that you can use, a basketball court where you can join a game, and so on.
Spend time in places such as coffee shops. For the price of a coffee, you can spend hours in a coffee shop using their Wi-Fi and maintaining a degree of human interaction that will go a long way toward keeping yourself happy and sane.
However you do it, try to keep yourself as entertained and active as you possibly can. Remember, there’s much more to life than just survival, and human beings weren’t meant to sit in a car doing nothing all day.
Keep up Appearances
Like it or not, how you appear is going to play a major role in how you are treated. This applies to how you are treated when someone walks by your car and sees you, how you are treated when you walk into a business or public building, how you are treated when you interact with the police, and everything in between.
Regardless of your true financial status, you’ll be better off if you look and act like you are middle class. Wash your clothes regularly at a public laundry mat, bathe frequently, and overall try to continue maintaining your appearance as well as you can.
Another part of maintaining appearances that will be important when applying for a job, getting insurance, renewing your driver’s license, and more is to try and maintain a physical mailing address. You can do this by purchasing a private mailbox as opposed to a PO box at the post office.
Using the address of your mailbox when you fill out various applications will enable you to complete applications with accurate information without ever having to indicate that you are homeless. Fair or not, this may be the difference between you getting a job that allows you to get your life back on track and your application being denied.
Experience is the Best Teacher
If you think that there may come a time when you are forced to live in your car, practicing with a trial run or two is the most beneficial way to prepare yourself ahead of time.
Reading about how to live out of your car is a great place to start, but it pales in comparison to the lessons that you will learn within the first few days. You’ll find out what works and what doesn’t, what you will need and what you won’t, and what it is really like.
If you are able, set aside a week or two and live in your car. Seriously! You can think of it as both a learning experience and an adventure of sorts. Learn everything you can from this experience, then go back to the drawing board once the trial run is complete to assess how you did.
After you’ve lived in your car for a week or two, you’ll have a much better idea of the things you will need to purchase, where you will need to go, how you will need to operate, and more. This kind of knowledge will certainly be incredibly valuable if the day ever comes where living out of your car is a necessity rather than a choice.