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Car dwelling

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#1
Who else is interested car-dwelling (or using a vehicle besides a van/RV)?

Why I'm using my hatchback:
- Being a 5'4 person, I already regularly nap/sleep comfortably in this vehicle during roadtrips.
- I already trust this vehicle to run reliably and I enjoy driving it. I've already spoken to one person who said he wished he'd just boondocked in his Honda Element instead of buying an older van.
- I already have insurance on it.
- Since I plan on replacing the vehicle within the next 5-10 years anyway, I like the idea of "test-driving" certain things on my hatchback before I invest in a different vehicle.

What I've done so far
(Note: I am not a mechanic, and this WILL void your warranty/could be dangerous. I based all of this off of DIY videos and I won't be held responsible for anyone who imitates my poor life choices)

Adding space
Removed rear seating/passenger side front seat

Adding comfort
Bedding: I filled a black fabric camping mattress with shredded memory foam, then laid it on my empty passenger side. It's not very noticeable from outside

Mosquito netting mounted to the inside of windows with VHB tape

Mosquito repeller that plugs into my solar generator (we'll see how well this works in a semi-outdoor environment)

400 wH solar generator with lithium battery with USB ports for my phone, laptop, mosquito repeller

Boxes: I keep my clothes/art supplies/toiletries/medications organized and labeled under the hatchback cover.
I have an accordion folder for collecting papers and notes so it doesn't end up all over my car.

Heat control

Tinted all of my windows as dark as legally possible

Solar-powered fan that plugs into my solar generator to supplement my a/c

Portable battery powered fan

Cracking my windows

Cooler that I keep in the rear of the car, where the windows are tinted darker

Cooling ideas I've seen online:

Running the a/c all night: possible but I don't want to immediately wear out my engine

Sleeping in a vest/blanket with glaciertek cooling packs: About to test this out.

Swamp coolers: I tried a few, but these don't work as well in climates where the humidity already averages at 80% with highs at 97%.

Window a/c units: less feasible in a hatchback than a van

Repainting the car a light color so it reflects heat: Unfortunately this is a $900-$1500 job and at that point I'd rather just save the money to a new vehicle.

Safety
CO2 detector
CO detector

Privacy
Installed dark curtains (mounted by VHB tape) inside the car windows--Even though dark colors absorb heat, the idea here is to make it less obvious that the windows are obscured at night.

Windshield cover

Removed bumper stickers from my car to anonymize it (ie so busybodies don't immediately recognize it as "the car with all the bumper stickers that parks on the street every now and then")

Privacy ideas I've seen online:
Removing the make/model logos off my car

Cardboard covered in black fabric cut to fit side windows with velcro: I've seen the video of the Prius dweller that does this, but I wasn't quite able to make it work for my Yaris. I'm hoping the black curtains will provide a similar effect.
Current goals:
Cooling. Where I live, night-time temperatures can range from 75-85, with humidity averaging at 85%. My current goal is to find a way to sustainably cool my car without having to heavily rely on the a/c (especially during the day, where temperatures often peak over 100 degrees with high humidity during the summer). The summer will be a great time to test-run a lot of different ideas.

Fortunately, I currently live with family (although they will probably leave the city in 1-2 years) and I have a job that should remain steady for another 2-3 years. This gives me time to test-run options to see what is most sustainable.
 
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05bSrdob0
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#2
For some reason, this thread is not letting me edit my first post, but I'm curious about what other car-dwellers are doing, especially since so many resources are focused on vans/RVs/large vehicles. I think a great deal can be done in smaller vehicles.
 

rana y sapo

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#3
i can relate a lot to your post, taking out my center console did wonders for naps on the road

i am 5'7" with a ford focus so..i do ok usually..shoulda gotten a hatchback tho that's for sure

i always no mattter what. crack my windows. somehow if it's only the smallest crack the rain doesnt get in. and it makes all the difference no steam on the windows and fresh air flow
 
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#4
I am thinking about doing something similar with a hatchback. I was going to get a van, but i want something smaller so it is better on gas. I was wondering though, how do you have a flat surface in the back of your car if the seats are out? And, what kind of car is it?
 

NotmybestNotmyworst

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#5
Can ya tell me about the solar generator? I really know nothing about them but think it is a great idea for power. The more layman details the better.
 
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#6
Right there with you. I got a VW passat wagon. I'm 5'9" and it fits me by 1/2 an inch. With curtains and a Thule roof cargo shell (this makes a HUGE difference in living out of car) Gonna be living out of it for the summer. Not concerned yet about cooling, but interested in seeing how you master it!
 
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#7
After working in ski town, and through my own experience, wagons! I've seen so people comfortably living out of Subaru Outbacks around here. I got a good set up in a VW Passat. The back seats fold down to give a great place for sleeping. Plus, great on gas. Though for mechanic sake, Subarus are easier to fix. I love my VW a lot because I have had to dive deep to learn all about it. Thanks Youtube
 
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05bSrdob0
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#8
I am thinking about doing something similar with a hatchback. I was going to get a van, but i want something smaller so it is better on gas.
I think this is a great idea. I have an engineer friend who said he would have kept his Scion instead of buying a cheap van. The van guzzled gas, had engine problems, and he didn't feel like he really made much of the extra space. I admire people's ingenuity, but I just don't have the mechanical knowledge/extra funds to van-dwell. For now, I'm experimenting with living in my hatchback and I'll upgrade to a sedan when the wheels fall off.

I was wondering though, how do you have a flat surface in the back of your car if the seats are out?
I don't have a flat surface except maybe on the hatchback (which has this fuzzy carpet stuff) or if I use my $10 lap desk (the cheap kind that can be bought at Office Depot/Amazon/anywhere with school supplies).

And, what kind of car is it?
For privacy reasons, I'm omitting the specific make/model of my vehicle. I know that seems paranoid, but I just don't want unexpected visitors. It is a super-common, super-cheap hatchback by a Japanese manufacturer.


Can ya tell me about the solar generator? I really know nothing about them but think it is a great idea for power. The more layman details the better.
To be honest, I'm also a huge amateur with car-dwelling and solar power. I don't feel comfortable giving guidance on solar, but I will say that I made my decision by making a spreadsheet of the popular brands I found on Amazon/around the Internet to compare the following features:

- the price
- output ports (USB for charging your cellphone, AC for laptop, 12-volt for electronics that plug into your car's cigarette lighter)
- input ports (ie, some brands will make it so you can only charge their generators with their solar panels--google around and you'll notice this)
- the weight of the unit if portability is an issue for you
- kWh (to oversimplify, the storage capacity of the battery. Goal Zero claims a 150 kWh generator can charge a smartphone 2-3 times, whereas a 3000 kWh generator can charge a smartphone 150 times. You can find tables online with rough estimates of how to calculate kWh for household devices)
- any other features that are important to you

I ended up getting a 400 kWh Renogy solar generator off Amazon to keep my phone, laptop, and APAP charged. I might have picked a device with more kWh if I didn't have consistent daily access to electric outlets for recharging my devices/the generator. We'll see how I feel when the summer hits.

I'm not currently using solar panels because I can't figure out a way to stealthily mount panels on my hatchback--my hatchback is super short, so anyone walking past can see the top of the car and the panels are a dead give-away that there might be a generator or fancy electronic inside. Also, there's people who know lots more than me anyway if you google around a lot, haha.
 
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05bSrdob0
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#9
i always no mattter what. crack my windows. somehow if it's only the smallest crack the rain doesnt get in. and it makes all the difference no steam on the windows and fresh air flow
Same! If I don't crack the windows, I have to turn on the A/C so I don't overheat. Even though people say that A/C doesn't actually take up that much gas, I definitely notice I use more when I nap during the summer.

I experimented with GlacierTek cooling packs for the first time a couple of days ago. Expensive, but it made a huge difference. I just slept on top of them with the windows cracked and I didn't even need to turn on the A/C. The windshield dash cover, tinted windows and cracking the windows help a LOT too.

Right now I'm experimenting with putting side window coverings for additional privacy + interior heat reduction.

Attempt 1: Homemade cardboard side windows with black coverings

Based on the Prius-dweller video I saw on youtube, I initially cut out cardboard the same shape/size as my side windows and rear window, covered it in black fabric, attached velcro, and tried to use that as a side window cover. I probably didn't make them properly, because I found them flimsy and a pain to attach to my windows/interior roof. They also took up a huge amount of storage space.

Even though it's more expensive, I prefer the generic slide-able window coverings that I ordered off Amazon (there's several generic ones that are basically the same thing, and yes, they look exactly as crappy as the pictures and reviews say). Might experiment with sewing a darker fabric into them for my piece of mind at night.

The main thing now is that I wish I could get my mosquito-net-window-covers to look a little less ragged/a little more functional.

I'm also considering re-painting my car a light color with some old-fashioned rattlecan paint. My car is currently a very dark, almost black, color and there's mixed feedback online about whether or not the exterior paint color affects the interior temperature (especially with the windows being tinted and covered). The local cheap auto-paint franchise gave me a friends-and-family deal of $544 for painting the whole exterior white, which is pretty pricey. A friend has an electric sander so I'm considering paying him to help me sand down the car and apply primer/coat/top coat. (again, I don't know anything about painting cars and haven't actually done this yet, so I'm afraid not going to be much help on this topic until I actually try it)
 
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#10
[QUOTE="05bSrdob0, post: 253848, member: 21798]'m also considering re-painting my car a light color with some old-fashioned rattlecan paint. My car is currently a very dark, almos tot black, color and there's mixed feedback online about whether or not the exterior paint color affects the interior temperature (especially with the windows being tinted and covered). The local cheap auto-paint franchise gave me a friends-and-family deal of $544 for painting the whole exterior white, which is pretty pricey. A friend has an electric sander so I'm considering paying him to help me sand down the car and apply primer/coat/top coat. (again, I don't know anything about painting cars and haven't actually done this yet, so I'm afraid not going to be much help on this topic until I actually try it)[/QUOTE]

As a frequent user of spray paint, I want to add that if you decide to paint your car yourself it will probably look like crap and be more expensive than you think. I wouldn't use any hardware store paint other than Rust-Oleum. It's about $4 a can.

If your want to avoid being a cop magnet with an ugly car, you are going to need to Sand/scuff the whole car, carefully tape off all the windows/tires/grill/headlights/etc. Then it's going to take a coat of primer and a minimum of two coats of paint, then preferably a couple coats of clear coat too.

Please don't be one of these suckers that ruins their car with a few cans of dollar paint from Walmart.

My bus is black and it does get hot in the summer sun, but it's not worth the cost/effort to paint it for me. I just open more windows or hang out outside. Just my 2 cents
 
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05bSrdob0
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#12
As a frequent user of spray paint, I want to add that if you decide to paint your car yourself it will probably look like crap and be more expensive than you think. I wouldn't use any hardware store paint other than Rust-Oleum.
You are absolutely correct!

I used Rustoleum Peel-back matte spray from Autozone and ended up removing it with Dip Dissolver ordered online. My tiny Japanese hatchback probably would need at least ten *cans* of matte white to fully hide the original black color, and added coats of rustoleum gloss on top so it would look somewhat presentable. When you factor in the hours of spraying, the cost of the paint itself, etc, I probably would have been better off just paying a friend to sand it down, remove the sections, and paint it all properly.

I have a "friend of a friend" discount at Maaco for $546 exterior paint job (without the interior door jams included--I don't care about those, so I'm fine with that). I can't find anyone who's had good things to say about Maaco paint jobs six months down the road however, and I don't know anyone who's had their car painted at the local Maacos.

A physics department and some un-scientific studies on youtube have found that a white-painted car easily hits three-digits in the summer sun. However, they can be 10-20 degrees cooler, depending on who you ask. I'm just wondering if all of these little hacks will add up and help me avoid wearing down my engine/motor cooling my car while I'm parked.

My bus is black and it does get hot in the summer sun, but it's not worth the cost/effort to paint it for me. I just open more windows or hang out outside. Just my 2 cents
If you're comfortable sharing, have you ever lived in your bus in Louisiana/southeast Texas (basically anywhere southeast of Houston--Austin/Dallas/west TX is warm but not nearly as humid) between May - September? I'm kind of tied to that area right now and our summer temperatures tend to average in the mid-90s with humidity over 70%.
 
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#13
(Sorry to hijack the thread with my long post)

I'm happy to have found this thread, cause I've been considering a van. I currently live in my Honda sedan. The idea of having a van and being able to stretch out while I sleep is alluring as hell. I'm a 5'4" chick, but I personally cannot physically handle not having my body flat/straight or stretched out while I sleep. It causes a lot of pain in my back, but I can't get myself to deface my car by taking out a seat (no where to keep the seat in case I want to put it back) and adding a sleep bench. But with all things considered, an O-K van would cost me roughly 2-4k, then a shit ton in gas every week and I'd lose out on the reliability of a Honda sedan. Plus I can't deliver food with a van. It's really made me realize that a car may be my only viable option. I've been watching as many Youtube videos and reading as many car dwelling forums/blogs as I can to get an idea of other people's experience with this. The van life seems so much more comfortable, but at a very big price. I'm even considering saving up and getting a better/newer Honda instead of a van. My insurance is cheap as hell on my car ($200/6 months) and gas doesn't gouge me.


Things I'd like to add to my car for comfort..

- Tinted windows! That is a huge problem I'm currently facing. People love staring into my car for some reason. Half of the reason I want a van is for more privacy. If I had tinted windows, I'd feel much more secure.
- Car alarm/remote locking. I've already had my car cleared out of all my personal belongings once. I imagine this problem happens with vans as well. I've also had numerous people try to open my doors while sleeping in my car, so locking my car at the click of a button would be much more convenient than double checking all 4 locks every night before bed.
- Velcro window curtains, or something of the sort. Tint doesn't prevent people with flashlights from taking a gander at the inside of my vehicle and I personally hate waking up to the sun.
- Window deflectors. I'd love having my windows cracked without drawing so much attention to myself and while it is drizzly.
- A better windshield cover.. mine is trashed. It also doesn't deflect heat quite as well as I would like. It has served me well for about 6 months and was only $3 though.
- Solar powered fan, as OP mentioned. I've thought about this for a long time and would really love to have such a thing for the high temps in Southern California. Cracking the windows doesn't do me justice and I tend to be roasting alive by 7-8am since I'm chased out of most the shaded areas that I can find by cops (it's illegal to live out of your vehicle here).

My car is already white so I got lucky there. Oh and I need new rims.. I bought the car with 17" wheels and it's ridiculous. Plus the thing needs tons ($$) of mechanical work (struts/valve job/shocks/some other shit). I really think my next plan of action is saving up for something else, like an Acura MDX or newer, more-functioning Honda. I think I'm going to stay away from vans now that I really weigh all the pros/cons.

Thanks for posting a good thread topic and letting me rant.
 
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#14
If you're comfortable sharing, have you ever lived in your bus in Louisiana/southeast Texas (basically anywhere southeast of Houston--Austin/Dallas/west TX is warm but not nearly as humid) between May - September? I'm kind of tied to that area right now and our summer temperatures tend to average in the mid-90s with humidity over 70%.
While I have experienced those temperatures first hand, I haven't had to sisin I began living in vehicles. I personally travel with the seasons when I can and do seasonal work for income.

It sounds like you have your reasons for staying where you and doing what you're doing. I hope the best for you. I would not want to sleep in a car with that heat and humidity. You're tough!
 
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#15
I have an engineer friend who said he would have kept his Scion instead of buying a cheap van.
I was fortunate enough to inherit this 186k mile Scion xB to live out of. plenty of space for me (5'6") I just have the bed made of two boards that fit together but I fold the bed back to put the front passenger seat back up.
https://image.ibb.co/bP1Jo8/20180523_160654.jpg

I've been wwoofing near Boulder and haven't had any need to crack my windows at night since it still gets so cool at night in the mountains and but imI working on installing screens inside the back two windows do that they still roll up and down without interference but so that I can park out at the edge of the wilderness and have a good cross breeze but with insect barrier hah. it did get hot a couple nights in indiana before here and I did crack my windows then and used a chilly pad thing that you get wet and stays cool for some 8 hours or so, just draped it over my back while I slept and it helped more than I expected.
 
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05bSrdob0
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#16
Thank you all for sharing your experiences! I encourage others to talk about their car/truck/etc-dwelling situations in as much detail as they'd like. Remember, there might be someone in a rough situation reading this forum for ideas and something you post could really help them out.

(Sorry to hijack the thread with my long post)
I've also had numerous people try to open my doors while sleeping in my car, so locking my car at the click of a button would be much more convenient than double checking all 4 locks every night before bed.
This terrifies me. :( If you don't mind sharing, what would they do when they realized the door was locked? What did you do when you realized they were trying to get in?

Solar powered fan, as OP mentioned. I've thought about this for a long time and would really love to have such a thing for the high temps in Southern California.
I gave up on this quest, but maybe someone else will figure it out!

I really think my next plan of action is saving up for something else, like an Acura MDX or newer, more-functioning Honda.
I'm definitely interested in one of the hybrid vehicles. I know some Prius models come with the solar remote-controlled fan feature.
 

klaiash

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#17
I don't know how to properly quote, so forgive me.

Surprisingly, when people realize my car is locked, many of them keep trying to open the doors! They try every door and numerous times at that. Sometimes even in the light of day. I honestly can't figure out what is going through their head during it all. Only when they realize that I'm laying in the backseat do they walk away.
 
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#18
I've been living out of my prius on and off for the past couple of years. It's honestly great.

You can buy a used prius for like $3k these days and they last longer than your average car. Toyota also has the cheapest maintenance costs on average out of all the makes. Aside from the amazing MPG which basically pays for the car itself (especially on cross country trips), the car is basically a portable generator. You can leave the A/C on all night and the engine will kick on and off intermittently as it's a hybrid. This also means you can charge your laptop and phone too. It'll cost you about a gallon or two in gas to leave on overnight. Quiet engine too. I just survived the hottest May on record in my prius and I didn't even have the A/C on at night. I just wanted to see if I could do it with just a solar powered fan, and it worked, but was rough. Totally doable though. I'm now back to the A/C and it's infinitely better, haha. I have the windows tinted super dark and put cardboard cutouts in the windows if i need extra secure privacy, but I rarely do. The front and back windshield I cover with some custom cut reflectix. I have a cargo box on top and you could easily fit a solar panel on top too. The seats fold down all the way flat as well. Great for air mattress or foam.

Aside from it being a great car to just live in, you can also work out of it with uber, lyft, or postmates. I travel very minimally so all of my stuff is stored in the roof cargo box while the interior is sparkling clean. This way I can uber/lyft if I need to.

Honestly, I can talk all day about why the prius is a great vehicle to live in. Highly recommend it for anyone. Especially if you live in a hot location and like A/C.
 
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#19
You said you gave up on the solar fan thing. My local Dollar General sells a fan for about $10 that charges via USB. I've also seen rechargeable USB fans on Amazon as well for $15 and up. Never bought one or know anyone that's tried one, but you might check it out. Or wait until someone that has experience with it pipes up in response to my post. lol

I went ahead and looked on Amazon for ya cuz I'm bored.

Efluky Mini USB 3 Speeds Rechargeable Portable Table Fan,4.5-Inch

If you do try one out, let us know how it worked for ya!
 

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