How to Prepare to Live in Your Car

Sometimes complications with your planned bug out location may arise, making it either temporarily or permanently necessary to take shelter in your car. Though it’s not an ideal situation to be in, the following guidelines will help you prepare to live in your car as safely and comfortably as possible.

Car Maintenance

An important aspect to consider is how new the car you’ll be living in is. If it’s older, you’ll want to be a good enough mechanic to keep up with any issues it may have along the way. Learn basic car maintenance just in case you don’t have access to a newer car model.

Besides learning basic skills, you should also put a tool set in your car to help you with repairs. You’ll also want to purchase a combo backup battery/air compressor to jump start your car on your own. Relying on others to have one and to help you out is (unfortunately) not always realistic.

You should also have a spare tire and at least one can of tire sealant in case you run into any issues with tire blowouts.


While living in your car, personal safety should always be your number one priority. One good way to make your car safer is to get a dark tint on your windows so that strangers can’t see that you’re living inside your car. If tinting your windows isn’t an option, you can simply cover them with whatever you have available such as thick cloth.

Another essential safety item to have around is a steering column lock that makes it impossible for would-be thieves to drive away in your car while you’re away. Having your car stolen while living out of it would definitely be worst-case scenarios.

You might also want to consider arming yourself with a knife, pepper spray, or even a handgun (depending on state gun laws and personal preference) so you can protect yourself if necessary.


Two people sitting in a car facing a sunset


Although living in your car isn’t nearly as comfortable as living in a normal home or apartment, there are several things you can do to maximize comfort. For example, depending on the type of car you have, you can install a rooftop skylight both for more access to fresh air and for the ability to gaze at the sky from inside the car.

Installing a rooftop rack for storage is also a great way to maximize space inside the car so that you have more room to sleep and relax. And speaking of sleeping and relaxing, you’ll want to have a nice blanket (or sleeping bag), pillow, and mattress to make bedtime as cozy and enjoyable as it can be.

Other items you may want to purchase to make car living more comfortable are earplugs to block out noise while you sleep, a car fan to keep cool without draining your battery too quickly, and bags or other storage containers to keep things organized.


Keeping clean is definitely difficult when you don’t have easy access to a bathroom or shower. Some hygiene aspects are easier to deal with than others, such as dental hygiene, which only requires floss, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and a bottle of water to rinse your mouth.

Showering & bathing is where it gets trickier. If you don’t have access to a public shower anywhere, your options are pretty limited when it comes to bathing. You can either rinse off in a public body of water where swimming is allowed or stock up on baby wipes to clean yourself.

You also may want to stock up on disposable razor blades if you plan to stay clean-shaven while living in your car. You’ll also need a mirror and some sort of shaving cream or soap to shave with.


Preparing and storing food is another tricky aspect of living in your car. You’ll want to figure out a way to cook that doesn’t involve using your car battery, because that will get expensive. Whether it’s a camping stove or a campfire, make sure you have access to either natural gas (to power the stove) or firewood (to fuel the campfire).

Always cook outside of your car to avoid hazards like fires, burns, and dangerous smoke inhalation.

Buy foods that are easy to store like peanut butter, tuna and crackers, which are both filling and long-lasting without refrigeration. Other good options are rolled oats, powdered milk, and protein powder. Put your food in so that it doesn’t accidentally get smashed. If you want to be able to store any perishable food items, get a cooler so you can keep it cold for a day or two.

Living in your car definitely isn’t easy, but it can be a bearable adventure if you take the time to prepare well for it by following these guidelines. For more prepping tips and resources, check out Prepper’s Base.