Why You’ll Regret Living in an SUV Full Time

Can you live in an SUV full time? Some people do find a way to live out of a car or SUV. But the truth is that using your SUV as a camper will get old. Sleeping will be uncomfortable, storage will be a hassle, finding a place to park will be stressful, and the total cost of living in your SUV may be surprisingly high.

Living in an SUV full time can get uncomfortable

This is a man living in his SUV full time | Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images
A man living in his SUV | Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

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The first two challenges of living out of your SUV are getting a good night’s sleep and finding a place for your stuff.

Firstly, it is difficult to stay warm (or cool) while sleeping in your car. You must shut off your engine while sleeping in your vehicle. This is because poisonous fumes could seep into your car.

With your engine off, the inside of your SUV will quickly get cold in the winter and hot in the summer. A good sleeping bag is critical to a good night’s sleep.

With the engine off, fresh air will not circulate through your car. To keep your car from getting muggy and to make sure you get oxygen, you will need to crack a window open. In buggy climates, some mosquito netting is also critical to a good night’s sleep.

Many SUVs have a fold-flat rear seat. With the seat down you can create a large sleeping area. To make it comfortable, you may need camping mats or an air mattress. Furthermore, if you are storing anything in the back of the SUV or the back seat, you will need to move it.

Keeping your things tightly packed and organized may become difficult over time. Some car campers swear by hanging organizers or rooftop storage containers. Check out our hacks for sleeping in your car comfortably.

The true cost of living in an SUV full time

This is a woman living in her SUV full time A woman living in her SUV, with her dogs | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images
A woman living in her SUV, with her dogs | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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Living in your SUV full time might seem like a great way to save money. If your biggest expense is housing, then sleeping in your car should be cheaper, right? That’s not always the case.

If you do not have a kitchen, then you must buy all your meals premade. This expense adds up quickly. Worse yet, without a refrigerator you cannot save uneaten food for another day. Many car campers keep a cooler, but this costs a few more dollars in ice every day.

When you need the bathroom in some neighborhoods, you will need to buy something to use a store’s restroom. If your clothes get dirty, you must pay for a laundromat. When it’s time for a shower you’ll have to get a guest pass to a gym or pay for a developed campsite or motel for the night.

You may be able to save a little money living in an SUV full time. But it may surprise you just how little you save.

Finding a place to park your SUV overnight can be a pain

This is a couple living in their SUV full time  | JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images
A couple living in their vehicle | JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

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One of the most tiresome aspects of living out of your SUV may be worrying about where you will park for the night. There is no federal law against sleeping in your vehicle. That said, many cities and states forbid sleeping in your SUV in certain places. These can include public parking or tourist destinations such as beaches or trailheads. You will have to keep up with all local guidelines.

Some cities take part in a Safe Parking Program by maintaining a list of places you can legally park for the night. You can never get in trouble for asking if it’s OK to park in a city lot or private parking lot. For the night.

Find out more about sleeping in your SUV in a:

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