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How To Live Long-Term In Your Bug Out Vehicle

How To Live Long-Term In Your Bug Out Vehicle

There are lots of reasons why living in your car or other vehicle could be appealing to a prepper during a SHTF event. Perhaps your home has suffered an environmental disaster such as a flood, earthquake, tornado or a fire and you’ve effectively been left homeless and need to live in the car for survival

There are lots of reasons why living in your car or other vehicle could be appealing to a prepper during a SHTF event. Perhaps your home has suffered an environmental disaster such as a flood, earthquake, tornado or a fire and you’ve effectively been left homeless and need to live in the car for survival purposes.

A banking collapse may have caused your home to be repossessed and you don’t have the money to rent another place immediately. You may even be on the run after martial law is declared and having no fixed abode will help with your evasion, allowing you to hide out with shelter.  

Living in your car or other suitable vehicle has always been an option as housing and rental expenses continue to increase in the UK. Learning how to live in your car or other kind of vehicelsuccesfully liberates you from societal responsibilities such as high rent costs and consumer culture, allowing you to survive while saving additional cash.

Whatever your reasons for living in your car, in this article we will explore various topics such as safety, storage, packing essentials, selecting the proper automobile and much more, so read on to discover the essential things to consider when living in a vehicle. 

living in a campervan in forest

Choosing A Suitable Vehicle

Your automobile must be suited for providing you with a place to reside, so be sure it works mechanically and has enough capacity inside. Ensure it is properly serviced before you head out on the road and at regular intervals, as well as getting its annual MOT. Learning how to live in your car needs to start with the basics, which car you’re going to choose to start this adventure with. 

If you cannot afford a brand-new vehicle, then there are lots of second-hand bargains to be had on everything from SUVs and transit vans to campervans and double-decker buses.

We don’t advise trying this with anything like a sedan, a coupe, a hatchback or a sports car – they’re just too small, but not impossible to live in. You’ll want an SUV or a crossover at the very least, and a minivan or minibus are the best options we feel due to the internal space.

Living in a campervan or a converted transit van is perhaps the best idea, as these are already equipped for living in. Ideally you should already own such a vehicle well in advance of any SHTF event so you’re prepared for every eventuality.

Remember that older vehicles you buy are more prone to failures, so it is critical to do routine maintenance and address any issues as soon as they arise to make sure your vehicle won’t let you down.

In addition, it is advisable to get a vehicle with a sunroof and/or manual winding windows since it will give adequate ventilation, you can even block out the windows with car curtains to provide you with a greater degree of privacy.

Sure, it’s technically possible to live in a regular sized car, but you won’t be able to store all of your belongings adequately and you might start to feel a bit cramped after a while.

Most cars on the road fall into this category, so if you’re trying to live long-term in a Fiat Punto or a Volkswagen Golf you will soon discover it’s a pretty miserable experience.

A Land Rover Freelander 2 or a Citroen Picasso for example will allow you to fold down the back seats to provide an large area space where you can lay a mattress and generally relax without having to be sat upright.

A Ford Transit van on the other hand already has a large space in the back which can be adapted to living space, and what’s more it is windowless so you can park up and not worry about being seen.

Think About Storage 

As you will most likely have the majority of your essential belongings and prep supplies with you when living in your car, you will find that efficient storage choices will be quite beneficial. In most cases, installing a cargo rack on your car is the simplest way to enhance its storage space above.

You can buy a plastic roof box which can hold a vast number of items, with the largest being up to around 450L. That could hold all of your food supplies as well as your clothing items, leaving the interior of the car space for living in. All of your gear will be protected from the elements with a suitable roof box.

Keeping your belongings in this manner means that you will not have to sacrifice the amount of space you have available inside the automobile because they will be stored outside. Plastic storage towers can also be used as a substitute for a baggage rack if one cannot be located.

However, although they may take up additional room in your vehicle, they are a low-cost and easy method of organising your belongings. You can have your toiletries in one compartment, electronics in another, plus your daily food supplies in another section.

If you plan on staying in the same area for a long time, then you could make use of a storage facility that has extra space to store non-perishable food and water bottles that you can access once per week to top up your vehicle with. Getting your head around how to live in your car will take some ingenuity, and you need to think about how your day to day life will play out. 

Hygiene Issues

living in a car camper with shower

Implementing basic hygiene habits is a crucial aspect of everyday living, but it becomes more challenging to live in a car especially in the UK. There are remedies to this problem however, and just by bringing a flannel and soap, and a toothbrush and toothpaste could keep you clean and prevent infections.

There are even portable solar showers or pressure showers now that can be filled with water and let it out slowly via a nozzle, simply hang it on a tree branch and get scrubbing. Many of the bags are black so will heat up on a warm day to prevent a freezing cold shower, or simply add warm water to your bag after heating over a fire.

One alternative but more expensive solution if things haven’t collapsed altogether is to get a cheap gym membership, which allows you to attend a local gym to use the showers which will supply you with a source of water. Understanding how to live in your car will require you to think outside of the box like this to do things you normally take for granted in a house. 

However, because of the cost of membership, many people will undoubtedly consider it a waste of money and would rather take a dip in a local lake or even the sea to maintain cleanliness, but do think about the seasons. It may be okay in the summer, but a dip in the North Sea in winter? No thanks!

You can find a cheaper answer by visiting a leisure facility, which provides these services at a lower cost. You could go in for a swim or just use the showering facilities to get a nice warm shower.

Another alternative is to stop at a dedicated rest stop which will usually give showers for individuals who are on the road.Hostels usually allow walk-ins and charge a minimal fee, and you can make use of the showers and toilets there as they are separate from the living accommodation unlike a hotel.

The final alternative is to spend the night in a caravan park. This does not have to be an expensive caravan site, but rather one that permits you to take a much-needed shower. 

You will most likely be able to use the other facilities offered too, such as the laundrette, which will help you keep your clothing clean every so often with a bulk wash and dry for a few quid. 

If they don’t have anyone manning the entrance, you could even be cheeky and drive straight in, use the facilities and leave again before you’re detected. You can even grab some freebies from places like this such as toilet rolls and paper towels for drying yourself instead of having soaking wet towels lying around you can’t dry easily. If you’re staying local, then why not nip into a friend’s house once every while to clean up?

Pack Only What You Need

With not much space to play with, as a prepper learning how to live in your car effectivly it is important for you to pack the simplest but necessary materials that will allow you to sleep peacefully within your car such as a pillow, an inflatable or rollout mattress, and some form of bedding like a sleeping bag.

Maybe include a pair of earplugs just in case you’re sleeping next to cars whizzing past at all hours of the day and night.

On cold winter nights in Britain the temperature can really drop and as your car is not very insulated, being composed of metal and glass, be sure to pack a decent duvet or blanket. If it snows on your car don’t clear it off, it will act as a layer of insulation making your car even warmer.

Finally, of course, you will need season appropriate clothing, as well as food and water for survival to keep you going if you cannot get to the shops. Always remember to store enough water in large quantities to keep you hydrated.

Consider Your Safety

It is critical to feel comfortable and secure within your vehicle during a SHTF event, and you don’t want to put yourself in an even more dangerous situation.

Check that the car’s locks are in excellent functioning order and consider purchasing a steering wheel lock or tyre clamp. This ensures that your car is secure from possible criminals and protects you from the chance of losing your shelter when you’re away from it, even if they manage to hotwire it.

Also, preppers living in a vehicle should attempt to park in spots that are both safe and inconspicuous. This ensures that you are not a target for bystanders who may try to cause problems for you. The main advantage of living in a car when SHTF is that it’s mobile and you can park it just about anywhere you like, so why not take it off the beaten track or into an uninhabited wooded area.

You can even park it inside an abandoned building or camouflage your own vehicle amongst a lot of other cars in a car park. Not washing your vehicle is one way to blend into the surroundings as nobody will be caring about keeping their vehicle exterior in good condition in SHTF situations.

If you do not feel comfortable inside your car or in the area where it is parked, you will most likely struggle to relax, which will impact how well you sleep.

Sometimes in the summer it may be prudent to set up a small tent a short distance away from your car but still within sight so you can keep an eye on it but if anybody checks you won’t be there.

Choose An Appropriate Parking Location

car tent people living in vehicle forest

In the UK it’s not actually an offence if you want to live or sleep in your own vehicle, but if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol you have to prove that you weren’t going to drive the vehicle.

There are many places you can sleep in your car, however it’s more important to know the places that you can’t sleep, here we will list a few no-no locations and tips to keep you out of bother.

  • Don’t park on double yellows or any location that clearly states ‘No Parking’
  • There may be parking restrictions in residential areas with places only for permit holders
  • Car parks which close after a certain time in the evening and lock the barriers
  • Where people pass by, they’ll likely report you as it’s something out of the ordinary
  • On private land where you could be reported and brought to police attention
  • On the beach or slipway where you could be swept out with the incoming tide
  • On a hill, or near a cliff or other sheer drop just in case your handbrake doesn’t hold
  • Motorway services sometimes have ANPR cameras to check who is coming in and paying
  • Be careful not to obstruct an entrance or park in a generally inconsiderate manner
  • Many supermarket car parks are checked regularly by security if the store has closed
  • Try not to keep parking in the same place each night to avoid suspicion
  • Parking in your work car park can be a good call if your boss allows it, otherwise steer clear
  • Don’t park around communal areas like schools, churches or youth clubs

It’s always a good idea to have a physical map of the country in your car, so you can sit and study it in your down time, and you’ll gain a greater appreciation of how roads and streets interconnect in the local area – giving you a much better idea where you can park up.

Basic Survival Items You Need

As a prepper it is important to know what basic items you will need for survival. You will need a pillow, a blanket, and a mattress if your vehicle is large enough. In case of a failing battery or a flat tyre, you will also need a backup battery and an air compressor to inflate tyres.

You should also carry some basic tools to repair a vehicle and it would be ideal if you have a book on how to fix some of the most common faults your vehicle can experience. Carry basic parts such as a fan belt, spare bulbs and oil.

If your automobile is your only source of transportation, it must be in good working order so keep it up to date with its MOT and servicing.

If you’re trying to evade the police or army after a major event such as martial law, you don’t want your vehicle registration flagging due to unpaid tax or MOT which could draw unwanted attention to your situation.

Rubbish bags will come in handy to stop your car becoming a junk heap piled high with empty bottles and crisp packets. You can also use these to store your dirty laundry until it needs to be washed.

Depending on the type of set up you have, you can also install some portable car curtains to your vehicle which will provide you with some degree of privacy, especially at night or when getting changed, and they’ll also give basic insulation in cold weather.

Following that, you will require nourishment. Remember that you do not have refrigeration so you will consume basic foods that don’t need to be kept cool. Packet noodles are ideal if you have means to heat them up. Remember to pack essential cutlery and pans.

Having essentials on hand, such as peanut butter and crackers or sandwich fillings, will keep you going for a short time. A solar panel on the roof will help to keep a very small fridge running if needed, only in the height of summer though.

Finally, you will need a USB car charger and a high-quality flashlight. The flashlight is clearly for seeing in the dark, and the adapter is for charging devices such as a mobile phone.

Do not forget to bring earplugs. If you must sleep in a parking lot or beside a road, the noise from other vehicles zooming past may keep you awake.

The Advantages Of Car Life

couple in a campervan living in car


You have the freedom to travel wherever you want, anytime you want, within reason. If a certain area of Britain is safer than others, you simply need to put your foot down and head there, away from any rioting or SHTF event. Take off and aim for a rural area or by the sea.


Living in a car is far more economical than living in a house because you immediately don’t have high rental costs plus all of your home insurance and utility bills. If you can get by with just paying your road tax and have a source of fuel to heat yourself and your food, you don’t really need much more.


Well, it’s surely something to tell the grandchildren. New cultures, connections, and new things to visit are all part of the experience especially if you plan on moving around a lot, even foreign travels. Your travels become incredible stories and everlasting memories, and even the challenges are fun.

Fewer Problems

Getting away from society may be quite beneficial especially in a SHTF event. You aren’t stuck in your home where you could be a sitting duck, and if you experience difficulties in one place you simply move somewhere else. Like a turtle or snail, your home is with you wherever you go.

Gaining perspective

Living in a car really teaches you to appreciate the small things and take less for granted. You’re not quite a homeless person living on the street, but you don’t have the luxuries of having a roof over your head, electricity on tap and hot running water. It can be a real eye-opening experience.


The car life community is a welcoming and close-knit bunch if you’re moving as a group with others who have bugged out. It is not easy to think of another group of people with so many incredible stories, and you can form bonds with those who share your reality and have a similar view on life.


Having less stuff implies having less stress. Having only the necessary things removes the noise and distractions from your life, giving it more significance and allowing you to focus purely on survival. Thinking longer term about how to live in your car, you can’t grow a great deal of food unless you park up and stay put in one spot.

The Disadvantages Of Car Life


The size of the vehicle can cause frequent reorganising and much elbowing if it’s too small. You can live comfortably in a small, adapted campervan, but the same space in an average sized car will feel cramped and unliveable for the long term.

Finding Water Regularly

This may be the most common item that people take for granted in their daily lives, which comes as a surprise to car lifers. Unfortunately, this makes not only satisfying your thirst tough but also preparing specific foods, washing your clothes and dishes, and taking showers more difficult.

Temperature Fluctuations

Due to the metal exterior, a car may get quite hot and uncomfortable as a greenhouse in the summer, and very cold in the winter. Having a car heater and AC would surely help, but the insulation of a car is not like that of a house, causing temperatures to increase and fall considerably faster.


You might get sick of living in a car or van quite quickly if it has not been properly adapted for daily life. You will undoubtedly meet new people along the road, but not seeing your closest friends and family daily may be difficult for some, as well as longing for a comfy bed and a warm fire.


If you cannot use public facilities, figuring out how to live in your car will be made considerably more difficult. You are set if your vehicle has a toilet or other creature comforts like a sink, however your health can quickly deteriorate if you’re not able to wash your body with a shower or brush your teeth.

Car Repairs

If you need to take your car to be repaired due to a breakdown or faulty mechanics, you may be without a place to live for a few days. If you break down on the road then you will face a similar situation and could be stranded whilst awaiting pickup. Maybe pack a small tent just in case.

Income Stability

If you operate as a freelancer or sole trader, income will not be an issue as you can commute to work as normal. The only challenge may be getting stable WiFi regularly if you work online, but that can be resolved just by pulling up outside your local McDonalds or Wetherspoons and using theirs.


Living in a car with no fixed address means you can’t be contacted by anyone, so consider having a PO box address where you can pick up everything you need, especially if you’re buying supplies online and need to pick up parcels. There are also Amazon lockers just about everywhere.


If the S really has hit the F, then you need to make the car you’re sleeping in look as unappealing as possible, so people won’t want to steal it or scavenge. Take a baseball bat or a stick and whack the sides of it to dent it, and/or spray paint on the side. Don’t damage the windows though.



It’s clear to see that learning how to live in your car or other vehicle is not only more than possible, but it’s a great idea too with many advantages if you can overcome the disadvantages, mentally as well as physically. 

We’d recommend that you buy a specific vehicle meant for sleeping in such as a caravan you can tow or a campervan or motorhome, but if you don’t have that luxury you should aim for the biggest vehicle you can afford. Commercial vans and Land Rovers are a great option, or any car that has back seats which fold down for some extra head room. 


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