I occasionally mention how glad I am that I'm able to live the way I do, but it's definitely not for everyone. In fact, the reason I'm able to do this is mainly because of the benefits afforded to me by the company I work at. Not that I expect many people are envious of my lifestyle, but for all those aspiring to live out of some type of vehicle, here is a list of hard requirements, collected through experience and in no particular order, that your life should possess before you consider trying to live in a box truck.
- Good weather. You need to live in a place where the outside conditions are bearable year round. And when I say bearable, I mean you need to be comfortable sleeping in them. Unless you get extremely fancy (at which point, why bother?), you aren't going to have heating or cooling in your truck, so if you aren't in a temperate area, your life is going to be unpleasant for at least part of the year. I live in the Bay Area, which is about the most temperate, tolerable place on the planet, and even I'm mildly uncomfortable on particularly cold or hot nights. Make sure you're comfortable with mild discomfort.
- Access to facilities. You need to have a place to shower and go to the bathroom. Period. Living in a truck doesn't mean you get to abandon personal hygiene, in fact it means you have to step it up a notch so people don't think you're insane and gross. This means that regardless of where you're showering, whether it's the office, a local gym, or a bathhouse, you do need to be showering. Going to the bathroom in a crate is not sustainable, and also makes me legitimately sick to think about. You're a minimalist, not an animal.
- Money upfront. It isn't cheap to start living in a car. First off, you have to have the damn car, and depending on what you want to live in (make sure to get something with at least a little bit of extra room), that's going to cost you anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000. This is not a cheap or short-term endeavor. Second, you'll have to pay more for insurance, which is higher for larger and commercial vehicles. Expect to pay anywhere from $750 to $2,000 a year. Depending on what your previous housing situation was, you'll also need a few pieces of furniture, namely a bed and some sort of storage unit. Check Freecycle, Craigslist, and if those fail, Ikea. Basically, you've got to spend money to save money, if that's even why you're considering this.
- An address. When you don't live in a building, you don't get the luxury of having mail sent to it. You're going to need either a dependable friend or family member close by who is willing to let you use their address, or you're going to need a Private Mailbox. You need to have a real, deliverable address to put on official documents, apply for things like insurance, and get letters and packages to.
Okay, so those are all the things that you absolutely need to have before you journey down this road. Here are a few other things that certainly won't hurt.
- Be comfortable with yourself. If you're self-conscious or place a lot of value on other peoples' opinions of you, you're going to have a really tough time. You'll eventually have to explain to someone that you live in a car, and not everyone is going to be so receptive of that. If you can't handle people not accepting your lifestyle, definitely don't do this. You need to be able to admit to yourself that you're a little insane, and that this isn't something reasonable human beings do. I frequently find myself giggling at just how ridiculous it is that I'm driving my house down the highway. Sometimes, people may see you getting in or out of your car and notice that you clearly live in it. If that bothers you, this might not be the lifestyle that you're looking for.
- Have (time-consuming) hobbies. Your car isn't really meant for hanging out in, and even if you try, it's just not a place conducive to being fun. After work and on weekends, if you don't have any itinerary or activities planned for yourself, you're going to get bored very quickly. Personally, I make new websites, work on this blog, exercise, and amble around the Bay Area, exploring what it has to offer. Sleeping and walking in circles in the back of a truck are not valid hobbies.
- Be a decent driver. This is more for people who are going for box trucks, RVs, school buses, and the like. Vans and small trucks don't really have this issue, but as I've mentioned before, maneuvering and parking a large vehicle in an urban area can be exhausting, even when planned out. And if you aren't a careful driver, an accident here costs a lot more than an insurance premium: it effectively makes you homeless. So don't drive your house around if you can avoid it, and when you do have to drive it, be a very careful and alert driver.
- Be flexible and adaptable. If you're high maintenance and accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it really should go without saying that this isn't the best course of action for you. And even if you are flexible, living in such a dynamic environment means that the requirements of your life can be constantly changing. If you aren't self-sufficient and able to react quickly to the various road bumps (quite literally) of life, truck-living will get discouraging very quickly.
All of these things considered, if you're doing this to save money, make sure you actually plan it out first. I'm not talking casually daydreaming about it the day before you do it, I'm talking research and cold, hard numbers. Make a spreadsheet or something. Be very liberal with estimating the cost of various things, you'd rather be surprised by how much money you have than how little. Between eating out all the time, a gym membership, increased insurance, a private mailbox, and other random things that you'll end up paying for, you want to be sure that the lifestyle is indeed more economically feasible than the alternatives, again, if that's your goal. It's certainly less convenient in some ways than having a house or apartment, so if you're paying more in the long run, you're probably doing it wrong.