Frequently Asked Questions

I’ll be adding to this page as I go, but here’s some questions I’ve gotten about my car and living in it. If you have anything you’d like to know email me at jessica (at) ayearinacar (dot) com.

Where is the curtain located? Immediately behind the front seats?

- Yes, the main curtain is right behind the front seats. It’s a piece of black fabric draped over a curtain rod that bent on both ends and shoved into a gap in the paneling.

Since you had to take out the passenger seat for your bed, does that mean your head or feet sticks out past the curtain when you sleep?

- The front seat is out, and the wooden board extends out into the front area, but the “mattress” is fully behind the curtain and no part of me is in the front seat. If I were any taller though I’d have to figure something else out or either my head or my feet would. I sleep with my feet in the back because the shape of the prius’s hatch back is curved so much there.

Do you have separate curtains for all back windows, or do you simply have a tint?

- I’m a big believer in having both curtains and tinted windows in the back. The tinting keeps the outside from noticing you, the curtains keep the outside from bothering you. Also, they both help keep in cool and the I think the curtains help keep it a little warmer at night.

If you have side window curtains do you take them down each morning, or leave them up?

- I usually take the curtains down each day. At least front half of them, or otherwise I can’t see out of them while I’m driving.

What grade is your tint?

- My windows are tinted to the maximum allowed in California. This is different for different states. California (and most states with a lot of sun) allows a pretty high tint.

How much do you spend on food? How often do you cook?

- I took a look at my accountings from when I’m on the road and I seem to average about $300 a month on food. I probably average eating at a restaurant once every two days or so. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Depends on where I am. I don’t do much cooking-cooking (that’s to say, with the campstove), but there’s a lot you can get at a grocery store that doesn’t involve doing much. I could certainly spend less on food if I did more cooking, but $10 a day is fine for me. I enjoy checking out new restaurants while I’m traveling. When I’m in LA working I spend about half as much on food for the month. No time for going out, I mostly just buy groceries and eat at work. I am well known for my tomatoes, blue cheese and avocado salads. They are very tasty.

How many days of clothing do you take with you?

- Clothing depends on if I’m in LA working or if I’m traveling. I end up doing laundry every two-three weeks, so that’s one measure of how many clothes I have. If I’m working then I have more because I have “office” clothes as well, but it still ends up meaning laundry every couple weeks.

Do you ever have the need to give the car a good cleaning? Like, rug doctor(carpet cleaner) style?

- I have a weird work schedule where I work for 1.5-2 months and then I have about the same amount of time off. I work in LA and my parents live in San Diego, so I’m in San Diego every couple months and I keep most of my ‘stuff’ at their place. I tend to keep different things in the car when I’m working versus when I’m traveling so when I get down here I empty it out, wash and vacuum, and then fill it back up again. No rug doctor cleaning necessary. I’m not sure what I would do in the car that would ever make that kind of cleaning necessary. Maybe for a spill or something, but certainly not on a regular basis.

Do you ever have passengers in your car? From what i can tell you have no legal seats to have them in anymore.

- I still have the bottom half of the back seats in the car, and a person can (and a couple have) sit in the seat behind the driver. I think it would still be considered legal since they can still buckle their seatbelt. There is no backrest to the seat, but I have a pair of drawers right behind it and if you put the pillow between you and the drawers it’s fine. I have debated taking out the backseat altogether, but I like being able to sit there myself. If I take it out I wouldn’t have anywhere to sit normally in the backseat.

Do you find that missing a front seat attracts attention?

- The missing front seat might attract attention. I’ve never had anyone ask me about it or noticed anyone looking at it strange.

What kind of pad are you using for your bed?

- The “mattress” is a three inch thick foam pad bought at a fabric store and cut to shape for about $30. On top of that is a piece of sheepskin. I sort of appropriated it from my dad so I don’t know where you can get one or how much they cost. A lot more than $30. I haven’t gotten around to making a covering for the foam and I probably won’t get around to it.

What kind of gear do you have with you besides your clothes?
Stove? Cooler? Backpacks? Ear plugs? Laptop lock? Etc.

- As far as other “gear” that I carry. I have a camping stove though I don’t use it often. Occasionally, I take a cooler, but generally I don’t bother. I had a SmartMug for a while, but I found it took forever to heat up and in less than a year broke on me.

I have a pot that plugs into the cigarette lighter and that worked pretty well for a while, but maybe broken now as well. The last time I used it, it never got hot as normal. I haven’t used it since so I don’t know if it’s a one time occurrence or if it’s fully broken.

That’s really all I can think of as far as “gear” for living in the car. Generally I think it’s something you have to sort out for yourself and figure out what you need/want. I also have my laptop and other various electronics. One thing that has been very nice is having a Treo for a cell phone and a plan that lets me check my email and surf the web (albeit slowly).

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7 Responses to “Frequently Asked Questions”

Sam wrote a comment on January 2, 2009

How do you handle things like a driver’s license and car insurance?

Jessica wrote a comment on January 5, 2009

Hi Sam, for anything that I need an address for I use my parent’s address. I moved around enough after college that I’ve never stopped using it as my official address even before I lived in the car. They’re down in San Diego and since I work in LA I usually see them often enough that it works out fine for me to get my mail three.

Taylor wrote a comment on July 15, 2009

Hi Jessica. Thanks for all the great info here on your site.
I’ve been ‘living’ out of my van (parked in my parent’s carport) for a few months now. Its an ’82 dodge ram that is some kind of custom I’ve never seen a carbon copy of in my life. Basically, its like a cargo van but it has been professionally converted into a really plush passenger/family travel vehicle.
My boyfriend and I have been sleeping on the fold out bed in the back- The amount of weight on it sortof bothers me.. it creaks like it is really unhappy. And it is becoming really uncomfortable.
I’m about to leave home and bum around Oregon in my van, so I need to address this issue while I’m still at home. I called around about a 4″ deep piece of foam and the cheapest foam I could find in the area was $56/yard at JoAnn’s Fabric. So I caved and bought a really, really cheap air mattress, which is pretty sketchy.

None of the hardware stores I called carried any sort of soft foam at all. I called this funny RV/Beer Brewing/Sporting Goods store we have here that custom cuts foam and the guy said it would cost me over $100 just to put foam on my bed.

Do you have any suggestions as to where I could look? The frame of the bed is fine, I just need some extra padding.


Taylor wrote a comment on July 15, 2009

A note on curtains:
I’ve done a really good job light-proofing my van- for the most part. I can have my lights on inside, and with the heavily tinted windows and two layers of black felt velcroed onto the small windows, and black blinds on the bubble windows, its nearly impossible to tell that I’m inside with my lights and my laptop turned on.
EXCEPT for my windshield.
I went out and got this really nice, thick, batted fabric for cheap @ Walmart- It matches the interior AND due to the thickness, insulates from my rotted-out weatherstripping a little bit. I measured it to size and alloted for a 2″ border along the top. I folded the border over, sewed it down and went through, cutting out 2″ square shaped notches along the border which I used to affix a boxful of shower curtain rings to the fabric. Looks great.
What I didn’t realize was that 2 inches of extra fabric combined with the 1.5 inch diameter of the shower curtain ring, I’ve got this huge gap between the ceiling and the top of the curtain- So in the end, I just had to drape more fabric over the curtains to cover the light gap.

Many van’s ceilings (unstripped and insulated) are curved. I find that using a curtain AND using my sun visors to hold in one of those reflective windshield covers is an effective lightproof procedure.

The best part about my set up is that the two big windows in the back have blinds and are DEEPLY tinted- I can look out at the street around me, but no one can see in. I’ve witnessed burgularies and other things that I would want to know about due to this advantage.

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