23 Essentials Needed for Living in Your Car in 2023

In the recent social media revolution, where glamour and modern lifestyle have bounced up threefold, leading a van life has become a well-accepted concept across the world. With exquisite backdrops and luxurious interiors, leading a van life might be on the bucket list of many of us! Isn’t it?

While it seems all hunky-dory about living out of your car by choice, it is also a fact that most of them do it to escape the high rising house rents and property prices across the United States.

There are many essentials needed for living in your car that also come as a challenge to you when you decide to lead a van life! But that does not mean you back out of your plan.

essentials needed for living in your car
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The additional fuel cost, car maintenance cost, and the timely repair might make a dig at your pocket, but it’s anyway better than the hole that most house rent or property prices do in the same pocket!

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Last update on 2024-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Be it out of fantasy or a tight budget, hundreds and thousands of people are getting attracted to living a van life in recent times. That’s why today in this article, we will discuss the cost of living in a van per month, safe places to park when living in your car, and everything essential for living in a car.

We will also provide all the important tips for living in your car cheaply, safely, and legally at the same time because you never know what challenges you might have to face when leading a vanlife, especially with women and children around.

So, let’s not waste more time and dive through to collect all the information needed to lead a van life effectively!

Is Living in a Car Cheaper Than Renting an Apartment?

If you are asking yourself the question; Is living in a car cheaper than renting? Then you must be fooling around! Of course, it is! According to the reports, the average cost of renting an apartment in the US is now almost around $1500 to $1900 a month and it is rising again.

In addition to that, there are several other costs that come along with living in an apartment. In contrast, when you live in a car, the costs are not only cut down, but you can also save quite a few bucks monthly.

Are you wondering how much does it cost to live in a van?

Well, it generally depends on the kind of lifestyle you are choosing to live in a van. But on average, living in a van can cost you around $600 to $1000 a month, depending upon the circumstances. We have broken down the approximate monthly costs for a better understanding:

  • Fuel: $150-$200
  • Gas: $100-$300
  • Insurance: $100-$200
  • Parking: $100
  • Breakdown Cover: $10
  • Food: $200-$300
  • Parking: $100
  • Repairs: $100

This is the average cost of living in a van per month, excluding all other extra costs like laundry, gym membership, mobile data, buying groceries, etc. You can easily manage your expenses if you spend mindfully.

things needed to live in a car

It is, in fact, one of the best ways to save money on a tight budget if you are planning to save some bucks.

On average, you can save around $500 to $1000 per month if you ditch the apartment life and live a van life. However, there are certain constraints that come along with leading a van life that we will discuss throughout the article. Keep reading to know more!

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23 Essentials Needed for Living in Your Car

If you have made up your mind that you want to live in a car or van for a good few days or months, you must know about all the essentials needed for living in your car comfortably. From cooking to sleeping, you have to do everything inside your van, so you need to be backed up with all the essentials.

Here is the list of most useful car living essentials that will help you immensely! Check out…

Inflatable Air Mattress for Car

This is one of the essential things needed to live in a car with ease and comfort. When you are staying in your vehicle, the most challenging time will be during sleeping. Even though you manage to be inside while you are awake, during sleeping hours, you will crave the comfort of a house and a bed, for that matter!

But with an inflatable air mattress, your worries get zeroed down! And if you are looking for options, buy the Onirii Inflatable Car Air Mattress that comes with extended air couch and two air pillows!

onirii inflatable car air mattress

Out of all the important items you should have in your car, the Onirii mattress has to be the most craved accessory! Be it comfort, compactness, or affordability; this mattress has excellence at a different level.

It doesn’t take much space when folded, so it is easy to carry. The high-quality PVC material and the environment-friendly skin make it even more attractive. It’s easy to inflate and is very comfortable to sleep in!

Car Window Sun Shades

The car window sun shades might not be the most critical car living essentials, but they are undoubtedly a very useful item you cannot miss out on while living in the van! The car window sun shades protect you from the sun rays that contain harmful UV rays.

Apart from that, the sun shades also work as curtains to ensure your privacy inside the car.

ggomaart car side window sun shade

There are many car window sun shades available on the market but if you are searching for the best, then buy the ggomaART Car Side Window Sun Shade! Adding this to your van life essentials list will not make you reconsider your decision, for it has amazing qualities that will add value to your vanlife!

It is easy to install, has an affordable price, blocks UV rays completely, keeps your car interior cooler, is easy to store, safe for children, and has countless other excellent properties!

SUV Tent

Just like you have an attached bathroom in your bedrooms, the SUV tent is also an extended attachment to your car that will add to the comfort of living a van life. It is an extension that you can attach to the back of your car and make room for more people to stay inside comfortably.

To know how to live out of your car and travel peacefully, you have to use an SUV tent! This is utilized more on campsites and when you have more people along with you on the journey.

napier backroadz suv tent

The Napier Backroadz SUV Tent is undoubtedly the best SUV tent you can get on the market right now! Right from its larger size to its added security system, you will not find anything that will make you think twice before choosing it.

The tent can easily accommodate 5-6 adults and also has breathable mesh alongside 3 windows and a door to make your stay comfortable. If you were wondering about the things you should have in your car, consider this one as important!

Compact Electronic Safe

An electronic safe is one of the most important things to keep in your car. When you are living out of your car, maximizing your safety should be your utmost priority. And it is not like apartment houses where you have got lockers to keep your valuables safe!

The chances of robbery or burglary increase when you keep your valuable stuff inside your car and choose to stay there! Be it your extra cash, valuable accessories, important documents, or expensive jewellery; it would be easier for thieves to break into the vehicle and snatch away the valuables.

paragon lock and safe

But with a compact electronic safe, all your belongings are kept secure no matter where you wander in your vehicle. And if you have been looking for options, you can trust buying the Paragon Lock and Safe to protect your valuables!

It has features like an automatic lock with alarm after three failed attempts, LED key lock systems, heavy-gauge steel built material, affordable price, and compact size, which make it a desired safe for your van life. So, if you are living out of your car by choice, consider buying the electronic safe deposit box by Paragon Safes!

12V Dc to 110V AC Power Inverter

If you are still thinking about what are the essentials needed for living in your car, consider a DC to AC power inverter a good choice!

A 12V DC to 11V AC power inverter will work for you when the weather conditions are not in favour of you or when there are breakdowns in your vehicle’s electrical functions. You can buy the Ampeak 1000W Inverter with Dual AC Outlets for the best experience.

ampeak 150w power inverter

It has a powerful DC to AC output that ensures all your car’s electrical functions run smoothly even when there is a breakdown in the internal connections. You can quickly charge your phone, laptop, camera, and all other electrical appliances for a good few hours.

In stormy or emergency weather conditions also, you can utilize the inverter for your benefit. Thus, it is considered one of the essentials for living out of your car to make your experience worthy!

Portable Car Air Conditioner

Are you wondering how to live in your car in the summer? Well, a portable air conditioner might help you bear the heat during the summer season! Though you already have an ac inside your car, putting it on will make your vehicle cooler than normal.

Still, it is not always possible to switch on the AC, mainly if the vehicle is not running, because it can drain the battery, plus a lot of fuel is consumed due to the same! So, buying a portable AC is the best solution to this problem.

evachill portable air conditioner

You can check out the Evapolar evaCHILL Portable Air Conditioner for the best experience. It goes with all types of vehicles, be it a truck or an SUV! It might be portable in size, but running it for a few minutes can make your car chiller than you can imagine!

It has 3-in-1 properties that work as a cooler, humidifier, and night lamp as well. It has a leakage-proof system and is 100% safe for breathing. It is undoubtedly one of the best items for your living in car checklist that you should consider buying!

Rechargeable LED Touch Light

A rechargeable LED touch light is simply one of the best things to have in your car when you choose to stay inside it! Yes, a touch LED light will ensure a warm and pleasant stay inside your vehicle during the night hours.

The best part about these lights is that they are very portable in size; hence, you need not worry about bearing a lot of space to keep them. There might be many such lights available in the market, but one of the best lights is the RTSU Rechargeable Touch Light!

rtsu rechargeable touch light

Be it the design or the battery; you will not be disappointed when you buy this touch LED light. It also has a very affordable price range that makes it even more wanted! The DIY stick-anywhere features and seamless rechargeable battery power are some important features of this light.

Overall, if you have been thinking about what do you need to live out of your car, do not think twice and buy this light!

Portable Camping Stove

Are you still wondering how to live out of your car comfortably? This is another accessory you must have in your vehicle to live a comfortable life.

A portable camping stove must be your go-to product if cooking regularly is on your mind while you enjoy your van life. Though it is mainly considered a camping stove, it can do wonders if you use it for cooking every day while living inside the car.

coleman gas camping stove

And if you’re looking for options, consider buying the Coleman Gas Camping Stove to serve the purpose. It is portable, affordable, effective, and easy to use at the same time. You can place it anywhere, be it inside your van or outside in the open on a campsite.

If you are looking out for regular cooking, then this is the thing that you should consider having on your list of essentials for when you’re living out of your car!

Camping Cookware Sets

If you are living in your car to save money, then it is pretty evident that you are not going to spend money on eating out every day. And just like a portable camping stove, having camping cookware sets is also important. Because the stove is useless if you do not have the required cookware sets, right?

winterial camping cookware and pot set

Any cookware set generally consists of pots, fry pans, tea kettles, spoons, bowls, etc. No wonder all of them are good, but if you want to own the best portable cookware set for your van life, you must buy the Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot set.

It has all the essential cookware items needed to carry out everyday cooking. A total of 10 pieces of cookware items are available in this set. These have a non-stick coating, are lightweight, and pack compactly! It is one of the living out of your car essentials that you should not leave out!

Portable Cooler for Car

If you are living in your car in the winter, you might not need this item, but if the climate is hotter, having a portable cooler might save you from a lot of agonies!

Yes, a portable cooler works fine in dodging the hot and humid air inside the car effectively. These are less space-consuming yet very effective in cooling down the car temperature to a maximized extent.

yeti hopper flip

When looking for a portable cooler, you cannot miss out on the YETI Hopper Flip 8 Portable Soft Cooler. It has all the desired qualities needed to survive inside a car during humid summer weather.

It is built with superclass materials, has the best insulation properties, is very lightweight and portable to carry, has long-lasting power, and has an affordable price range. No wonder why it is one of the essentials for living in your car during the hot seasons!

12 Volt Car Fan

If you are still wondering what you need to live in your car, this is another essential item you cannot miss out on. If you are not convinced about buying an air cooler, you can at least buy a 12 Volt car fan for your comfort during the summer. These fans are enough for cooling down even when 2 or 3 of you are inside the car.

ouriky dual head clip car fan

These are portable and long-lasting, so they add value to your van life. If you are looking for suggestions, then you can opt for buying the Ouriky Dual Head Clip Car Fan, as it is one of the best 12V fans available on the market right now!

It has a super easy setup, wide application, adjustable clamp, cigarette lighter plug, and many other qualities that you will cherish.

Portable Jump Starter with Air Compressor

If you are living out of your car, there is always a possibility of the car engine breaking down, which will affect your movement. The Stanley J509 Jump Starter will help you overcome this problem quickly!

People will give you many tips for living in your car, but only a few of them would suggest keeping a jump starter in your vehicle when you intend to live out of your car.

stanley portable power station jump starter

During the engine breakdown moments, jump-starting your car would not be easy if you do not have a jump starter in the car. The Stanley J509 Jump Starter helps in delivering serious jump-starting power with 1000 amp peaks and 500 instant starting amps.

It has other unique features like a reverse polarity alarm, LED light, built-in 12V DC outlet, USB port, etc. Overall, you will not regret buying this!

Cordless Car Vacuum Cleaner

A cordless car vacuum cleaner should be considered one of the best and most useful car living essentials to own when you decide to live out of your car. It is essential to keep your place of residence clean and hygienic.

And when you are in your vehicle, it is your residence palace! So, keeping it cleaner should be your duty every day. And the best way to clean your car’s interior is to use a vacuum cleaner.

eufy by anker

The Eufy HomeVac H11 cordless vacuum cleaner will serve the purpose well. You can buy it without thinking twice. It has all the desired qualities that will make your cleaning process more manageable.

It is lightweight and compact, completely cordless, looks attractive, can be charged conveniently, and has an affordable price range. You will not regret buying this to clean your car.

USB Car Charger

If you have been playing on living in your car for a while now, you must have asked yourself several times; what do I need to live in my car?

You need as much stuff to live comfortably in your car as you need to live in an apartment. But it is not always possible to carry all those things along with you, especially when the size of the car is small, and there is space restriction.

anker 320 car charger

But a USB charger never comes in the way of your car’s space. And it is one essential item you must carry along with you. The Anker Car Charger is considered one of the most efficient USB chargers you will get on the market today.

It is portable, can charge bigger electrical appliances, and has an affordable price range. You can buy it for charging your electronic accessories easily.

Car Emergency Kit

When you decide to lead a vanlife, you need many vital things to keep in your car to dodge any unexpected circumstances. The vehicle is, of course, no better alternative to a room in an apartment. But yet, it is considered luxurious and affordable to some sections of society.

But anyway, the car is a machine only, and it can have issues that need to be figured out quickly to avoid further harassment.

roadside emergency car kit with jumper cables

The Vetoos Roadside Emergency Car Kit with Jumper Cables can solve almost all your car breakdown problems quickly. It has a 47-pcs set of survival kit accessories that you may need during a breakdown.

Right from an emergency blanket to a tow rope, you name it, and you’ve got it in this emergency kit. It is one of the most valuable and affordable car emergency kits that you must have in your car when you plan to lead a vanlife.

Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

By now, you have got tips about how to live in your car comfortably. All the stuff mentioned above is good enough to live a comfortable life out of your car. But what about entertainment?

Life at home and life in the car are not the same, right? You might get bored staying in your van all day (and night), and if there is no mode of entertainment, then living inside might be just impossible. Thus, a Bluetooth speaker will work well in keeping you entertained for a long time.

jbl flip 5

The JBL FLIP 5 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker should be your go-to choice for this. It has enhanced sound quality that will make your music listening experience worthwhile. Not only that, the best part is that it is waterproof and very portable, so you do not have to worry about its safekeeping.

You can connect it to your phone, laptop, or any other resource to enjoy party music for up to 12 hours. Now isn’t that an amazing buy?

Portable Heater for Car

If you have been in two minds about how to live in your car in the winter, then here is the desired solution. Buy a portable heater that will help you keep warm during cold weather conditions.

As against the summer season, where staying inside will be more challenging, winter comes with ease and comfort, and you can stay in your blanket all day without feeling the cold.

mr heater little buddy

But of course, you cannot literally stay in your blanket all day. So, to ditch the cold when you are not inside your blanket, a room heater will work fine. The Mr. Heater Little Buddy MH4B room heater is a wonderful choice if you are planning to stay out of your car during winter.

It is portable in size and efficient in keeping around 95 sq ft of area warmer. It is easy to use and also has an auto shut-off feature. All in all, this is an excellent accessory for living in your car in winter.

Portable Car Toilet

How about having the fancy of living in an apartment while still living in your car? Well, you might not have a real bathroom inside your vehicle, but you can still have a portable toilet just so that you can use it during emergencies.

In this list, you will get to know about everything you need in your car while you plan to stay in it. Be it having cookware sets or a portable car toilet, and there is information about everything here.

triptips portable toilet

And when talking about portable car toilets, you cannot miss out on buying the TRIPTIPS Portable Toilet! This multipurpose accessory is the perfect choice if you want to pee inside your car.

As it is designed more like a storage box, you can also use it as a trash can, a stool, a vomit box, or for any other such purpose. It is pocket friendly and also has accessible setup features.

Female Urinal Device

There are certain things you need to live in your car when you have a woman living with you. Women certainly have some restrictions as compared to men. And when it comes to urinating, men can do that anywhere, any time. And as mentioned above, they can use the portable toilet for urinating.

But what about women? They cannot stand and pee, right? So, female urinary devices are mandatory for women staying in a car.

female urination device

The Sunany Female Urination Device is one such accessory you can trust completely. No matter whether you are inside the car or camping at a site where having real toilets is a faraway thought, you can easily use this device to pee.

It is reusable, and you can wash and use it multiple times without any hindrances. It comes in multiple colors and has an affordable price too! It is also easy to use, and the material is long-lasting as well.

Travel Laundry Bag and Packing Cubes

There are several ways to save money on a tight budget, especially when you are living out of your car. Like you can cut off your laundry expenses if you are living in the car for a short while. But it would be best if you kept your unwashed clothes separate from the washed ones.

Given the fact that the space inside a car or a van is small, there is not much room for keeping the unwashed clothes aside.

travel laundry bag

Solution? Well, you can buy travel laundry bags and packing cubes to serve the purpose. The HONEST Travel Laundry Bag and Bago Packing Cubes are the perfect choices for the same. Both these products are good enough to store your used clothes till the time they are sent for laundry.

The packing cubes can also be used for washed clothes that you can pack and keep aside to save space and keep your car interior tidier!

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is one of the important things to have in your car at all times, even if you are not staying in it. You don’t know when you will face an emergency situation where you will need immediate first aid assistance.

And if you have a first aid kit in your car, you can get the necessary help immediately. The TrekProof Compact First Aid Kit is the perfect kit for such instances.

first aid emergency kit

It has 100 pieces of first aid materials that you may need while staying out of your car. Be it bandages, ointments, or cold compress; you will get everything in this emergency medical kit. It is very compact in size, but it contains all the necessary items related to emergencies.

It is durable, lightweight, and has medical-grade quality materials inside. In case of any emergency, you can use this first aid kit to get relief.

Collapsible Water Container

There are many things needed to live in a car. And one such thing is a collapsible water container. When you live in a house, it is easy to get water connections in and store the water for regular use.

But in cars, you neither have water connections nor do you have large storage facilities. Hence, you need to have compact solutions to store water inside the car. And with soluble water containers, it is made easier!

collapsible water container

The WaterStorageCube BPA Free Collapsible Water Container with Spigot is a good choice for serving the purpose. It is not only collapsible but is also safe for storing drinkable water. You can use it to store up to 5.3 gallons of water.

It also has other pack styles and size options that you can choose according to your requirements. It is lightweight, compact, BPA-free, odorless, leakproof, long-lasting, and has other amazing features. You can buy it worry-free!

Camping Table and Chairs

The camping tables and chairs are the car living essentials you cannot miss having on board inside your van if you intend to camp for a few days. Though this might take up space inside your car if you are living in it for the long term, if you are camping for a few days, you can buy the camping chairs and table for best usage.

camping table

And how can we go without giving you this last suggestion? Buy the Trekology Compact Camp Table and Cliq Camping Chair for the best experience. These are foldable, take less space, and are comfortable at the same time.

cliq camping chair

You do not have to worry about the expenses also when you buy these because both the items are affordable. For finding comfort and having a luxe feel, buy the camping chair and table without rethinking!

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Is It Illegal to Live Out of Your Car?

The answer to the question of- is it illegal to sleep in your car varies according to the law of different states in the US. In some states, it is entirely prohibited to park vehicles in rest stops overnight, while in others sleeping in the car is banned under certain circumstances.

In general, though living out of your car is not a crime, but in case, if you do not follow the state rules or have negative motives behind it, you can be charged under criminal laws. You must also utilize the car living essentials mindfully and do not throw garbage outside or place the accessories in the middle of a road.

You need to park your vehicle in the parking spots, and for overnight parking, you must choose a place that allows you to do so. If you park your car on busy roads or in private places, you can get sued by the authorities.

So, hopefully, it is clear to you whether it is illegal to live out of your car. However, if you do not follow the state laws or do not abide by the parking rules, you can be subjected to punishment that you would not wish to experience on your van life journey.

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Where to Park If You Live in Your Car?

If you are looking for safe places to park when living in your car, you must consider the ones that are legally available for parking vehicles overnight apart from the daytime. If you have intended to live a van life for a while now, you must be legally upright so that you do not face harassment during the journey.

There are certain places where can you legally park and sleep in your car for days, months and years too! Here are some suggestions:

Your Own Property (of course!)

If you have often freaked out thinking about where is a safe place to sleep in your car, then the most suitable place is, of course, your own land! Though, it is understandable that if you are trying to save money by living out of a car, you might not be rich enough to own a parking lot.

But if you are living the van life out of fun and to gain new experiences, and you also have land, you can park it there without fearing any legal consequences!

Highway Rest Areas

If you are still thinking about where you should sleep if you’re living out of your car, then consider highway rest areas as a viable option. Most highways have parking facilities for drivers for day and overnight stays, and it’s legal too!


Are you thinking about where to park when you live in your car to be safer? The campsites are the safest places to consider for the same! In most cases, these are paid parking, but you can get free parking too at certain campsites! These are safer and usually have better facilities!

Public Land

The public land mainly comprises forests and national parks. If you are thinking about where can you park if you live in your car to experience nature’s wellness, choose public land, and it is legal too!

Apart from these safe places to park when living in your car, you can also park at the Walmart parking stops, Truck parking spots, casinos, welcome centers, and rest stops to be safe and out of legal constrictions!

What are the Essentials Needed for Living in Your Car? – Author’s View

No matter how glamorous living out of your car seems, if it is not done right, you are bound to face consequences you do not wish to experience. The journey might be pleasant if you are living in your car to save money because it is far more affordable than renting a house or buying one in the US, for that matter!

But again, if you are not doing it right, you might end up being more harassed than at peace while leading a van life.

In this article, we have mentioned a list of the 23 essentials for living out of your car. But it is understandable that you might not be able to carry all of these at a time. But there are a few things you cannot miss out on while leading a van life, and I have zeroed in on those things from the list. It includes:

These, in my opinion, are the most practical and essential things needed to live in a car peacefully. While the other things mentioned in the article are also quite essential, leaving out these five will make it miserable for you.

No wonder you want to make it a pleasant experience while leading a van life, and hopefully, the information provided in this article will help you experience that inevitably!

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About Jace Cuban

I am an automotive enthusiast who loves to be around cars and pickup trucks. Applying innovative car care products and installing different latest car accessories are my hobbies. Also, I love sharing my adventurous experience with car lovers.

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