The increasing popularity of vanlife has made tiny living more accessible for many, leading some to take the concept of a home on wheels to an even tinier level… living in a car.
Rather than doing so out of necessity due to homelessness, these people are choosing to live in a car for the freedom to travel and see the country with very few living expenses.
However, there is a huge variety of types and sizes of cars to choose from. So, if you’re going to live out of a car, what is the best one?
I have done the research to find the top cars to choose if you’re living on the road full time, and in this article, I will discuss each type and outline their pros and cons to help you choose the right vehicles to live out of!
10 Best Cars You’ll Love Living In
When you’re living in your car instead of just using it to get you from place to place, there’s a lot to think about.
As I researched and compared the best cars to choose for full-time living, it came down to a few key considerations:
- Gas mileage
- Mobility/off-grid capability
- All-season comfort
Let’s get into comparing the best types of cars to live in!
1. Best Small Car to Live In: Toyota Prius
The smallest car by far that people live in is the Toyota Prius. Surprisingly, using a Prius as your home can actually be quite comfortable, even if you’re traveling as a couple.
According to my research, some couples or single people with dogs have transformed their Prius into a comfortable home on the road.
Typically, they will either fold down the rear bench seat or remove it entirely to maximize space for a bed.
Some single travelers also remove the front passenger seat for even more space.
While a Prius has more limited space than other vehicles you can live in, it has some advantages.
For one, its hybrid engine makes it possible to run the engine all night long to provide heating or air conditioning depending on the climate you’re camped in.
This also means that it’s the best car on this list with regard to gas mileage. In addition, the low profile of the Toyota Prius makes it an amazing stealth camping vehicle.
Pros/Cons of Living in a Toyota Prius
Overall Score of Living in a Toyota Prius: 19/35
2. Best Mid-Sized Car to Live In: Hatchback
When you’re considering living in a car that’s about the size of an average sedan, there are lots of options to choose from.
However, the style that’s best suited for living is a hatchback, since you can utilize the trunk area for your living space.
Some of the most common types of hatchback cars are Chevrolet Spark, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Subaru Outback, Chevrolet Cruze Hatch, Mazda 3, and Honda Fit.
Hatchbacks have slightly more space than a Prius, but they’re still quite tiny as compared with most of the other cars on this list.
Their compact car size has some advantages, though, especially when it comes to gas mileage, reliability, and stealth factor when you’re parked overnight in urban areas.
Pros/Cons of Living in a Hatchback
Overall Score of Living in a Hatchback: 18/35
3. Best Off-Road Car to Live In: Jeep
The best car to live in if you want a life of adventure while on the road is a Jeep.
People often use their Jeep as an adventure home on wheels by installing a rooftop tent or replacing the roof with a pop-up like this one.
Jeeps are larger than other cars, but they aren’t as versatile inside as some of the other vehicles we’ll discuss on this list.
But if you need a little bit more space than a hatchback, a Jeep is an excellent option for full time living.
The biggest perk with living in a Jeep is your ability to get off-road and find remote campsites way out in nature.
If you’re not stealth camping and you add a pop-up top or rooftop tent to your Jeep, you can really live in comfort and experience some amazing adventures.
Pros/Cons of Living in a Jeep
Overall Score of Living in a Jeep: 20/35
4. Best Family Car to Live In: Minivan
With multiple rows of seats, and sliding side doors, minivans are spacious and highly functional vehicles to live in.
By removing the rear passenger seats, you can create a lot of interior space for a sleeping area and cooking area.
The sliding doors and rear hatch provide versatile access points for the different areas within your home on wheels.
Their low profile limits off-road abilities, but that also makes minivans excellent cars for stealth camping inside.
The long, flat roof is spacious enough to accommodate solar panels as well as either a rooftop cargo carrier or adventure gear like paddleboards, surf boards, kayaks, or skis/snowboards.
Pros/Cons of Living in a Minivan
Overall Score of Living in a Minivan: 22/35
5. Best Versatile Car to Live In: 4WD SUV
It’s in the type of vehicle, but perhaps the most attractive feature of living in a 4×4 SUV is the off-roading capability.
You can travel to more remote destinations and really live off-grid in these vehicles.
Some, like a Chevrolet Suburban, are also larger, offering more space on the inside as well as the roof so you can spread out inside and install solar panels and adventure gear on top. There’s plenty of space even if you’re traveling as a couple.
4WD SUVs come in a variety of sizes and brands. While the Suburban is on the larger end of the scale, popular mid-sized SUVs include the Toyota 4runner, Land Rover Discovery, Ford Expedition & Explorer, and Chevrolet Tahoe.
These all offer more interior space than most of the cars we’ve covered so far, and with the added benefit of having four wheel drive, these SUVs make a great home on wheels.
Pros/Cons of Living in a 4WD SUV
Overall Score of Living in a 4WD SUV: 26/35
6. Best Camping Car to Live In: Pop-up Camper Van
Pop-up camper vans are probably the easiest cars to live in if you don’t have the time or budget to build out your vehicle for full-time living.
This is because these vans come built out with a kitchenette and convertible dinette and bed.
With other cars on this list, you’ll need to make some modifications to create a sleeping space and add systems for cooking.
Some of the more common types of pop-up camper vans are VW Eurovan Camper, VW Westfalia, VW California, Ford Nugget Plus, Winnebago Solis, Mercedes Metris Weekender, and the Pleasure-Way Tofino.
You can also often fit more than two people in a pop-up camper van, due to the pop-up roof that typically contains a bunk inside for sleeping (in addition to the convertible dinette below).
The only downside of this is that if you need to stealth camp in an urban setting, you won’t be able to use the pop-up top if you want to go unnoticed.
Pros/Cons of Living in a Pop-Up Camper Van
Overall Score of Living in a Pop-Up Camper Van: 19/35
7. Best vehicle to Live In for Mobility: Pickup Truck with Camper
While you can certainly live in the back of a pickup truck with a cap over the bed (and there are some cool ways to build out the bed area), it’s far more comfortable to have a camper installed instead.
Truck campers are technically a type of RV, and have unique layouts.
Typically, the bed area is located in a section of the camper that juts out over the cab of your pickup truck, with a kitchenette and dinette toward the rear of the camper and truck.
Some truck campers even have a wet bath, so that you can more comfortably live in the vehicle without needing facilities.
For the extra space and amenities a truck camper offers, however, you’ll have to make some sacrifices.
Because truck campers are a kind of RV, they are not at all stealthy. The extra weight of the camper can do a number on your pickup truck’s suspension and put a drag on your gas mileage.
For some, though, the extra space and comforts make this type of vehicle preferable for full-time living.
Pros/Cons of Living in a Pickup Truck + Camper
Overall Score of Living in a Pickup Truck Camper: 21/35
8. Best Comfort Car to Live In: Cargo Van
We’ve crossed the line from car living to van living, but vans are still technically cars.
Cargo vans aren’t as popular to live in as taller vans like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Ford Transit, but they are still quite spacious and comfortable to live in, especially if you build out the back to accommodate a cooking and sleeping area.
Cargo vans are larger than minivans and since they are built to transport cargo, they have a lot more space inside than standard cars.
If you buy a used cargo van, it’ll probably either have seats in the back from use as a passenger van, or the rear of the vehicle will be completely empty and down to the studs.
Either option gives you lots to work with when converting the van for full time living, and may be easier or more difficult to convert, depending on the van you choose.
Pros/Cons of Living in a Cargo Van
Overall Score of Living in a Cargo Van: 27/35
9. Best Spacious Car to Live In: Sprinter Van
With the increased headroom and spacious rear area, it’s no surprise that Sprinter vans (and equivalent models like the Ford Transit and RAM ProMaster) are the most popular and comfortable cars to live in.
Another term for these types of vehicles is Class B RVs, and manufacturers and DIY van builders pack a lot into such a small space.
Sprinter vans come in a variety of sizes, with varying amenities as well. You can splurge for a 4WD van, or choose from different lengths.
For example, the Sprinter 144 is 19.5 feet long bumper to bumper, with 10.5 feet of interior length from behind the driver’s seat to the back doors, while the High Roof V6 Sprinter 3500 Extended (170 in. WB) is 22 feet, 10 inches in length, bumper to bumper, and is 14 feet long from behind the cab to the rear.
Even if you have a shorter sprinter van, there is a lot you can do to fit everything you need from sleeping and dining space, to cooking space and even a wet bath.
Pros/Cons of Living in a Sprinter Van
Overall Score of Living in a Sprinter Van: 26/35
[Read More: How Much Does a Sprinter Van Conversion Cost?]
Which Is The Best Vehicle To Live In?
As you’ve probably seen, the best car to live in really depends on your needs and desires. Let’s summarize which is best for each need:
Toyota Prius is the best small car to live in, and has an overall score of 19/35
Hatchbacks are the best mid-sized car to live in, with an overall living score of 18/35
Jeeps are the best off-roading car to live in, and have an overall score of 20/35
Minivans are the best family-style car to live in, with an overall living score of 22/35
4WD SUVs are the most versatile cars to live in due to space and mobility, and score 26/35 on our scale
Pop-Up Camper vans are the best car for camping-style living, and have an overall score of 19/35
Pickup trucks with campers are the best car to live in if you want to take your car and leave your ‘home’, and have an overall living score of 21/35
Cargo vans are the best cars to live in for comfort, scoring 27/35 on our scale
Sprinter vans are the most spacious cars to live in, and score 26/35
Gear You Need to Live in Your Car
Regardless of which car you choose (or own) to live in, there is some gear you should consider purchasing to make life on wheels more comfortable.
This lifestyle is a big adjustment from standard residences such as a house, condo, or apartment.
Not only will you have to get used to a much smaller living space, you will also need to be prepared to spend a lot more time outside the vehicle.
Throughout this article, I’ve highlighted a few products you should consider, especially when living in your car in hot or cold climates.
But let’s take a closer look into the gear you should consider to make car living as comfortable as possible.
While you can certainly sleep on a camping mattress or pad, doing so over a long period of time from the back of your car is likely going to do a number on your spine, not to mention the quality and comfort of your sleep.
You should consider investing in a good mattress like a folding memory foam one.
Some people who live in their cars prefer to use a sleeping bag, while others prefer residential-style bedding like sheets and comforters.
The choice is up to you, but a combination of the two may help if the climate is especially cold.
You can cover your bedding with a 3- or 4-season sleeping bag to keep yourself cozy and warm even if it’s below freezing outside your car – just beware that the condensation from your breath may cause ice to form inside your windshield and windows!
Even if you splurge for a Sprinter van, you’re probably going to need an alternate source of heat to keep you comfortable in cold temperatures, as you would with any other car on this list.
I highlighted some portable heaters and fans earlier in this article, but there are lots of options out there.
One of the primary appeals of living in a car is the radically reduced cost of living compared with standard living arrangements, and you probably won’t want to blow your budget by eating out all of the time.
Backpacking stoves like the ones from JetBoil are also popular among car-living enthusiasts.
In addition, you’ll want to have ways to store your food. Keep your dry goods in airtight containers to prevent animals from smelling your food and maximize space within your car.
For refrigeration, you can use a cooler but you will need to have consistent access to fresh ice to keep food from going bad, so you may want to consider investing in a portable fridge that connects to your 12-volt outlet.
Regardless of whether you’re using standard devices like a smartphone or you’re working from your home on wheels and need to power a laptop, you will need a reliable way to charge your devices while you live on the road.
If you have installed solar panels and an inverter system, you’re set, but you may be interested in less permanent options.
Keep in mind that if you’re using an inverter connected to your car’s cigarette lighter, it’s best to use it when you’re driving or when your car is running so that you don’t run down the battery.
Last Updated on by Aaron Richardson