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The truth about Costs of Living in your Car: Time to Ditch your regular life?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the actual costs of living in your car or van, let’s take a moment to reflect on the reality of living a conventional lifestyle. With the soaring cost of living, skyrocketing interest rates, and uncontrollable inflation, I’ve personally witnessed more and more individuals opting for the alternative of living in their car or van as a way to save money. With housing being one of the biggest expenses and ‘the average US household spending $21,409* per year, or $1,784 per month, on expenses related to housing(ValuePenguin), many people are looking for alternative, more affordable housing solutions.

In the graph below created by ValuePenguin using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average Americans are spending a whooping $5,111 per month in total living related expenses with Housing & Utilities accounting for a large proportion.

In the sections below we will determine the true costs of living in your car to determine whether it is financially feasible. Please note a lot of this data collected is based on averages and not everyone’s income and expenses will be identical.

What are the costs of living in your car or van?

On average living in your car or van can expect to cost you $3,092 per month to live comfortably. Depending on your frugality, living in your vehicle can help you save $24,236 per year in comparison to the average US household expenses. In the sections below we will breakdown each of the main expenses that are associated with living in your car and how they stack up.

The true costs of living in your car.
how much does it cost to live in your car?

Below are some of the most common living expenses and costs to consider when living in your car or van. Although there is a large reduction on the amount spent on housing (either rent or mortgage) there are still a few additional costs you might not have considered, these include but are not limited to the following:

Vehicle Running Costs

Vehicle running costs when living in your vehicle can change dramatically based on your vehicle use and lifestyle choices. From how much you travel to the age of the vehicle you own, operating costs can vary. You can expect total vehicle costs to average $9,735 a year ($811 a month), with these broken down below:

Vehicle Running Cost BreakdownYearly CostMonthly Cost
Vehicle Repayments$6,180$515
License/ Registration$699$58
Total Costs$9,735$811
Vehicle running costs for living in your car/ van.


Regardless of where you live if you are using a car you will need to fill up the tank sooner or later. One of the benefits of living in your car is the potential to reduce the cost of travel buy positioning yourself in a convenient location close to work/ necessities. The typical American vehicle owner spends on average $131 a month ($1,572/ year) on fuel and gas with in recent months this amount skyrocketing with world events.

Vehicle Repayments

With a lack of new vehicle supply, the median cost of new and used vehicles has blown out of proportion with the average loan amount for a used car in the United States tipping $28,534 with monthly repayments of $515 (Nerd Wallet). New car loans exceed this amount with repayments of $667/ Month & loan amounts of $40,290. For this breakdown we are going to assume frugality and use the repayments of a average used car.


From routine oil changes to replacing tires & brake pad replacements, keeping up on your vehicle maintenance is crucial when living out of it. According to The Balance Money routine maintenance and repair costs for a vehicle averages at $0.09 per mile.

With the Average US citizen travelling 14,263 Miles per year (Federal highway Administration) you can expect maintenance costs to top $1,284 a year or $107 per month. For those who love to travel and live the nomadic lifestyle can see these costs higher, for an estimated cost specific to your lifestyle use Expected miles per year x Average maintenance cost per mile.

License/ Registration

Unfortunately regardless of how much you do or don’t travel you are required to pay for license and vehicle registration. The average driver will spend $699 per year on license, registration and vehicle taxes.

Hygiene/ Gym Membership

With the limitations of space in most car living set-ups having access to a shower is sometimes a challenge which makes a gym membership in most cases a necessity. Having a good gym membership can help give you cheap access to all the amenities you need for remaining hygienic, with access to exercise equipment a great bonus.

Nationwide gym chains such as Planet Fitness are a great source of showers/ amenities for those with limited space in their set-up. For those who can’t justify paying a gym membership for access to a showers/ amenities make sure to check-out our guide for other options here.

For this example we are using Planet Fitness’s paid in full membership as it presents the best value at $199/ year or around $17/ month.


On average in the USA, full coverage car insurance rates are $1,630 per annum or approximately $136/ month for a good driver with good credit. Whether you are living full time in your vehicle or in a house this figure doesn’t change much, but is still a considerable monthly expense.

Just like having home and contents or regular car insurance, having a good quality insurance that covers all of your personal belongings whilst living in your car is crucial. Typical car insurances do not cover a large majority of your belongs in a car with most opting for insurance for a sum value of personal belongings (i.e the sum of $1,000 on top of the vehicles insured value).

It is important to read the fine print of what is actually covered in your car insurance policy if it is not specifically stated that it covers a set value for belongings in your vehicle. RV insurance is a great alternative if you can get this coverage for your car or van as it allows for better coverage of personal belongings. RV insurance will help cover additional extras like TV’s/ electronic goods to personal liability & medical payments in some cases.

General Expenses

General Expenses of Living in your CarYearly CostMonthly Cost
Food/ Groceries$7,316$610
Internet/ Phone$1,368$114
Health Care$5,172$431
Miscellaneous Expenses$6,276$523
Breakdown of General Expenses of Living in your Car/ Van

Food/ Groceries

Regardless of your housing situation there are always going to be costs of living that will apply and affect your budget. Food and groceries will account for a large portion of these expenses with the average US household spending $7,316 per year ($610/ month).

Internet/ phone bills

With the modern age there are unfortunately some expenses we can’t escape, especially if we want to stay connected. Phones & steady internet/ data connection have become a must and can come at a considerable cost. As of 2022 the average American phone bill was $114 per month according to Money Lion.

Health Care

Unfortunately as long as universal health care ceases to exist in the USA, health care is going to play another major cost to consider regardless of your living situation. Health care accounts for $5,172 per year of the average American budget or $431 per month.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Entertainment, new clothes, education & personal care expenses don’t disappear when living out of your car. these miscellaneous expenses add up to over $523 per month on average according to ValuePenguin but can vary drastically depending on what matters to you.


Unfortunately not everyone has access to free overnight parking for extended periods of time or is confident enough to stealth camp in their vehicle. Site fees for staying overnight in camp grounds can quickly add up if used every night. Paid campsites can average $15-$30 a night (although there are plenty of free alternatives) and if used every night can account for upwards of $450 a month (Bear Foot Theory).


How much does it cost to live in your car or van per month?

From our experience, on average it can cost around $3,092 per month to comfortably live in your car, van or truck. Although this figure can vary depending on how frugal or luxurious you wish to be. When compared to the average cost of living in most of the US states you can see this figure allows for someone on the average salary to save an additional $2,000 per month, allowing you to achieve your financial goals faster.

Is it realistic to live in your car/ van?

It is realistic to be able to live in your car or van full time, however it will require some planning and budgeting to ensure all your needs are met. Unfortunately not everyone has a choice when it comes to living out of their car, but for those who are looking to downsize and reduce living expenses its a great alternative.

How much you can save living in a van?

With the average cost of housing in American at $1,050 a month & utilities topping $734 a month, there are huge savings available for those who choose to live in their car or van. Someone on a medium wage in the US is able to save upwards of $2,000 per month when adopting the car living lifestyle.


  • Zaara

    Zaara, a kindred spirit of the open road, has nurtured a deep-seated love for RV travel since her childhood. Journeying with her parents, she learned early on to cherish the little things that make life rich and fulfilling. This emotional depth and appreciation for simplicity have become the cornerstone of her life philosophy. A firm believer in the idea that true happiness is found in nature's embrace, Zaara continues this legacy of exploration alongside her husband, Augustus. Her passion extends beyond landscapes to the joy of connecting with life's purest forms - the unconditional love of dogs and the innocence of babies. These connections reflect her nurturing soul and emotional acuity. Zaara is also a culinary enthusiast, delighting in creating meals that blend flavors from their travels, infusing each dish with memories and love. Her expertise lies in living fully, finding joy in every moment, and inspiring others to seek happiness in life's simple, natural wonders.

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