It can be tough to make ends meet in today’s economy. Rent is high, jobs are scarce, and bills keep piling up. So, what do you do when you can’t find affordable housing? Some people turn to living in their car to avoid a mortgage or rent payments or as a last resort.
You might be shocked to find out that 140,000 people lived in their cars in 2019. This figure likely increased in recent years, due to economic problems and people losing their jobs due to Covid-19.
There are a number of health risks for people living in their car. But their worries range from the health implications to, “Can you legally live in your vehicle?”
While this may be an effective way to save money in the short term, we’ll explore both the pros and cons of living in your car and help you decide whether this is right for you. We want to cover the health, legal and financial implications of living in your car.
You Can Get Sick From Living in Your Vehicle
People struggling with homelessness and having difficulty getting access to health care remain one of the biggest public health crises to exist. One of the biggest risks of living in your car is its impact on your health.
When you live in close quarters with little to no ventilation, you’re more susceptible to illnesses like the flu or a cold. Also, if you already have a chronic illness, living in your car can worsen. It can be especially unhealthy for the growing number of people suffering from asthma.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
We have talked about the health risks of indoor air pollution while working from home. However, people living in their car face even greater health risks.
If you decide to live in your car, you’ll need to ensure your vehicle is properly ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by any fuel-burning appliance, including your car’s engine.
If your car is not properly ventilated, the gas can build up to dangerous levels, causing headaches, dizziness, and death. To protect yourself, make sure your car has at least one working window you can open for ventilation.
Additionally, avoid running the engine for long periods of time while parked in enclosed spaces such as garages. By taking these precautions, you can help to ensure your safety if you find yourself living in your car.
If you live in an area with very hot summers or cold winters, you’ll need to make sure you don’t overheat or freeze while inside your car. Exposure to extreme temperatures can be incredibly dangerous. If it’s too hot, you could get heatstroke, and if it’s too cold, you could get frostbite. This appears to be why a homeless Disney worker died while living in her car.
Living in close quarters can put you at risk of contracting diseases. This is because diseases like the flu or the common cold are easily spread through coughing or sneezing.
When we’re in close contact with others, it’s difficult to avoid coming into contact with these respiratory droplets. If you’re living in a vehicle with others, this can also lead to the spread of other infectious diseases, such as norovirus, tuberculosis, meningitis, and staph infections.
This situation can make it difficult to take health precautions, so be sure to take whatever steps possible to protect yourself from contracting these diseases. This includes washing your hands often and avoiding close contact with sick people.
Mental Health Consequences
You also might be at a greater risk for mental health problems. When you don’t have a safe place to call home, it can be difficult to relax or feel like you’re in control of your life. This can lead to anxiety and depression.
If you are experiencing any of those medical issues or worry about them, know mobile health care might improve the care of homeless patients, but it is far from perfect. So weigh those risks accordingly.
Car Insurance Is Still Required for Stationary Vehicles
Many people believe car insurance is only required for vehicles in operation. However, this is not the case. In most states, any vehicle registered must also be insured. Each state has its own minimum auto insurance requirements.
This includes cars not being driven, such as those in storage or on display.
Make Sure All Vehicles Are Properly Insured
The reason for this is that any car has the potential to cause damage, even if it is not currently being used. If an uninsured car is involved in an accident, the owner could be liable for the resulting damages.
As a result, it is important to ensure all vehicles are properly insured, even if they are not currently on the road.
If you can’t afford insurance, this could be a big issue. If you’re involved in an accident, you could have to pay for all the damages out of your own pocket. In addition, if you’re stopped by the police while living in your car, they may impound your vehicle.
You Can Be Arrested for Living in Your Vehicle
Can you legally live in your vehicle? The answer is a bit complicated. While there are no federal laws against it, some states have enacted legislation that makes it illegal to reside in a vehicle on public property.
Most cities have ordinances against camping or sleeping in vehicles overnight, so you may need to research to see if living in your car is an option in your area.
In general, camping is only allowed in designated areas, and sleeping in vehicles is not allowed on city streets. However, there may be exceptions for RVs and other types of campers.
Research and Understand Your Local Camping Regulations
You can typically find information about camping regulations on the city’s website or by calling the city office. There are a number of private campgrounds that you can use for overnight stays.
The cost of camping at a private campground is usually much higher than staying at a public campground, but you may have access to amenities such as bathrooms and showers.
You should also have a plan for where you will park during the day so that you are not disruptive to businesses or neighborhoods.
Other Options if You’re Struggling to Find Housing
If you’re struggling to find affordable housing, it’s important to know that other options are out there. Many organizations can help you find a safe place to stay, and some cities even have programs that provide temporary housing for homeless people.
Organizations that can offer assistance include:
- Housing and Urban Development
- Local homeless shelters
- National Coalition for the Homeless
- Salvation Army
City programs that provide temporary housing include:
- Boston’s Emergency Shelter Commission
- Los Angeles’ Homelessness Prevention Initiative
- New York City’s HomeBase Program
- San Francisco’s Homeless Prenatal Program
Living in your car is not a long-term solution, but it can be a way to get by in the short term. Just be sure to weigh the risks and benefits before making your decision.
Is living in your car worth the risks?
If you’re considering living in your car, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding.
While it may be a viable option for some people, there are risks involved that you should be aware of before making the switch. Do your research and talk to your doctor to see if this is the right choice.
Disclaimer: This article is not legal or medical advice. If you are considering living in your car, please consult a lawyer or doctor to get more information about the risks involved.