Jump to content

Sleeping in cars


Recommended Posts

Slept in my Saab 99 Turbo Saloon 3 times, once after tent got blown down in rain and a Gail, I had the back seat down which is not very flat in a sleeping bag, so much better than the ruined tent

One, after throwing up in a tent, I just got in passengers seat threw a towel over my head, then was woken up in the morning.

And finally after driving from Geneva, over the ferry then north of London, I think about 5am, stopped to rest, slept in front seat, as rear was full of my camping gear


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some years back when I was younger and less cynical I went to some VW show with a mate of mine, I forget which but it was a winter one. Everyone else had campervans, but I had a shitty handmedown tent.

We got to the show and it was absolutely freezing, and rather than sleep in a tent I thought I'd be better off in the back of the massive sprinter we'd driven down, so I moved a load of the rusty old shit out of the way and pumped my £9 mattress up directly on the steel floor. It was cold, so I put all my clothes on (Everything I'd brought for the weekend, 2x trousers, 3x tops, 3 pairs of socks plus a hat and a hoodie etc) and I was doing OK ish til the airbed popped and I sank onto the cold floor, then the condensation started dripping on me off the roof. Then it stopped, because it had frozen. 

As MJK says, it really made me realise how awful it must be for rough sleepers. 


I've camped on Kinder Scout in surprise -13c conditions in a £30 tent with a summer sleeping bag after walking 12 miles in the snow and I was somehow a lot warmer than I was in that van.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

A few stories above have prompted memories - doing a job the same weekend as a car show I wanted to attend saw me setting up an exhibition stand, driving the Luton van to the show and kipping on the raised area above the cab - and finding out during the night that the roof had been damaged and was leaking rainwater onto my sleeping bag...not nice

The other vehicle I slept in a lot was my ex wife's 7 seat Torneo, with the rear seats folded down, a small double mattress fits in the back perfectly. Made up reflective blinds for all the windows and used it for short trips to Cornwall, Scotland and Wales. I slept better in this than I did at home - also the only time we seemed to get on with each other...


Bodmin moor is kinda strange at night when there's not a soul around

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I was back doing trade-plating, the company I worked for had a policy of keeping us away from home during the working week to keep the miles down. Generally, you were only allowed to stay somewhere en-route between pick up and drop off with a few miles extra to go off route to stay somewhere if need be. You'd be paid an overnight rate to keep the car and find somwhere to stay.

As most other guys liked to pocket the cash, they'd often sleep in cars. One evening down in Stevenage, I tried that. I had a Peugeot Bipper van for the night. At the time I was too wet behind ears and poor to realise I could have phoned the out of hours office number to get somewhere to stay. So my only alternative was to kip in the back of the van.

Worst.night.ever the van had a caged membrane between the cockpit and rear of the van. The van was very short so my 5ft7 frame couldn't stretch out. The back of the van got VERY cold in the night, almost like a fridge, the bottle of water I had next to me felt like it had been in a fridge. I couldn't sleep properly, woke up a million times and eventually, I just ended up driving to a all-night petrol station to go to the toilet.

Tried it again a year or so later. This time in a Mercedes E-class W212 saloon. I had the smaller back seat folded down and fitted the rest of myself in the boot.  It was Ok but not the best, I think I managed 4 to 5 hours.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think I have, I tried sleeping in a hired Transit once, but gave up due to cold and managed to get a room in a hotel at gone midnight.

The nearest would be snoozing for a few hours in the back of the C15 van when I drove it down to the Auvergne a few years back. I was full of coffee so no chance of sleep. Luckily I had brought a comfy chair with me.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

An S210 merc isn't bad for getting a reasonable* night's sleep.  With the back seats folded flat, there's a 2m long completely flat load-bed, which means I can stretch out and actually sleep properly.  Done it a few times now and have had OK sleep.  Like any car, the temperature does drop mighty quick if it's cold outside and you have to leave a window just fractionally cracked as otherwise you'll have condensation everywhere, but as cars for sleeping in go, it's probably one of the better ones.

Only issue is I can't sit up in it, which is a bind.  It's probably 50/50 as to whether I'd prefer a tent for the additional space and ability to sit/stand up, or the car for a solid roof over me that isn't going to blow away at 3am.  If the roofline was higher, I wouldn't bother with a tent at all.

What I never understand is when you hear of people actively living in a vehicle, especially something tiny.  If you were in that situation, would you not just sell the car and get a cheap camper of some sort?  I know prices have gone bananas in the last couple of years, but it wasn't that long ago that you could pick up a cheap LDV campervan for the same as you could sell a micra for.  Yes, it's an LDV, but if I'm looking to sleep somewhere, that's infinitely preferable to the back seat of a supermini.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spent the night in a layby off the A38 in one of these,( it was nearly as rusty.) Plod woke me up to see what I was doing, that apart it was ok. I don’t want to do it again however.


One of these was comfier, illegally camping in the Death Valley desert. Top down, black sky full of stars, warm, dead still. Lots of beer after parking…  I’d do that again!BBA263DD-2AB8-4D87-94C6-4C313A93BF4F.thumb.jpeg.4ff3cbb07f0505e87900d26afb18174d.jpeg




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Back in the early 70s, my Dad was the proud owner of one of these:


A marathon special edition VW Beetle 1300. In summer it would have the roof rack crammed with luggage, a tent stuffed into the trailer and its mighty 44bhp engine would haul us from Liverpool to Cornwall for the family summer holiday. My 2 sisters and I would sleep in the space offered by the folded down rear seat and parcel shelf above the engine. We would start the journey late at night, arriving at our destination late the following morning. I‘ve no idea how the 3 of us managed to find sleeping space in the back of this thing, but I do remember on one such journey waking up and seeing the Clifton Suspension Bridge, pne of my most vivid childhood memories. And yes, I did become an engineer.

My parents considered this travel arrangement so successful, that it was repeated in Dad‘s next car, which was one of these.


A Mk2 Ford Escort Estate 1.1 base, in white. The family had grown in the meantime, which meant that there were now 4 of us kipping the 9 or so hour journey away on the folded down rear seat. We had to relinquish the trailer, because the resulting performance would have been measured in geological timescales, which was too slow even for my Dad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

I've done it a fair few times, with varying levels of success. I cracked it with one particular car from a few years ago - a Honda Accord, which despite having the 'exec' leather interior, responded well to use of camping gear. Roll mats evened out the sculpted rear seat, cushions on top of kit in the footwell extended my sleeping area. Front passenger seat made a good makeshift kitchen. Sorted.

So when I'd jobs ten miles apart on consecutive days, but forty miles from home, the solution was right there. Many pennies saved. So, I left the first job and headed for what I knew was a good parking spot. Hid myself well off the road, made dinner, relaxed with (iirc) a Scotland match on the radio, read for a bit, went to sleep. 

I was woken about 2 AM with the frightening feeling I was in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The inside of the car was flood lit with eye hurting intensity, and there were flashing lights around it, and something trying to get into the car. Seriously, I don't mind admitting I squealed. I thought my alien overlords had finally arrived.

Nope. The polis. They'd parked their van pointing uphill in front of the car with their main beams and beacons on. The car's lightish grey headliner had reflected it beautifully. Well, that was quite a conversation. Not least because I hadn't woken up properly or come down fully and couldn't find my specs. My mistake was, my well known spot was close to a large petrochemical site, and the security had assumed I was part of a protest they were expecting! 

The irony was that I just couldn't sleep once they'd left me to it, and I did a fair bit of rumble strip - cat's eyes - rumble strip on the way up the A9 the next day, and ended up sleeping like a log across the front seats of a Transit van in Ullapool by lunchtime! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don’t think I’ve ever slept in a car for a whole night (just if I’m a passenger on a long journey from time to time). However once when camping I used a Citroen Xantia Estate as a very large tent peg/wind break on a very stormy night. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From 1985 to 1994 four of us would follow the RAC Rally around the country , usually sleeping in the car . Always my car as I usually had a company one  or occasionally a rental. The first year was in this


Pictured here at a service stop near Hawick. It was 3 months old at this point.

Subsequent years were in whatever the biggest pool car or demo I could blag , a couple of different Granadas, a Saab 9000 CD , a Senator 2.5 and a 420 GSi Rover which was a bit cramped but didn’t get beaten ever in the race between stages even against actual competitors.

For a period of just over a week me and the now Mrs N lived in my 1967 300SEL, which was very comfy and as completely flat, whilst our Worldly goods and the dog were in my Mk2 Granada estate parked next to it . Even now 37 years later she doesn’t see the funny side of homelessness.

In recent years it’s just been the odd hour or two power nap waiting for somebody outside a restaurant or event. Although I hope I don’t have to do it too often in my current XF, it’s just a bit too snug.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...