People Are Obssesed With Sleeping In Cars – The Autopian Podcast

David Rv Top

It’s Wednesday, so that means it’s time for another The Autopian Podcast. Today’s episode is a hodgepodge of important topics: Jason gets very upset about the car glovebox that can only be operated through the touchscreen, David explains why he had Jason make him custom oil for his Nash Metropolitan (more on that next week), and everyone wants to talk about sleeping in cars.

The video above is highlighting the discussion about the glovebox, which is worth your time, but I wanted to pull out the conversation about sleeping in vehicles because, it’s true, that people are obsessed with this concept.

Back at the old lighting site it was almost a game to see who could spend the most nights sleeping in a van or a car (or make other people do it). I once made Patrick George and Travis Okulski sleep with me in a Sprinter Crew van and it would have been fine if it didn’t drop to 18F overnight. Oh well!

This came up because we saw pics last week of the Ford Transit Trail, which looks to be an attempt at muscling in on the ProMaster and Sprinter in the #vanlife market. The van looks comfortable and we’ll have a lot more information on it as we get closer to the review.

It’s worth listening to for one of my favorite stories about David falling asleep in a Postal Jeep while trying to drive cross-country, but what I’m curious about is something David said about sleeping in his Toyota’s Landcruiser. David says that the rear cargo area is too small to sleep in so you need to remove the second seat in order to sleep. Or! You can just sleep in the second row. Here’s a pic of a Landcruiser second row from one that was listed on Cars and Bids.


Actually, that looks pretty comfortable.

Even the New York Times is getting in on this, with a story about taking an overnight luxury bus from Washington, D.C. to Nashville, TN.

Obviously, sleeping in a car is a choice some people have to make because they’re in a dire economic situation. That’s terrible and I think it’s a concept in the back of our minds all the time, that we could end up living in our vehicle, and so we want to read about it and think about it to know that it’s possible.

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I’m embedding the three most recent episodes below if you want to listen to it from your browser. Please like, subscribe, rate, et cetera.

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22 Responses

  1. I have slept in the passenger seat of a MkII Midget, wrapped in the tonneau cover. Relationships, man.

    I have ALSO slept in the back of my Chevy S10 Blazer, putting down the back seats and using a folding mattress from L.L. Bean. I was working as an instructor at an Outward Bounds school in Maine. In between courses I’d go climbing, go sailing, go just hiking, and go driving all over the Northeast and into Canada (back when that was easier than stopping at the gas station).

    I felt like a king.

  2. I slept in my 70’s Mini one night, lost the coin toss and got the front seats, gearshift was in my spine half the night, he got the back seat and some fresh air from the rust holes

  3. Once in college where I had a situation where I needed to be out of the dorms for the summer, but I had two weeks before an apartment I was moving into would be available. I was staying in the area to take summer classes, and had a couple of jobs on campus so going to my parents house nearly two hours away wasn’t really an option, so I stowed my stuff in a friend’s garage and parked my Volvo 240 wagon in a field down by the river and lived there for about a week (I had sofa surfing options, and spent a couple of nights in the art gallery where I was working as well). The worst thing about sleeping in the car was having the choice between a car that was hot and stuffy, or filled with mosquitos. Every time I see that Chris Farley “in a van down by the river” sketch I think about that time spent sleeping in the Volvo.

    1. Of course, you won’t be sleeping in a car again, but a piece of screen and some magnets does a nice job of giving you some ventilation while car camping. You can even custom make them to fit your particular car.

  4. I, before I bought my Miata, would often take lunchtime naps in cars.

    A brief review:
    My F-150 was excellent if the weather was nice and cool (no AC), although I did have to scrunch up my legs a tiny amount.
    My wife’s CX-5 is pretty good, lean the seat back about 45 degrees, open the center console (and maybe put a pillow underneath your leg,) throw your right leg over the console, let your left leg sprawl underneath the pedals wherever fits. For me a pillow helped prevent my head from lolling back between the space that opens up between the rear window and the headrest when the seat is reclined
    A Charger is damn near splendid for sleeping in. Nothing you need to do but crank the AC.
    Volvo S60 hybrid was almost too comfortable. The passenger seat slides so far back that my feet can’t even touch the firewall, and I’m a big boy at 6’1″. Lay the seat back after that, turn on the AC and you better hope you set an alarm for when your lunch break ends.
    I’ve yet to check out the Miata, but one of the things that my FSAE team’s drivers always said was “if its comfortable enough to sleep in, its a good seating position.” and the Miata has a damn fine seating position. With the weather cooling down here in Florida, it might be worth trying out one day during lunch.

  5. Last weekend I slept two nights in my caged ’67 SAAB 96 at a track and you don’t see me making a fuss about it. Well, except in the previous sentence, where I made a fuss about it, and arguably in this sentence, too.

  6. After reading Jason’s last rant about pushing a screen “button” to open the glove box, I thought of the WORST automotive feature that could EVER by electrified…the common sun visor.

    On the way home from work that day I was driving into a blinding setting sun. Instinctively, I reached up and pulled down the sun visor (sun shade?). Instantly, I had a panicky thought that what if some brainiac software engineer wanted to put a motor on this visor and make me open a screen and push a “button” to automatically lower that visor?

    I certainly would’ve scorched my retinas, crashed, died and been unable to contribute with this rant on the varied inane, insane, and asinine things that are automated in cars these days.

    Anyway, thanks for reading this since I’m still alive to write it.

  7. Re: groundhog — My wife started using moth balls to repel mice & it works like a charm! Hanging thingies are available with big cakes of the stuff. Engine heat accelerates their demise but now every time I pop the hood on her PT I get a whiff of a familiar fragrance.

  8. I’m not even sure Volvo would acknowledge the S60 Cross Country existed, but it did (previous gen), for your modernish, non-EV crossover sedan. Plus, the Subaru Outback sedan managed to exist until the 3rd generation (you know, the ’06-’09 or so ones, what passed for a good looking Subaru?).

  9. The Prius is an ideal car for sleeping/camping. It’s like a perfect climate-controlled tent. I slept with my big dog in mine for five across US and/or Canada road trips. Plus, I voluntarily slept in it a total of an additional month on and off to keep my dog company on nights when he didn’t want to sleep in my girlfriend’s house (his hostile brother dog frequently barked at him down the stairway while sneaking him into the house, so he’d sometimes just not want to sleep in the house). The key is being able to leave the car “on” all night if necessary for climate control. The engine turns on and off automatically to keep the heater warm or A/C going as necessary for temperature and moisture control, turning on maybe once every half hour for a couple minutes depending, and it uses minimal gasoline for that. I’ve slept it in comfortably at -40 degrees (C=F) road tripping across Canada in January. (Have a down sleeping bag 8″ thick too in case things goes sideways.)

    In the Prius, I’d fold down the back seat, push forward a front seat to make it long enough (for 5’10” person), and have an extra duffel bag filled with stuff in the footwell of the backseat to fill that gap. I’m sure that there are a number of other hybrids with enough room to lie down flat inside could pull the same overnight climate control trick. EVs can do it too, though they are not as good for road trips across North America due to the charging network. “Tesla Bjorn” on youtube would sleep in his Model S in Norwegian winter. The Model S is actually a liftback with room to sleep two comfortably.

    My last cross country trip was in the newer of my two Subaru Legacy wagons (Prius was totaled in caribou collision), which is decent enough for sleeping, but doesn’t have the climate control. Anyway as somewhat of a minimalist, I don’t envy the cartop tents, camper trailers, or vanlife vans. If you aren’t bringing a ton of stuff, camping/sleeping in the right car can give you a great night’s sleep.

  10. No fond memories of sleeping in cars here. The only time I’ve had to do so is out of necessity. I’d had a pretty unprecedented streak of luck when tent camping for most of my adult life, but that came to an abrupt end one fall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a couple of years ago during a relentless downpour. The campsite was uneven and prone to flooding, and I woke up to a tent that was inundated.

    That soured my tenting experience for the rest of the weekend and my thought was “I’ll just sleep in my car. How bad could it be?” Pretty bad, when you’re a 6’3″ dude and your means of transport is a 2016 Chevy Cruze (sedan, not hatchback). There’s not a large, flat space to stretch out or even curl up. Instead, you adjust the front seat as far back as it’ll go and make the best of it. Legroom is damn near nonexistent.

    The windows kept fogging up and air kept getting stale in the small space, so I periodically had to open the windows even though it was freezing out. Oh, and I’d locked the doors from the inside (for security, obviously) only to somehow trigger the car alarm at 4 a.m. when I thoughtlessly opened one to use the restroom, waking up the entire campground. That was fun. Thus began my quest to obtain a pull behind camper. If I never have to sleep in a vehicle again, I’ll die happy.

    1. I’m 6’3″ and once attempted to do the same in a 96 Sebring convertible. I ended up sleeping on the tried and true park bench instead because the slats were more comfortable than I could get in the Sebring. Never try to sleep in a Sebring convertible (Also never own one, what a pile of absolute garbage)

      1. I think the part that stands out to me most was being woken up around 2 or 3 in the morning by a bunch of indigent kids pushing and riding carts all around me in the parking lot.

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