How To Live In A Car As A Woman: Safety Tips You Need

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With the cost of living skyrocketing, more people choose or are forced to live out of their cars. However, if you are a woman and considering the necessity—or adventure—of living out of your car, there are extra precautions to consider. Security, privacy, and biological differences are challenges to plan for when living in a car as a woman.

However, many women have successfully taken on these challenges and lived to tell the tale. You can too.

image: woman in brown sweatshirt leaning against open trunk that holds a box, pillow, and bag


Be a Safety Girl

Safety is the foremost consideration for any woman living alone in her car.

Don’t make yourself an easy target.

Although relatively safe, a car can’t provide the same level of protection as four walls and a locked door. Careful planning, however, can reduce those risks and make car living a viable option.

The following are some guidelines on how to live out of your car safely.

Situational Awareness: A Crucial Skill When Living Out of Your Car

The number one way a woman can protect herself is to be alert and aware of her surroundings at all times AND be prepared to act if necessary. Situational awareness is being aware of potential human and environmental threats and analyzing possible exit strategies.

If you can make the following practices an unconscious habit, you will master a critical skill for safely living out of your car.

  • Train yourself to observe others without staring at them. Observe body language and behavior to identify potential threats. For example, someone watching you with too much attention is a red flag and may require action.
  • Follow your gut. Our brains process a lot of information that we do not register consciously, so when an “alarm goes off in your gut,” heed it. And if you sense danger, don’t be afraid to act. Of course, it might be inconvenient if you’re in your car after you’ve set up for the night, but trusting your instincts should always trump inconvenience.
  • Always have an escape route available. Always park your car so you are facing toward an exit and can leave quickly. Oddly enough, backing into a space is illegal in some states, so know your state laws, but if possible, park your car nose out or point toward the exit.
  • Set things up inside your car for a quick exit. One woman always keeps her front seat clear and car keys within reach in case she needs to make a quick getaway. Creating habits like that will help you respond more quickly in a tense situation.

Case the Joint

Another component of situational awareness is knowing what an area should be like before you set up for the night. This helps you know when something is out of place.

Basically, you should try to case the area before staying overnight. For example, is the area generally quiet, or do individuals or groups frequently pass? Or worse, hang out? Is it a popular dog-walking spot in the evening or a running route in the morning?

You are trying to blend in, so having information about your environment is vital for both situational awareness and inconspicuous car living.

Tools to Defend Yourself

Whether to have a weapon at hand and what that weapon should be require careful thought. A physical confrontation is more likely to be in close quarters when living in your car, so consider that. Some possibilities include:

  • air horn
  • pepper spray or gel
  • dog spray
  • kubaton
  • stun gun
  • tactical pen
  • tactical flashlight
  • keys
  • knife
  • firearm This one is tricky because it may be illegal in some states. Know your state’s law regarding conceal carry and keeping a firearm in your car. Never possess a firearm that you do not know how to use safely!
  • A self-defense course This is highly recommended, but it can be expensive. Your local recreation center or area YMCA might offer a reasonably priced course. Some martial arts schools will sometimes have free or very inexpensive classes for women. 


Also, never choose a weapon that you don’t know how to use in a scary situation.

Firearms, especially, require training and practice, but pepper sprays and stun guns also need some practice to be safe and effective.

Whatever weapon you choose should be stored so that it is readily available. Placing it under your pillow, velcroed above your head, or tucked into a handy seatback organizer are all possibilities.

Organization is a Safety Measure When Living In a Car As  a Woman

Organization is going to be important for more successful car living regardless of your gender. But for women, it’s even more critical. In the event of danger, delays of mere seconds while you attempt to locate an item could spell disaster.

Arrange your belongings for comfort and cleanliness, but also so you can escape a situation easily. For example, keep car keys, a flashlight, a self-defense item, and a cell phone within easy reach when you are sleeping.

You should also keep them in the same place every night so you can react more quickly to a developing situation.

As a bonus, keeping things clean, organized, and stowed is also a way to blend in and avoid a “homeless” label. 

Bags, nets, bungees, tie downs, velcro, hanging car seat organizers, and plastic boxes are just a few organizational containers you can use to keep your things organized. You can find things online or at a Home Depot, but may also be obtained for next to nothing at dollar stores, flea markets, garage sales, and thrift stores.

One woman used magnetic bars attached to various places in her van to hang sunglasses, tools, and small metal containers. She also used cargo net bags to stow her belongings and create more space.

Block It All Out for Privacy

Privacy is as much a security precaution for living in a car as a woman as it is a comfort measure.

Taking the time and effort to construct light-blocking window covers will prevent people from seeing that you are in your car alone. (They also allow you to sleep past dawn.)

You can make them in such a way that it is nearly impossible to tell that you have window coverings on the inside of your windows at night.

Crucially, if your car looks like any other parked car, you are less likely to be harassed. Curtains, newspaper, or reflective coverings are dead giveaways that someone is sleeping inside.

To create these privacy shades, you need Reflectix, a sturdy, insulating material sold online or at hardware stores. Cut the Reflectix to the exact size of your window, and cover one side with black felt and the other side with white felt.

They should neatly fit inside the frame of your window and completely block out any light. They also work as insulators to keep your car warmer or cooler. You can find the exact instructions here.

How to Pee Safely and Handle Periods

If you’re post-menopausal, periods won’t be a concern, but you’ll still need to urinate. However, if you’re still menstruating, then you need a plan to deal with Aunt Flo when she visits.

How to Pee Safely 

Men can urinate practically anywhere anytime. Women, not so much.

Getting out of your car at night to pee may not be practical and could even be dangerous. Fortunately, there are some solutions to this issue. 

One simple option is to use a plastic container with a lid. This is a cheap option, but, may be difficult to maneuver, depending on the space in your car.

Instead, you can check out the surprising number of products that make it easier for a woman to urinate into a bottle, even in the awkward confines of a car. This product is just one of the options that sell on Amazon for around $10.

There are other options with different configurations and funnels and such, so choose one that will work for you. I am getting one of these babies to have in case of getting stranded in plastic. They are a great invention for women!

How to Handle Periods

There are several views on how to handle a menstrual cycle, but the best method is going to be the one that works for you. So here are some options. Most hang on the premise that you treat your period normally. Experiment to see which you prefer.

  • Use tampons or pads. Keep used menstrual items in a ziplock-style bag and dispose of them as needed. If you find the odor to be an issue, keep a dryer sheet in the bag.
  • Menstrual cups are an option if you can empty them. However, if you require a midnight dumping, consider using them during the day when you can more safely access a restroom and use tampons or pads at night. Also, consider how you’ll clean and disinfect the cup. Baby wipes work in a pinch.
  • If you’re concerned about overnight leaking, consider wearing period underwear, sleeping on a puppy pad, or using a disposable diaper
  • Use baby wipes to stay clean and fresh between opportunities to shower. 

And, speaking of showers, most truck stops offer clean and safe showers for a fairly low fee. You can read more about them in this article.

Whether you are a woman living out of your car for financial or travel reasons, you can do it safely by planning and preparing.

Practicing situational awareness, staying organized and ready, creating effective window coverings, and thoughtfully choosing a mode of self-defense will give you an advantage in a new, sometimes difficult, lifestyle.

What women-specific tips would you add to these? Share in the comments!

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Valerie Whittle. Over the years I have been an attorney and a homeschool mom–there is no question as to which is more fun. I now enjoy life with my husband of 29 years, assorted cats and dogs, and a garden.

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