Can you live in a van in Los Angeles?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Can you live in a van in Los Angeles? We will explain how you can legally live in a van in LA and give you a few basic tips for a comfortable life on the road. 

Can you live in a van in Los Angeles?

Technically it is possible to live in a van in Los Angeles. There are a few conditions that you must meet, however: 

  • You must either own or rent a place that is going to be your permanent legal address. A van cannot be considered a primary residence. 
  • During the night hours of 9 p.m. to 6 a.mLos Angeles drivers are prohibited by law from sleeping in their vehicles near or in residential areas; as well as 500 meters near a school zone or park.
  • You must make parking arrangements, which can be quite difficult in LA as parking spaces are scarce. 

Living in a converted van is an alternative way of life. But unlike apartments, your “house” is mobile and can therefore change places regularly.

Practical and legal aspects of year-round van life in Los Angeles

If you choose to live daily in a converted van, you will probably no longer have a mailing address. You will then have to find a solution to still have an address and receive your mail. This is practically essential, but fortunately, the solutions are numerous: family, friends, post office box, company specializing in domiciliation. 

Please note, receiving your mail is one thing, but being legally domiciled at the address you choose is another. In the eyes of the state, you need to be domiciled somewhere. This will have an impact on your taxes, but may also have an impact on those of the people who own the place where you are domiciled (because it changes the tax household). If receiving your mail at a family member’s home is not a problem, changing their tax amount may be.

There is certainly a solution if you do not want or cannot take up residence somewhere, it is quite simply a matter of declaring yourself a nomad without a fixed address and obtaining a traffic booklet. This will allow you, even if you do not have a fixed address, to vote, collect aid, etc.

Keeping all of your belongings in your van can be very complicated. You will have to make choices about what to keep or dispose of. An interesting solution may be the rental of a small storage box or having access to a piece of the garage for a family member or friend to store things that are not used daily. It is very useful for example for winter jackets when it is summer, its collection of books, papers to keep (payslips, invoices …)

Find a place to stay in your van all year round

If you are a nomadic worker, finding a location for a few days, or even a week, will not be more complicated than when going on vacation. On the other hand, for sedentary workers, it is not necessarily easy to find a place where you can safely leave your van throughout the year.

You can ask family, friends or colleagues for a little corner of the garden to put down your van and live in it. Whether graciously, in exchange for service or money it will often be possible to find common ground. The advantage is that you will eventually be able to easily connect to water and electricity and that will make you one less thing to deal with.

Some also choose to buy or rent a small piece of non-building land (called in sales / rental advertisements “recreational land”). Here too we could possibly settle in a sustainable way and consider a connection to drinking water and electricity, and/or install some solar panels on the ground, for example, to have electricity.

The downside to this method is that it is illegal in the eyes of the law since you cannot stay more than 3 months on non-building land with a converted van or motorhome. Generally, if you are discreet and your neighbours are nice, it won’t be a problem, but it remains theoretically illegal, except to have a dispensation from the mayor.

You can also find several spots for your van and change regularly (parking, rest area, park, corner lost in nature, friends …) but the difficulty, in this case, will be the supply of water and electricity which may be more or less complicated depending on the spots.

Living year-round in a van is not like leaving for a weekend

It sounds pretty obvious, but living 365 days a year in your van is a lot different than leaving for a few weeks a year. Small problems in the layout, which are usually easily overcome because they do not last and thanks to the euphoria of the holidays, can become very annoying in the long run.

We will generally also generally spend more hours in our van each day, because if on vacation we try to make the most of the outings: visits, hikes, restaurants, picnics … When the converted van becomes the place of residence this is no longer necessarily the case, we do not go out every evening when we come home from work.

Adapting your converted van to everyday life

It seems to us that when you live year-round in your converted van, certain equipment becomes essential. This is the case, for example, with heating to spend the winter in good condition. But this is also the case with the shower, for example, because if you can easily take showers in summer outside with a solar shower, it will be very unpleasant during periods of rain and cold.

The organization inside the converted van is a question to ask. Some layouts use the dining table as a support for the bed. This means that you have to dismantle the table every night to set up the bed, and every morning takes the bed apart to set the table. Again, if it’s not bothersome a few weeks out of the year, it can become painful on a daily basis.

Storage can also be adapted, and generally, this will be done as life in the van, when you really realize what is practical or not, what you need to have under the hand or what can remain stored at the bottom of the trunk, because it is not used often. The important thing is not to have to move all your van around every day to find the things you need.

There are many accessories for vans and converted vans, which can improve the organization of your van and make your life easier: storage, support, pots that do not take up space …

Solar panels also appear to be almost indispensable equipment for sedentary workers who do not have direct access to a source of electricity.

Conclusions

Year-round living in a van can seem complicated and not always pleasant. It depends a lot on the character of each person, on their minimum level of comfort to be happy and not to be irritated on a daily basis by the inconveniences of life in a van. 

Well organized and prepared, it can also be a great adventure that prompts us to question a lot of things, to save significant amounts of money and have a quality of life that can be superior to living in a small, expensive apartment.

Do let us know if you have any questions or comments on the content!

FAQ on Can you live in a van in Los Angeles?

Can I sleep in my van?

Currently, it is completely legal to sleep in a van, a campervan or a camper van (vehicles classified as M1 have the same rights as a car). There is nothing in the law that prohibits it. In theory, you can therefore spend the night wherever you want.

How to sleep 4 in a van?

IF four people need to sleep comfortably in a van, consider equipping yourself with mattress toppers. These are thin mattresses that are placed on the bed, in order to reduce its rigidity, or even to hide the shapes of the bench. 

Where to park with a van?

You can park a van just like a car. By parking is meant to park your vehicle on its 4 tires, for one day or one night. And you have the right to stay inside the vehicle. But be careful not to show signs of camping!

Where to stop with a motorhome?

A motorhome can stop in town in a parking space and spend the night there. It does not matter whether the motorhome operators are on board or not, as long as they comply with the regulations.

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