Can you live in a van in NYC? (+3 tips)

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can you live in a van in NYC? We will discuss where you can and can’t park a van in NYC. We will also discuss the pros and cons of living in a van in NYC. 

Can you live in a van in NYC?

You can live in a van in NYC, as long as you are careful about where you park and if you have a main residence. In the US, living in a van is prohibited in the following 20 states:  

  • Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

As you can see, NYC is not on the list, but still, keep in mind that there are a few spots where it is illegal to park your van overnight:

  • On busy streets and highways;
  • In parks;
  • Near a river or under a bridge;
  • In front of a registered business;
  • In front of someone’s house (HOA rules apply);
  • In government parking lots.

Parking and spending the night with a van in New York may seem unthinkable, but following our advice, it will surely be easier for you!

Where can you legally park a van in NYC?

The first option is to go to a motorhome campsite or RV Park. The closest is Liberty Harbor, in New Jersey, but the price seems exorbitant to us. If you don’t have a liquidity problem, this is your place, but if you prefer to save a little money there are much cheaper options.

The closest affordable RV Park near New York is the Floyd Bennett Campground, located just outside of Brooklyn. It is relatively well connected by bus + metro 24h and the prices are affordable.

Now, if what you want is not to spend money —and not pay fines — and be in the middle of the city, we also know how to do it.

The first thing you have to know is that it is forbidden to park in front of a fire station. You will most likely wake up with a ticket on your windshield.

Another thing to keep in mind is that in most of the streets where you can park there are signs indicating which days of the week cleaning services will be carried out and therefore the street must be free of cars. 

For example, it can be indicated that it is not possible to park on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 am to 12 pm. If you park your vehicle and want to leave it for a long time, sooner or later you will have to move it or you will be fined. 

 See below the costs for living in an NYC campground:

NYC CampsitePrice/night
Liberty Harbor RV Park$55
Sun Air Campground$20
Camp Nyoda$230
Fla-Net Park$50
Pine Haven Campground Resort$109
Pine Cone Resort$46

Some questions and answers about living in a van

Here are a number of questions about living in a van. The answers are based on our travel experience and general “van knowledge”. 

  1. What things should I bring?

You will see that less is more. Never travel with more than a 50-litre backpack. Some clothes, a toiletry bag, basic first-aid kit and computer/tablet depending on whether you want it to work or to consult things. It is true that a van can carry many more things than in a backpack, so make the most of it.

  1. Let’s go back to the shower problem

Your greatest ally will be mobile apps where you can check the locations of service areas, beaches with public showers, gyms or public and private swimming pools (they could charge something, but little). At this point, we recommend that, if you have the opportunity to equip the camper van with a shower, you do so.

  1. And how do I wash my clothes?

This topic is not a big problem. You will find laundries (sometimes there are machines next to gas stations or shopping centres) in many places.

  1. How do I cook?

Here, as I mentioned before, it will depend on the equipment installed in the van. But not for kitchen reasons, since you can find camping gas for $20 in many places (with fairly affordable refillable cartridges), but for the fridge. 

Not having a refrigerator means that your diet is very conditioned, or that you have to go to the supermarket every day to eat fresh food. 

  1. So which van to choose to live in?

When choosing a van to live in, you should read multiple online reviews, as there are many and can offer you a general idea about how it is to live in a van. Our advice, however, is to choose a van:

  • In which you can stand;
  • That has a shower and a toilet;
  • One with a fridge;
  • A van with heating. 

Why people live in a van in NYC

It is not uncommon to meet someone who lives in a van, camper or RV in NYC. The cost of rent is so high, that some people just don’t have an alternative. Leaving the money issue aside, however, here are just a few reasons why people live in van:

  • Endless freedom: The liberty to move around at your leisure, choosing where you like and where to stay for a while, is something unusual in other life options. Living in a van offers this possibility with quite a few amenities. Get close to nature, explore, discover areas with little traffic … all this is within reach of the van drivers.
  • Take who you care for the most: (Or not). This way of travelling is for lonely people or couples. We rarely see families with children opting for this way of life. Maybe for a season yes, but not beyond a long trip or a good vacation.
  • Reconnect with nature: The alarm goes off and you open the door… Where are you? Where did you park yesterday? There you will get up the next morning, open the door and have breakfast with a good coffee to enjoy life doubly.
  • Cheaper than you think: You may be thinking that it involves a lot of expenses. Well, if you break them down for free it certainly isn’t. But when you start to add expenses for a life in the city, paying rent or taxes, consumption of water, electricity, gas or telephone of a house, things begin to improve. 

It is true, diesel is not cheap and you will depend heavily on it, but depending on how you mount it, you can reduce costs in many things. It is also true that the van also entails some expenses in terms of taxes, but are you going to compare them with those of a home? The main outlay will logically be to buy the van.

The bottom line

If you ask us, it is better not to drive around town with your van. Either way, you won’t find parking so easy. The best is to spend the night in one of these two RV Parks (camping) located near the city and offering a shuttle service:

  1. Liberty Harbor: Located not far from the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Harbor RV Park is the closest to downtown. It also offers a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty.

However, you should not expect a 5-star campsite. It looks more like a parking lot but it is the most convenient for visiting the city. Shuttle service to the city centre is offered from the campsite.

  1. Cheesequake State Park: More natural and more beautiful than Liberty Harbor but further away (1-hour drive), the Cheesequake State Park campground is not far from train and bus services to downtown New York.

Please let us know if you have long-term recommendations for camper, RV or van parking in NY, or if you have any questions for us!

References 

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