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Living in a Van (priceonomics.com)
210 points by rohin 1897 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 165 comments

This seems like a romantically bohemian way to approximate a pampered middle class kid's idea of how poor people live. If you want to save money, you can try what they actually do, which is move to a less desirable neighborhood and spend one third what you do on rent for an apartment.

You live in a crazy expensive neck of the woods? Nice to meet you; I live in Japan, cry me a river. There's old folks on social security and single mothers in your town. Most of them don't shower with wet wipes.

I can't tell if my revulsion for this idea is class disdain because I'm too well off to consider it or class disdain because when I wasn't well off we had too much pride to ever stoop to anything like that.

It is interesting also to note that the ability to lead any kind of normal or predictable life in this fashion is itself a privilege. People in the software business can get away with wearing the same clothes, coming in wrinkled, missing the occasional shower, and, for that matter, getting in a little later after having to move the van in the middle of the night. Our field is extremely accommodating.

Put yourself in the shoes of a call-center worker (and if you want to be mean to the issue, make that call-center worker female). These jobs have dress codes. They're also aggressively monitored during the day and require attentiveness and a cordial demeanor. And obviously, a typical call-center worker cannot depend on the idea of taking off in the van for a month, driving to some other city, and having the same economic prospects when they arrive. Most people cannot afford to be playful with the idea of job security.

It's weird to find yourself thinking, "must be nice to be an iOS developer who can live in a van". Especially when you think of the people who do it because they're forced to do it.

I found the article to be a little glib about its subject. Glib is the word I would use, for romanticizing a scenario that many Americans actually experience as an intractable nightmare. I found myself first thinking about how nice it would be to pull up to the oceanfront, lay down in my "living room" van, and doze off reading a book while listening to the waves... then I thought of the scene in The Pursuit Of Happiness (not a great movie, but a great scene) where Will Smith has to put his kid to bed in a closet in a train station.

I used to work in a call center. I'm not female, but I knew a female or two who worked there. There was no dress code. There was aggressive monitoring, but there was a script and the cordial demeanor becomes automatic very quickly. The pay and job security wouldn't justify taking off for a month, though the turnover was high enough that after coming back, if they were still in business you could probably return to work right away.

True, I worked in a number of call centres a few years back. There is a variety of cultures in these places, from having to turn up in a suit and tie and account for your time down to 10 second intervals to super laid back.

More formal places did tend to pay better and provide better equipment though. I had experiences in some where you had to twiddle with the headphone wire and hold it in the right position or you wouldn't be able to hear the customer.

The market for call centre workers back in ~2007 was highly liquid, if you got sick of one job after a few months it was no big deal to just quit on the spot and be able to walk into another one within a week or two.

I agree with you.

The one thing I can never figure out is why managers of some types of companies run them the way they do. Why couldn't a call center employee work with a headset from a van and wear whatever they please? There's all sorts of strange practices that some of these companies do. Never in a million years would I ask an employee to submit to a drug test before being employed for example- yet that's what things like call centers do.

I want my employees to be happy, because they are the people that make the company work. When I talk to a manager of a company like this - they act like I've never managed anything before and just 'dont get it'.

Why couldn't a call center employee ... wear whatever they please?

Presumably the managerial types are trying to help cultivate a "professional" environment.

Never in a million years would I ask an employee to submit to a drug test

I understand the personal freedoms angle, but I can also sympathize with employers who are tired of discovering that guy they hired last week is actually a raging meth head.

What does it matter if their employees are meth heads, they shouldn't have to be tested.

If they are unproductive, look like shit, have poor time management, have mood swings etc then they are a liability to their employer because of those things, not because they "do drugs".

On the other hand if they are productive, are professional, [any other positive attribute] and contribute to their employer, does it matter if they are on drugs at the time?

Granted, I've never meet anyone that are actually functional members of society once they start abusing something like meth, but my point is that employees should be judged purely on their performance in the workplace or how they contribute.

You've never had to deal with someone who came to work while on drugs, have you?

Someone can go from comparatively normal to crazy enough to freak everyone out and maybe get someone hurt in no time flat. That's a bit of a problem, especially given that some people work at places where accidents like slitting one's wrist wide open, crushing one's hand and being killed by an item dropped by a forklift happen a little too regularly, even to people who are not thus impaired.

I think the GGP was referring mainly to workplaces that don't involve dealing with dangerous equipment. Besides there's a big difference between smoking some pot outside of work hours and coming to work under the influence of meth.

When I worked in low paid (mainly call centre) jobs, people coming to work high was a pretty common thing. The jobs were easy and repetitive enough that it didn't affect performance at all. In fact if they had started drug testing they would probably have lost many of their best employees.

I assume it's more about predicting these things before employment begins - someone might look ok at the interview but if you found out traces of drugs in his blood that could be an indicator that this is not their usual state.

Basically we're talking about low-skilled jobs that always have plenty of applicants, filtering a bit too many people isn't that big of a deal when there're still plenty of others remaining afterwards.

It's just a cheap initial filter, as long as it's better than completely arbitrary it's probably beneficial to have.

That depends, Pot is detected by a drugs test if the person has used within around 3 weeks.

So you would get a positive reading from somebody who went to a party 2 weekends ago and took a couple of hits from a joint.

Not that it matters much, and this is only anecdotal but I had friends who would smoke pretty frequently. A lot of call centers, and retail spots would drug test. My friends would still get the job if they got past the initial interview. It seems like most companies are more interested in harder drugs, which I can understand.

On topic: I think that if you're looking for a cost effective way to live, do what someone said earlier and move to a less prominent neighborhood. This seems like it would be more along the lines of "fun to do for a couple weeks".

Drug tests are much easier, cheaper and quicker. You don't have to risk putting them in the workplace and then wait till they screw up. You don't have to wait for the manager to look at their behaviour and make a call. You don't have to worry that the manager might know the person and be easy on them. One quick test and it filters out lots.

Because employers believe that P(workplace violence/poor time management/etc | meth head) > P(workplace violence/poor time management/etc).

Do you disagree that this is the case?

I work for the largest (I believe) 'callcenter in the cloud' companies. http://www.liveops.com/

You can work from anywhere, as long as you have a good phone line and good Internet.

The call center I used to work at had no dress code and no drug tests. In fact, almost everyone who worked there, other than myself, was constantly stoned.

Good to know we shouldn't have pleasure so long as there is any man who can't share in it.

[EDIT] single father/middle class technocrat here, living paycheck to paycheck. Many of my friends make less than I do. By this measure of hubris, I should not go out to eat so long as fellow engineers are looking for work.

As anyone who has had my comments inflicted on them long enough can tell you, if I had meant to point out that people shouldn't enjoy living out of a van (if that's there thing), I would have made that point, repeatedly, in painful detail. That's not what I was saying.

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you said people shouldn't enjoy living out of a van.

I meant to draw attention to you writing that living in a van was an insincere (glib) and unrealistic (romantic) undertaking.

>Good to know we shouldn't have pleasure so long as there is any man who can't share in it.

Sounds as a very good, if difficult to attain, guideline for the improvement of society.

And very close to the original message of Christianity too (I'm talking milleniums ago).

"Glib is the word I would use, for romanticizing a scenario"

I would use glib in the same way that people romanticize people living in poverty. Particularly single moms with good kids living in the ghetto. Single mom works so hard holding down 3 jobs cleaning offices and her kids all work hard if only they were given a chance and didn't live in the projects. (Watch http://www.pruitt-igoe.com/ on netflix to see a little back story)

While that situation exists of course (and in fact I remember growing up commercials for the united negro college fund)


...most likely in reality (drive through any poor neighborhood) there is something else going on that produces the behavior that is observed.

I grew up in extreme poverty on a very dangerous street. My father died when I was a child, and with half an income, my mom was forced to work several jobs to support herself and 5 children. The only place we could afford to live was the "ghetto". My siblings and I worked hard each day, with no electricity on some days, no running water on others.

Even with this hard work, only 2 of my siblings have managed to excel to middle class or beyond. None of us have ever been arrested or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Why did the 3 children advance, while 2 are still struggling? It is because when my father died, my younger 2 siblings were 3 and 4 years old. We moved to the bad neighborhood the year after, and they grew up with no realistic model of "success" with which to strive. The model they were exposed to was that of my mother's new role - take on as many back-breaking jobs as possible just to barely scrape by. My younger brothers work VASTLY harder than I do, with little to show for the effort.

I tell this story as a contrast to your analysis. While poverty breeds desperation (you are definitely more likely to get robbed of your luxury items while in a bad neighborhood), it also adds a grit that is hard to describe. I saw children of Crack-addicted prostitutes making sure that they got themselves and siblings to school each morning. I saw good, honest kids who had little expectation from themselves, or from the world at large. And they achieved (and received) their expectations.

I think its easy to romanticize any situation, but I would seriously implore you to reconsider your preconceived notion on the inhabitants of these low income neighborhoods. The more widespread this belief, the fewer intelligent people willing to work to fix these difficult issues.

First let me say that I feel bad for your situation and what happened to your father.

But you say "fewer intelligent people willing to work to fix these difficult issues" juxtaposed against "2 are still struggling? It is because when my father died, my younger 2 siblings were 3 and 4 years old. We moved to the bad neighborhood the year after, and they grew up with no realistic model of "success" with which to strive."

So what have the 3 children who advanced (including you) done to help the 2 that did not? I'm curious because you are suggesting that there is something that an outsider can do (and surely they can do something agreed) so I'd like to know what someone in that situation does to help their own family?

On another note do you also feel that part of the problem is perhaps having more kids than you can support? Depending on your income it would generally be easier to provide a good lifestyle for 2 kids then for 5, correct? Don't take offense I simply would like to know your thoughts.

My fathers death was not expected, and, while tight, we were able to live fine before he died. Two incomes turned to one as us kids grew older, taller, more needy. I don't think it's an offensive question, and my situation influenced me to stop at 2 kids.

Also, I get rather preachy with my brothers about how I believe they should proceed with their lives... And they listen, but it's a bit hard to change how people see the world.

If HN had a "bestof", I'd submit this.

I'm impressed that you're able to do a sociological study of "the others" as you drive through their neighborhoods, probably with your windows up and doors locked.

Non-snarkily, I think people are the same everywhere, mostly good and hard working with occasional cheating when they think they can get away with it. From my personal anecdata, I've seen both shady deplorable acts and admirable selfless acts from millionaires, middle class, working poor, and even from homeless people on the street.

I do think that the fact that poor people have to rely on help from their social network more often makes them more humble in general.

"Non-snarkily, I think people are the same everywhere, mostly good and hard working"

If that is the case then why do I keep my windows up when I drive through those neighborhoods. Are you saying I have nothing to fear driving my new expensive car through, say, many areas of Newark NJ or areas such as the "Badlands" in Phila PA? Or that I am safe to walk the streets in those areas? And if those areas are so great and wonderful places to raise families why are the actual good hard working people that live there trying to get out to provide better for their children?

I have no idea about those neighborhoods, but I've spent plenty of time in east Oakland without incident, statistically the 4th most dangerous city in the country. No matter how much crap you hear in the news it's not an actual war zone, most people lead normal day to day lives. From my experience people want to get out because the government services like schools and police suck, not because they hate their neighbors.

"but I've spent plenty of time in east Oakland without incident, statistically the 4th most dangerous city in the country."

You do what you can do to protect yourself. While crime can and does happen everywhere there are places that you are more likely to be a victim of a crime. Probability wise of course.

Even with respect to car theft you will find that insurance companies charged rates depending on where you live and even where you park your car (garage etc.) There is a basis for this you know.

Let's suppose, for the sake or argument, that 40% of the population of the "Badlands" are truly evil murderous thieves, who have no compunction firing a pistol into your car as you drive by, and suppose further that every day each one of them partakes of this pastime.

A horrible, dangerous place, seething with evil, yes? Far worse than the reality, no doubt, but let's go with it.

What do you make of the other 60%?

What do you make of the other 60%?

That they're good people who allowed evil to triumph by doing nothing to stop it?

As an outside observer, the effect of white collar crime would appear to have hit Americans far harder than the crime discussed here - and it's effects have been felt world wide too. Behaviors allowed and encouraged in big banking have been very destructive to lives. And I'll make a safe net that the perpetrators lived in so-called good areas. So while worrying about being car-jacked in the badlands, behavior in the good lands sees your company fail, job lost and car repossessed. Perhaps a touch overwrought, but another angle to consider.

Yes, it is safe to drive in your expensive car through Newark or to walk the street in north Philly.

If that is the case then why do I keep my windows up when I drive through those neighborhoods.

Because you are paranoid or watch too much TV maybe?

The fact that you feel in danger, does not mean you actually are, and inversely just because you feel safe does not mean that you are. You are vastly more likely to hurt yourself by crashing your car than by someone else attacking you after seeing that you have your windows down.

This goes for most things really. In terms of injury, the most dangerous person in most people's lives is themselves.

Most people living in poverty have 0 jobs (and are not looking for one), not 3.


The belief in the hardworking poor person who can't get ahead is also a romanticization of poverty.

> It is interesting also to note that the ability to lead any kind of normal or predictable life in this fashion is itself a privilege.

My brother's definition of rich is the ability to control your own schedule.

And yours?

Never really thought about it, so I guess a couple million in the bank.

Patrick, he does write "it’s worth noting that we are talking about people that want to live in vans."

I was a lower middle class kid with a lackluster middle class education and good manners so I was able to scrape by on $17K a year and "live" off my motorcycle and later out of my truck in between stints at a lodge in back country Alaska. It was privileged. Sure. And there were before the crash many of us doing it. None of us had any responsibilities. Why the disdain? No one ever claimed it was more than it was. There's a leisure class at both ends of the economic spectrum. For the most part, there were very few Trustafarians. We were middle class kids who wanted to climb/write novels/surf/snowboard/insert your interest here.

We all sacrificed future income for those days. No need for disdain. We all make our own choices.

[EDIT] Here's a current stream of a couple living the dream: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Drive-Nacho-Drive/21838885820...

Thanks for this counterpoint. I've met various beach bums, ski instructors, and summer resort waiters, from all social classes, who were taking a break in this way. Compare also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gap_year and the concept of a wanderjahr.

> This seems like a romantically bohemian way to approximate a pampered middle class kid's idea of how poor people live.

That's pretty insulting, Patrick. Having been a person who grew up very, very poor and a person who's also done something similar to this (lived in the woods), I can tell you that (for me) it was not about trying to "experience" poverty. It was about getting away from the madness and complexities of modern life... the bills, the spending, the distraction, the self-reliance, the responsibilities.

The author didn't say anything about giving away money and collecting cans. They only espoused "minimalism".

I will say that it gave me a newfound appreciation for society and the infrastructure we have that I had previously taken for granted. I don't have to be constantly cold and wet, I can take hot showers when I want to, I can eat what I want, when I want and so on.

I heard other people calling this lower class tourism, that doesn't really seem to be the case though. It seems like a perfectly reasonable way to live for a single guy w/ a day job or someone trying to build a company. I'm not single, but if I were I would like to try something similar. Right now, I'm renting out my entire condo. I would like to rent out everything besides the garage and just live in there.

The reason? I don't like to have too many things, I feel it complicates my life. I'm fine w/ a working internet connection and a comfy bed. I don't understand why I am abusing white privilege or engaging in lower class tourism by simplifying my life.

I think there is a big problem w/ wealth distribution in this country. But, I think most of that can be blamed on our political system that basically gives the most benefits to the people who pay politicians the most to vote for bills they support and can bills they disdain. Also we have a banking system with absurd incentives that ensures rich bankers are payed by the government each time they gamble away all the nation's capital on insane investments or ponzi schemes.

As a single male, living in a van doesn't seem like it'd go very well with a nice lady-friend that I might wish to get to know better. Especially when she starts speaking with her mother about my living conditions.

That's just me, though. Perhaps I'm wrong here.

edit: I should probably clarify what I said. Living in a van, in my mind as an outside observer suggests either some sort of inability to commit, or perhaps falling on hard times, or someone who is dillusional about their circumstances; and, as an outside observer, speaks poorly of the person who is in this situation. What I was refering to with speaking to her mother -- though it truly could be any person that is a friend to your ladyfriend -- is this: This person is looking out for your ladyfriend, and when they hear such things as "he lives out of his car", and "oh, he doesn't have a home", or any other number of issues.

Yea, living in a van is a non starter for long term relationships. That was what I meant by single, someone not interested in long term relationships. Probably not the actual definition of single though.

Ah. That makes more sense --- and I don't think English has a word for that. "Permanent bachelor", maybe?

I'm not sure if the allure is necessarily the bohemian way of feeling poor. I think much of it has to do with the minimalism of the experience. The ability to pack up and move on at a moments notice has 'starting over' feel to it, which can be quite nice. Kind of like refactoring crufty code.

A guy I know recently bought a van, and you nailed it. It has nothing to do with patio11's comment, and everything to do with the 'minimalist' experience you describe. He says it's an experiment - maybe he'll get tired of it, but it's something he wanted to try, and has the cash to spend on it (the van was not cheap). I can't say I would be interested in that variety of experiment myself, but "to each his own".

>>Kind of like refactoring crufty code.

I think you mean "deleting code and starting from scratch". Refactoring code involves making changes to existing code in order to optimize it - I don't think it's analogous to packing up and moving on.

Refactoring code can also include making the code comply with "Don't Repeat Yourself", which would include removing a large amount of code and replacing it with references to a single function, etc. It also includes removing deleting dead code, another thing relateable to minimalism.

There is literally nothing in the article that suggests that the author is trying to approximate the lifestyle of 'how poor people live'.

I think you read too much into it. He's just saying that "if you think living in a van by yourself would be cool for a while, this is what you can expect." I read nothing more than philosophically slanted curiosity regarding a life that most would rationally choose to avoid (including people without much money).

The case study in the article spends about $600 per month, mostly on food. That's my entire monthly budget, and my life is stationery, stable, and legal. With it, I buy: rent and utilities ($400) living with two roommates in a poor part of town; food ($100) consisting largely of bulk rice, couscous, ground beef, and other canned/dried goods; and entertainment ($100), which is largely made up of going out to eat at a cheap Chinese buffet every week or two and purchasing the occasional Steam game on sale.

So if I eat rice and beans[1] to save money while working on a startup, does that mean I'm trying to emulate the lifestyle of an Andean peasant? The article specifically says it's not about people who live in vans involuntarily, and it explicitly lists reasons for doing it that have nothing to do with saving money ("travel the country", "maintain a lifestyle of minimalism and self-reliance"). Even if your goal is just to save money, why should that involve doing what poor people do, or emulating their lifestyle? Why would you move to the shitty part of town, where you have to deal with higher rates of street violence, vandalism, theft, etc?

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/ramenprofitable.html#f1n

> You live in a crazy expensive neck of the woods? Nice to meet you; I live in Japan, cry me a river.

I was under the impression that things weren't too bad out in the inaka. Is Gifu that expensive compared to SF or NYC?

It's nothing compared to those places.

"is class disdain because I'm too well off to consider it or class disdain because when I wasn't well off we had too much pride to ever stoop to anything like that."

Normally when you read stories about these outliers in life there is always a story behind it. I remember the case of the guy on the street corner who was discovered as having singing talent, made it to network news shows, was given some sort of leg up opportunity and then it turned out (iirc) that he was just some mentally ill guy and that's why he was living on street corners and homeless.

In a quote in the OP there is this as one related example:

"I didn’t waste time watching re-runs of Cheers for three hours on Netflix. I read a lot of books, I worked on my music more. When I lived in a house, I never really used my guitar because it was in another room. When I was in the RV, everything I owned was in the same room so I played my guitar a lot.”"

So we have someone who didn't play his guitar because it was in another room. And someone who spent 3 hours per day watching a sitcom on netflix. And you wonder why he is living in a van?

By the way, I located my personal laser printer in an outer office. That way each time I print something I have to getup to get the printout. I could easily put it next to my desk and only have to lift my hand. But I choose to do the extra work and get the nominal health benefits from getting off my ass as much as I can (which costs $0).

So we have someone who didn't play his guitar because it was in another room. And someone who spent 3 hours per day watching a sitcom on netflix. And you wonder why he is living in a van?

Watching Netflix for a few hours in a row and having an instrument you don't play as much as you should are incredibly common experiences. I don't know how you extrapolate that into some sort of mental illness or moral failure that leads to living in a van. I don't think he was literally too lazy to go to another room to play his guitar. It's just a way of saying that when you have a big house and a lot of stuff you can lose track of things you used to find important and fulfilling.

"I don't know how you extrapolate that into some sort of mental illness"

Where did I say that he had a mental illness?

Ask yourself this question. If you were on a job interview for a job where the employer was not desperate to fill that job with a "body", and you didn't have some super stupendous big deal advantage, or credentials, would you think that offering that anecdote reflected highly on you? Or do you think it portrays you a little like a slacker?

That's not the purpose of the anecdote. He was contrasting some of the negatives of his old lifestyle with the advantages of his new one. It's not an attempt to sum up himself as a person, let alone impress an employer.

I think it /should/ portray me as a perfectly normal person who works hard during the day and then relaxes at home at night. God forbid you should have some time to yourself after working for 10-12 hours at work!

So he's only playing his guitar because it's conveniently located in the same room, and you're only getting exercise because you have to walk to your printer sometimes. Setting up your living space so your surroundings encourage you to do things you feel you should be doing more seems like a sensible decision on both your parts.

"and you're only getting exercise because you have to walk to your printer sometimes."

Actually I've been running about 340 days per year for the last 14 years as well.

So many negative reactions, I'm surprised. But then I've been surprised by how narrow a band "normalcy" really is before.

I lived in a van for a summer. I have a story, but I don't think it involves mental illness or laziness or wasting my life. I was working fulltime as a sysadmin at an Ivey League school and taking classes fulltime there at the same time. Yes, that meant I slept very little and had no "free time", whatever that is. One spring I was moving out of an apt I had rented with some friends for the school year and I had another apt set up for fall, but hadn't set up anything for the summer. My parents unmarked white utility van fit my bed perfectly and I decided to just not move my bed out and live in the van for the summer. I had a place to shower at work, I decorated the inside of the van, and it became home. I wasn't a creep, I wasn't homeless, my parents lived 45 minutes away so I had a fallback if it didn't work out, I had a place to shower, I had a job.

However, what I underestimated was how much people freak out if you're doing something even slightly outside of their concept of normal. I had found a great parking spot pretty near work, in a corner under some trees, however, within a week a construction worker called Safety and Security and reported a suspicious van (he was driving a jacked up mufflerless pickup truck with a rifle in the back -- who's the suspicious one?). 6am one morning, I was jolted awake by the loudest scariest banging noise I've ever heard, it felt like someone was punching me in the heart. A security guard was knocking on the sides of the van trying to see if someone was inside. I was too groggy/freaked to just stay put behind my curtains and tinted windows, I got out. He told me I can't sleep on college property, recorded my license plate and said they would be watching me.

I can't describe the lack of feeling of safety that having a locked door and a wall, specifically something thick that muffles knocking gives. I then tried parking on the streets discretely but had a hard time sleeping because I kept waiting for the cops to come knocking. I started parking a few miles away at a Walmart -- what a weird experience that was. RV's would come in and set up in a circle in the middle of the lot (I stayed on the outskirts). Every night around 2am some locals would come by and drive in circles around the RVers and throw bottles at them while yelling and squealing tires. No peace of mind there. I started parking at the local truck stop, no locals there, but now I had to worry about a sleepy truck driver backing into me in the middle of the night. Breakfast at the 24hr diner there was delicious though.

I started reading some forums about van living and found an article about how people who are forced to live in a car or van temporarily often find themselves pushed further into the fringes. I was doing this by choice, but I couldn't imagine someone who thought they could just live out of their car for a few weeks until their first paycheck from their new job could cover first/last/security deposit in a new city, only to be constantly hassled to move and then fired when someone at work found out. The numbers were troubling, something like 80% of people who temporarily attempt to live out of their cars end up actually homeless, jobless and carless.

Eventually some people renting an apt nearby and had a free parking spot let me park there. OP mentions loneliness. I didn't necessarily feel lonely, I was busy and had stuff to do, and I still had friends. But I definitely felt something, that people thought I was troubled, or needed help, or that something was wrong. And maybe they didn't really, but I realized that I myself was starting to avoid social contact. I would wake up early and sneak into work to take a shower before other people came in so they wouldn't notice, even though my boss knew I was living in a van and didn't care -- I wasn't going to lose my job if anybody found out.

When it came time to move out of the van, it was with mixed feelings. It as getting colder at night, and I would sleep better, but I had gotten used to it and now whenever I borrow my parents van to move something I feel nostalgic for that time when it was my home.

What I learned was that society does not take kindly to seemingly slight deviations from normal. The movie "Wendy and Lucy" came out a bit later and reminded me strongly of that outward push that society initiates on people who appear as "outliers". Certainly, it makes sense for the health of the system, but I was surprised by how tight the tolerances are.

Great story, and an interesting perspective.

I don't necessarily agree with some of the judgements you are making about how society treated you. You were acting strange and should not be surprised that people were concerned about you. There are also good social reasons why society doesn't make it easy for people to live in their cars. Safety, cleanliness, property rights, collection of taxes, etc.

You say "society does not take kindly to seemingly slight deviations from normal". I don't think your experiment that summer was a slight deviation. What you did was two standard deviations away from normal. If only 0.1% of society would ever do what you did voluntarily, that by definition makes it abnormal.

That's doesn't make it bad or wrong. Just not normal.

Yeah, I didn't mean for my comments about society to necessarily be a complaint, more that I was surprised by how strong that outward push was. Sure I expected people to be weirded out, but what I didn't expect was for how alienating that felt. Actually, what I didn't expect was that something that was comfortable and an adventure would generate not a pulling in force but a pushing out. It wasn't, 'are you ok can we help', or, 'whats your story', it was 'wtf get out of here'. It just made me think about all those times that we all/I avoid or get weirded out by people that are different. And how that very action of being weirded out can make them weirder.

"What I learned was that society does not take kindly to seemingly slight deviations from normal."

That's because it isn't efficient for society and people to not jump to conclusions. Nobody is going to take the time to see that your situation is really different then the creep that is living in a van parked outside a school for a different reason.

We hear plenty of stories of how Bill Gates and Jobs didn't shower and of course we know that they ended up fine. But we don't have any data to compare on people that followed the same strategy and didn't end up in a good place because society jumped to it's natural conclusions about people who eschew all social graces.

The land of the free. Where you loose your job if someone finds out you live in a van.

I find the idea attractive without any money savings. I find it very odd it's much easier to find a large crappy apartment than a small well-maintained one; I feel like it should be possible to get an apartment at any point in the 2d space of (quality, size) with the cost being some function of that, in reality the apartment seems to only be available around some tight distribution around a line in that space.

Moving into a bad neighborhood seems awful to me; for me, living in a 100 sq ft apartment would be only better than living in a 1000 sq ft one. I'm stuck living in an apartment with 2 roommates, a totally unused dining room and a very lightly used and unnecessary living room because there's no reasonable alternatives.

I'm glad my new/old mid-sized (250k inhabitants) town's only college is far from the city center (and therefor its students don't want to live in the center) & that hip young people in general have no interest in living here (mostly families, the young & hip go to the big city).

Leaves a lot of the old (and therefor small) apartments in the old (and therefor central) part of town available for rent at a semi-decent rate.

Yup, thanks for pointing out this is essentially lower class tourism.

down by the river

This reminds of a good friend. He got a job making six figures at Google straight out of college, and then lived in his van--in the Google parking lot--while saving every penny he earned. He took showers on campus and only ate free Google food. After a few years, he went into a mini-retirement and devoted his time to traveling around the world and volunteering.

I would have loved to save money right out of school, being as frugal as I am, but I was married when I graduated and the first thing my wife wanted after I got my first (low paying) full time job? A house.

So much for the life of a cheapskate.

Putting money into a house you'll presumably be able to live in rent-free once it's paid off may not be a drastically worse choice than putting your money into savings. Unless it was an impractically huge house, or otherwise somehow not a keeper, I wouldn't consider that a frivolous/non-frugal purchase.

Unless he bought in 2006-2007. Still not frivolous...just a mistake.

"Mistake" implies the person should have known better. There are plenty of little guys who got trampled by the crash who did nothing wrong.

You could always take a mortgage out on the house, rent out the house and live in the van.

Or rent out a room or two and live in the house.

That's about the most justifiable reason I've heard for (temporarily) living in a van/car.

I lived in the van Monday-Thursday while working in London (my home is around 130miles to the east). Not a problem and not uncomfortable. I sometimes used the showers at the office but my van is fully equipped with shower,toilet heaters etc. I wasn't the only one doing it either, and after a while you spot other likely vans.

FWIW, he could have rented an apartment and showered at home, and the cost would have been to delay retirement by maybe 10% of his tenure.

Are you factoring in the exorbitant cost of renting an apartment in the bay area when making this calculation?

Plus significantly increasing commute.

I lived from my car for 4 months in Silicon Valley while working on my startup. I got along just fine in a two door Honda Civic. I posted the details in an answer on Quora (even included a couple videos). http://www.quora.com/Would-becoming-homeless-be-a-good-strat...

If you think you can handle some sweaty palms, Alex Honnold, one of the best free solo climbers in the world, lives in his van so he can easily get from park to park and seems to absolutely thrive off the lifestyle -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR1jwwagtaQ

There is something that appeals to my personality to live out of a van and just move on a whim but I don't think I would ever have the guts to go for it.

Yes, this sort of living is pretty normal in climbing circles. I live in my truck part of each year while I'm on the road. I know guys who have been living in their vehicles for years, one guy for nearly two decades.

Yep. My family spends ~2 months a year living in our VW van, travelling to various climbing areas.

Though I do enjoy our time on the road, I also really enjoy coming back to my home.

I just finished living the van life while running a company for two months. My goal was to wake up with a new view (and sunrise if I was ambitious) every morning and there are some fantastic ones in the SF Bay Area. (Little secret: the parking lot next to Chrissy Field is wide open and gets epic sunrises over Alcatraz.) It becomes naturally easy to go for a morning swim or hike before work. At least in San Francisco, there are a lot of people living out of RVs and vans and you start to follow their lead and find the good places to park. I bought a cargo van from an electrician and built a full size bed that converts into a seat and some shelves for my stuff. Coincidentally, I just put my van up for sale on craigslist yesterday, so if anyone wants to carry the torch, hit me up!


I spent two years driving from Alaska to Argentina, feelancing website design and code along the way.

For the entire trip, my monthly expenses were less than they were in the 2 years prior just going to work every day. Yes, that includes gas for 40,000mi. I lived in my Jeep/tent the entire way.

I plan on doing something similar (but bigger) again, and I'll be building a more livable vehicle with a sink, stove, fridge, better sleeping, etc. etc.


Great time to be living. My wife and I sold most of our stuff and have been living nomadically the last 4 months while continuing to work full time. Though we are in an Airstream, not a van.

Started in Vermont and currently beach front on the Oregon coast. Truly awesome


It is turning out to be just slightly cheaper than when we owned a house. Averaged $27 a night the last two months for campground fees and $20 a day on gas.

Hey, I love your Airstream. Been thinking dirty thoughts about one for a long time, but I've been reluctant to pull the trigger because of a lack of time to really put the work in. There are so many around to pick from it becomes bewildering which way to look.

You do know you've lowered the value by taking out all the original kit, right :)

My favorite "living in a van" story is http://www.hobostripper.com/

(I wonder how much worse a van is than a military trailer. Those range from 40x12 with private bathroom and nice furnishings down to 10x8 with a roommate and no bathroom. It's probably a lot easier due to everyone else around you doing exactly the same thing, and there being portapotties, shower trailers, etc. freely available.)

I lived in a car for a month or so around the Bay Area (mostly because it was easier than finding an apartment); I'd do a hotel once or twice a week (and stay from 6am one day to 4pm the next day), and a 24h fitness membership (showers, etc. nationally) is $10-12.50/mo through Costco. I really wouldn't recommend car living, though.

Would that scale for someone who wanted to do an extended visit to the Bay Area? (say a month or so)

I'd like to visit San Francisco, but, apart from the US Visa and airfare, accomodation doesn't seem cheap (I haven't researched much but it comes up all the time here on HN). Food, oddly enough, sounds cheaper than in my 3rd world country.

Have you researched hostels? They're still not cheap by the standards of developing countries, but when I stayed in SF a few years ago, a bed at a hostel could be had for a fifth of what a hotel would have cost me, and certainly beats sleeping in a car. On the other hand, I found food shockingly expensive, and I come from Germany.

Interesting. I've stayed in hostels, and they are indeed cheap, and no, I haven't researched at all, it was just a thought. I haven't seen AirBnB either :)

I think it would suck if you were not actually familiar with the area first. I'd just do a hostel or cheap hotel or crash with friends (couchsurfing, etc.) Also, hotel rates now are a lot higher than they were in 2002-2003 (which was the middle of a tech recession).

Craigslist used to have short-term sublet inventory, but now it's pretty weak.

This is so cool. Will be great training for living on a spacecraft someday soon.

I could see a whole market for those.

I spent 3 months travelling in a 1978 Dodge RV, which I bought in LA for about $3000, and spent maybe $500 on parts for. It looked much like the one pictured in the article. I tore out the broken toilet and put in a chemical one, repaired the plumbing for the shower and got it going, replaced the batteries and bought a new charger. They key to buying one of these is take your time, and try out all the stuff. While fixing engines is something any mechanic can do, you can't turn up to a mechanic with a malfunctioning water heater.

I dumped the 'black' water from the toilet at public dumping stations (many towns have these) and stayed in state parks, which are not only beautiful in most cases, but are also usually just $10 or so a night. When I needed to fully charge, replenish supplies and so on, I would pay for an overnight in a RV park.

I was on an extremely limited budget on the time, so free camped whenever I could, particularly so in expensive places like Monterey (bind : the most expensive places also have the most restrictive overnight parking laws). I never once got moved on.

My tip is to find a public building that is empty at night to camp in front of. Pick a school, a local sports club, a library something like that. Something that won't have a ton of security but is also likely to be deserted. Don't park in front of peoples houses, you never know when you're going to get a paranoid who will call the cops. But at the same time, don't drive down lonely roads and park up, you're asking for trouble.

You can always do the wal-mart thing, but only out of desperation. They aren't great places to stay, and because they are well-known, it's not a great idea if you're the only one.

Be prepared to packup and move on early in the day, and most of the time you'll be OK

Using this method, I saw 38 states & provinces, covered 11,000 miles and spent less money than most would spend on the average Las Vegas trip. A couple of buddies pitched in and filled up one of the storage areas with beer for me as a goodbye present.

When I was done I donated the camper to one of those charity car collection companies and they drove it away.

I think most young people should do something like this - living a frugal and simple life while enjoying travel is a great learning experience. Having since done a lot of travel in the 'modern' way of nice hotels, rental cars and the like, I still get wistful when I see a couple of scruffy looking youngsters making their way on a shoestring cash budget but a burgeoning enthusiasm supply.

stayed in state parks... usually just $10 or so a night.

So, $300/mo?

covered 11,000 miles

I'll be generous and say your 1978 RV got 10mpg. That puts you at around $4,000 in fuel costs, assuming this trip was in the past couple years.

1978 Dodge RV, which I bought in LA for about $3000... When I was done I donated the camper

spent less money than most would spend on the average Las Vegas trip.

Good lord. Based on my estimates, you racked up $7-8,000; how much do people spend in Vegas?

You're a decade out. Fuel cost was $1.10 - $1.80 / gal

I also like big engines, the dodge had a big block and returned about 7 mpg. Stupid choice in hindsight but that's youth for you.

State parks were an occasional choice - the aim was for at least 50% free camping.

I forget the total amount now, you're probably not far off. If I had sold the camper at the end, it would have been better financially. I didn't have the time, there was no Craigslist then, and I was starting a new job so the cash wasn't going to be an issue.

The average las Vegas trip covers a lot of ground. It's a rhetorical flourish, yes.

This is almost exactly what we are doing now but in Europe. We have done 8700miles over the last three months. We mostly free camps and have a very similar routine as you did. We have stayed in some amazing places. Currently in Lithuania. Poland Tomorow or Monday I think!

Http://www.wanderingeurope.co.uk is our blog

I lived in my van for about 6 months after I graduated from college in Portland, OR. I spent part of that time up in Alaska, working in the fisheries (unloading fish from boats with a great group of guys) and the rest of my time in Portland trying to find places to park overnight in the city and trying to get back to a more stable life.

There were good things and bad things. It definitely simplified my possessions and when I was in Alaska I could basically park my van anywhere overnight. But when I got back to Portland, it was a lot harder to find places to park where I wouldn't get harassed.

I used my college (as an alum) gym showers and spent time in parks. This was 1996 so I wasn't too worried about internet connectivity and there definitely weren't any free wifi hotspots ;)

Not quite a van or RV, but I have always found the tiny house movement interesting.


Many of them are small enough that you can legally tow them anywhere.

Wowwwww !! These look absolutely beautiful. But one still needs to own a piece of land. What would be interesting though, is a bunch of people buying a piece of land (sharing the land/electricity/water costs), and living in half a dozen of these on the land. Don't know about the legality of it, but it would be awesome

I think what you're recommending is called a trailer park. A trailer park with a very strict community guidelines.

kind of. A typical trailer park trailer is easily 800-1000 square feet compared to these which are 80-120 square feet. Similar relationship to neighbors though.

Im actually founding a community similar to this right now. We have2.25 acres of land, and each house can have no bigger than 400 square foot footprint (though can be 2 stories tall). Land not occupied by houses will be shared.

Actually, many of the tiny house floor plans are designed to fit on a flatbed trailer. Not as easy to manage overnight parking as a van, but pretty feasible.


Yeah, certain types of land are zoned for multi-residence accommodations, and many RV parks are not too strict on their guidelines (higher-end RV parks are often very strict, and often only permit diesel/class A vehicles). Many lots of land are cheap enough that the cost could be split easily (in many remote areas, land can be bought for (literally) a few dollars per acre).

Author here. In the article I link to a 60 Minutes segment that follows around families in Florida that turn to living in their cars as a last resort.

Worth checking out as it offers a very different perspective on the experience:


Your article is a good one, but the tone towards RV's and living in campgrounds is oddly negative.

>>An RV is basically a house on wheels and isn’t particularly inexpensive or minimalist.

Our was pretty inexpensive, is more minimalist than most US based folks and will hold its value just like the camper vans you mention.

>>If you pay to stay at a campsite, it’s most certainly legal, but then this lifestyle ceases to be inexpensive.

$25-$30 a night is most certainly cheaper than most mortgages or apartments.

I wouldn't say "most". $800/month may not go very far in SF or NY, but it's about what I was paying for a large two-bedroom apartment in Seattle, and flyover country is cheaper still.

You can get a pretty decent apartment for $900 per month in most parts of the country.

For the frugal traveller who wants to live in a van but move around (perhaps while developing your web app or similar), we've started a community where fellow RV'ers (or people who just like RVers) offer their driveways to others to camp on for a night or two for free - http://www.boondockerswelcome.com. We're going to start charging a small annual fee to cover our costs, but for $25/year you can travel all over the continent and park your van for free. Of course, this doesn't solve the bathroom or showering issue, as most people aren't opening up their bathrooms to their guests. But my mom (who has a small Roadtrek RV, which is really no bigger than a van and has no shower), has travelled for 5 months at a time getting by with showers in the occasional truck stop or an outdoor shower that she uses when they're parked in the forest. (There's also tons of free parking for RVs in US National forests BTW, plus lots of other spots. My mom writes e-books all about the free "boondocking" locations she's discovered complete with GPS co-ordinates and interesting nearby attractions - find them at http://www.frugal-rv-travel.com.)

I know that this comment reads like a big advert, but if hackers here are actually interested in living on the cheap while launching their bootstrapped startup, these are actually viable options.

> Actually, you’d break even much sooner because your camper van is an asset. If you bought a used camper van from the 1980s, it’s unlikely to lose much more value under your watch. If you fix it up, it may even have appreciated in value when you look to sell it. If you resell it for anywhere near what you paid for it, you break even in just a couple of months. If you found a great deal on a van, you’d break even sooner. If you drove it around a lot and had high fuel costs, you might not.

Random, slightly OT thought: I never thought about buying used vehicles from this perspective. I've always thought of an auto as purely a liability.

Used cars depreciate very slowly on average (if something expensive breaks you are SOL though).

New cars lose a lot of value the moment you buy them, and then start to follow the used-car curve.

Everyday cars with a reputation for reliability lose their value very slowly. Luxury cars lose their value very quickly at first, but then slow down a lot.

Buying and selling to/from private parties saves a lot of money, but adds a lot of hassle.

Campers (and I'd imagine RVs) are much the same. Once they hit 15-20 years old, as long as long as the interior is decent and you keep them waterproof, they won't really lose value. Replacing components like the fridge or water heater is pretty cheap and simple if you can come by the parts.

When talking with a lamborghini dealer, I was informed that some exceptionally rich people will purchase one of those, keep it for 3 years, and then sell it back at a profit because they depreciate so slowly. I thought this was interesting.

You were lied to.

There are virtually no lamborghinis that have ever increased in value over their original purchase price.

This might work if you live in a country with exceptionally high inflation - although you're still losing money (in real terms) the re-sale price might be nominally higher.

Exotic car speculation is the sport of kings - from time to time, it pays off (an orignal McLaren F1 is worth approximately double what they cost new, allowing for inflation). But plenty of 'special models' and such fail to reach icon status, and lose value rapidly.

Supercars have the steepest depreciation curves around. You would honestly do better with a portfolio of 100 sound campers than one supercar.

The idea was this. You buy a new [expensive car] and have it on loan. You pay off the loan steadily. Then, a few years down the road, you'll make it so that your loan is less than the amount of money you could sell the car for; then you sell the car. The difference is the amount of money you've made.

I did the math and you wouldn't be getting all of your money back; but at the end you made a profit and you did get to drive a rather expensive car.

That is completely wrong.

In order for your plan to work, you'd need said car to increase in value more than the combined amount of: - taxes paid - storage costs - service costs - insurance costs - interest costs on the loan

The car would have to do what 99.9999% of all cars on the planet fail to do - increase in value once it was purchased.

Now, if you live in a high inflation country, then the car may nominally increase in value more than the loan - but you're still losing money. You wouldn't be able to, say, swap the used car for a new one, so it's not really worth more.

>I did the math and you wouldn't be getting all of your money back; but at the end you made a profit and you did get to drive a rather expensive car.

If you didn't get your money back, by definition you didn't make a profit. You made a loss. A profit would be where you got all of your original capital back, and then some extra after all the expenses paid.

It just doesn't happen. Especially with brand new supercars.

Selling your car at a price above whatever is left of your loan, does not mean you've made a profit!

Unless they just leave it parked, they are unlikely to recoup the cost of maintaining it over that time:


I was bit by this in my early 20s when I bought a really nice BMW, I hadn't considered that dealer servicing would end up costing so much.

But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

They do just leave it parked.

Exceptionally rich people who buy Lamborghini and other exotic cars usually have several or even dozens of them. For the most part, they just sit in the garage.

I'm not much of a car guy, why are oil changes on exotics so much more expensive than on your average car?

Exotics have large oil pans. Your typical Murcielago requires 11 liters of oil to change, and that's synthetic, not dinosaur oil. Add to that an oil filter that is shipped from Italy. You're also changing the transmission oil, which also must be synthetic. There may be some other maintenance that the dealer likes to perform (brake fluid? spark plugs?) at the same time as an oil change. Add dealer markup and insurance to all of this and you're easily over $500.

I'm guessing that they also get gouged for being rich enough to afford it.

for what it's worth, dealer servicing is now free for 3 or so years on BMW's... makes that pain ... much more bearable.

I saved a link to my pinboard a while back about a couple who sold all their possessions and took a VW van through North/Central/South America and in and around Africa. Super interesting read: http://www.vwvagabonds.com/

I'm currently living in a van! Me and my long term girlfriend have taken some time from the 9-5 to travel around Europe for a while. Been on the road for almost three months now and it's done wonders for my mental state.y mind is clearer, I'm calmer and I feel better. I'm still trying to work on small projects and I have an osx utility I wrote entirely on the road using my MacBook Pro and the solar panels on the van to power it.

It's not cheap, we are able to live on basically half of what we were living on before, but that's not the point of this journey for us.

If your interested in our travels our blog is here http://www.wanderingeurope.co.uk

never thought i'd get a chance to promote foster hunting on hacker news, but et voila: the polar opposite of this article – something that would inspire you to want to live in a van – can be found on this fantastic blog: http://www.arestlesstransplant.com

I concur. This is one of my absolute favorite blogs.

Beautiful. Reminds me of so many people I've seen at beaches and campgrounds out west.

When I worked in Palo Alto and lived in SF, the daily commute felt tolerable for three days of the week and then became intolerable for the last two days of the week. After quitting my job and getting a trailer to travel the country, I figured out that a solution to the commute would have been to buy a trailer/van while in SV and park it permanently in one of the huge lots at work and overnight there when I didn't feel like driving back to SF. Like vans, some trailers, like Airstreams or vintage "canned hams", don't depreciate if taken care of.

I met Steve Roberts [1] at a conference when he was riding his bike around the country (pedal power). And he was living this life by choice. When I moved to the Bay Area it was in the midst of a huge recession (chip companies were dying, fabs were closing). I thought a bit about it, and wondered what it would be like.

I've always wondered if, when flying high, folks might put together a 'bug out plan' which included mobile accommodations.

[1] http://nomadness.com/

Regarding the topic of internet access, I wonder how many van dwellers resort to piggybacking on nearby homeowners' unsecured wifi networks? Seems like if you're trying to minimize costs, rolling up alongside an open network is a great way to get your Hulu and Netflix without going over your data limits.

Granted I've been in campgrounds the last few months and not near many residential neighborhoods, but my experience is that its more trouble than it is worth.

We have a wifi extender on the roof of our travel trailer. Finding an open wifi is fairly rare these days. Even campground offered wifi is hit or miss on speed. Our 3g data card rocks. 20gig a month gives us a little leeway on streaming. We make due with local news and a stash of Seinfeld and Sopranos.

Don't worry honey, that "creepy" guy living in front of our house is actually just an entrepreneur!

This guy goes one step further; living in a Honda Civic:


He's on HN and posted his link :)


I have a friend who lived in a Honda Accord for three months. He says his goal was to save money but his friends (including myself) are convinced that he was just too lazy to look for an apartment.

This is common in the kayaking/climbing community.

Every paddler I know living out of a van gets an old Toyota Previa. Why? They're cheap, fuel-efficient, readily available, easy to gut the back, and deal with dirt roads fairly well.

A friend of mine did this in LA for a couple years and paid off his school loans. He worked for a company that had a full kitchen and showers, so he was able to use the office frequently for those necessities.

The van thing should resonate with a lot of entrepreneurs. As a bootstrapped 20-something entrepreneur I couldn't help but secretly think "live in a van" was my backup no matter how well things were going.

Completely doable; even in a smaller vehicle. I spent the second half of grad school living in a Hyundai Elantra - take out the back seats, sleeping between the trunk and the back seat. Not the most comfortable living, but completely doable.

Mostly, the flexibility and minimalism appealed to me, the $ savings were a secondary benefit (and weren't that beneficial, as food costs go up without a refrigerator).

It seems to me that a water reservoir with a tube going near the engine (for heating) and a small water pump, coupled with an inflatable bathtub could solve the shower problem.

I've never lived in a van, but my family used to go camping and we used a similar system (inflatable bathtub inside the tent) so that my younger brother could take a bath even if it was too cold outside for him.

It's far simpler than that for most of the year, solar powered showers are $20 and work really well (often, too well, I've been burned by one camping).


Tynan lives in his van RV in SF and works on his startup full time. He's been living in it for years. If I was going to do this, I would get a roadtrek and remove the decals. They stand out the least.


I've never tried living like this, but we had a similar VW camper van that was our main car and also our holiday accommodation.

One thing to remember - when you stop in a layby for the night, you will get on average 2-3 people think it is HILARIOUS to drive past with hand on their car horn.

Lore Sjoberg, all-around awesome and hilarious guy (anyone remember the Brunching Shuttlecocks?), is in a van. A random recent post: http://loresjoberg.com/view/monkeyconversation/

Plenty of people living in vans and cars in western ND since housing is such an issue. Heck, I have relatives renting spots on their front lawn and an electrical cord for $900/mo to people with campers.

Their are plenty of interviews on the web about what that is like.

Not receiving data on my end - here is the cached page:


We spent our holidays as kids in such a VW and it was fantastic. That article made me miss those days. The holidays where always just a couple of weeks, though, so not like living in a van for good.

I had this idea a while back to just travel the United States working on freelance ideas, but geeze...

Didn't Chris Farley have something to say about living in a van, down by the river?

I thought this type of living went away with the Grateful Dead. I can see it as some sort of strange counter-culture, but to do it for financial reasons just seems absurd. Unless you are truly destitute, it ultimately carries so many other burdens that will add to the costs.

all i can think about is chris farley "living in the van down by the river"

This will get much easier when robocars come out. You won't have to worry about police and zoning laws, the car can move every once in a while or continuously be moving. If robocar renting takes off you don't even the cash up front to pay for one. Showers and toilets can be separately moving robocars so this can all be done in small vehicles rather than large RV's. The fuel would electric (robocars recharge themselves from electric gas stations) so the costs of all this would be minimal as well. If this all plays out well, apartments, and even houses should see a drop in value (a good thing because too much of wealth is being plowed into the unproductive economy of land owning - it can instead shift to purchasing engineered products).

That would be an interesting future. Go to a bar at night (dropped off by your robocar/house). Get really drunk. Get picked up by your robocar/house. Wake up really hungover, shower, change and then walk out of your robocar/house that is parked right in front of your office. Go to work. Not sure why this was the first thing that came to my mind, but it would be pretty damn cool.

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