Why Pay Rent? College Student Takes Up Residence In His tC
BY Scion CM
With the tC offering 88.4 cubic feet of passenger volume, it is less than 0.5% of the space offered in the average American home.* You may be wondering why the two are being compared? Well, as the average home size has swelled over the past 60 years from an average of 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,392 square feet in 2010** – some are rebelling against the notion of needing more and more space with a trend called "micro-living." Micro living homes can be as small as 65 square feet, with necessities ingeniously packed into tight spaces. Some of these micro homes are built on a small trailer, thus mobile. Deciding to take micro living to the extreme is Brian –who gave up a traditional home and took up residence in his Scion tC. He calls it urban nomadism.
Originally Brian's living experiment started as an exercise of free will and personal challenge. As a graduate student living in Los Angeles, Brian disliked the high cost of rent for bad apartments alongside the hassle of traffic-laden commutes. He reasoned that most of his time was spent at school and his campus office anyhow – which offered places to shower, store food, and hang out. Additionally, Brian liked being highly mobile with the freedom to just pick up and go.
So how does one live out of a car? Before embarking on urban nomadism, Brian did some research and practice. First, he started staying in his car whenever he'd take road trips. When he made the official shift of living – he'd already prepared by getting a P.O Box, small storage unit, and figuring out where to shower and park. Within a week of urban nomad living, Brian had ironed out any major logistical issues and felt comfortable with his new lifestyle. Having to get up and go right away each morning led towards more productivity in his busy schedule. Needing to use the gym showers made him exercise more often. Staying longer hours at his office and spending more time in public spaces helped him interact with more people. Not paying rent led him to save large sums of money and devote his finances towards things that really mattered to him.
All-in-all, Brian spent 2 years living in a car, followed by 2 years in an apartment and then another 8 months in a car. The cars changed a few times through his urban nomadism - it's only for the last 8 months that he was living in a Scion tC. He compares their differences:
- 1987 Toyota Van: Large space. Unnecessarily so. I stored my clothes in a small corner of the van and left the rest unused. I started off sleeping on middle console seats, which could fold down fully once I removed the backseats. But one morning, I sat up from my slumber only to startle a poor old woman who was walking her dog by my van. From then on, I slept on the floor and was more subtle when awaking. However, due to the way the middle seats were arranged, I had to sleep with my head towards the rear of the van, which I viewed as highly dangerous if anyone were to rear-end my car while I was sleeping. The other downside of the van was how conspicuous it was parked on any street. It stood out from a mile away, even with its 1980's champagne paint job.
- 2006 Subaru Outback wagon: Perfect amount of space. Enough room to store clothes and other gear (e.g., sports equipment), and I could fit all evidence of car-living in the trunk. I would give a car full of friends rides to places without them having any clue--save the cheap tint job, which is essential for preventing anyone from seeing into the car. I loved the Outback because it was just the right size--not too big, not too small. I was able to put the back seats down and sleep with my feet towards the trunk, and I could sleep up against the passenger side of the car, which provides two benefits (1) further away from most likely spot of impact if I were to be hit by a speeding car while I was asleep, and (2) for pedestrians walking by the car, it's more difficult to see things on the passenger side of the car due to the angles. The one downside of the Subaru was that the back seats didn't fully fold down, so I had to learn to sleep slightly inclined. Sometimes I would park on streets with slight downward slopes, but eventually you get used to sleeping on an incline. Luckily, I can sleep anywhere.
- 2008 Scion tC: I wanted a fun, sporty car this time around. I also wanted to test my limits in terms of living space size. I loved my tC. The backseats folded down fully. Granted, I couldn't fully extend when sleeping like I could with the Outback, but it helped the Scion designers made it such that removing the passenger seat headrest (and pushing the seat all the way forward) allows you to put the passenger seat flush with the trunk/backseat...this provided a few additional inches. Eventually, though, I learned to sleep on a slight diagonal or with my knees slightly bent. Another downside was crawling into bed was difficult due to size. I had to do some pretzeling by crawling into the back from the front seats, then turning around to get the right orientation (feet to the trunk, head to the middle of the car). But I made it work. All my possessions could still fit in just the trunk alone, which allowed me to give people rides. I just loved how I could have the best of both worlds--a fun car and a place to live--without having to sacrifice tremendously on either side.
Brian's versatile tC - not only could it provide his residence and cart friends around in style, it could also carry huge piñatas!
Certainly something Scion never thought to market about the tC! As Brian says though, "On a serious matter, I'm keenly aware that there is a difference between living out of your car by choice or by necessity. As much as I found the whole experience enjoyable and completely feasible, one's psychological outlook makes the greatest difference in whether this is a positive or negative experience. I always try to show respect for those who are doing the same thing but under very different circumstances. For me, it fits my lifestyle (i.e., not home often, eat out all the time, abhor commuting, like being highly mobile), that's the reason why I keep going back."
Brian has now moved on and is very recently in a conventional home again. We'll be interested to see how his living choices proceed. An interesting experiment in freedom and simplicity – Brian has given us yet another way to view the tC!
*Approximate; 2010 Average home = 2,392 x 9 ft ceilings = 21528 cubic feet which translates to 0.41%.
**Average home size from Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/const/C25Ann/sftotalmedavgsqft.pdf.