Class A or Class C - possible to park full time without paying for a camp site?

Van Living Forum

Help Support Van Living Forum:

gkb2016

Well-known member
Joined
May 8, 2016
Messages
61
Reaction score
15
Currently I am doing van life, and it's worked out pretty decent for me, mostly have been camping in cities ... but the lack of space is starting to get to me! This has me thinking, maybe I could find a Class A or Class C RV on the smaller side and city camp for free (other than emptying tanks)?

Mostly I'm just wondering if anyone has tried this and if people will still leave me alone. Right now have been camped in the same city for several months and haven't had any major issues and no knocks.
 

peteg59

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
126
Reaction score
72
Location
NH=summer FL=winter
As you may or may not already know: Some cities are easier to stealth camp in than others.
Many larger cities in Ca. for example are tough especially in class A, B, or C, RV's as they have ordinances against street sleeping in vehicles. However there are places in some big cities where it isn't as strictly enforced. Barrios, ghettos, etc.
But you probably wouldn't feel safe camping in those areas due to higher crime, open drug usage, sanitation issues, etc.
Good luck, and stay safe!
 

gkb2016

Well-known member
Joined
May 8, 2016
Messages
61
Reaction score
15
As you may or may not already know: Some cities are easier to stealth camp in than others.
Many larger cities in Ca. for example are tough especially in class A, B, or C, RV's as they have ordinances against street sleeping in vehicles. However there are places in some big cities where it isn't as strictly enforced. Barrios, ghettos, etc.
But you probably wouldn't feel safe camping in those areas due to higher crime, open drug usage, sanitation issues, etc.
Good luck, and stay safe!

Thanks for the reply. Yeah I have noticed a lot (maybe even most) cities have some kind of ordinance about sleeping in vehicles.

Haven't had a problem in these places so far, but I'm not out west either (have heard most of the more strict places are out west).

My van is not the stealthiest for sure, has solar panels on it ... and for a while I had a flexible one on the hood where anyone can see it. In fact a lot of people were asking me questions about it once I put the obvious solar panel on the hood. Still no problems other than that though.

For me sleeping in dangerous areas is kind of out of the question (except Las Vegas ... I'll need to camp there or very close at some point due to my profession, poker player)

Mostly wondering if my experience would be the same if I was in an RV, since I would have some space. I don't mind getting snide comments from the populace just don't want to get messed with by the police / thieves.
 
Last edited:

frater secessus

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Messages
2,022
Reaction score
270
Location
desert southwest
some thoughts
  • It's easier to stealth in passenger vehicles and vans than in RVs proper
  • you can boondock on public lands in any type of vehicle
  • the only place I know of you can stay indefinitely in one place is Slab City, assuming the summer doesn't kill you
 

maki2

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 13, 2018
Messages
6,065
Reaction score
625
I can give you an example of why and where your concept would be an issue

Seattle does not have an ordinance that says no sleeping in a vehicle. However it does have an ordinance that states no vehicles over 80" wide during the night on streets except in areas zoned as industrial. That ordinance has nothing to do with getting rid of the homeless. It is strictly that at night in residential areas there are so many vehicles parked at the curbs that a wide vehicle parked there would prevent fire trucks from getting to an emergency situation.

So in a city you are actually much better off living in a van that is not as wide as an RV and you will have more options of where you can park at night. Of course a van is less obvious than a motorhome.

In most towns along the Oregon Coast RVs meaning motorhomes are not allowed to do overnight parking on the streets. The city of Loveland Colorado also does not allow them on the street at night except adjacent to a motel or hotel.

So if your goal is urban camping then you are better off in a van or perhaps a truck with a camper on the back and do not go for the widest ones.

Van living for months at a time in the same town has a viable option. Excess belongings can be put into a rented storage place.
 

RvNaut

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 24, 2020
Messages
403
Reaction score
211
Location
Maine USA
I chose a class A... I would not even consider it for stealth camping in a city... nopey nope nope ... Anyone doing this, in any vehicle, has my respect.. out here in the boonies, full timing is a much simpler process.. so good on you for making it work as is..
 

bullfrog

Well-known member
Joined
May 6, 2016
Messages
6,653
Reaction score
625
We started out over 20 years ago in a 28’ long 8’ wide class A, a “plain Jane” clean common looking RV with no distinctive paint or fancy decals and usually only stayed one night (6 to 10 hours to only sleep, never stay many if any daytime hours) a month in legal parking lots like the YMCA facilities, motel truck parking areas, street parking beside motel parking lots, parking for fairs and special events, truck stops, gas stations, 24 hour restaurants and stores that allowed overnight parking, pull off areas near park entrances, boat ramps, fishing/hunting trail head parking lots, rest areas, hospital parking lots, near school bus garages, RV repair garages, or in private driveways. We also traded security work for a space to park and took jobs that allowed us to park on employer’s property like garages and considered asking at construction sites but never had to. We tried to move at least 20 miles in a different direction in the morning and evening. Having a parking pass (like a college campus, golf course or state/national park) or membership for day use areas makes it easier. Yes it is harder to find places you fit but because you are truly self contained and can park and sleep without leaving the vehicle you can be a less offensive presence than a van with doors open and a lawn chair set out parked in one place for 24 hours. Escapees actually has a section in their magazine of places people use in different states as well as a guide you might want to check out as most are full time RVers.
 
Last edited:

afblangley

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 3, 2021
Messages
166
Reaction score
183
I am unfamiliar with the vast stretches of vacant land that folks out west camp on. I've traveled up and down the western seaboard, spending most of my time in cities and small towns. But my opinion is mostly based on experience east of the Mississippi River, with extended periods of time in IL, NY, GA and FL.

I own a Class A and camper van (it is self built so not a true Class B). The former has accumulated 15,000 miles in 2.5 years, the latter 30,000 miles in less than a year (and I have zero commute). This is a direct reflection of their utility.

I have no experience with the Class C (or fictional B+). But my thought is that it is similar to the Class A, perhaps to a slightly smaller/modified degree, but not to an extent that it would change my opinion.

My Class A is unquestionably more comfortable to "live out of" than my van. This is a function of space- having a bed room, a full and proper bathroom, kitchen countertops sufficient to really cook, a distinct area for dining, a separate living area, etc. The ability to move from one room to another makes a Class A infinitely easier to spend time in. Comfort is also a function of the quality and robustness of the systems. Ducted heating and air conditioning sufficient to overcome the outside environment, plumbing with enough water to perform daily activities with a high degree of normalcy. Ditto with electrical power, with the assistance of a generator.

My camper van is rudimentary, but it has a kitchenette with running water and enough power to run a microwave and induction cooktop, a toilet, a sofa and a dedicated bed. It lacks hot water capability and an engine independent HVAC system. Even though it's the largest van on the market and tall enough to stand up in, the living space is essentially one room.

I guess this is a long winded way of saying I understand where you're coming from. If I'm driving cross country (which I've done 4 times in the past 2.5 years) the Class A is an absolute pleasure. A personal bubble, with no required need to step out for anything except refueling. Roadtrips minimize a Class A's Achilles heel- where to park it. On roadtrips in the Class A, my preferred places to park are rest areas, truck stops, and Harvest Host locations. In cities, industrial areas or businesses where semi trucks are parked are safe bets. At night, shopping malls have worked well also. Walmart and big box store parking lots, are only used in a pinch. I am not into camping, so I avoid campgrounds, even for dumping. What all these areas have in common is that they're only good for a max of 1 or 2 day stay.

Both of my vehicles are pretty new and well kept, no one would think a homeless/threatening/undesirable person lived in it. Little do they know... I don't spend anytime thinking about stealth, my guiding principle is not to be a nuisance. Nobody (except admirers) pays any attention to my van and I can park it almost anywhere. In the van, my favorite place to park overnight are apartment complexes, my second favorite are downtown streets, my third favorite are residential streets. When I wake up I drive away, blending in with the folks driving off to work. My favorite place to park during the day are parking spaces at the beach, my second favorite are city parks, my third favorite are shopping centers.

There is no way that a Class A can fly under the radar. It will be noticed. That doesn't necessarily translate into a knock on the door, but it increases the chance of overstaying your welcome. This is problematic because there are many fewer places a Class A can be parked. Notice there is almost no overlap between the places I park when in the van and the places I park when in the Class A. In the van, I drive around and look for a quiet area, which is often impromptu and usually takes only a few minutes. In the Class A, accessibility is the overriding consideration and the location is always premeditated, sometimes hours in advance.

Usually when I am in one city for weeks or months, I have a reason for being there and parking is available. On the occasions where I have been in a location for an extended period of time without arranged parking, I rotated among several sites, never staying more frequently than once every 7-10 days. This is easy to do in the van. Using this system in a Class A requires casting a much larger geographic net. The longest I've stayed in one area with the Class A was two weeks. The nights were spent rotating between rest areas, truck stops, and shopping centers within a 60 mile range.

The Class A has two Achilles heels. The first is parking, as discussed. The second is drivability. Driving them in cities requires an inordinate amount of planning, and that's assuming you're familiar with the city. I use trucker GPS to navigate around a city I've spent half my life in. You never notice the number of bridges, narrow roads, underpass height constraints, etc. until you drive an oversize vehicle. A Class A can be driven most places (even Chicago and Manhattan), but the amount of work required to do so is exhausting. Owning a Class A means owning two vehicles. So the real question when living out of one while staying in one area for an extended period of time: where will it be parked, while you're driving around doing your daily activities in your toad?

I'll end with some advice. If you are doing "van life" in a rudimentary vehicle, consider getting a factory built, bona fide Class B. As new as you can afford. One of the reasons they are so expensive is because they have the latest and greatest systems, which minimize the sacrifices associated with living in a vehicle, especially when urban boondocking/street camping. You will not get this in a Class A, customers expect and manufacturers prioritize creating a house on wheels. The Class B can have a lithium power bank large enough to support an all electric build including running the rooftop AC. With the alternator rapidly charging the batteries, driving a couple of hours per day will keep everything running indefinitely. A cassette toilet has a removable tank that can be emptied in any toilet you're bold enough to carry it into. The Class A with its residential size fridge, dual or triple AC units, requires parking someplace where it is acceptable to run a generator. When searching to refill the propane needed to power the stove, oven, furnace, and hot water heater, you will learn many places that sell it don't have the space to service a large vehicle. Emptying the massive grey and black tanks will require driving to specialized facilities. There is a reason why most Class As are driven from full hookup campground to full hookup campground.

If you cannot afford a late model Class B, you may want to consider doing a DIY buildout on a box truck. It has more space than a van. It will blend in better than a Class A. They also seem easier to build out than a van, which is important because amenities = comfort. Make the systems as capable as your skill and bank account will allow.
 
Last edited:

gkb2016

Well-known member
Joined
May 8, 2016
Messages
61
Reaction score
15
Thanks for all the tips - sounds like to me it could work if you make a detailed plan but would just be easier to boondock at a free campsite somewhere. Mostly worried about the gas costs - as right now they are pretty minimal unless I'm traveling. Usually fill up only 2-3 times per month right now as long as I'm staying put in one town lol :D

My budget for an RV is probably 4K tops at the moment, which means an older vehicle. Not super worried about all the appliances working but do need reliability. I have a solar setup / dc dc charger that I'd probably hook up on the RV. I'm probably just going to try and hold off til I have a bigger budget though.
 

bullfrog

Well-known member
Joined
May 6, 2016
Messages
6,653
Reaction score
625
RV tires are expensive. Coolant systems tend to be bigger and have more rubber hoses. Brake systems use longer lines and more fluid. Fan belts usually need replaced as well on older motorhomes. By the time you flush fluids, replace the tires and the other rubber components and license and insure the motorhome it would almost have had to be given to you for free to keep costs under $4,000. It does happen but you need to be able to do your own work to keep costs manageable. Our road worthy (except for tires)1983 Barth motorhome which was 20 years old at the time cost us $11,500 20 years ago and we felt lucky to have gotten it. Costs today are crazy and the reason self builds are so popular. We took it off the road several years ago but continue to live in it most of the year as a sort of home base on a full hookup lot.
 
Last edited:

Username

Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
20
Reaction score
6
You can usually find sections of streets in suburbs that, for whatever reason, have no houses or buildings with an entrance on that side. Adjacent to a park, dead-end street, etc. As long as the interior of your rig isn't bleeding light after dark, nobody knows you don't live nearby.

My budget for an RV is probably 4K tops at the moment, which means an older vehicle
You should be able to find a decent 80s C-class for that price. Find some youtube videos on how to inspect RVs as a buyer. Make sure to check for leaks, for dry or wet rot (RV cancer) -- fixing the coach is usually more expensive than fixing the vehicle. Check for rust as well. I'd go for an RV that needs engine work with a solid coach and rust-free frame than vice-versa.

For example, if you needed to replace *the entire engine* (on your typical mid-80s c-class) it's a fraction of the price of rebuilding the coach. Alternative is get fiberglass coach, but those have their own tradeoffs.

Also monitor your local listings for used RVs in your price range for some time before making the purchase, get a feel for what's out there.
 
Top