Author Topic: Best car/hatchback/SUV to sleep in during a long-term road trip/road life?  (Read 138107 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I've been planning on doing some mods to a hatchback, station wagon or SUV-type car in order to give it a nice sleeping platform with some space underneath in preparation for a long term road trip.

I plan on sleeping in the car instead of camping for the days or weeks that I am on the road and not at a destination. This will not be the majority of the time, but there will likely be big spans where I'll want to sleep in the car at night, so it needs to be comfortable.

It also needs to be economical, reliable, etc, so I wanted to turn to the community for suggestions. I've been looking at one of the wagon-style Scions, but the newer ones seem to be firmly in the "SUV" camp instead of wagon. Most normal hatchback sedans would likely be too small for the times my boyfriend is on the road with me (should be able to fit a 6'4 frame when needed, though most of the time my 5'10 will be the only one in there).

I'm not opposed to any specific type of car, though haven't looked at SUVs much as I assume they're more car than I need.

Thanks for your time!


  • Magnum Stache
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My Honda Odyssey minivan is pretty comfortable for sleeping if the back seats are out, but it doesn't get as good of gas mileage as a small car, obviously. Around 28 mpg, highway.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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hey spartana, here is an example of what I'm talking about (using a Honda CRV)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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cool, thanks for the advice. how reliable are they?


  • Senior Mustachian
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I have been away for a couple of months at a time in a Mazda 121 (which I slept in). The car has front seats that fold back flat, and back seats that do the same thing, giving you quite a bit of comfortable almost flat (the wings on the side of the seat are not flat, but help keep you in place) bed.

Unfortunately the later models don't have this feature. It may be that car safety laws no longer allow new cars to have seats that fold back more than a smidgin.

Last year the Mazda became unreliable, so I got a new car. I'd had it for 15 years, so it gave me good value. Eventually I decided on a 2WD small SUV because I could fold down the back seats and sleep in it (I measured every car), and where I go tends to be dirt roads which need clearance. The sedans I looked at just didn't have the clearance I had in the Mazda (a thing that amazed me - evidently they don't make driveways any more that meet the road at a steep angle). One other problem I found when I was looking was the number of cars that didn't have a real spare wheel. This might not bother you, but here, in Australia, there is often a long way between towns - much more than the space saver spare could be used for. I could (usually) get a real spare, but then the place for the spare would need building up because a real tyre is thicker.

I got three inch thick very dense foam exactly the size I wanted the mattress to be, cut it into three pieces and covered them as cushions. They have worked perfectly to sleep on, but because I am on top of the fold down back seat, I actually have less head room than I had in the Mazda.

Your platform would give much more room. I take some stuff out of the back into the front to set up, so I need the front seats not to go forward. This means I don't need to change the set up to leave where I am camped. I like the fact that if there are porblems where I would need to drive away quickly, I can. I could just hop into the front seat and drive off. It doesn't take more than 10 minutes for me to be ready to sleep and to prepare dinner from the time I arrive anywhere. I suspect that it would take longer with the platform, and that things would be more difficult to get at. I also like to look like an ordinary car during the day, rather than someone who is sleeping in their car.


  • Handlebar Stache
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I have a Hyundai Elantra GT (2013).  I easily get over 40mpg.  I can't speak much to the overall relability other than I haven't had any issues in 35k miles.

I have both back seats removed, which is usually reserved for the dog crate, but I recently went on a trip and built a platform to sleep in the back.  Simple build of plywood with stacked lumber to level it out.  With some more design work I would have had enough storage space under the platform for two carry-on size piece of luggage or some tote bins.  I had to push the front passenger seat far forward with a forward tilt in order to have enough leg room.

Some websites you might find interesting:


And this following site has lot of great posts on modifications people do for overland travel:

Expedition Portal


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I've camped and road tripped out of many cars for many, many years.  The best small SUV type car I had was a 2001 Subaru Forester.  Both dog and I could sleep together in the back with the seats folded down.  But I'm only 6'-1" and I barely fit in it.  No way your boyfriend fits into something like that.

Like Spartana, I had a Ford Ranger with a shell and sleeping platform with storage underneath and also racks on top.  I spent a summer working and camping in Alaska with it and it worked well - but I can confirm that it was cramped.

Best thing I've had so far - and I'm still using it this summer - is a full-size pickup truck with a shell.  I have a Dodge Ram 1500 (reliability has been perfect, not a single problem).  Even the full-size bed of this truck is only 6'-3".  Dog and I are comfortable but your boyfriend will need to go fetal or diagonal.  Oh and truck averages nearly 20 mpg highway.

If the two of you are going to be living out of the vehicle for more than a few days, I'd highly recommend a full-size pick up truck with a shell.


  • Pencil Stache
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Another vote of Hyundai Elantra...though we have the precursor to the GT, the Touring. The Touring, last model is 2012, is more of a wagon than a hatchback so has extra room. It actually feels like a small car up front and when driving but then has tons of space in the back. Better than many small SUVs.