Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Why a Prius?


Prius RV, Death Valley National Park (CA), April 2010.
Why travel and live in a Prius?  For me, it's a uniquely good fit.
  • I travel solo.  The Prius is big enough for one person.
  • I want something comfortable to sleep in.  The Prius has room for a cot-sized bed, and the heater and air conditioner can run while sleeping (safely, efficiently and quietly).
  • I love to drive.  The Prius gets great gas mileage (about 45 MPG) and has enough power to get over the highest mountain passes.
  • I like to stay at quiet campgrounds.  The Prius fits in well with the tent campers.
  • I don't stay long in any one place.  The Prius RV is rigged for driving and sleeping, not for nesting.
  • I want to be safe.  The Prius is like a hard-sided tent with a built-in security system.
  • Sometimes I overnight at Walmarts.  The Prius RV is stealth and private with tinted windows and black curtains.
  • I use GPS to guide me.  The Prius has a built-in GPS system.
  • I need a dependable vehicle.  Toyotas, with regular maintenance, are among the most dependable, long lasting cars on the market.
2/1/11

80 comments:

  1. I think you have the right idea about RVing. The big rig looks all comfy and homey but the costs are prohibitive for most now days. You can still travel in style with the Prius and have all the comforts of home on a smaller scale and you will not break the bank at 45 mpg. I just may follow your lead one of these days. Trade my 2009 versa for a Prius.

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  2. I have just read the section "A Prius RV", and I'm in awe of what you are doing. I can't really understand how you get everything packed into a Prius, but you seem so organized. I'm traveling in my Ford 1 ton pickup, and I have loads of room for stuff in the bed of the pickup, but can never find what I'm looking for! Maybe it's my age!

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  3. Glad to have found your blog. Intriguing. I'm about to do some full-time travel with no home to go back to. Want to do simple, safe and fun. Tenting is simple, but unsafe. RVs too little MPG. Have come close to buying one, but thinking of the Prius and the AC or Heat being able to be on all night. Great! Great MPG. And there is a new Prius coming, a van or wagon. 50-60% more cargo room.
    I'm going to go back and read again all of your info. Inspiring!
    Maggie

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    1. Is the new Prius you are talking about on the market Yet? Thanks

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    2. I believe the Prius V, that came out in 2013, has the additional cargo room. It's a little bit longer than the Prius liftback, but most of the additional cargo space is achieved by making the roof in the back higher.

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    3. I have a 2012 Prius v and love it.

      I had the dealership remove the right rear seat ($50). Then my brother-in-law built a plywood box that fits in the floor space behind the right front seat and attaches with one bolt and nut which is already there. The box serves as a platform for a plywood bed (24" wide and 66" long) which I topped with a piece of 3" thick foam I bought on sale at Michael's. I have a sleeping bag on top of that, or in hot weather use a cotton blanket and sheet. I can sleep with my head fore or aft, and can sit/lean against the back of the front seat to read. I'm about 5' 4.5" tall, and 150 lbs.

      The bed platform box is open on the door side, and in it I can store my Coleman stove with 2 tanks of fuel in its carry bag, plastic levelers for uneven campsites, dishes, etc.

      When driving I have my folding chair (which is large because it has a canopy) on the bed. There's lots of room left on the passenger front seat, rear left seat, and rear left hatch area for food, clothes, etc. I'm still working on window coverings and screens. My sister wants to go camping with me so I'm going to lay a board over the hatch area and collapsed left rear seat and put a foam pad on that. It will be tight but I think we can do it. When camping alone I leave that seat upright. I enter and exit that door. I can sit there to comfortably remove my shoes.

      I bought a 3 gal plastic tub and toilet seat, but don't know when I'll actually use it since I only camp in campgrounds so far.

      I leave the bed in all the time and still have 3 seats available. I take a power nap during my lunch hour when I'm working. I would love to get a sun roof, for stealthy ventilation and sky viewing, but they're expensive. Also I just subscribed to Purple Carrot vegan food delivery service, and my order came with 2 bags of goo that were still frozen after 3 days on the road. I plan to refreeze them and use them to keep food fresh on short trips.

      I am very grateful to Suanne for documenting her Prius RV. My sister calls my vehicle "The Pramper".

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    4. Scottie, Thanks much for describing your Prius V mods. Nice! The V remains on my short list of possible replacement vehicles when my '04 Prius dies. Enjoy that Pramper!

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  4. I have used our Prius a few times for sleeping and have found the front seat lays flat enough for me, I slide the seat back, and use a sleeping bag. We full timed for 12 years, sold our last RV last year, so I really needed this Prius RV concept.

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  5. I've slept in my Toyota Matrix a few times. The rear seat folds down perfectly flat. I scoot the front seats forward. There is then a gap between the front seats and the folded down rear seat. I bridge this gap with a couple pieces of plywood. This gives me a flat area 6' 5" long.
    If I wanted to really travel and live in my car, I would consider removing the front passenger seat and rear seat, build storage in these spaces, maybe put some solar electric on the roof, maybe have a 10'x10' ez-up tent for shade and a kitchen space. If I thought of myself as a backpacker, then a car would HUGE.

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  6. Hey there,

    I love that!
    This is really a simple way of traveling!
    Who needs more!?

    Enjoyed your blog,

    Domi from Colombia
    Herbie's World Tour

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  7. Yay! Glad to have discovered another Prius-dweller! It is nice to see someone else who sees the advantages of the Prius for loving in. I lived full-time in mine for 4 years starting in 2008. I've just moved into a house in Seattle now, but am still traveling by Prius, even when my boyfriend comes with me. Yes, you can sleep TWO in a Prius. :)

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    1. Thanks Jessica. I read your blog and articles inside and out before I got started in my Prius. Now, if I can only convince my hubby that the Prius can indeed sleep two :)

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  8. Been living in my prius since 2011 and for the past two years with my boyfriend, our pit bull and our cat. It's taken us back and forth from coast to coast about 7 times. Just wanted to give a tip of the hat to a fellow economic traveller. Didn't know there were others out there!

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    1. Wow ... I'm impressed that all 4 of you can live out of a Prius. All the same, it's good to have company :)

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  9. wow nice, looking to doing this myself, was wondering though, how do you stealth camp, do you use reflectix and curtains and if so what is your layout or any suggestions really. thx again

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    1. I rarely need to "stealth camp" because I typically choose places to overnight where it is allowed. If I need to overnight when driving from point A to point B, I chose places like rest areas, truck stops, Walmarts, etc. And when I'm exploring an area, I usually find a campground or disperse camp on NFS or BLM land. That said, it's very hard to tell that I'm sleeping in the Prius. I use black polyester fleece for curtains and my windows are tinted pretty dark. Reflectix would be a quick give-away that someone is sleeping in the car (unless painted mat black).

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    2. What make and model prius do you recommend and why? Or does it really matter which model and do some have advantages over others. Sorry for suck newb questions im just new to this and am really interested, thx

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    3. I have a 2nd generation (04) Prius liftback which works great for me. The current 3rd generation liftbacks are a little longer and would be my first choice. But, the Prius V is taller in the back if you want more space up by the hatch ceiling and would be a good choice too. I haven't researched the other 2 models very much. One is smaller and the other is all-electric (only goes about 50 miles on a charge).

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    4. thx so much for your reply, I just want to make sure that you can put the seats down (like your 2004 model in your pictures) in all the models / generations as im around 6ft tall and don't want to have any issures lol.

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    5. As far as I know, only the 2nd Gen Prius will go down like I've shown in the photos on this blog site. The 3rd Gen liftback will not ... I've tried. 2nd Generation Prii span from 2004 through 2009 models.

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    6. If that's true then why would the third generation be your first choice, I must be missing something?

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    7. For a *new* car, the 3rd gen liftback would be my first choice as Toyota doesn't make the 2nd gen Prius models any longer. Also, I'm only 5'2" so putting all of the seats flat is not an issue for me. In fact, I'm currently not laying the front passenger seat flat for my sleeping arrangement, fitting my new 72" mattress pad perfectly.

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    8. The Prius C front passenger seat does not fold well. I live in my Prius C. I would like to remove the seat, but I am concerned with air bag issues if I do.

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    9. Jim, I would definately research air bag deployment if the front passenger seat is removed. You have a 3rd generation so it may be different from my 2nd generation with regard to this issue. In lieu of removing the front passenger seat, however, can you move it forward enough to sleep behind it in your Prius C? That's what I current do in my '04 Prius. You have to put something behind the front passenger seat to support the head portion of your bed. I use duffle bags packed with some things I take with me but don't need to access very often.

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  10. I so want to do this. I've been vandwelling or van camping nearly a year and a half. ... I so love to drive as much as camping and keeping it simple. ... all my full time buddies say no don't give up the van

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    1. Lesa, If I were full-timing and had my dog with me, I think I'd find the Prius very cramped. I could do it, but not as comfortably as I'd like. It really comes down to a personal choice, taking into consideration how much stuff you have with you and your need for interior living space. If driving is your gig, however, it's hard to beat the Prius!

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  11. Hello Suanne,
    Thank you for posting all of this great info. I've just purchased a 2013 Prius v and want to set it up for traveling. I've removed the back seats and am looking for the best way to set up a sleeping platform. I know that your prius is different, but maybe you or one of your readers has seen a good system.
    Thanks in advance for any advice.
    Have a blast while you last,
    Bernie

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    1. Bernie, I'm excited for you as you start your planning for your Prius V. Check out Jessica's page here http://www.ayearinacar.com/vandwelling/ where she takes out the seats in her Prius. She was an early inspiration for me when I considered living out of my Prius. She doesn't post much anymore, but take a look at her 2008 & 2009 posts at her blog: "A Year in a Car for No Apparent Reason" http://www.ayearinacar.com/ .

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  12. Good deal on the Prius, mine is a 2006 and I have arranged the rear to sleep in and it's the size of a queen size mattress so pretty good for sleeping. I will be heading for Wyoming in late May and will spend a little more time exploring etc. I plan on spending about a month out there and will probably visit some of the sites the Bob Wells stayed at.

    Dick

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  13. The Prius is a great travel vehicle! Enjoy your travels, it sounds like a wonderful trip. Bob picks good sites.

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  14. WoW,
    I am so amazed. Good Luck and Happy Trails Suanne!

    George

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  15. I camped all over Florida in my 2008 Prius several years ago. Now I want another one. My website has a page on how I used my Prius for camping: http://www.florida-backroads-travel.com/florida-camping-in-a-prius.html

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    1. Thanks for checking out my blog. I find it interesting that those of us who camp in our Prius can do it in so many diverse ways. The best to you in your future travels.

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  16. Hi Suanne, I've researching fulltiming in a Prius and I was wondering where you store your trash when you are bookdocking in a place like AZ when you are at the RTR? I assume things could stink up a small space quickly and you don't want to store trash outside due to animals. Also, what causes you go to town most quickly? Clean water? Food? Shower? Trash dump? Thanks.

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    1. If I'm someplace for a length of time, 10 days or more, I'll set up a little storage tent and store full trash bags in it until I go into town. I use plastic garbage sacks for trash. I don't really have very much trash. If there's a campfire, like at the RTR, I'll burn paper stuff. Also, when I go shopping, I remove the packaging from much of what I bought and throw it away before I head back to camp. The only thing that really stinks is human waste (poo). I've found that storing it in tightly sealed metal containers works best. The smell will permeate plastic containers. I plan around my supplies to go into town every 10-14 days for laundry, water, food, shower and dump. No more clean underwear seems to be what forces back into town most often.

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  17. Interesting about the metal containers, can you link to any? Good tip about plastic leaking through. 10-14 days would be great, as a lot of places make you move on after 14 days. :)

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    1. I've been using non-air-tight containers similar to these http://amzn.to/1Ro66RI . I store them in a grocery sack. They work OK. If I don't have a tent set up, I'll keep them outside in the shade. I recently picked up a couple of air-tight metal containers like these http://amzn.to/1Ro4yXU . I suspect they'll work even better.

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    2. Thanks for the link. I've been reading up on backpacking odor proof food bags, maybe they would suit your needs as well: http://briangreen.net/2012/12/a-real-test-for-odor-proof-bags.html

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    3. Those look promising ... thanks for the lead.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. Replies
    1. It's an 04 Prius, purchased before the V was available.

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  20. "SuanneMay 25, 2014 at 4:00 PM
    As far as I know, only the 2nd Gen Prius will go down like I've shown in the photos on this blog site. The 3rd Gen liftback will not ... I've tried. 2nd Generation Prii span from 2004 through 2009 models."

    Thanks Suanne for all the info here in your blog! And from the commentators too. Does anyone know if the Any Generation Prius V (larger volume model) seats will go all the way down? I would like to just remove the back seats, so maybe it would not matter that much for us anyways. I was looking at getting a used wagon, but now am looking into the Prius models (Regular and V size) .... they are the king of gas mileage, and still have a decent amount of cargo space obviously. My wife and I camped for 3 months traveling ALL around Scotland & England in 2013, with a tent, (our endless honeymoon!) but many times sleeping on a quiet lane in a city or village in our amazingly large "small" diesel rental car, the Skoda Roomster. Tons of room inside. I sure wish something like that was available in North America! Appreciate any extra feedback on a used Prius vs. Prius V. Ciao, Marcel D.

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    1. Do not go all the way down, but are said to be removeable......

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  21. Hi and thanks for reading my blog. Your trip in Scotland and England sounds wonderful. I hope to do some cardwelling in Ireland in the future. I'm not sure about the 3rd or 4th gen Prii's seats. I hope someone else will comment and let us know.

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  22. Hello Suanne,
    It's your friend Elliott, I messaged you on Sept 5th and you emailed me back. Thought I'd give you a little update. :)
    I have been in touch with Jamie from Enigmatic Nomadics, nice guy. So I am starting to feel part of the community.
    KC (my dog), MAX (my C-MAX) and I travelled up to Maine for some exploring and quiet time. Maine, NH and VT are favourites of mine. My first trip was very exciting. First time sleeping in the car with my bed set up. The AC working well from the car hybrid battery as yours does.
    I know your Prius is a 2004, but could you tell me how long you have owned it and how many miles you have on it now? Thanks.
    To give me some more space I'm planning to take out the front passenger seat and fit a hitch with a covered cargo cover. Have you ever thought of doing anything like this to increase storage space?
    KC and I are hoping to make the RTR in January 2017. Will you be attending? Would be wonderful to meet you and some other interesting people and hear their stories first hand.
    Regards
    Elliott ��

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    1. Hi again Elliott, So glad you and Jamie have connected. He's a nice person and a great resource. Sounds like you had a good first trip in your C-MAX. I'm curious. Does the engine (internal combustion) stay on when you have your AC on (while in park), or does it shut on and off (like the Prius)? I know several folks who have removed their Prius back seats to make more storage space. I haven't found it necessary. If you take out the front passenger seat in the Prius, it disables the air bags (at least in my 04). I don't know what the max payload is for the C-MAX, but you may want to check that out before you spend too much to create extra storage. I do plan to be at the RTR in January. It's a good place to make connections with tribe members. Hope to see you there!

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    2. Yes, it's just the same as the Prius. The gas engine goes off with the AC running till the battery runs low. Then the engine starts up for a little while to top the batteries off. Don't quote me on this, but I believe Toyota and Ford worked in some sort of partnership developing this. So the systems are currently similar . Although, they had a not so amicable split recently. As the new generations evolve their similarities will become fewer.
      I will look into what my C-MAX can carry on a hitch before I commit to one. Even if it's a small amount of weight I will find it useful I think. I don't wanna get a roof box because of the drag it will cause lowering my MPG.
      I will be in touch again updating you if anything important happens my end of course.
      Great to hear you'll be at the RTR.
      Fingers crossed I see you then.
      Keep Rolling

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  23. I enjoy your website and keep coming back to it. What do you do in the evenings if you're staying at a Walmart or stealth camping and it gets dark early? How do you entertain yourself? The only thing I've found to do is read an e-book. I think if I had lights on, someone would see them. Thanks.

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    1. I typically just go to sleep. If I'm not worried about others seeing lights on, I will go online (phone or laptop), or read an ebook. Every once in a while I'll listen to an audio book. But, like I said, I usually just go to sleep and get up and leave early. Hope that helps.

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  24. Hi Suanne, I'm looking into purchasing a Prius 2004 and have some questions for you. How many miles does your Prius 04 have? Have you replace you electric motor's battery yet? How can I tell if the electric motor's battery, in Prius I'm hoping to purchase, holds a good charge? What else do I need to consider when I'm purchasing a used Prius as it's related to the battery? p.s. I hope to travel with my Prius too. cheers, Simon

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    1. Hi Simon, I'm excited for you as you consider traveling in your Prius. My '04 currently has over 222.5K miles on it. My original high-voltage batteries were just run through a diagnostic and are in good condition. My small 12v accessory/starter battery was replaced a couple of years ago. If you can find someone to run diagnostics on your potential Prius' high-voltage batteries, that would be good. My friend used the device at this link -- http://blog.obdii365.com/2016/09/07/free-download-v11-20-019-toyota-tis-techstream/

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  25. Hi Suanne,
    I'm 5' 10", will the Prius 2004 all me to sleep without having to be in a fetal position?
    thanks, Simon

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    1. My mattress is 72" long (x 24" wide) and fits just fine behind the front passenger's seat (which is pushed half-way back).

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  26. Great information! I have 2013 Prius two. Myself and two dogs will be in it. I am gathering info from you. Thanks so much! Cindy

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    1. Thank you Cindy! I hope you find travel in your Prius as wonderful as I do. Suanne

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  27. Hi Suanne,

    Dick Kelly here and I'm far from a nomad but I too use the Hotel Prius to travel in. I removed the rear seats and passenger seat and this gives me lots of room to store things under my bed platform. I have almost a Queen Size area to sleep in and use a 3" foam pad cut to fit along with some comforters for keeping warm if need be. I traveled to Alaska in 2015 with it and then Yuma AZ and there abouts last year. I have always gotten about 50mpg with my Prius but I usually don't drive any faster than I need to. I will probably be traveling west again this spring/summer from Florida where I live to WY/MT/CO and wherever mountains are since I like that.

    Dick Kelly,
    Fort Myers, FL

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    1. I'm pleased to see more and more of us Prius dwellers. The best to you on your travels. Suanne

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  28. Hi Suzanne...I'm thinking of getting the Hghlander Hybrid (want more space than the PriusV, plus the highlander can tow 5,000 and has all wheel drive). When you're stealth camping does the engine make enough noise to make parking in residential areas worrisome? Thank you for your Blog

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    1. I would not leave on engine on if I was trying to appear as tho' I was not sleeping in my car. I think the Highlander is an excellent choice. Another benefit is its 8" ground clearance for going into the back country. The best to you as you decide on the best vehicle for you. Suanne

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  29. Hi Suanne,

    I am also planning on full timing soon. Question: Does the Toyota Highlander Hybrid does the same as your Prius. Turning on and off? I don't know too much about Hybrids, I'm considering buying one for full timing and do the same you do, to stay quiet on campgrounds with tents, but at the same time stay safe. Thanks for your response. Safe travels! : )

    Brenda

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  30. Hi Brenda, I believe the Highlander's hybrid system will also only come on to charge it's high-voltage batteries when left on and in Park. The best to you in your planning and travels! Suanne

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  31. Hi Suanne,

    Thanks for your reply! Would you recommend me in that case the Prius V better? Sorry for asking so many questions. I am trying to decide which one works best in terms of running it most of the night if needed, just as the Prius that you own. I'm confused. Thanks again! : )

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    1. Hi again Brenda, From what I know, and I'm not an expert, either the Highlander or any of the Prius models will run the AC at night in "Ready" mode. That is, the engine will only come on intermittently to keep the HV batteries charged.

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  32. Hi Suanne!

    Thanks for your reply and answers to my questions, I hope to meet you soon! :)
    Happy trails!

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  33. Hey Suanne,
    Do you ever have problems with dispersed camping / getting stuck, considering the low ground clearance?

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    1. Yes. Ground clearance is an issue. I avoid water, sand, and mud. But, I do drive on rugged, rocky, rutted back roads. I drive very slowly, carefully placing my tires to keep my undercarriage, especially the oil pan, from hitting the ground or rocks. I drive on the humps, not in the ruts. I do take my car places where no Prius should go, and I have the scratches and body dings to show it. Thus far (knock on wood), I've never blown a tire (just regular all weather), and I've only been stuck once (a little high centered). Ground clearance is my biggest issue with my Prius.

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  34. I just had a great experience driving across the country and camping with my Prius. I'm 6'4", and while I have slept comfortably in the car, I normally set up my tent.

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    1. Nice to hear! Thanks for letting me know that a 6'4" person can sleep comfortably in a Prius.

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  35. I hear that the Toyota Sienna is going hybrid within the year.
    That would be interesting....

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    1. That's great news. I hope it really happens. I may be in the market for one in about 3 years. Thanks!

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  36. I have a 2005 Prius, and while I haven't used it to live in, I can comment on how to improve ground clearance at almost no cost.

    First, I pump the tires up to the max-load psi given on the tire sidewall. Typically 44psi or 51psi, but do look at your tires and inflate all of them to the lowest number on any of them, rather than to the much lower numbers in the owner's manual or on the door post. Respect whatever pressure differential is listed on the door post.....or don't. Personally, I run my 51psi tires at 50psi at all 4 corners. In my experience, it corners and handles much better this way than with the lower suggested pressures. And it does raise the ground clearance. Watch the car go up as you inflate them!

    Second....I have driven 40,000 miles since switching from the stock 185/65R15 size to 195/65R15 size, with no ill effects, and several good effects. This raises the car another 6.5mm, which is only a bit over 1/4 inch, but it takes zero effort except ordering the different tires the next time you replace them. I strongly recommend Michelin X-Ice3 tires in this size, for many reasons. They are AWESOME tires in winter snow/ice, better than even excellent all-seasons in summer, are great in rain, etc. The only downside is that you can forget about getting 80,000 miles like some hard-compound, poorer-traction all season tires can get now. After 40,000 miles without rotation, my fronts are ready to be replaced and the rears are maybe halfway done. Still....to have the set only 75% worn out on average after 40,000 miles isn't bad considering I don't have to swap sets of tires twice a year in my New England climate.

    The other big advantage of them is that while they are T-speed (118mph) rated just like the original Prius tires were, they have an XL load rating of 95T versus I think 88T. Way bigger load capacity, for way better safety margins if you either overload the car, or hit a pothole, or whatever. It also means that if you are stuck in sand or mud, you can let air out to a lower pressure to regain traction, before the tires are considered overloaded.

    There are also some gas shocks and spring-booster shocks available for the car. I haven't bothered with them, as putting on the bigger tires and pumping them up has met my needs.

    When I bought tons of manufactured wood blocks for the woodstove last winter, I'd carry each ton home in 3 trips. This in an old car with a heavy hitch mount, and often an (empty) steel cargo carrier in the hitch.

    Love my Prius, but switching to these tires made the difference between occasional annoying traction problems in winter, to no traction or handling problems at all.

    And my best mpg for a whole tank in summer remained almost unchanged at 70+mpg (72.7 according to the computer), very unexpectedly. Driving very very carefully to maximize mpg, obviously. This August I got 42mpg cruising all day long at 84mph through Nebraska and Wyoming....in the uphill direction! You must own this care to understand what a miracle Toyota pulled off, way ahead of its time.

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    1. You have provided many options to try out. Thank you.

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  37. How much fuel do you use to run AC all night?
    How much fuel to run heater all night?
    Or, just a rough estimate, use by the week, if you have stayed in one place for that long. I could pack enough food for one week without refrigeration, that is why I ask.

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    1. I'm guessing I use less than a half gallon to run my AC all night. I've never run my heater all night. I regularly stay in the back country for a week or more. It's totally doable. Have fun!

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  38. My other concern about cardwelling is the condensation inside the car when sleeping. I seem to experience that. Concerned when I'm parked in an unfamiliar semipublic area. I don't want to draw attention to my car. Are there ways to stop it. Does the black fabric you use eliminate it? AND what number tinting did you choose for windows. I don't have tinting on my car. Thank you.

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    1. To reduce condensation, I keep my windows (that have screens on them) down about an inch. I have those eye-brow window awnings so that the windows do not appear to be down at all from the outside. Even still, if it's very cold outside, I'll get condensation. I don't think the curtains help much. Inside condensation isn't very stealth, that's for sure. But, if I turn the car on and run the heater (with AC on) in the defrost setting, that gets rid of the condensation fairly quickly. I don't remember the percent of light my tinting lets through, but I'd guess 25%. I do know that it was too dark to be legal in WA State; but, I was never stopped for it. I hope that information helps.

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  39. Hi Suanne. I just wanted to thank you for the inspiring video on youtube. It made me see things a whole new way. Gave up on the motorhome idea and went and bought myself a Prius instead. Had my first night in it yesterday and I absolutely love it! cheers from Norway :)

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    1. Good for you! Thanks for letting me know, that makes me smile! :)

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