Why do people say "out of" in the following example and similar ones? Is it only NAmE?

I was living out of my car back then.

Some might say that you should say "out of" since you're not always in your car, but a similar case could be made for a house. I'm not always in it, but say I live in a house.

I haven't been able to find anything relevant on the usage or origin.

  • Presumably the expression refers to someone forced to keep all their belongings in their car, so they have to go there for a change of clothes or whatever. Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 12:59
  • 1
    Both expressions are used. "Out of" leaves a little leeway for where you actually sleep.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 22:25

2 Answers 2


I believe it originates from the phrase living out of a suitcase. Supporting this is a Google ngram plot showing the phrase with suitcase preceding car by almost 30 years.

Lexico defines live out of a suitcase as

Live or stay somewhere on a temporary basis and with only a limited selection of one's belongings, typically because one's occupation requires a great deal of traveling.

Living out of a car is typically done because one lacks a traditional residence, but the idea is similar in that all of one's belongings are in the car.

  • 2
    I think you are right. I always feel that "living out of a suitcase" implies that the person has all his belongings in a suitcase but sleeps in hotel and boarding house rooms. "Living out of a car" gives me the same impression but implies that the person has more belongings or, possibly, larger pieces of equipment.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 22:47
  • It makes sense. I can live with it as a hyperbolic offshoot of "living out of a suitcase!" :) Thanks
    – Apollonian
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 5:06

In USA, there is emerging community of co-called van-dwellers who live in a van/minivan/car/RV either full time or part time (often several months), spending most of the time either camping on public lands for free, campgrounds, or "stealth-camping" in cities.

For example, Quartzsite RV show brings together about 150 thousands people.

Saying "living out of (car/van/RV) means for those nomads means "my vehicle is my kitchen and bedroom, living room is outdoors".

Another saying they use is "I am not homeless - I am house-free" (if van/RV is their only residence, meaning they do not pay the mortgage).

RV = recreation vehicle = campervan.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.