- A woman is going viral for her TikTok videos about the day-to-day realities of living in her car.
- Nikita Crump says she's been living in her Honda Civic for two years to save money and avoid debt.
- Crump told Insider that after 1,000 days of sleeping in her car she saved enough money to buy a van.
In recent years, living in a mobile home has become increasingly appealing to millennials who are curious about a nomadic lifestyle.
But in her videos, TikTok creator Nikita Crump says living in her Honda Civic is far from glamorous.
Crump, 31, told Insider she moved into her vehicle in November 2019 after struggling to pay rent on her $450-per-month room in a house she shared with roommates in Sacramento, California, while working two jobs. (Insider was unable to verify Crump's residence, as she said she did not have legal documents to prove her situation.)
Many people have become unhoused in recent years, largely due to the high cost of living. In January 2020, 580,466 Americans were dealing with homelessness, according to a 2021 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The same report found that parts of the country with the highest rates of homelessness also had the most expensive housing. And today, thanks to inflation, rental costs are increasing at the highest rate in over three decades, Bloomberg reports, with the median rent surpassing $2,000 per month.
In Crump's case, she told Insider she often skipped meals to make her rent payments.
"I began living very paycheck to paycheck and having that daily stress of either using my credit card or going in the negatives in my checking account," she said.
So, in November 2019, Crump announced on a new YouTube channel that she had given her landlord notice and was moving into her car.
At first, Crump said she didn't gain many followers on YouTube. But when she started a TikTok page during the COVID-19 pandemic — and began posting about the obstacles she faced, like where to shower and park — her audience grew. Crump's TikTok page has 1 million followers while her YouTube channel has an audience of over 73,500 followers and features longer vlogs, renovations, and advice videos. She also has an Instagram account, where she has 122,000 followers.
The TikToker said she began making enough money to live as a full-time content creator as of January 2021. (She left her retail job at TJ Maxx in July 2020 and stopped working at a butterfly farm in May 2021, she said.) Crump said she generates income through views and streams on TikTok and YouTube, which have schemes like the Creator Fund and Partner Fund that reward users with a large audience. She said she earns additional income through occasional brand sponsorships on these platforms as well as Instagram, and makes money through monthly subscription packages on Patreon.
Nikita Crump's videos show practical ways to tackle the challenges of living in a car
Crump's first TikTok video from July 2020 offered practical solutions to the difficulties she says she has faced while living in a car. The video, which has been viewed over 7.5 million times as of Thursday, demonstrated how she said she washes her hair in restrooms when she can't shower in her usual spot — a Planet Fitness 24-hour gym.
Crump also made a video in May where she said she uses homemade reflective window covers to keep people from seeing inside her car when she's parked. It has 3.2 million views as of Thursday.
Crump told Insider she uses a Jackery portable battery that she charges during the day to power her devices. She made a video about the product in May through a paid partnership.
She added that she stocks up on blankets in the winter to retain heat and will typically spend more time in cafes or outdoors during the summer.
When it comes to saving space in the vehicle, Crump says she uses luggage organizers from TJ Maxx to store her clothes on the backseat floor.
Crump also told Insider she keeps her belongings in categorized boxes in her trunk. She said she didn't have to downsize much when she moved into her car because she's always been fairly minimalist, but she keeps a few additional items in a storage unit.
Facing the stigma of living in a car has been a challenge, Crump says
Crump told Insider that many comments left on her videos ask why she doesn't stay with family and friends. "I would have to exhaust all of my resources to feel like I would care enough to burden somebody else with me being in their space," she said.
At the start, Crump said, she would feel too embarrassed to tell people she couldn't afford rent and would often frame it as a fun thing she was trying. "I acted like it wasn't because of money and it absolutely was," she said.
Even with increasing gas prices, Crump said living in her car is still cheaper than renting.
"Everyone should make enough money that they can afford to be alive. You shouldn't have to take away from your life expectancy to survive," Crump said, adding that she thinks healthy food should be more affordable for low-income individuals. (Without a kitchen, Crump said her diet consists of mostly nonperishable foods, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and any healthy fast-food meals she can buy.)
Crump recently bought a van that she's renovating into a home
Crump says living in a car has enabled her to save money. In August, she said she purchased a Ram ProMaster van with plans to convert it into her next home. For now, Crump says she continues to live in her Honda Civic while she works on renovations.
While many who choose van life are downsizing, for Crump it's a welcome upgrade — and she told Insider she'd rather live in a mobile home than sign a lease.
"The thought of signing a lease or anything like that frightens me," she said. "I'm a little bit traumatized from the stress renting has caused me."
Crump may not have originally chosen the nomadic lifestyle but she says it suits her well.
"Moving into my car brought me so much sustainability and joy," she said. "My life completely shifted."
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