A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Bed in Your Car

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Without a doubt the biggest dent to your travel budget is forking out for accommodation. With hostel rooms often being the cheapest option, you’re looking at a minimum cost of $25-30 a night in Australia.

But Australian hostels aren’t great and although there are some good ones out there, they are few and far between. Hostels are only ever found in the more densely populated parts of Australia making them a limited option for exploring this vast country.

This leaves you with two options:

1) Renting a pricey campervan

2) Buying a vehicle for a fraction of the price and kitting it out for long trips on the road.

It’s all budget dependant so if you’re trying to make your pennies stretch then buying a vehicle is by far the most economically viable option. Cars are dirt-cheap in Australia and, if you choose right, can eat up the kilometres and show you more of this incredible country.

As well as taking you from A to B your car can double up as a place to lay your head. But don’t settle for reclining the front seats or spending ages putting up a tent, here’s a step-by-step guide to building your very own bedroom on wheels!

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1) Measure your car

Put the back seats down flat and measure the floor space that you have to work with.

The idea is to place the frame of the bed above the wheel covers so that you not only maximise the space for your bed but also to maximise storage space underneath.

Make sure you have measurements for:

A) The height of the wheel covers 

B) The width of the car above the wheel covers

C) The length of the car from drivers seats to the back-end

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2) Buy the wood

Once you have all the measurements for the space in the back of the car it’s time to get the wood cut and start assembling the frame.

Any home-ware store will have a simple supply of MDF and timber you can use. For Australian purposes try Bunnings Warehouse or Home Timber and Hardware. It should set you back around $90.

To ensure you can get the frame into the car you’ll have to assemble it in two halves so get two pieces of MDF cut. Both pieces need to be the width of the car and half the length.

You will also need a minimum of 8 legs cut to support the frame and lift it above the height of the wheel covers.

You should end up with something like this (the smaller parts of MDF in the middle are just off-cuts!) :

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3) Screws and Brackets

 In order to put the frame together you’ll also need to buy at least 16 round head screws, 16 bolts and 16 ‘L’ shaped angle brackets. You’ll need these to secure the legs to the actual frame.

This comes with a price-tag of around $20.

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4) Putting it all together

The first step is to mark out where you want to attach the legs to the MDF board using pencil.

As the side of each board will rest on the wheel covers, each MDF board only requires 4 legs (3 at the top and one at the bottom and vice versa).

For drilling the wood I used a small portable Bosch power drill but I’m sure you could improvise if you’ve not got anything to hand.

One you’ve bolted the hinges and legs to both pieces of MDF you’ve more or less got your completed structure. To make it extra secure I would recommend an extra hinge on each leg. Something I discovered a few weeks into our trip!

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5) Getting the frame in the car

This should be the easiest part but turned out to be the biggest challenge.

What I thought would be a simple slide in job turned out to be a long battle as I shuffled the boards around the limited space of the car.

You’ll need to use the space above the driver and passenger seats to manoeuvre the boards into place.

I found the best way was to start with the back half of the frame first before slotting in the half behind the drivers seats. It’s a battle (especially on your own) but you’ll figure it out before long!

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6) Fine tuning

Once I had the frame in I found I had a few problems with the height of some of the legs and the unevenness of the car floor-space.

Have a play around and make sure you get the frame as level as possible. But don’t worry too much because slight discrepancies won’t be too noticeable once you’ve got your mattress lying flat on top.

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7) Moving in

Now you have your bed frame in you’ll find that you’ve maximised the space in the back and have ample storage room underneath for all that vital camping equipment.

The final thing is obviously to sort out the bed itself. We went all out and bought a foam mattress from Ikea for around $180 but you could easily make do with an air mattress or cheap futon.

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8) Enjoy the views

Undoubtedly the best part about living out the back of your car is waking up to a new view everyday.

With the stress of pitching and packing up a tent and camping equipment every morning eradicated you can just open up the boot and watch the sunrise from the comfort of your own bed.

Have you ever lived out the back of your car? Do you have any tips for turning the back of a car into a mobile home? Let us know via our social media pages!