How to keep cool while sleeping in your car

Sleeping in your car can be an exciting prospect offering a sense of freedom, simplicity, and adventure. We typically associate it with the downtrodden, or someone who is down on their luck, but this does not have to be the case in this mobile and remote-working world.

So why would you sleep in your car if you don’t have to? Well, it’s free (or at least cheap), simple, time-efficient and guarantees protection, freedom and mobility. Sleeping in your car is not only legal in Australia, but it is encouraged to prevent driver fatigue and the resulting crashes which can occur.

Perhaps you are road tripping north to Queensland’s Sunny Coast, or across NSW to take a dip in the beautiful bore baths of the Great Artesian Basin, but if you’re interested in saving money and being able to get up and go whenever you want, sleeping in your car might be the best option. However, Australia’s climate can be somewhat unforgiving, particularly over the summer period, and whether you’re doing it out of necessity, adventure or an attempt at minimalism, you will need to know how to keep cool when those winter nights start heating up.

Easy Ways to Cool Down Your Car

Park in the shade or a garage

The sun is public enemy number one for heating up your car, so the best way to cool it down is by parking it in a garage. If you find yourself without a garage, the best option is to park in a shaded area, tucked away from the heat of the sun. Remember that although trees do produce shade, they also produce branches and bird poo. Do with that information what you wish.

Keep the windows cracked

Use common sense here, but a slight crack of the windows is sometimes all you need to get some airflow. If you’re in a dodgy area or a neighbourhood you don’t know, maybe think twice about it, but it is a surefire way to cool down, and it won’t cost you any money at all.

Air conditioning or fans

You simply do NOT want to run your air conditioner overnight. It is totally impractical. Your air conditioner will burn into your fuel source which will cost you a fortune in petrol – particularly if you’re sleeping in your car long term.

Air conditioning

We are not going to recommend air conditioners to you, because not only is it too easy, but it is expensive and energy-sapping. However, we should mention the old trick of evaporative cooling, which is a fancy way of saying “put a damp towel over the air vent or fan”. If you don’t want to run the air conditioner at its lowest temperature because it uses more energy, you can simply put a damp towel over the vent which causes cooler air due to the energy transfer (we won’t bore you with the details).


Most fans are battery-powered or chargeable, small, portable and completely efficient. They are also cheap and easy to replace if they bite the bullet (which is pretty unlikely). There are so many to choose from, but you should definitely consider a small fan or mini fan from TheMarket, which can be placed around the interior of your car. Many are also compatible with USB ports for charging. The environmentally and sustainability-conscious can even grab a solar-powered fan and use the sun’s own power against it!


Sleeping in your car might be short term, but if you plan to spend a little longer doing so, it won’t hurt to invest in features which can make it more comfortable and easy to sleep in, particularly on those stinking hot summer nights.


Sunshades service a number of functions, but the most important is cooling down your vehicle. By blocking the sun that bores down on your windshield throughout the day, you can keep the interior much cooler. It also has the added advantage of supplying you with privacy and blocking the light while you sleep.

Dash Mats

Dash mats provide a layer of UV protection between your windshield and the dash. You would be shocked to learn how much your dashboard can heat up your car, and by covering that up can stop the heat from spreading throughout the interior over time. If you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for you can check out which car dash mat is right for you.

Cooling seat covers

When summer comes around, one of the worst parts is getting into a hot car and burning your bare skin (legs, back or hands, usually) on the piping hot accessories, from the steering wheel to the dash and, of course, the seat cover.


Cooling seat covers are great as they are made from material that is breathable (sometimes incorporating mesh) and often have small fans which spread air across the seat and cool it down.There are plenty of seat covers to choose from, so don’t get overwhelmed and pick from this list of the best car seat covers for hot weather.

Tint your windows

Window tinting also has the added benefit of producing privacy. There’s nothing creepier than sleeping in your car and feeling like people are watching you. It is a vulnerable position to be in, and not one that is overly appealing. While this is a relatively pricey undertaking, it is something that will make a huge difference to the temperature of your car.

Sunroof or ceiling fan

In science class we learned that hot air rises, and this can cause an issue in a hot car. So, why not incorporate a ceiling fan or a sunroof? Of course, this is a major overhaul but if you are going to make driving around and sleeping in your vehicle a lifestyle, it could be a good idea to fit it out with features that cool it down with minimal effort, energy and money.

Blankets and bedding

Most bedding is designed to insulate and keep warm, so if you’re going to be spending a bit of time sleeping in the car, it might be a good idea to grab some bedding and sheets that breathe. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, try aiming for sheets and blankets with a thread count between 400 and 600 (or higher) which feel smoother to the touch, and are generally lighter and less insulating.

Take Your Bedroom Outside

When it gets a little too hot in your car, it might be best to be prepared to sleep outside. Our bodies are natural heaters, and if it’s an incredibly hot night and you’re trying to sleep in an enclosed space, sometimes it makes more sense to give sleeping outside a go.


It is a good idea to keep a tent handy. Tents are made of more breathable material than steel and plastic, and usually have built-in flaps and mosquito nets to keep the critters out and the air flowing.

Swags and Hammocks

Tents can take up a bit of room in the car, and if that’s a factor for you, swags or hammocks might be a better option. They do the same thing, but take up less space and are less hassle to put up. In the case of hammocks, must attach between two points (usually trees), while swags can be rolled out and propped up by some easy-to-use mechanisms onwards the head end. There are plenty of swags which are designed to maximise air flow and keep you cool out on the road. They are relatively cheap and can last you years if you look after them.