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Car Camping: Top Things to Consider When Building Your Platform Bed

You have decided to go on a road trip, and you want to build a platform bed in the back of your car. Do you know where to begin? One thing I can tell you is to not start with building the platform bed first. There are other things you need to consider before the build.

The problem, though, is that if you don’t build the bed first, you may end up maneuvering your stuff like a really frustrating jigsaw puzzle. Where to place everything and how to get it all in and out of the car must be at the forefront of your build. The worst thing you can do is create the perfect platform bed and then realize you can’t fit all your stuff inside. However, there are things you can do to ensure that you have a good system in place to live happily out of your car. You can also read our Essential Guide to Car Camping: 8 Things to Consider to give you some ideas of what life is like on the road as it will help with your planning.

The design of our platform bed was based on our 2002 Honda CR-V. If you have a different car, don’t worry – the concepts are the same, but you may have more or less room to work. Fortunately, after reading this blog post, you should get a better sense of how to design it before you build it.

Table of contents

1. Back Seats or No Back Seats?

2. How We Designed Our Platform Bed

3. Car Organization: Planning the Platform Bed Footprint

**This post contains affiliate links and On the Move with Liza and Stephen will be compensated if you purchase after clicking on our links, with no cost to you.


Going on a long road trip was one of the first things we did once we retired. We traveled to 15 states over 6 months living out of our converted 2002 Honda CRV. This series was created to help you with the lessons we learned on our journey including how we created our platform bed inside our car. We hope this will help you where ever the road takes you.


Car Camping: Top Things to Consider When Building Your Platform Bed

What to do before getting started with building your platform bed.

Essential Guide to Car Camping: 8 Things to Consider

Overview of car camping.

A Beginners Guide to Car Camping Cooking: 4 Things to Consider When Cooking Outside

Cooking outside is fun, but it can also be difficult. Here are some things to consider when car camping.

A Beginners Guide to Getting a Good Nights Sleep While Car Camping

Getting a good nights sleep is essential to car camping. Here are ways to ensure you sleep better.

How to Save Money on a Road Trip

Money saving tips while on the road.


Car camped in the desert

Back Seats or No Back Seats?

One of the biggest decisions is to decide if you will take out the back seats of your car. We knew from the start that we would take our seats out. For us, since we are two people and we were going to live out of our car for at least five continuous months, it didn’t make sense to keep them in. You don’t have to remove them, but that means you will have less room to store your belongings, which is okay if you plan for it.

The other possibility, if you are only one person, is to take out the larger rear seat and leave the smaller one in (our car has that 60/40 split, like most). Fold the smaller rear seat like you normally would and you can put your stuff around it. The bigger seat that you remove will become the place where you build your platform bed. Maybe you even remove the passenger front seat and just have the driver’s seat and the rear passenger seat.

By the way, it was super easy to take out both seats. I think there were a total of eight bolts. YouTube it first as the bolts are spring loaded and you need to be prepared for it.

Another reason we took out our back seats was to bolt the platform bed directly into the car using the rear seat's existing holes. We knew it needed to be able to handle the open road for thousands of miles and we wanted to have the platform bed bolted into the frame of the car for safety. We also wanted it to last the distance from California and back to NY. Spoiler alert: We drove 12,000 miles over five months and loved sleeping in our car and living out of our car.

With that decision out of the way, here are more things to consider when planning your platform bed.

How We Designed Our Platform Bed

Our platform bed design was broken down into three sections: front, middle, and back (boot). We used piano hinges bought at Home Depot to separate the three sections to make it easy to access our storage containers from the front and the back as well as take advantage of the full length of our car.

Drive Mode

When in drive mode, the front section is folded completely over onto the middle section. Because we need to adjust our front seats back and forth, you need to make sure that the middle section doesn’t get in the way of allowing your front seats to go back.

Building platform in car

Sleep Mode

When in sleep mode, the design requires us to push our front seats all the way up with the seats leaning forward, so we can’t drive this way. We unfold the front section of the platform bed and attach the legs by pushing large bolts, used as pins, to take the legs on and off every time. Of course, this means that we must set up our bed every night to use the total length of the car. For more information on how to get a good night’s sleep, check out our post: A Beginners Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep While Car Camping.

The middle section was bolted into place using the bolts where the rear car seats were located. For this section, we used four legs to hold the bulk of our weight and to balance the platform.

The back section of the car also has a piano hinge that is lifted to gain access to our things from the back. Our car has a back door that swings open from left to right, so we needed to position our legs not to interfere with the opening and closing of our back door. Most cars these days have back doors that lift from bottom to top, so this may not be an issue for you.

Once you know the dimensions of your car, you can start planning the footprint of where everything will be placed. I would suggest that you sketch out the car, keeping in mind that you will have legs on your platform bed that could get in the way.

Car Organization: Planning the Platform Bed Footprint