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Living in my Converted Box Truck

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This box truck conversion story is a guest submission.

Hello, My name is Bill Cogar II and I live in Sutton, West Virginia, USA.

I am a Boilermaker by trade and I have to travel for my work. Most of my work comes as an emergency outage when a power plant suddenly comes off line due to a break down of the steam generating boiler.

Those types of outages can last as little as one day or turn into several days or weeks. Lodging on short notice can be difficult to obtain and with the uncertainty of the job length, one never really knows how long they are going to need a bed and a place to shower.

Some I’ve worked with, move in and out of a room every day until the job is done. I’ve kept track of the cost of the build and by using what some of my co-workers pay for lodging, I estimate this vehicle has paid me back over three times now, not to mention the convenience of having it on “ready stand-by” when a job comes along.

I keep track of the number of days away from home and right now I’m at about 600 nights of habitation in my truck. My cost of living this way usually runs around 5-10% of my take home pay on a given job. Boilermakers rarely get a per-diem so your lodging, food and travel come right off the top of your take-home. I try and keep as much as possible.

What you will see in the following pictures is what I built to live in to make these outages a lot more bearable.

Living in my Converted Box Truck

Living in my Box Truck by Bill Cogar II via TinyHouseTalk-com 001

It’s a 2005 ex-Penske truck. I didn’t change the outside appearance so it would attract attention

Living in my Box Truck by Bill Cogar II via TinyHouseTalk-com 002

Built a deer/bumper guard to keep the deer off me.

Beginning the build…

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Below is the “equipment room” in the rear which includes cameras for surveillance, water storage, electrical/power systems, generator, deep cycle battery compartment, and storage.

Living in my Box Truck by Bill Cogar II via TinyHouseTalk-com 006

Here is the finished interior. The bed can be  made bigger to sleep two comfortably.

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This is a remodeled TV/DVD/Satellite shelf.

Living in my Box Truck by Bill Cogar II via TinyHouseTalk-com 009b

Below is an overhead console I built to make the cab less cluttered.

Living in my Box Truck by Bill Cogar II via TinyHouseTalk-com 0010

On longer jobs where I setup the truck in a campground, etc. I bring another vehicle to run back and forth to my work or home.

Living in my Box Truck by Bill Cogar II via TinyHouseTalk-com 0011

Here is the list of amenities I have incorporated into my truck,

It has: Direct TV satellite TV with a roof mounted Winegard satellite dish

Flat screen TV w/DVD

32″ shower stall

10,000 btu. propane wall mount heater (for heat when I’m “off the grid”)

1800/3600 watt Xantrex inverter/charger to make 110 VAC from a battery bank and charge the batteries when I am hooked up to line power.

Honda generator, 3000 watt

NOCO brand battery isolator to charge my inverter batteries while driving

13,500 btu roof mount A/C

6 gal., 110 VAC water heater

60 gal. fresh water storage

23 gal. aux. fuel tank for generator

Smoke & CO alarm



4 camera surveillance system for looking around outside while in the truck.

Walls and ceiling are insulated as a house would be, it is very easy to heat and cool.

Also I have a small induction cooktop a crock pot and toaster but mostly use a microwave to cook with. The bed has two sections of mattress, I use the widest section when I’m by myself and a smaller section is added when my wife, Octavia, is staying with me, that section stays at home when not being used. The living area is roughly 8′ x 12′ and the “equipment room” is the 3′ just inside the rear door. The ceiling closer to the rear of the living area drops down to accommodate the roll-up door when it’s open.

It is a “work in progress”, I am always coming up with ideas to make it better and more user friendly.

Although my truck was built for the purpose of working away from home it has worked well for camping with my wife.

Hope you find this interesting, Best Regards,

Bill Cogar II

Our big thanks to Bill for sharing with us!

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Comet
    June 3, 2016, 12:20 am

    That is great! Inspiring to some one thinking of building/modding for carrying around a large motorcycle. And towing a mini van! (Too funny–I just bought a mini van to tow the bike when we have to go that route!)

  • kevin
    June 3, 2016, 1:24 pm

    fantastic use of your space. I understand not wanting to put windows on for drawing unwanted attention, I personally would have added a skylight though.
    great job though.

  • Alexander
    June 3, 2016, 2:31 pm

    Nice job. I have a Utilimaster Box truck I am currently using as a toy hauler, but with the recent purchase of an aluminum 7×15 double axle trailer to haul motorcycles and ATVs I am looking again at modifying the truck similar to what you have accomplished. In mine I will leave room at the back for a dual-sport bike in case I don’t want to tow more than one vehicle.

    I agree, no windows to alert anyone to whats inside. But a skylight would be a great addition.

  • Sandii
    June 3, 2016, 3:06 pm

    I agree about needing some natural light inside. Is there a toilet in what appears to be the shower? I know some people are shy about showing… I love it and also the idea of being able to haul along another vehicle, bike, whatever. Thanks for sharing it with us, Bill and Alex, and thanks so much for the newsletter. I am sending this along to my son whose father’s cousin was a boilermaker and who has an interest (through his mother) in small and tiny houses. If I were 10 years younger he would be building one (or more) for us!

  • Marsha Cowan
    June 3, 2016, 3:59 pm

    I love it, and it’s perfect for your needs. The interior is pretty and very well organized. Great job! I have lived in my tiny bus now for two years without any type of bathroom, just using available facilities, and have not missed it. It’s funny what we can do without. Take care and good luck with all you do!

  • Martha
    June 3, 2016, 4:06 pm

    As I see it there shouldn’t be any negative comments, or criticism since you designed and built this truck specifically for what you need and it works perfect. It’s not like you’re going to manufacture for others. It’s a form of sharing what you have done and I think it’s very ingenious and useful. Best to you.

  • Canyon Man
    June 3, 2016, 4:09 pm

    Building for your needs, very smart. I like they way it all came together. Better than most motel rooms you find in industrial areas.

  • Gale
    June 3, 2016, 6:16 pm

    Great job…everything you need and what a moneysaver. It’s very nice inside as well. A skylight would be nice but I totally understand your reasoning of not cutting into the body. Commendable!

  • June 3, 2016, 6:47 pm

    I join you in your determination of what space people actually use. We require four areas – food prep/cooking area, eating table, working desk, and bed. Any more is surplus. And by towing your car, you can go into town without disconnecting. Congratulations on building the perfect abode – I’m so impressed!

    • george kowal
      March 8, 2019, 9:16 pm

      Correct !! 24/7 fitness clubs provide access to shower. In addition to 4 cameras (1 dash, 3 belly mounted) my stealth
      box truck has motion sensors to detect movement around the truck (we all have to sleep) and emergency strobe mounted
      to the belly. Occupant can activate the strobe to frighten snoops or vandals. I wanted covert ventilation system (no roof fan) so floor mounted ducts and variable speed fans (intake, exhaust) provide fresh air when the AC isn’t used.

      • Rutabaga Paddlesports Long, J
        November 5, 2021, 4:01 pm

        I like that idea using venting underneath the box to stay covert. I saw another truck with a louvered door that covers the window in the side for light/ventilation and it didn’t look too different than a stealth “work truck”. Are your construction skills pretty good? Looks like it. I am just wondering how long it might take if I did it being a layman with a circular saw and a tape measure etc. How long did the first generation take you? Thanks for sharing and good work. Jon L.

  • Rue
    June 3, 2016, 9:59 pm

    I’d rather stay in this than in most motel rooms any day. Great craftsmanship, well thought out, and has most everything a person could need.

  • Ja
    June 4, 2016, 12:15 am

    The back room entrance is stealth and great for keeping the machines separate. It looks very comfortable and cozy, a great way to save money during a job.

  • Marta Santiago
    June 4, 2016, 2:47 pm

    Great job and well thought out. I understand about the skylight but it is worth it. Maybe some solar panels. It does get expensive staying in motels and eating out. Thank you for sharing.

  • June 4, 2016, 2:50 pm

    You did a great job!!. Very practical for your purposes and a convenient safe place to live. I understand why you did not add windows, etcetera but for most people it would be very very claustrophobic. I wonder if a skylight would work. namaste, rachel

  • Bill Cogar
    June 5, 2016, 1:27 pm

    Yes, there is a shower but no built in toilet. I use facilities as they present themselves, large fabric softner bottles and a camp potty that uses double seal plastic bags with powdered chemical. I make due very well.

    • Gaybreal
      September 30, 2017, 9:46 am

      Hi Bill! Can you please tell me the size of your truck? is it a 20ft?

    • walter boruta
      June 4, 2021, 5:09 am

      Very nice. What did this all cost you?

  • Omaam
    June 5, 2016, 8:02 pm

    I most certainly did find this interesting. It is what I’m interested in. Well done. You ain’t playing!

  • Casey
    June 6, 2016, 7:23 pm

    Nicest box truck build I’ve seen. How hard would it be to fix the roll up door if it wore out or broke? Since the track is enclosed in ceiling.

    • Casey
      June 6, 2016, 7:25 pm

      forgot my other question. Did it have a fiberglass or solid ceiling?

  • Kurt
    June 9, 2016, 1:57 pm

    Hands down, the best box truck customization I’ve ever seen. Outstanding job, Bill!

    • Kurt
      June 9, 2016, 2:02 pm

      Would love to see a video tour of this thing.

  • Steven
    January 2, 2017, 7:24 pm

    I’m currently developing some plans to do something similar in a van. Can you tell me the height that you lose when the door is open? (how much lower is the roof where the roll-up door opens as opposed to the full height of the other half of the room).
    Or what are the two height levels of your interior basically.

    I’m trying to develop my plan around a rough ceiling height idea, but your truck looks similar to what I will be looking for when purchase time comes.

    Thanks in advance for your reply!

  • June 17, 2017, 11:01 pm

    WOW! I love it and want some more of it!
    I came across this project on youtube and would watch it quite often and tell others about it as well and then all of a sudden it was gone. So happy to have found this story and pictures to boot!
    If there are any plans available for purchase, I’m betting they’d sell like hotcakes. I’d be interested in learning the interior box length, height and width. If it’s already been disclosed, please forgive my missing it.
    To me, the craftsmanship and attention to detail demonstrates not only some wonderful skills put passion and a sense of purpose.
    The customization of what appears to be a fiberglass piece for storing the electronics on the passenger side looks like a professionally designed piece. I love the stealth aspects albeit the Satellite Disk might be a bit of a giveaway but who cares….this setup is fantastic!
    As for the suggestion of a skylight or even a fantastic fan, frankly, I’d not want to cut into the roof either and if I were to want to put something up there, it’d probably be some solar panels that wouldn’t require any cutting or poking holes into the roof but would rather attach to the sides and back in some form or fashion so as to try and avoid the risk of water penetration and damage should sealants, etc. break down before being discovered. Thanks for sharing! I’m a HUGE fan!

  • Dr. Ronald Tuman
    November 22, 2019, 8:55 am

    Fantastic build, a lot of innovative ideas.

  • Kurt
    June 22, 2020, 6:08 pm

    I love this idea. For those who are commenting about no windows, well, windows create their own set of problems. The only concern that I have on the inside is the location of the heater. It looks like the cushion for the dinette is too close to the heater.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 23, 2020, 6:15 am

      Definitely something to be wary of!

  • Jamie Capurso
    October 27, 2020, 8:55 pm

    I did a very similar box truck build except I put my queen bed above the cab and a skylight for ventilation and light with an inline fan in the floor. Surprised not more people go this way, unless you plan to travel all the time its the better platform in every way. The extra room makes it a liveable space for a house cat like myself and being able to fit 2kw of solar on the roof helps my indoor life a lot also 🙂

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