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He Built a Tiny House on his Prius…

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Landscaper James Lawler converted the back of his Toyota Prius into one of the tiniest of mobile homes of all time for one. And it’s a hybrid, too! He built it using scraps he scavenged and reclaimed himself. All in all, the tiny home cost Lawler about $150 and took him one week to build.

Complete with a tin roof, chimney, and stained-glass window, the DIY hybrid “motorhome” was used as Lawler’s sleeping quarters for the Meredith Music Festival in Victoria. While others were forced to “rough it” outside in tents, Lawler enjoyed his home on wheels saying, “it’s quite well insulated in there and more comfortable than a tent.”

Although Lawler did get fined by local police, he stands by the fact that the tiny mobile home is roadworthy and safe. His creation is due to come down at some point, however, Lawler has a new plan for a caravan that is a bit more watertight. And we can’t wait to see it!

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Man Builds DIY Prius Tiny House

He Built a Tiny House on his Prius...

Images © Mitch Bear/Herald Sun

He Built a Tiny House on his Prius...

Images © Mitch Bear/Herald Sun

Learn more: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/prius-becomes-a-mobile-home-as-tent-takes-a-back-seat/story-fni0fit3-1227166686688


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Sabrena is a writer and blogger from Los Angeles, California and Tiny House Talk is excited to have her as part of the team to help us share more inspiring tiny homes and simple living stories with you.
{ 65 comments… add one }
  • N Hagen
    March 10, 2015, 3:18 pm

    A MN Man created a tent for use in the Prius 2-3 years ago. It is great & waterproof. Just look up Prius tent on your search engine. About $100, pack able & no tickets! Have used mine numerous time to camp out.

  • Liz
    March 10, 2015, 3:19 pm

    Not a house but he did drop the value of his car AND he was fined. Stellar!!

    • Bacioni
      March 10, 2015, 3:49 pm

      Creativity and innovation in play. This isnt my taste that’s for sure but I will say at least this guy is willing to make his own rules and is doin it. More than most people are doing. Nice work kid.

      March 10, 2015, 6:21 pm

      I was wondering about this! It is an eye sore not better than some of the shanties in under-developed countries. How could you take a nice car like this and turn it into such a scarp house? It is not safe, it is not aerodynamic, there couldn’t be much room in there, definitely no bathroom and the back door is screwed shut with a 2×4? I would not listed this as a tiny home. It is more of a makeshift place to sleep for someone that has a car and might be homeless.

      • Ken Guenther
        March 11, 2015, 11:44 am


      • Anita
        January 12, 2016, 10:24 am

        It was not built to live in but as temporary shelter. Also first attempt. He recycled material. And as far as safety, he built it around the lugage rack and tied it down. No safety issues. Observe, read, and pay attention before you speak out of stupidity.

        • Hummelator
          June 7, 2016, 6:45 pm

          Ah what an interesting post and comment feed!
          Many are quick to condem the people that are saying that this is a terrible idea.
          I think it’s an awful idea. Not because of what he built but rather because of what he built it on. A Prius has a payload capacity of about 900 pounds when evenly distributed in the vehicle. I’m willing to bet he’s pretty close to that number. But, He built this thing on the back of a front wheel drive vehicle. The rear suspension looks like it’s overloaded, and at this point the concern is braking. Can the vehicle brake properly will that the extra weight in the back ( keep in mind the majority of the braking power is in the front wheels)
          Next is how it is fastened to the vehicle. Strapped to the roof- this vehicle wasn’t designed strap something this big to the roof.
          -“But it’s built around the roof rack” . Yup. Check out the specs of the roof rack. Rated for a couple hundred pounds at best. So what happens when this guys vehicle is T-boned? Is it going to stay secured to the vehicle? Maybe. Or maybe it will rip off and collide with another vehicle.

          If this guy built it and didn’t plan to drive it on public roadways then I take back everything I say and I have no problem with this. If you purchase something who am I to judge your for what you do with it.
          But if he plans to drive it on public road ways he is a clown. God help him should anyone be injured by this contraption and with the way Americans like to sue each other, he’ll have no choice but to live in his car.

      • Tara
        June 11, 2019, 9:54 am

        As someone who has been temporarily homeless before, I think it’s a great idea. People don’t understand the panic and stress of not knowing where you’ll sleep at night, where your next meal will come from or how you will shower. If you have a car, it becomes your home. Even if you get back on your feet that paranioa never leaves you. This is a tiny house conversation because for many, Tiny House, is not an option. It’s not a luxury. It’s everything they own, and every penny they had to spare and every drop of free time they could produce.

      • Ben
        December 3, 2019, 5:29 pm

        Gabriele Napier
        Living in a Prius movement is nothing new. Camping in them with or without the snap on tent is as old as the Prius itself. The hybrid will turn on automatically at set A/C desired temperatures to recharge batteries, – I think the Prius is an awesome camper, I believe the most efficient campers ever built> two ppl over 6 feet can sleep in one.
        It’s not a scarp house, it’s an ingenious addition, with 2 to 3 times the living space provided within the confines of the Prius body, made from SCRAP materials, as noted in the article.
        It would help if you pulled your head out of your BUTTOCKS to see the light that isn’t shining through you sphincter to see the beauty in his work of art of such a memorable creation.
        JUST SAYING 😊

      • October 16, 2023, 11:00 am

        I think it’s great Gabriele. I see it as eye catching, which is a positive remark giving respect to the person who conjured up this idea. You on the other hand are on the negative side of freedom of expression. You are a conformist. You drank the cool-aid on proper, standardized, ways of living. So sad.

    • Cahow
      March 11, 2015, 7:03 pm

      Congratulations, Alex!!! Once again, you’ve found a subject matter that utterly polarizes people, placing them firmly in One Camp or the Other! Genius, Alex, Genius!

      It’s quite fun reading the kerfuffle going on in the comments on both sides of the opinions. They read especially well with a Black & Tan in hand. 😉

      • Athena
        March 29, 2015, 9:00 pm

        Thumbs-up for the Black & Tan comment!
        I’ve noticed that the biggest whiners tend to be
        the ones who wouldn’t have the cajones to downsize/step outside their comfort zone, anyway…lol.

      • Cahow
        March 30, 2015, 6:10 pm

        Athena: your comment brought a BIG smile to my face! And I concur about the “whiners” and your description of them.

        Cheers, Mate!

    • BobbyJ
      January 14, 2016, 6:20 pm

      Such negativity from some people. Boring people please stay in your “normal” homes with your “normal” lifestyles and your “normal” jobs with your “normal” goals. Don’t push those down who are simply having fun and expressing themselves and doing so without harming those around them.

  • Bonnie Merchant
    March 10, 2015, 3:49 pm

    The world needs more fabulous lunatics like this! Take a chance…have some fun…learn something.

    • Eva
      March 10, 2015, 5:07 pm

      I agree! Put a smile on my face just looking at it. Wonderful!

      • Jean
        March 10, 2015, 11:55 pm

        I love creative freedom and this is a great example of that intellect and mind set.
        We need more innovative solutions to our affordable housing problems.
        Gets a Thumb-us from me….and I am in my 60’s. 🙂

        • Jean
          March 11, 2015, 12:00 am

          Correction to my last line…
          “Gets a Thumbs Up from me….” :-D)

    • Martininsocal
      March 11, 2015, 3:01 pm

      Uh, are you still willing to make that statement when this thing loses its brakes and crashes into your wife and kids?

      • rob
        March 15, 2015, 9:03 pm

        You are more likely to crash into your own righteousness

        • Stan
          January 29, 2016, 8:23 pm

          Sorry pal, YOU just flashed the “self-righteous” card.

          His wisdom trumps your stupid.

  • Greg Burns
    March 10, 2015, 4:31 pm

    Um, can we say: “Outhouse-On-Wheels”? YIKES! I have seen photos of a “professionally-designed” camper shell for the “Prius”, and, although it looked rather “bulky”, it was much more streamlined/aerodynamic and somewhat, um, “prettier”. Probably can find pictures of it on “Google” or “Bing”. Not sure IF it’s (yet) for sale or the co$t involved…

    • Gabriele Napier
      March 10, 2015, 6:23 pm

      Ha Ha! Totally agree with you. We must be on the same wave length! I didn’t see you comment until after I left mine.

  • Chelle
    March 10, 2015, 4:38 pm

    I didn’t know what to expect when I clicked this link. LOL

    Love it! He took what he had and made it work. THAT is happiness!

    Thanks for sharing it!

    • Alex
      January 7, 2019, 8:29 am

      A few years later, but I still love this quote, “He took what he had and made it work. THAT is happiness!”

      Thanks, Chelle!

  • Leo
    March 10, 2015, 5:40 pm

    Sad that many of you want to hate on this guys work/life. There are hundreds of millionaires that laugh at us middle class that we live in a 1500 sq ft house, which is probably the size of many of their bedrooms. Yes, it’s rough, but I bet he doesn’t have many bills and his ties to government utilities are minimized as well. If I was single, I’d surely do this for a while to sock some cash away, maybe in a van but that’s me.

    • Amy
      March 10, 2015, 11:22 pm

      I agree Leo!! So many haters. It’s sad that people can’t appreciate unique creations

  • Lisa E.
    March 10, 2015, 6:03 pm

    Why is it boarded up? Was he forced to not use it by the police? He might have been able to go forward with it if it didn’t look so disreputable.

  • Rich
    March 10, 2015, 6:30 pm

    Some police have no humor 🙁

  • Joyce
    March 10, 2015, 6:58 pm

    It may look like a poor shack but it is functional. Homeless would love this. As for the comment “unroadworthy”, I disagree. Perhaps the cops felt it should have been tagged as an RV and was not. I owned a Prius and it remained ‘roadworthy’ for 13 years:-)

  • Ryan
    March 10, 2015, 7:19 pm

    Fined for what? I’ve seen professional tiny homes on trailers that look way less roadworthy than this.

    • Morbious
      March 12, 2015, 7:13 am

      Did they have straps holding them on the vehicle or trailer like this one does?

  • Susanne
    March 10, 2015, 11:47 pm

    Cute, no, practical for him, yes! Would society prefer that people are living on the street rather than in Tiny Houses? Or using assistance, from the Tax Payers? This is what I can’t comprehend is the negativity towards Tiny Houses…. It just doesn’t make any sense. Few years ago in Nashville there was a “Tent City” for homeless people-is this better? One out of thirty children homeless now…in the U.S.! Why aren’t Tiny Houses being embraced by all?!?!

  • Dawn
    March 11, 2015, 12:40 am

    im shocked at some of the rude comments here. It’s not for me but, obviously he had a good time with it. It was FUN. Some people need to stop keeping up with the Jones’, put down the Starbucks triple snark frappioto, and live a little.
    I think he would have had a lot more space if he just used it as a tow along but, that’s just one opinion. I also wish I could drop everything and go away to a music festival. Party on buddy! You make me smile.

    And for those who asked; what he was driving, wasn’t what was described on the vehicle registration. Hence the ticket. But it might have been worth it……..ah youth!

    • Kimberly
      March 11, 2015, 9:03 am

      I absolutely agree, Dawn. Creativity is smothered when people cruelly judge. This is a wonderful story about how he made life adapt to him…..more power to him! I wish I had half his innovation and motivation!

    • Morbious
      March 12, 2015, 7:12 am

      When it falls of the back of the car and you run into it, will it still look like a great idea? If he wants to build an unstable shanty on his remote property, fine. If he wants to drive it on a public street, not fine.

  • Mark
    March 11, 2015, 8:11 am

    Looking at the pix, the dude’s relaxed and contented face said it all. His demeanor stood out for me even more than the fastest shack on the track. Better to have architecture serve us than vice versa.

  • Casey
    March 11, 2015, 8:22 am

    That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen!!! I don’t know if anyone has ever driven an overloaded truck, but this thing has to be pretty overloaded–unless it’s made from styrofoam.

  • Eric Williams
    March 11, 2015, 10:19 am

    Looks too heavy for a Prius to carry. I applaud his creativity though. We weirdoes have to stand together for our individuality.

  • Kay
    March 11, 2015, 12:01 pm

    I have to applaud his ingenuity. And if he can get a start with this, fine! Better than having a huge mortgage.

  • pammy
    March 11, 2015, 1:21 pm

    Seems some people that left negative comments prefer a homogenized way of life. Everything all new, shiny, and BORING! I love the look and idea of this man’s creation. I’m sure the haters couldn’t actually create something themselves because they are too busy sitting on their arses watching TV

    • Gabriele Napier
      March 11, 2015, 7:42 pm

      You are wrong about us “haters”! I applaud his idea, but he should not have put all that scrap on such a nice car. Had he spent maybe $300 instead of just $100, it might have looked like something. You can get nicer used material at Habitat for Humanity Restores, one of my favorite places to shop when I get into the city. And no, I don’t just sit in front of TV all day. I love woodworking and am creating things by using scrap lumber and old barn wood to make the necessities we need in our house and as gifts for friends. You can find my creations on Pinterest. And yes, I do love to create things out of real old worn barn wood but I don’t ruin a perfectly good car by doing so.

  • Cahow
    March 11, 2015, 2:13 pm

    ” All in all, the tiny home cost Lawler about $150 and took him one week to build.”


  • ajran
    March 11, 2015, 8:33 pm

    I’ve got a beautiful tiny on wheels and I’m not digging this. Why not just sleep inside the car? Cheaper, safer, and the vehicle remains nice.

    • Gabriele Napier
      March 11, 2015, 9:13 pm

      I agree with you on this 100%! There is no room besides a bed in the top. There is no bath, no kitchen. He is totally dependent on others for his necessities. He could have done better by just throwing a foam mattress in the back and sleep on it. Or, he could have traded this car to a van or a bus and converted it in a tiny home. Would have been a lot more practical, comfortable and roomy and safer.

  • Stephanie
    March 11, 2015, 11:16 pm

    I’d be surprised if any insurance company would insure that car.

  • Lynn
    March 12, 2015, 4:55 am

    Critics: His car, his wood, his hammer, his nails. He didn’t build it for YOU.

  • Morbious
    March 12, 2015, 7:08 am

    Completely ridiculous. Idiots like this give the tiny house movement a bad name. It’s about to fall off and the frame is going to give way. Not to mention the brakes, suspension and motor. Unsafe at any speed. He should just have bought a tent.

  • Christine
    April 23, 2015, 9:29 am

    I’m saddened by the negative comments! Come on people the tiny house movement and concept is so much more than your limited scope!
    I know after traveling around Australia in my tiny house camper for two years he is a changed individual having pursued his dreams!

  • Christine
    April 23, 2015, 9:31 am

    Love the mail box !

  • Linda
    June 7, 2015, 3:35 pm

    All the more power to you James! I love the “engine-new-ity” (wordplay on ingenuity). Takes limitless imagination, guts and smarts to come up with this gem of a rolling camper~~ enjoy!

  • kuh
    June 7, 2015, 9:32 pm

    Agree with christine and lynn

  • joe
    July 10, 2015, 7:16 am

    Athena March 29, 2015, 9:00 pm
    “… I’ve noticed that the biggest whiners tend to be
    the ones who wouldn’t have the cajones to downsize/step outside their comfort zone, anyway…lol.”

    doesn’t take balls to be stupid

    • Sherri
      August 2, 2015, 6:53 am

      I’m sure he didn’t build it for YOUR approval. Its his car to do with as he pleases, just like you do yours. Such hateful judgement. I applaude his ability to scavange and create for minimum cash out flow. Not eveyone is obsessed with spending money to impress others. Get over yourselves. He looks to be trying to challenge bimself with how creative and frugal he could be with his idea. It has nothing to do with YOUR materialistic adictions.

  • Janet
    September 27, 2015, 9:32 am

    I think it’s brilliant. Sure it isn’t the prettiest thing but wow, it makes the mind picture possibilities and I say Kudos!!! The fact that he spent $150 and a week to build it suggests that it was an experiment versus a serious long term living solution. It would be interesting to see where and how he evolves from here. For those of us that are kinda annoyed at all the negative comments in here… We need to keep in mind that some great innovators in the past faced some pretty harsh critics. (Wright brothers, Edison, Ben Franklin, and on and on..) At least they could hide from the public and focus on their dream without having negative dialogue shoved in their face all the time as we do on the internet. (Where our “inner filters” are broken and we hide behind our screens) I would like to tip my hat to this young man… Keep on dreaming, creating and don’t let the negative comments hold you back!

  • Ron
    January 22, 2016, 11:08 pm

    I used to travel all over the United States of America, while working industrial construction jobs on Power Houses, International Airports, Refineries, Chemical Plants, Paper Mills, GM Fairfax Facility, Boeing… You name it. I traveled through 40 of the 50 States. I did that while living in a homemade camper, on the back of a brand new 1987 Ford Ranger XLT with all the bells and whistles. At the time, the Ford Ranger was a new concept. No campers were in existence to fit the new size truck bed. My camper was made of sawmill red oak that I cut and seasoned myself. The roof was made of tin. While other men were struggling to make ends meet, living in rundown, noisy, hotels, I was enjoying life, camping in off season ski resorts up in the nearby mountains.

    Some of my best memories!

    I salute you!

  • Ron
    January 22, 2016, 11:19 pm

    A friend of mine drives a team of horses from Missouri, to Texas, and back, twice per year, while living in his homemade wagon called, “Roy’s Stage Line”. It has solar power, a nice bed to sleep in, a chicken coop for eggs, a propane refrigerator, a cook stove, Internet, all the amenities. I guarantee he’s a happier man than any of the haters on this site. You people are so bound by society, you’ll never learn to “really live.”

    Very sad when you stop to think about it…

  • Kelly
    July 4, 2017, 7:24 pm

    Wow this is cool. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world but I’m sure the person who decides to follow in his footsteps can create something more aerodynamic and more appealing. Everything starts with an idea. The fact that he took a hybrid car and turned it into something more was awesome. A bunch of people are giving him crap for it but it’s cool. You got a car and a bedroom. If he’s someone who likes to be on the road now he doesn’t have to worry about hotels he has a bed and walmart wont care if you stop in at 4am for a bathroom break. So in our world today this is functional with the right life style and is cool. ♡

  • Robert Neilson
    October 17, 2017, 7:42 am

    It’s a bit of a dodgy (Google it if you don’t know what it means) job but 10/10 to the guy for having a go.

  • Karen Blackburn
    January 7, 2019, 7:39 am

    Read the article. He did it for a music festival, to avoid having to sleep in a tent on the ground for the DURATION of the MUSIC FESTIVAL, not as a permanent residence. It also states that it was comfortable and water tight, 2 things music festival tents aren’t known for, and that he is removing it from the vehicle. Give the man some credit for ingenuity. He had a need (music festival), didn’t want the usual problems (tent, hard ground, leaks if rains, gear inside gets wet/robbed/damaged), finds a solution (TH on Prius), uses successfully (good festival, comfortable sleep, stayed dry), is going to remove from vehicle. Much as I really enjoyed the comments and some certainly cheered up the morning I sometimes wonder if everybody is reading the same newsletter because the responses go way overboard with negative comments on what was a simple, ingenious and cheap solution to the age old dilemma of”what to take for a weekend of rough camping that will leave me safe, comfortable and dry”. Not my cup of tea but fair play and full marks for his solution to the problem.

    • Alex
      January 7, 2019, 8:23 am

      Thanks, Karen, I appreciate this!

  • cp
    April 6, 2019, 9:40 am

    Bravo! Two Thumbs UP! It is innovators like this man who break the glass ceiling and give us something new and amazing to think about.
    I’m sure he enjoyed the Meredith Music Festival in Victoria much more knowing he was not sleeping on the ground but in a safe dry environment.

  • Tana
    July 7, 2019, 9:24 pm

    Very creative & Thanks for posting. I would also like to say that if someone doesnt have anything POSITIVE to say, please say nothing & leave NEGATIVE comments out. Social media is the worst at causing unnecessary harm to a person.

  • George W
    September 17, 2019, 10:10 pm

    Look on the bright side. This tiny motorhome came with central heating, A/C, and a generator!

  • Beth
    December 25, 2020, 11:29 am

    Good for you. You did something creative. You have not hurt anyone, huh?
    You didn’t feed the corporate beasts that tell us all we have to finance some underbuilt overpriced cookie-cutter house in the burbs!!!
    Thumbs up from me….

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