Forget Paying Sky-High Rent: A Google Employee Is Living in a Truck

Brandon parks the vehicle on the company's Mountain View, California, campus.
(Photo: Flickr)
Oct 21, 2015· 3 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

What’s a recent college graduate looking for a place in the San Francisco Bay Area to call home to do? If you’re a 23-year-old Google employee named Brandon, faced with sky-high rents and looming student loan bills, you decide to live in a 128-square-foot truck parked on the company’s campus in Mountain View, California.

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst this spring, Brandon headed to California to start a full-time job as a software engineer at Google. (He withheld his last name from the blog he writes chronicling the arrangement.) He used his $10,000 signing bonus to purchase a 2006 Ford moving truck and moved into the vehicle in late May.

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Google did not return TakePart’s request for comment. But at Thoughts From Inside the Box, he has blogged about everything from dealing with bugs to building a clothing rack.

He's written that he’s learned plenty about food, commodities, and sustainability. “As for housing, I'm not all that knowledgeable,” he wrote in an email to TakePart. “If I was, I'd likely be living in a more reasonable condition.”

Brandon's truck.

(Photo: Courtesy Brandon/From Inside the Box)

On Tuesday, Brandon told Business Insider that he estimates that he saves 90 percent of his monthly income. In just four months of living in the truck, he has paid his $22,434 student loan bill down to $16,449. The average student loan debt for a recent grad is $29,400, but, Brandon wrote to TakePart, his “student debt is manageable because I went to a state school and applied for all possible scholarships.”

Brandon did not disclose his salary, but a recent survey found that apartment rental prices are so steep in the Bay Area that even tech employees are being priced out of the market. A Google engineer earning $160,000 a year would have to spend 42 percent of his or her income to afford the average one-bedroom apartment in Mountain View.

So how does Brandon manage? It helps that Google’s perks are legendary—breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all provided by the company’s cafeteria, so he doesn’t need to worry about not having a kitchen. He gets up early to work out and shower at the corporate gym.

“If I needed a bathroom during the day, naturally I would use one at work, and I would hang around campus working on work and personal projects until I was ready to go to sleep, and then I would retire to my van conveniently parked in a nearby campus parking lot,” he wrote on his blog.

Inside Brandon's truck.

(Photo: Courtesy Brandon/From Inside the Box)

Brandon also charges his electronic devices while he’s at work. "I don't actually own anything that needs to be plugged in," he blogged. "The truck has a few built-in overhead lights, and I have a motion-sensitive, battery-powered lamp I use at night." Brandon still has to pay for clothing and other personal items, gas—he moves the truck sometimes—and insurance on the vehicle. He also coughs up cash for eating out on the weekend and any social excursions.

The seeds for living in the truck were first planted during Brandon’s summer 2014 internship at the tech giant. During that time, he found out how expensive housing was in the region and lived in a two-bedroom apartment with three roommates.

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“The summer starts, and I'm having an amazing time, but as I start to settle into a routine, I notice something fairly tragic: For all the money I'm spending on this apartment, I'm hardly ever there!” he blogged. “I wake up, catch the first GBus to Google, work out, eat breakfast, work, eat lunch, work, eat dinner, hang out at Google, and eventually take a bus home, pack my gym bag for the next day, and go to sleep.”

After being hired as a software engineer, he made a list of the pros and cons of his plan to live in the truck. One of his worries was that he’d be booted off the Google campus, but it turns out that over the years, other employees have lived in vehicles on the campus and that Google security has apparently been cool with it.

“If tech companies weren't actively preventing this, I might as well give it a shot,” he wrote. “Worst case scenario, the whole thing doesn't work out and I get an overpriced apartment like a normal human being.”

That day of reckoning might be coming sooner than Brandon had hoped. Folks at Google have gotten wind of his situation. “If the fall out from [the media attention] is bad, maybe only another week,” Brandon wrote to TakePart about how much longer he’d be able to live in the truck. “Otherwise, indefinitely. I don't have any good reason not to.”