How to Survive SHTF Indefinitely in your Car

Vehicles are central to the plans of all kinds of preppers, typically as a conveyance to get to you BOL, or to get home from elsewhere in an emergency.

Some preppers might even plan on living in a mobile dwelling like a camper or proper RV despite the issues attendant with such large and ungainly solutions.

But few preppers consider bugging out and actually surviving in their personal vehicle, their daily driver. The concept sounds untenable to most, but actually has quite a bit to commend it.

For flexibility, mobility and on-demand protection from the elements, a car, SUV, van or a truck can provide all three, and do so more or less reliably so long as the fuel lasts.

A large enough vehicle can serve as your central “hub” around a temporary camp or even be your livable shelter if you want to stay light on your feet, ready to make a quick getaway.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to make use of your vehicle as a long-term SHTF survival solution.

Bug-Out Requirements

No matter how a SHTF situation goes down, any prepper will be faced with providing the same things if they want to survive: clean air to breathe, shelter from the elements, drinkable water and food, presented in that order of what will kill you quickest should you fall short on providing it.

Most preppers plan to do this one of two ways, by so-called bugging-in (sheltering in place) or bugging-out (fleeing to a hopefully pre-chosen secondary location.

Bugging in is one thing. If you can stay in your home replete with all the supplies and equipment you can carry, more power to you. It is usually a good call. However, many proper SHTF events are bad enough or feature secondary and tertiary effects severe enough to send preppers and other sane people capering for the hills, ready or not.

That’s where the personal vehicle comes in. You can walk, sure, but it is much safer typically not to mention faster and easier to drive there.

If all goes well you arrive with gas to spare at your BOL and make with setting up camp or moving into a premade dwelling. The vehicle is nothing more than a taxi in the average prepper’s plans.

Whichever way someone chooses to go, they’ll have to provide for those four primary needs along with a host of secondary ones to survive. Both methods have advantages, but you may be able to get the best of both worlds by choosing to live out of your vehicle as a SHTF response.

If you’re interested in surviving various emergencies inside your vehicle (tornadoes, floods, hail storms and such), then check out our other article here.

In the next section, I’ll offer up a couple of short lists featuring the best perks along with the flaws of each method. After that, we’ll dive into the nitty gritty of how to set up your vehicle as well as what you’ll need to know to make this strategy viable for you.

Bug-Out Advantages Offered by Cars

Before we list the best attributes and advantages of cars and trucks for bugging out, have a quick look at the advantages afforded to you by your home and by bugging out on foot to see how they stack up:

Bugging-In (Home)


  • Typically excellent shelter from elements.
  • Average home or apartment offers tons of storage.
  • Can make use of appliances and tools through electricity or other power source: generator, solar, propane, etc.
  • Advantage to defenders in case of attack.


  • Fixed site: you are easily found.
  • Difficult to protect without multiple people.

Bugging-Out (On foot)


  • Easy to circumvent road blockages.
  • Allows movement through dense or broken terrain.
  • Allows you to reposition camp to evade pursuers or react to changing situations or needs.


  • Risky. On foot you are at the mercy of elements, man and beast.
  • Shelter setup is always a concern; quick, easy shelters provide little protection. More durable shelters require more weight and/or greater investment of energy.
  • Slow to reposition.
  • Greatly limited equipment and supply capacity. You can only make use of what you can find, make or carry.
  • All appliances and electrical tools will be run from mostly finite resources; batteries run out, fuel canisters are expended. Some gadgets like mobile solar cell chargers provide a rare exception.

Vehicle as Shelter


  • Highly mobile.
  • Significant carrying and storage capacity.
  • Carries multiple people regardless of fitness or condition.
  • Typically excellent weather resistance.
  • Provides on-demand power.
  • Can be used to push/pull/tow heavy objects.


  • Requires fuel. Supplies might be highly limited by event.
  • Breakdowns and maintenance require significant investment into diagnostic/repair skills
  • Movement significantly restricted by terrain. Overland movement is risky, accelerates wear and requires capable vehicle.

So, all things considered, you can easily see from the list above that vehicles do in fact offer a “best of both worlds” when it comes to surviving when it is time to deal with a SHTF emergency: the protection you need when the weather is bad, the mobility to take advantage of opportunity or run from trouble, and the added perks of onboard and on-demand power.

Combined with the excellent carrying and hauling capacity, what is not to love?

Potential Issues with Vehicle Subsistence

No, it isn’t all rainbows and marshmallows if you want to cruise into the sunset while the rest of the world burns behind you. Vehicle-based bug-outs have some drawbacks, and some of them are significant.

Like any good prepper assessing his options, you’ll need contingency plans to deal with them.

Vehicles Require Fuel

Just like any other day. So long as the car runs, and it has gas I the tank, you are living fancy free. When the gas runs out the party (and the power) stops, though it is still useful as a shelter.

Long haul vehicular bug-outs will severely tax fuel supplies, and while external cans can be carried and even additional tanks installed your fuel supply will only ever be limited.

If you need to run the engine to supply power, or heat or cool the interior, you’ll be sipping fuel. It adds up. It is imperative you develop a plan where you can move in your vehicle from one of several pre-picked bug out sites in an effort to conserve as much gas as you can.

Vehicles are not particularly easy to insulate

A vehicle in good shape will seal up well when the doors are shut and the windows are up, easily keeping out even torrential rain and strong winds. You can stay snug as a bug inside, happy and dry.

The only issue comes when it is time to stay warm or cool; vehicles are notorious for getting too much of either!

In the hot seasons, the inside of a vehicle become a broiler. Unless you run the AC… In the cold months, they are iceboxes. Unless you run the heater… See where this is going?

You’ll need fuel to run the engine in order to power both. You cannot build a fire inside a car to keep warm (though with care you can use a few candles in a metal can!) and in the hot seasons your only reprieve is opening a door or lowering a window to let heat escape and air through.

Breakdowns are Showstoppers

It never fails in the horror movies and it always happens in real life thanks to everyone’s favorite uncle, Mr. Murphy.

Your vehicle will break down when you need it most, stranding you, your gear and your party somewhere you don’t want it to be.

Some breakdowns are minor and easily solved. Some are catastrophic and require the services of a gifted wizard of a field mechanic or a properly equipped vehicle bay to fix.

Many fall somewhere in the middle, meaning you’ll need the spare parts, tools, know-how and, just as crucially, time to fix it yourself.

To shore up this shortcoming, this means taking the time to learn how to work on and repair your own vehicle as well as keeping the most commonly used spares on hand for your SHTF kit.

Vehicles attract attention

Unless you drive an electric vehicle, the rumble of a motor will alert people quite a ways off to your presence. Louder vehicles, like those growling diesels or performance enhanced engines are even more audible.

Avoiding trouble is far easier if you stay unknown and a stranger to trouble. A running engine, ever momentarily, blows your chances of remaining undetected if other people are nearby.

Other people will also, rightly, assume that your vehicle contains some goodies, even if you are really low on supplies. Indeed, a working, fueled vehicle is itself a major prize!

Brigands and thieves will target vehicles that are stopped or unattended constantly in the wake of a major SHTF event. Security will be a constant concern in all crisis situations, but a vehicle will only complicate matters.

Vehicles may limit your freedom of movement

For all but the most capable and specialized off-road vehicles, you’ll be confined to roads and clear, smooth terrain when SHTF. Plainly put, going off road is a great way to get stuck or completely immobilized and then you’ll be in a pickle.

Recovery of a stuck vehicle is possible, but requires specialized gear and another vehicle or an immobile anchor to attach a winch to.

This means that practically you’ll be forced to map and understand all possible routes to and from your bug-out locations, how they change season to season, and how capable your vehicle is of handling them in any given conditions.

Aside from those manageable issues, a vehicle is a sure thing for preppers wanting to stay mobile and comfortable while surviving. In the next section we’ll take a look at outfitting your vehicle for survival.

driving a car through the woods

Daily Driver or Bug-Out Vehicle?

The perennial question for those aiming to survive the apocalypse in a vehicle is whether or not they should rely on their daily driver, ready at a moment’s notice, sensible and discreet, or instead invest in a purpose-designed bug-out vehicle (BOV) of some kind, often taking the form of a seriously off-road capable truck or SUV.

The answer is, as always, it depends. Your daily driver is certainly already available, and will get you to and fro according to what its factory designed specs say it can handle.

Depending on the type of vehicle, you may have a little or even modest off road capability, and a fair amount of internal or external storage.

A purpose-made or modified bug-out vehicle leaves conventional behind as soon readily as it leaves the pavement.

Often sporting large, knobby tires, lifted suspensions, horsepower and drivetrain enhancements and heavy duty bumpers these vehicles may look the part of an apocalyptic road warrior.

Others are designed to be sleepers, appearing like normal, everyday vehicles, like a panel van, but concealing within small sleeping arrangements and ample gear storage. Others are simply festooned with additional cargo racks and pods, and have the suspension upgrades to haul it all.

Ultimately, which you choose will depend on your financial situation. Anything is possible if you have the coin and the desire.

You can have a supremely capable vehicle that appears hardly different from a stock one while being kitted to the roof with upgrades and would be no less discreet sitting in the office parking lot.

If you have little to spend on your vehicle, or are prioritizing other preps first, you should plan your movements and routes around your daily driver’s capability.

If you have the money to afford a BOV or upgrade your daily driver, you have additional options open to you, reflecting the greater prowess, durability and capacity of these enhanced vehicles.

Vehicle considerations for SHTF Survival

You should consider some or all of the following upgrades for your daily driver or chosen specialized bug-out vehicle. Not all of them are universally valuable.

A person packing only for themselves probably won’t need additional cargo space (though it is nice to have).

If you live in the middle of nowhere heavy duty push-bars might not be as vital to you as someone bugging out from a city. A vehicle with excellent range will need an auxiliary fuel tank less than a gas guzzler and so on.

Stay on Top of Basic Maintenance!

You’ll need to treat your vehicle like the lifesaver it is intended to be, if you don’t already. Are you staying on top of oil changes? Tire rotations?

Having brakes, suspension and other systems inspected? Don’t neglect the essentials or you’ll be broken down as soon as you make a break for the edge of town, guaranteed.

When your tires get thin, have them rotated. Change your own oil regularly, and do it yourself so you know what’s what. Make sure all fluid levels stay nominal, including wiper fluid.

If your seals have a tiny drip, change them; don’t just doctor it with silicone. This level of dedication is paying in for your survival and also developing the discipline you’ll need to survive.

Upgrade Essential Parts and Systems

Saying cars are complicated is the understatement of the year, but for all their complexity they will often be sidelined by a failure of just a few critical parts.

No matter what kind of vehicle you’ll rely on, you can give yourself a performance boost and a hedge against failure by upgrading these components.

Start with the battery. A dead or weak battery is the most common cause of a failure to start. Choose a higher quality battery than the one you usually toss in when your old one gives up the ghost.

Increasing cold cranking amps (CCA) and reserve capacity will mean surer starting and longer life when running equipment with the car turned off or alternator failing. Speaking of that, buy and install a heavy-duty starter and alternator both.

Tires are the next obvious upgrade. Performance tires for your local conditions should be on the wheels at all times. You might consider upgrading to run-flat tires so you can remain mobile if they lose pressure (don’t forget the spare).

Suspension components need some love too; don’t forget you’ll be hauling a fair amount of extra gear and supplies, and potentially several people. A heavily laden vehicle will not handle nearly as well as a light one, and even worse if the suspension is not up to snuff.

Additional Cargo Room

Forget the idea of taking off into the woods with a one-day pack and bag of beef jerky to hack out a living among the pines. Chances are you’ll be dead from exposure or dehydration in no time.

Survival is mostly about skills, but the right gear and provision is a hedge against disaster.

You’ll be filling up even a large SUV pretty quickly, to say nothing of smaller sedans, so it would behoove you to add some additional cargo room in the form of roof racks, tailgate boxes and side mounted baskets for some vehicles that you can stash you gear and supplies in.

Make sure you develop your load plan fully so that any items that you need to access quickly are readily accessible, and any sensitive or delicate items are protected from the elements.

If you ever have a flat tire in the middle of a hostile area and have to dig out your jack and spare tire from beneath 150 pounds of stuff, you will rue the day.


Consider upgrading your vehicle’s lights for more reach in dark conditions, an especially important consideration at speed. You can also install all around lamps for additional area or task lighting when making camp.

One sneaky trick is to have two front facing lights set up with green LEDs, which are harder to see from far away in the dark, and will allow you to preserve your night vision while maneuvering at night (at least at low speed).

Power Supply

Since you are considering living out of your vehicle, at least partially, you can give yourself a huge leg up by installing an inverter system that will let you plug in and run normal household devices as normal.

Something like an electric power tool could make all the difference in an outcome when you need to assemble or destroy something in a hurry.

Expanding the number of outlets in the passenger compartment for charging lights, phone and other devices like power banks is also a great idea.

Push Bars or Heavy Duty Bumpers

This is a more overt modification, but not out of place on SUVs and trucks even in kind times.

Push bars, or bull bars, are heavy duty bumpers that are designed to stay rigidly in place and deflect an obstacle struck by them rather than deform and absorb the impact like standard, modern car bumpers.

A properly installed set of bull bars will help protect the delicate radiator and rest of the engine compartment when striking an object at modest speeds.

They also come in very handy for nudging and pushing cars out and other obstacles out of the way, and mounting winches.

Recovery Gear

You must assume that you will get stuck at some point when you are going off road. No matter how many people you have with you, or how many vehicles are part of your caravan, you’ll need recovery gear to get a stuck vehicle, well, unstuck.

At a minimum, tow straps will allow another vehicle to attempt to yank you free. You should also include the toothed recovery tracks like the Maxtrax MKII.

You can get by with carpet, cardboard and other old standbys. Be sure to include a comprehensive tire patching kit. Some simple hand tools, like a good folding shovel, will be indispensable as well.

The best investment you can make in your vehicle recovery equipment is a good winch. A winch, properly installed and equipped with the appropriate line or cable, will easily pull your vehicle or someone else’s right out of a tight spot with nary a hiccup.

Be warned, use of a winch is dangerous and requires a certain set of skills all its own to safely and quickly get your vehicle unstuck, so make sure you put in the time with it before you really need to use it.

inside vehicle

Living Out of Your Vehicle when SHTF

If you are surviving solo or it is just you and a partner you will have a fairly easy time of things. Your vehicle will serve as your bunk, pantry, tool chest and power point. A sort of mobile HQ, if you will.

Your ideal arrangement should revolve around getting you and your bug-out kit to a safe location to lay up for a bit until you have enough info to make your next move, or can just cool your heels where you are and wait it out.

When you are there, ideally you will want to camp light, meaning breaking down as little as possible out of the vehicle; you have taken on the mode of a sort of post-SHTF nomad, always moving, or ready to move, at a moment’s notice.

If you have full kit, caboodle and cabin unpacked and set up all about, that is a lot to deal with when the time comes to move quickly. It is much better to roll up your bedroll, flip the top down on your pack, toss it in the backseat and get moving.

Doing otherwise means you might have to abandon things you spent much time and effort on being able to bring.

You should endeavor to sleep in the vehicle, unless you are confident of both your safety and your ability to pack and go quickly. Again, you have banked on mobility; why compromise it?

Sleeping in your vehicle could take the form of dozing upright in the seat, lying down in the bed or across a bench, folding down the seats (if possible) to make a platform or sleeping on the roof, if your vehicle’s design will permit it.

Certain vehicles can be equipped with rooftop tents, and these are fine options for extended stays in one place, but come at the cost of being slow to erect and tear down.

Your biggest issues when sleeping inside a car will be temperature control if you don’t have the car’s heater or AC on. Using either burns fuel, and should only be done when underway if at all possible.

You cannot, obviously, build a fire inside your car, but you have a few options. First, your own body heat will do wonders in a small space, and two people, dressed accordingly and under good blankets should stay toasty down into freezing temperatures.

Second, you may carefully use a couple of candles placed in a steel or aluminum coffee can to add a little warmth. Ensure that they cannot be knocked over inadvertently.

Condensation is a problem when a car is buttoned up and no air actively moving through the cabin. You may need to periodically crack the seals to vent the interior, or if the weather is amicable enough leave a window cracked.

One thing you must keep in mind when sleeping in a vehicle, especially when it is running, is the potential for the accumulation of carbon monoxide inside your car.

Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless, and found in great abundance and all kinds of combustion byproducts, not the least of which is automobile exhaust.

This is why we are constantly admonished from the time we are able to get our drivers license to never, ever let our vehicles run idling in an enclosed space like a garage or low carport.

Carbon monoxide can take effect quickly insufficient quantity, quickly incapacitating and eventually killing you.

It is an easy thing to forget went out-of-doors surrounded by the wild blue yonder and all the fresh air you could possibly want to breathe while sitting in a sealed vehicle.

A particular threat arises when the tail pipe is blocked, typically by water, snow or any other solid obstruction. This will help CO gas to accumulate inside the cabin if you have the doors closed and windows up where it will quickly make you sick.

As you might be imagining this is a special threat if you and everyone else in the vehicle are pulled over for a nap or are sleeping in the vehicle at night while the engine is running.

One of carbon monoxide’s side effects is the feeling of drowsiness, or drunkenness, and while not much of a warning in typical circumstances you might not notice it at all if you are fast asleep. You may never wake up…


The procuring of additional food and water resources while bugging out is naturally a significant concern for most preppers, and I’m happy to report that bugging out in a vehicle will oftentimes simplify both considerably.

First, the additional cargo room and weight carrying capacity afforded to you by your vehicle of choice will enable you to carry an abundance of hunting and fishing specific gear that might not qualify as absolutely vital if one was simply hauling a BOB on foot.

The presence of both sets of gear will significantly increase your chances of successfully bagging quarry, whatever it is.

If you are hunting, take care to park the vehicle a significant distance away from your chosen hunting grounds so the sound of the engine does not spook any game in the area

Even if you are planning on rummaging and scavenging through the remains of civilization for your supplies, a vehicle can help you do so more efficiently if only because it will expand your range and the speed of your travels while doing so.

Effectively increasing your search radius increases your likelihood of success or procuring a significant quantity of provisions or supplies.

Be sure though that you take care to leave your vehicle guarded or to hide it extremely well while disembarked since it will attract a considerable amount of attention while you are out scavenging.

All other activities like cooking, hygiene and so forth can and should be taken care of outside the car. The idea, remember, is not to never leave the confines of the vehicle. It is instead to use the vehicle to facilitate camping while not compromising your mobility.

General Procedure and Safety

This is where the rubber meets the road as far as vehicle-based survival goes. Your vehicle will significantly complicate your efforts to stay out of sight, out of mind and generally low profile.

The vehicle itself is quite a prize, as is all of the gear, food, water and other accoutrement of survival that it contains. You must not let any harm come to it or allow it to be stolen. You must also understand how the mere presence of it will raise your profile drastically.

Let’s begin with essentials: seat belts. Yes, no or maybe? It depends. Generally when moving at high speeds (anything over 15-20 miles per hour) I want my seatbelt on to protect me and everyone else from the dreadful effects of a crash.

At low speeds you want your seat belt off to better enable you to react to low-speed collisions, personal threats and other instances where entanglement in any way could be a big issue.

Fire is a major concern for the function of the vehicle, the contents and the occupants. You must have an answer for it. The best and really the only answer is a fire extinguisher.

A pair of vehicle-specific fire extinguishers kept inside the cabin secured by straps or brackets. They might make the difference between saving your vehicle (and your lives) and standing next to a burned-out hulk.

Self-Defense Considerations

Speaking of self-defense against your fellow man, you cannot operate the vehicle and shoot or render effective defense at the same time. This ain’t Hollywood. The driver drives, and the designated shooter (or other occupants) shoot.

If you have no effective means of defense under the circumstances, use the vehicle to escape at best speed. Also, keep in mind that the vehicle, with its massive weight and power, is a formidable weapon in and of itself.

Securing the vehicle is another matter: Unless your vehicle is actively guarded it is never truly safe. Any vehicle, no matter how good the locks, no matter how well armored, can be breached by a person or people who are determined to gain access to the interior.

This means if you leave your vehicle anywhere unattended complete with all of your gear inside, it is nothing more than a prize for a determined and enterprising opportunist.

It is possible to conceal your vehicle, or hide it away to keep it out of sight of those who would loot it, but no vehicle can be considered a truly secure container.

One last thing that bears mentioning; most modern vehicles will be extremely vulnerable to the effects of an EMP.

While this is seen as something of a fanciful and far-flung threat in the pantheon of natural disasters, you should remind yourself that EMPs are also a secondary effect of nuclear warhead detonations and there are certainly no shortage of those things all across the world today.

When an EMP occurs, anything with a circuit board, any computer chip, that is exposed to it and not specially protected could be destroyed (some argue if it’s caused by solar activity, then only devices connected to the power grid will die), and considering modern vehicles complete dependency on computers for the majority of their systems today, that means your vehicle could become non-operational.

The only way to truly protect your vehicle against this is to specially harden in it against EMP strike, which is an expensive, specialized and laborious process that is still not entirely understood in most consumer sectors, or choose to rely on an older vehicle, especially one that relies on a carburetor, that is completely devoid of advanced electronics.

This is the only way you will be sure your vehicle will remain operational even in light of multiple EMPs.

Drive like a Survivor

Remember, this is not a road trip, or a pleasure cruise. You must change the way you drive and think about your vehicle. Treat it like it is a lifeline, like a treasured pet, or a valuable jewel.

You don’t want any harm to come to it, and you know other people will steal it if they can. Focus, really focus when you are driving. Think carefully about navigation.

Don’t ram anything you absolutely can avoid ramming, especially in a car without bull bars. Modern cars kill the engine when the airbags deploy, stranding you.

Older cars don’t suffer from that problem but also don’t fare as well in crashes there is nothing that says some other critical component won’t break. Don’t drive over any debris that you can possibly avoid.

Don’t drive into any situation or space you may need to reverse out of. Leave plenty of room between your car and everything around it to avoid being ambushed, if possible.

Always endeavor to stay well within your vehicles handling envelope, but if you cannot, you should know how to handle yourself and your car.

Consider taking a performance driving course, both in a laden and unladen car, so you will know how it responds to inputs and emergency maneuvers.

Remember, the gentler and more cautious your driving, the longer your vehicle will last and the less likely a stressed component is to snap or break. If you should get well and truly stranded, you’ll be heading out the prepper’s old fashioned way- by foot.

Dealing with Obstacles

Dealing with roadblocks, barricades and teeming throngs of people is another matter, however. Here you might have to trade a little paint, scrape, and rub or even plow into an obstruction in order to escape and ensure your survival.

Successfully avoiding or navigating past any of these increasingly common hazards involves rapid and correct assessment and the proper application of techniques.

Basic obstacles you will have to deal with as a vehicle-borne survivor are often simple obstructions in the roadway.

This could be a clot of cars caused by a crash, debris from a toppled or damaged building, or anything else that prevents you from moving forward on the usual surface along the usual route.

Your first order of business is to start visualizing immediate, alternate routes around the obstruction. Your vehicle might belong on the pavement but is capable of traversing all kinds of services successfully, including sidewalks, traffic islands, dirt lots, grassy yards, and even staircases in the right situation.

Assuming any of these ways are otherwise clear and your vehicle is capable of crossing them, you should simply hop the curb, maneuver around the obstruction, and then take to the road again to continue.

If you are in a bad situation or feel your life might be threatened, don’t be afraid to barge through lightweight fencing of any make.

I have seen many times people operating or riding in vehicles wait entirely too long, sitting in place, while a situation gets worse and worse around them before they are eventually unable to extract themselves from it. Don’t let that happen to you!

The next major obstacle you are highly likely to encounter during your travels as a prepper post SHTF is gridlock traffic.

Do not think for a moment you will be the only people trying to escape a bad situation, and also don’t give in to the mad hope that our tottering infrastructure can support anything like a mass exodus from a metropolitan area, or even a suburban one, allowing you to breeze out of town when the time of judgment is nigh.

The trick is to avoid becoming hopelessly mired in the gridlock itself, and taking evasive action before you get stuck in.

As soon as you notice the wall of tail lights ahead of you, take the first available exit off of your route of travel no matter what it is. It might be a side street, on exit ramp or even a U-turn heading back in the opposite direction to find a detour.

If you have a known detour just a little way ahead in the gridlock, you might consider driving down the shoulder, down the sidewalk or even cross-country to reach it if you are certain you will not get stuck.

If you attempt to take one of these cheater routes to get out of the gridlock, and wind up running out of road, you will be completely out of luck, and at the mercy of traffic.

Mobs and Roadblocks

The last and scariest major roadway obstacle you might have to confront is a throng of people who are either out riding or just in control of an area. Roadblocks manned by people are not out of the question in this case.

These mobs are notorious for swarming vehicles and ripping occupants out of them, and you obviously cannot afford to let that happen to you and yours.

You must keep moving; you don’t need to plow through a crowd at 50 miles an hour since it is unnecessary and more importantly will also cause severe damage to your vehicle.

Understand that most modern vehicles equipped with airbags and other crash safety systems will kill the engine if they sense airbag deployment, or even in case of significant impact to a bumper.

All that is needed instead is to “slow roll” at 15 miles per hour or so shouldering, bumping and barging people out of the way.

No human being can match the torque furnished by an automobile, and they will move or be run down. If your lives are in danger, don’t mind the thumps.

Coping with a roadblock is a little bit different. Most hasty or improvised road blocks are made from things that are heavy enough to stop or severely damage a vehicle that tries to barge through them.

Roadblocks set up by professionals will be engineered in such a way that they will funnel a vehicle into a tightly defined area that makes it easier to light up with gunfire or immobilize.

They will often be complete with a narrow, slaloming route that allows passage of traffic through at very low speed. If you notice a roadblock like this, double your caution.

But in the case of the former, which is far more likely to pop-up during or in the aftermath of serious societal unrest or rioting, you might try to bust through it if you can detect a weak spot in it.

One classic example of a roadblock is cars parked end to end, usually with engines touching. Instinctively you will want to bust through at this connecting point, since our basic knowledge of leverage tells us it will be easier than broadsiding one of the blocking vehicles. This is what I call a “good wrong answer”.

Since the engine is the heaviest, densest part of the car you are very likely to severely damage your own vehicle if you try this.

Instead, park at the tail end of the car and strike it at a steady, but sedate, speed no more than 20 miles an hour at most so you don’t lose control or set off crash sensors.

You can also gently make contact with the vehicle and then accelerate into it, rotating it around the heaviest point, which is once again the engine. This will allow you to break through the roadblock with a minimal damage or impact.

Ultimately if you are given a choice your best bet is to simply drive around the roadblock if at all possible using one of the aforementioned techniques, or to reverse out and then go around via an alternate route.

Roadblocks are designed to get vehicles to slow down, or stop entirely so the people manning the roadblock can capitalize on it.

Nothing good will happen attempting to bust through a roadblock incorrectly or negotiate your way through it slowly if hostile humans are around.

Surviving SHTF in a Car with Multiple People

Your family or group arrangement might see you doing all of the above with more than two people in a car.

For obvious reasons, you might not be able to pull off sleeping in a car packed with bodies, during an SHTF event, and claustrophobia as well as murderous rage for Bill’s snoring and Allie’s halitosis will begin to fray nerves in short order.

That’s alright. Simply disembark and camp in a way that works for all people involved. Do try to keep things on the light side by minimizing setup as discussed prior.

If you are travelling in a convoy, with each vehicle having room to spare, you’ll simply follow the prescriptions above, and each vehicle can provide a semi-private space for the concerned parties.

A note about packing gear and distributing it among multiple vehicles working together: I have heard it said and recommended elsewhere that it is a better plan, logistically, to lump all supplies of one type in one vehicle, like cars on a train.

So you have a baggage car, a food car, presumably a gun and weapons car and whatever else. This is a terrible, terrible idea, and whoever suggested it should feel bad about it.

Loading your supplies this way means the entire group suffers a crippling loss of materiel if one vehicle is destroyed or lost.

The correct and superior solution, as you are doubtless thinking, clever reader, is to load each car normally according to the occupant’s wishes and manifest.

Nominally, this is known as cross-loading, or the even distribution of all supplies across all members of a party.

If one car is lost, or its owners desert, the rest of the group can carry on normally, having lost only a smaller percentage of all supplies versus a total or near total percentage of one type of supplies.

Vehicular Comms

With even two vehicles travelling in tandem you’ll want some way to communicate between each car. Cell phones work fine if they work. If they don’t, you should invest in walkie-talkies or citizen’s band radios, either handheld or car mounted.

If you can spring for encrypted ones and know how to use them, so much the better, but if not you must always be aware that anyone could be listening in and likely will be.

Another option for simple communications without electronics is old school analog techniques. Basic hand signals can alert for turns or stops.

For more advanced commands you could use simple semaphore style signals using colored bandanas- slow, stop, danger, left turn soon, right turn soon, all-ok? Etc.

In the dark, “Morse” codes exchanged by flashing headlights or clicking handheld flashlights can exchange simple info and interrogatives without the need to stop or slow down.

Note if you are a solo driver you must focus on your driving and not playing with flashlights, flags or anything else; all of that is firmly the responsibility of the copilot.

Don’t leave out the Essentials!

Every vehicle should include a full service kit consisting of all of its fluids, the most crucial replacement parts, and a small tool kit to perform needed maintenance and operation.

Also included should be a compact or fullsize tech manual that can help you diagnose and correct problems assuming you have the skills to make use of it.

Also include a bag full of the most common fasteners for all parts of the vehicle, as well as spare bulbs for all lamps in a crush-proof container.

Hopefully you’ll never have cause to make use of any of it, but if you do, these are all things you’ll have to have. Having the right spares, replacement parts and other doodads needed can turn a breakdown from a show-stopping, life threatening event to a momentary delay.


Living out of your car or other BOV for the duration of a SHTF event is entirely possible, and may be easier and more comfortable, comparatively than bugging out on foot.

Vehicles can provide their occupants with shelter and power, and carry far more weight than a person on foot could ever dream of doing, all the while affording you the mobility to stay one step ahead of trouble, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities.

They have shortcomings and weaknesses that must be accounted for, but their obvious utility makes them an easy choice for some. Use the tips and guide in this article to make your vehicle your first choice for survival living.

car SHTF survival Pinterest image

2 thoughts on “How to Survive SHTF Indefinitely in your Car”

  1. The problem with “bugging out” in a vehicle (or “fleeing” if you don’t have a place to bug out to) is that in a disaster situation, the roads will be packed with panicking people, who will do even stupider things than usual, and the major roads will quickly become a permanent parking lot (and “shopping center” for those who feel their possessions are inadequate).

    Thus, when using a vehicle for bugging out, you need to plan your paths using the least likely roads and other paths navigatable by your vehicle of choice, while avoiding “choke points”. And have plans and the vehicle packed so that you can abandon the vehicle at a moments notice while leaving yourself in the best situation still practical. Having to “build” a bug-out bag under stress or even dig through your bulk supplies to get to it, will often not support successful survival.

    1. Don’t forget to preplan your route options taking into consideration bridges.
      In an earthquake scenario you need a path out of your county that does not use bridges that may or may not be safe or even exist when you need to get out.
      The same holds true for low areas during flooding.

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