OK, I’m not going to say that there’s a perfect vehicle out there waiting for you. Instead, I’m going to give you the most important things to look at when considering one (or more!) bug out vehicle and let you figure out which one is right for, whether it’s a motorcycle, a bike, a truck or any of the others.
Note: some of these don’t apply to ALL of the survival vehicles in this list. No bike can get you through a foot of snow.
Table of Contents
Traits of the Ideal Bug Out Vehicle
A good bug out vehicle should:
- ✅ have a long range. This is the most important thing. Take into account the distance between your current location and your BOL (bug-out location). Consider you may need more fuel because you’ll take detours, turn around often, and even get caught in traffic jams (which automatically means higher fuel consumption).
- ✅ be able to go off-road
- ✅ have a large trunk (to store as many supplies as possible)
- ✅ be fast (in case someone’s chasing you)
- ✅ have excellent gas mileage
- ✅ be able to go through 2 feet of snow, mud and water.
- ✅ be able to handle landslides and debris.
- ✅ have an auxiliary tank. The more fuel you have with you, the better.
- ✅ have as much room in it as possible. If we’re talking about a 4 x 4, of course.
- ✅ be a diesel it it’s a car. They’re just better for long drives.
- ✅ navigate fallen rock and debris (if the road is on a mountain, for example)
- ✅ come in a dark color. You don’t want it to stand out in any way. Careful about camo, it’ll make you look tacticool and will draw attention to you.
- ✅ withstand an EMP
- ✅ not be expensive to repair, and its replacement parts should be relatively easy to find
- ✅ be able to stay hidden at your current location. Not many people think about this but if they have a huge tactical vehicle in their backyard, everyone will see it.
- ✅ be large enough to carry your all your family members (Note: some of the BOVs below can’t do that. Nevertheless, they shouldn’t be disregarded.)
- ✅ have extraction equipment
- ✅ be capable of towing another car or a trailer.
The Biggest Hazards You Will Face
Thinking about the hazards you may face will make choosing a bug out vehicle a lot easier. Prepare for the most common scenarios.
Sure, being ready for everything is ideal but, as I mentioned before, the perfect bug-out vehicle hasn’t been invented yet.
Examples of hazards include:
- abundance of snow
- fallen trees
- downed bridges
- ice or sand storms
- traffic jams
The Full List of Bug Out Vehicles
This is by far my most favorite part because I’m going to give you some BOV alternatives you probably didn’t think of. So let’s start with the most common ones…
A 4x4 Truck (most popular)
This is by far the most common bug-out vehicle choice because it can double as your everyday car. That means you don’t have to buy two vehicles AND you’re most likely to be near it when disaster strikes (than if you did).
While a truck can get stuck in traffic and may or may not defeat some of the roads in this country, it does have the huge advantage of having space.
That means you can not only comfortably fit all your family members but you can also pack up most if not all of your stuff needed to survive.
And when you’re leaving home and you’re not sure when you’re coming back, the more you have with you, the better.
Look for a vehicle that has a solid frame with leaf-spring suspension and tires with solid sidewalls. Speaking of which, you should have one if not two spare tires.
What if You Already have a 4x4?
Your bug out Jeep or whatever it is, is probably more than enough to help you bug out, so you shouldn’t spend money on a “new” car. if your Jeep has been working well for the past few years, you should probably keep it.
Maintenance will only get more expensive with a newer model, and that newer Jeep will only have more electronics that could stop functioning in case of an EMP.
Disclosure: This post has affiliate links, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. See my full disclosure for more.
Also, don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your vehicle to fit your needs. For example, a suspension package can greatly increase the payload and bulletproofing doors and windows can stop bullets from hurting you.
Another very important thing is to always have a chainsaw in your vehicle. You never know when you’re going to run into a fallen tree on the road that’s just too big to cross over.
It’s much safer to stop the car, whip out the chain saw, cut it and get the heck out of there in less than a couple of minutes.
A Bug Out Truck
Well, if you have one, why not use it? Maybe you don’t own it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make plans to do so when SHTF.
Your boss probably won’t care. The obvious issues here are that you can’t drive it anywhere you want (such as forest roads), and that it’ll draw attention.
In Venezuela, people would stop food trucks and loot them. In Calais, migrants would stop trucks for the same reason, sometimes beating drivers up.
So a truck is definitely not an ideal bug out vehicle, but it’s worth considering as an alternative.
A Tactical (Armored) Vehicle
If you’ve got the money, a tactical vehicle is going to offer a lot more protection than any SUV will ever be able to. However, there are downsides to such vehicles, including the fact that they have a prohibitive price.
The biggest drawback of such vehicles, of course, is, of course, that they draw a lot of attention.
If you’re going to face an angry mob, for instance, you might be safe and sound inside, but imagine all the ways a crowd will try to block your vehicle’s path. You could be trapped inside with no choice but to surrender.
Up-armoring a vehicle is impractical (read very costly), but the good news is you can improvise.
One thing you can do is install steel plates. These should protect you at least partially from bullets, and by the way, you should definitely try firing some rounds at them to see if they hold up.
Insane Bug Out Vehicles
If you thought the previous bug out vehicle is too much, wait until you see these babies. Don’t worry, we’ve got pletny of reasonable BOV choices right below them.
This is the M35 2½ ton cargo truck:
… this is the SISU XA-185, originally developed by the Finnish:
Next… let’s see some smaller BOVs that you can actually buy and use…
A Motorcycle (With Sidecar)
You have no idea how much more versatile a motorcycle is, particularly if you’re running away from a hurricane and there are fallen trees everywhere.
Even the toughest 4x4 will have no chance to get past a traffic jam or go around a fallen tree. That’s where a motorcycle triumphs.
A Mountain Bike
Sure, it doesn’t have the range of a car or a motorcycle and you can’t really carry anything with it but a lot of people will find it useful. You can use it to go through places a motorcycle just can’t. Sure, you won’t get too far but maybe you don’t really have to.
And how about you just put it in your 4x4 as a back-up? As hard as it may sound to believe, you never know when you’re going to have to ditch your vehicle.
Which type of bike? A mountain bike, of course. And don’t be afraid to practice with it heavily. You’ll not only familiarize yourself with roads in poor condition but you’ll also increase your strength.
A couple of hours off road with your bike makes one hell of a survival fitness workout.
Don’t forget to fill it with as much stuff as possible. No joke, practice it because when SHTF your mind will be racing and may not do it right. Get a bike basket and see how much you can fit in it.
Heck, get a bike cargo trailer if you want to, that will allow for even more stuff. Fill it up with BOB items and take it for a ride (while full) to get used to the extra weight.
Don’t forget a first-aid kit and tools to repair not just the bike itself but to also deal with flat tire.
Tip: you can opt for a folding bike which you can put in your vehicle’s trunk. If it can’t take you any further, your bike will.
A Dirt Bike
If you think you’ll need to bug out on roads that are more difficult, you’ll need something with more suspension. Dirt bikes are lighter and have a much simpler construction.
An Off-Road Go-Kart
No, this is not a racing go-cart that can only run on flat terrain. This will work off road, as the name suggests and it’s a good alternative to a dirt bike. Which one you choose, well, that depends on which one you like best as you’ll probably use it pre-SHTF for fun.
A Folding Skateboard
OK, so they aren’t cheap but they’ll allow you to move faster than you would on foot. The average speed on flat terrain is 15 mph while the average walking speed is 3 mph. Notice I said “folding”, meaning you can fit it nicely in your BOB. Check my recommendations below to see the one you can get today.
Boats are the most luxurious bug out vehicles. You’ll definitely be the most envied prepper on the block if you have one, but what matters most is that it increases your chances of survival.
If you live near the ocean or even close to a navigable river such as the Mississippi, you’ll want to consider a boat as your means of escape.
Ideally, it should:
- be a sailboat
- have a backup engine (just in case you need to outrun a storm or someone chasing you)
- be at least 30 feet in length with enough space for everyone plus your stockpile
- be made of carbon fiber (wooden boats are a bad idea)
- and have many more features which I will cover in a future article.
Another great alternative, since ATVs have excellent gas mileage and are really quiet (especially if you attach one of those ATV silencers). You can even add a small trailer to it for your supplies.
There are downsides to ATVs, though. Obviously, they have limited storage capacity so you can only take so much with you.
The other obvious one is that they do nothing to protect you from the outside environment, like an SUV would so if someone attempts to take over, they have an excellent chance of succeeding.
ATVs are great if you have a bug out location around 100 miles away from where you live. And when you know there’s a retreat full of stockpiled supplies that awaits you.
A Bug-Out Canoe (or a Kayak)
Not only is a canoe really fast on a river but it can also help you cross a river that would otherwise be too dangerous. They’re fast, quiet, need no fuel and allow you to store more stuff inside than just your BOB.
Have a canoe ready in your 4x4, you never know when you may need it. Careful, though. Strong currents and winds make some rivers barely navigable so do make sure you practice paddling as often as you can, increasing the level of difficulty.
An Inflatable Boat
The main advantages of inflatable boats is that they’re lightweight, they don’t take up a lot of space and many of them have room to accommodate at least 4 people.
Careful about the color, though. Most inflatable boats come in bright colors designed to be noticed easily, but that’s exactly what you don’t want post-SHTF.
My Personal Recommendations
OK, enough theory, let’s see some real bug out vehicle examples.
Ford’s F250 4x4 Diesel
The Toyota FJ62 Land Cruiser
How to Upgrade Your Car to a Bug Out Vehicle
So you already have a car, but you can’t afford to spend money on a better BOV. Can you transform your car into a bug out vehicle?
Absolutely! Some of the things you can do include:
- Add a car bug out bag, meaning a set of survival items similar to those in your bug out bag. Food, water, weapons, and other survival items can be hidden inside the trunk, glove box, under the seats and so on. Don’t forget fire starters, emergency blankets, printed and laminated maps, a wool blanket, binoculars, a night vision monocular,
- Get or make a real first aid kit. The one already in your car is too basic.
- Make your car bulletproof such as the windows.
- Carrying extra fuel, but be careful as the law in your state may not allow it because it could be risky (vapors may come out even from a sealed container).
- Have an emergency road assistance kit, with jumper cables, reflective vest, gloves, traction rope,
- Add a rooftop carrier (for obvious reasons).
- Keep a copy of your car’s repair manual, and be sure to read it when you have time to familiarize yourself with it.
- Add a grill guard to protect the front of your vehicle, extremely important in a bug out situation.
- Take defensive driving lessons. Skills before gear, right?
- Set up a CB or a HAM radio.
- Keep a spare tire in the trunk.
- Install one or more cameras. Not just for SHTF but also for everyday emergencies.
- Keep a working GPS with up-to-date maps in your glove box.
- Last but not least, keep the vehicle well maintained and its tank of gas always as full as possible. Replace the transmission, tires, and other parts that are showing signs of wear and tear.
EMPs and Your Survival Vehicle
Some people believe EMPs are the greatest disaster that could hit the United States. Others say the chances of an EMP happening are next to nothing. I say that you need to prepare for whatever disaster you think is more likely to hit, in the order in which you think it might.
If you’re worried about EMPs, I recommend you get an older vehicle with as little electronics as possible. Reason being, of course, that they have no computerized systems in them.
Besides, older vehicles are easier to repair and a lot of them are known to last longer than their modern versions.
How do you find an EMP-proof diesel? A good rule of thumb is to only look for those that have a manual injection pump.
If they don’t have an electronic injection pump, you can be pretty sure the car will continue to work once this kind of disaster strikes.
What About AFTER SHTF?
After the dust settles, you’re still going to have to move from one place to another.
Since gas will be scarce, a bike and a canoe are probably going to be your new best friends. And if you have means of generating electricity, you can even get an ATV that runs on rechargeable batteries.
Well, what can I tell you? Getting from your current location to your BOL is a risky business. Ideally, you’ll want to get there as soon as there’s any news of something bad happening.
Under no circumstances should you wait with the rest of the sheep that will be desperately flocking to get out.
Understand the risks, assess your unique situation, and make your choice for a bog-out vehicle(s) accordingly.