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…
4×4 SUV (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 I You Already have a 4×4?
Your bug out Jeep, no matter how old it is, probably more than enough to help you bug out, so you shouldn’t spend money on a new one. If your Jeep has been working well for the past few years, you should probably keep it.
Maintenance will only get more expensive with newer models, plus it’ll most likely have more electronics that could stop functioning in case of an EMP.
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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.
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.
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 is 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.
Crazy 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…
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 4×4 will have no chance to get past a traffic jam or go around a fallen tree. That’s where a motorcycle triumphs.
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 4×4 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 would be ideal. 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 a fantastic survival fitness workout.
Don’t forget to fill it with as much stuff as possible. This is where a small trailer will help…
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 4×4, 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.
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.
Dan’s Car Models Recommendations
OK, enough talk, let’s see some real bug out vehicle examples you should buy pre-owned:
- Option #1: Ford’s F250 4×4 Diesel
- Option #2: The Toyota FJ62 Land Cruiser
- Option #3: Ford Excursion
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 folks 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.
My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don’t like taking orders. I’m taking matters into my own hands so I’m not just preparing, I’m going to a friggin’ war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.
13 thoughts on “The Best Bug Out Vehicles”
This article is totally awesome. It covers all of the key areas of transportation. An inflatable boat and a bicycle are going to be added to my garage. Just look at South Carolina and the floods A lot of people would’ve benefited greatly by having a boat or canoe. And after hurricane Andrew in South Florida a bicycle what is critical
I’m glad it helped!
My bug out, 50 gals of water (or 4L and water pur for 50) 30 lbs of meat, 1bottle of pre mix margarita, mix coffe, a bar of soap, 3 pairs of sock, anti fung anything with -ozle at the end (medical grade anti fung, it’s $1 at Wally) a wool, 1 chocolate bar, 35% body fat, the true key to survival, but it must be fat gained from meat or fats, not carbs or sugar, you want your liver and immune system to function, a gun and a box of ammo. And I would kick it! And wait to rebuild, or see what I could do to help speed recovery. Other than a boat sit ur ass down, and try not to get shot by all the other idiots! If you gotta boat take a nice cruise to the Bahamas and come back later. Bike? Atv? Truck? Don’t waste your money! There’s no magical cave that your going to be safe in, there’s like 2 people per mile of land, if you are where there is food or water you will probably see people. The only reason to leave your home is a localized event, disaster, uprising etc… Cool thing I learned hiking, you can walk 30-45 miles a day! You can walk if it gets bad! I walked 1000 km about 30 days. I guess a specialize vichele would work, but you don’t want to leave anyway, and you have a car use it till you walk. Btw You can go 60 days with 30-35% be fat and 6-12 oz of meat a day! no problem you need dry milk to for yo bones!
I keep looking for, but don’t find a durable high quality overland combo bicycle/hand cart for carrying those extra 75 lbs of gear/supplies needed for a longer stay out in the woods. I trust the advice–25 lbs max on the back; and I’ve examined the weights of everything I would take for BO, but that leaves out some essential tools: the axe, shovel, tarp, winter clothing and extra food/pans. For walking Bug-Outs, there is no option (that I have found) other than caching supplies at anticipated woodsy campsites. I am looking for a basic “woods” terrain hauling cart; and have no concern about having to portage thru or around a plowed field, or fields of weeds growing higher than my height (I expect that, that I will have to make two trips, one with bike, one with cart thru dense weed areas or rough ground). But not all rural woodlands are like that, so what is the walking or bicycling hauling cart solution? Best I’ve seen was a homeless man hauling a metal trash can on some sort of frame behind a bicycle on a town street (I drove by fast and couldn’t study the framework), but it was attached at the rear seat and was durable at least for town streets and sidewalks. I’ve looked at golf bags, garden carts, canoe dollies, ricksaws (what others use in foreign countries), baby carriers for bikes, etc. What I want is something that can be hauled overland and with the idea that “being unseen/unheard” is paramount. The family with me is pained in different ways sufficiently where “going slow” works for the disabilities, but what doesn’t work is even 25 lb loads on their backs. The cart has to have wheels; and since going slow is the need, having to “portage” over a few acres of super rough terrain or tall weeds is A-OK (I haul, my family rests).
This is a bit late but have you looked at the “Burley” bike trailers? I use a cub & it will haul 100 pounds safely, I use it for building trails & toting the baby around. this is one solid trailer
I live in Maine and my work is 35 miles away. I keep a sled in the trunk in the winter since sometimes the weather is really cold with the wind blowing hard. It easily carries all my winter gear and allows me 4 days to get home. In the summer I keep a deer retrieval cart. It comes apart and sits nearly flat and is able to carry up to 250 lbs, uses solid rubber tires. It wheels over more or less rough terrain.
What do u think of Chevy Blazers? I have a 99 Chevy Blazer 4×4 with small 4×6 trailer attached, n I think I’ll be down if an EMP attacks. What should be the next older model that I should get, that doesn’t have computers in it??
Take a look for the older military ones the Chevrolet M1009 is based on the Blazer and comes with a 6.2 diesel with a mechanical pumps (Fuel & injector). Built like a brick and all the H.D. parts stock. Seen a 1986 listed for $7,000 that looked good.
When people, when are we going to talk about using the cars we already own? 🙂 The fact is that more cars are made, sold and purchased and therefore there will be more available before, during and after an apocalyptic event. I believe that a solid, good running car will get us out of Dodge just as effectively as any truck and even into some wooded areas and beaches. Of course some off road tires and chains will increase it’s ability to track. In addition I would stiffen the ride and beef up the suspension, possibly install skid plates and raise the vehicle just a tad. And the bumpers can be replaced with brush guards and such, which will in turn lead to lights and a luggage rack on the roof or trunk and maybe some sort of lightweight bars, or racks to carry a spare tire or gas and water cans on the outside of the vehicle. Of course the car will look more like a “Baja bug” or Land Rover, but then that’s sort of the idea and if not overdone won’t stand out that much. Personally I am more concerned about purpose and function and if the poop hits the fan, I won’t be concerned about style or looks or “being the grey man”, but just getting out of the danger. With careful scrounging, shopping and creativity, I think it can be cheaper or more financially manageable and affordable to go this route than trying to buy another vehicle. Good mileage, familiarity with the current vehicle and being paid for or paid off are financial advantageous.
What about a 2007 Ford Expedition xlt
For some it is a 4×4 muricen made pick up and for some a Prius with a full tank with a 5 gallon gas can with a couple of cases of mre`s aand a few cases of water with your wife and pug dog.
I’m sorry but an F250 and an Excursion?
-oversized, won’t make it through a rough wooded detour when the main highways are packed
Small and medium sized trucks is where it’s at. Extended bugouts plan for 500lb per person in essentials. A Jeep can’t handle that without pulling an overland trailer, and while your big burly truck/SUV will get you there comfort and with the required payload, their size and unreliability make them poor choices.
I love this stuff. Just wish I had come to reality when I was in my 40’s and not scoffed at preppers. I’m always on the tail end of things.
I’ll bug in unless it’s a coming wildfire. Then we will leave when an advisory is issued. Let the rest park on the highways. Both cars are always gassed with 5 gallons extra for each just in case.
I cook so there’s plenty of both purchased freeze dried kits, plus dry and canned foods in the pantry. LP gas, wood and charcoal stoves. Emergency gas and solar/battery generators. Fuel. Sun.
I’m an old com-tech and worked on backcountry, solar-powered, hilltop repeaters and microwave sites. I’m all about comms and solar/battery portability. Walkie talkies in each car, an all-band ham rig (yes Morse code – works thru the noise by modulating the noise if a competent operator is on the other end), rapid deployment antenna, NOAA radio, etc.
I’m too damned old to worry much about civil war and survival other than maybe a chair, glass of tea, a gun and a score card just for fun? Other than that, see ya in heaven or elsewhere. ;-))