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There has long been talk of what bug out vehicles are. Some might have a more romantic view of the world and picture a diesel loaded four-wheel-drive dune buggy complete with exterior spikes and the rest of the apocalyptic decor that you would see on the standard Mad Max vehicle. Other bug out vehicle designs are more practical, because when we’re looking at a vehicle that’s going to save our necks and get us out of trouble, we need something that’s reliable, fuel efficient, able to fit our supplies, that blends in, is low in maintenance and won’t leave you broke.
As much as we would all enjoy looking at wasteland designs to find the best apocalyptic rover, this list is going to consist of the real bug out vehicles that you can get, on a budget, and what to look out for if you are in the market for not only a bug out vehicle but a vehicle that you can take to enjoy the outdoors, and still blend in the urban environment. Essentially, I hope for this piece to act as a buyer’s guide for those shopping around for a second-hand vehicle that you can turn into a practical and affordable multipurpose ‘get out of dodge’ vehicle.
There are a lot of different shapes, sizes and makes to describe what a bug out vehicle is, but what it isn’t is a Ferrari sports car. Instead, if you have ever been to a farm you will notice that most have that one vehicle that has been lasted for tens of years and has been used to carry things, to chase things, to pull things and to drive over a lot of difficult terrain. On top of that, it’s this sort of vehicle that is reliable because it has simple parts that can be replaced in an instant, and doesn’t take a rocket scientist to actually fix. That’s what a bug out vehicle is.
The use of a bug out vehicle is simple. It’s the transport you can rely upon to get you and your family to safety when the SHTF. More simply put, it’s a vehicle to bug out with. Although we might have this vehicle, not all circumstances require us to bug out, and if you haven’t already got the prepper basics sorted for when the SHTF, you might need to organize that before you start considering a bug out vehicle.
Of course, when you get to the point where you are choosing bug out locations, forming a bug out plan, and coordinating rendezvous points and default actions for you and your community, you are definitely going to need to choose a vehicle that is sturdy, reliable and will last. So let’s take a look at what we need in a bug out vehicle.
Considering its purpose, the bug out vehicle isn’t any normal vehicle. Not only should it be reliable and easy to fix, but it should be able to keep you and your family safe, should there be any imminent threat. Because we are using this type of vehicle to both get out of the city and urban areas, and then to be effective in its operation as an end-of-the-world vehicle, there are certain characteristics that makes a bug out vehicle a certain breed.
The things you need to look out for when choosing a bug out vehicle are:
Low maintenance – Having a low maintenance vehicle is important when it breaks down as you will be able to fix it yourself, or will easily find someone that has enough experience to lend a hand and get it working again. This also means that it has readily available parts, should you need them. For most people, buying a bug out vehicle will be in the form of a second-hand buy which may require some replacements before it is reliable. Do the work in advance and find out if you can get the parts at local retailers. If they are widely available then that saves you the money and the time to get that part.
Being low maintenance also means choosing a vehicle with limited electrics, especially if you are concerned about having your car hacked, as you can see in this video on a hacker remotely hacking and shutting down a Jeep on the highway.
Fuel-efficient – Depending on the event you may need to bug out over quite some distance without stopping at any fuel stations (which will either be full or closed), so you need something that has a good gas mileage.
Space – Always have more space than less. With the way family vehicles have been developed, there are options that fit the bug out vehicle’s characteristics. Even if you are a lonesome prepper, there’s no telling who you might meet when you bug out, or what friend might call you saying “I know you’re into survival, do you have a plan?” – this will happen. At this point you can choose to be a hero or continue on your way to safety, your call. Having that space will also help for when you come across any extra supplies you might want to pick up.
For the number of people you are traveling with, size of an issue. Sure if you are just one person, a four-seater vehicle is perfect. But when you are a full family, the space will be quickly filled with bug out bags, water, food and other supplies. You need to have a rough idea of how much space you need, plus extra, when shopping around.
Speed – We’re not entering the Grand Prix with this thing but it can’t be slow. Some military trucks are known for this. They are efficient at crossing a variety of terrain and can carry big loads, but they’re essentially turtles on the road. You need something a bit faster.
Noise – Sure, it’s nice to have a loud car if you want the attention with a sports car or a nice loud easy rider motorbike when you are roaring down the street, but they are also vehicles that can be heard from miles away and through thickets of trees. Anyone in a 5-mile radius is going to be easily able to find your bug out location, and they’re also going to be able to hear when you leave so that they can raid your food, water and ammunition supplies. Having something more inconspicuous is tough, I know, but it helps when you are trying to be a little more covert.
All-terrain – No matter what you are preparing for, there may be a chance where you will need to go off-road, through different terrain and through various types of weather. It comes with no surprise that you need a vehicle capable of traversing different terrain environments, and for many preppers and survivalists, this is why the bug out vehicle is generally the vehicle you use when you go camping and 4WD’ing through the outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, as soon as you start bugging out you’re not going off-road straight away, but as many bug out locations will be located in regional areas, and supply caches might be outdoors, you are going to need a vehicle that can work in those environments.
So we have a list of things we need in a vehicle, but what on earth fits that specific type? These vehicles are not meant to break the bank, so that should you look into starting a project bug out vehicle, you can instead be a little more budget-savvy with your vehicle, and in-turn, have an extra amount to spend on extras that would make good additions to the vehicle, or any necessary repairs that need to be made if you are purchasing your bug out vehicle as a second-hand car.
So let’s take a look at the most suitable bug out vehicles with what we identified above:
Mercedes G-Wagon – These vehicles are beasts. This is why they are used by a number of militaries around the world. There are several models of the Mercedez Benz G-Wagon. The more modern versions of the car are a more luxury 4WD made for city environments. There are two G-Wagons that make great bug out vehicles. The first is the classic 1980s and 90s G-Wagon. They’re simple in their design and parts and have been described as workhorses of the countryside. The 80s original G-Wagon has no electronics in the engine and with its back side seating, can seat up to seven people. If you take a good look around car sales sites, you can find one of these for a bargain.
The more modern type of G-Wagon, and one that I have used in the military, is a rigid vehicle capable of driving through any terrain and is highly customizable. The problem is with the G-Wagon it is a bit more of a fuel guzzler than the average SUV, with its fuel usage at an average of 13mpg in the city and 14mpg on the highways.
Jeep – The Jeep Wrangler series is a very customizable 4×4 city that performs well as an urban everyday drive vehicle as well out in the wilderness. One of the things a lot of outdoors goers love about the Jeep is its capacity to pack a lot of weight. That extra cargo space is important when considering bugging out as you will need to carry supplies with you, and for the duration of your bug out period. That is of course, unless you haven’t already cached a supply at your bug out location. The fuel usage on these is for a 2014 3.6L model is 17mpg in the city and 21mpg on the highways.
Humvee – The Humvee is another military service vehicle that has never failed to impress in its operation, as well as carriage and hauling power. While some of the newer models of the Humvee are more for the preppers’ ‘dream’ budget, the 1998-2001 models, both surplus, and civilian, are more affordable with people snagging these up for $20,000-$30,000 for ex-service models. There are some auction sites where survivalists have scored themselves a lucky win of $10,000 for a Hummer, so it pays to shop around, especially when you’re looking for these types of timeless vehicles. The fuel usage on these is for a 2006 3.5L model is 14mpg in the city and 18mpg on the highways.
Ford 4×4 F-Series – Everyone knows someone that owns an F-Series truck. Whether it be an F350, 250 or even a 150, they’ve all got the power, space, and functionality for any family to be safely moved from point A to point B. These trucks are common on American roads as they are reliable and are pretty fuel efficient for the power that they have. There is a reason why worksite carparks are full of series vehicles, they are a big, powerful, affordable, family truck with a big tank, enough storage space in the back for jerry cans, and if you need it to, it can tow big objects. The fuel usage on a an150 5L is 15mpg in the city and 22mpg on the highways.
RAM Outdoorsman – These beasts are such a budget vehicle with many second-hand options available for under $20,000 and needs very little work to maintain. Any type of RAM truck is useful as a bug out vehicle. The Outdoorsman is a good bug out vehicle for its big amount of space with a flatbed trailer, and the ability to easily tow a trailer as well (be it a horse float packed with supplies or a pop-up camper trailer. These vehicles are also very suitable as a day car, as they are fuel efficient and spacious for everyday use. The fuel usage on these is for a 5.7L is 18mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highways.
Toyota 4Runner – Toyota is one of the most popular vehicle makers for campers and outdoors lovers, and one of its outdoors favorites is the 4Runner. That suits us when we’re looking for a bug out vehicle because we’re after the same thing, a reliable vehicle for the outdoors. Out of all of these vehicles, I’d choose the 4Runner as there are a few very attractive options it comes with for such a low price of under $40,000. First, it fits seven people on board, which when you’re packing supplies, is much-needed extra space. When you fold the back seats down you also have a huge amount of cargo space, as well as on the top of the roof racks (which you can do with all of these vehicles). The fuel rate for the 4Runner is at an average for these SUVs at about 17mpg in the city, and 21mpg on the highway.
Toyota Tacoma – The Tacoma is another one of Toyota’s great outdoors SUVs but comes with a few different specifications. Where the 4Runner is a more family-based vehicle, the Tacoma is more of a power-based vehicle to be used to tow things, carry a lot, and do more over difficult terrain. I like the Tacoma quite a lot, especially because even though it is quite similar to the 4Runner, it is several thousand dollars cheaper in average pricing, and it has the benefit of a more fuel-efficient system with a 19mpg for city areas and a 24mpg for highways.
Just getting one of these vehicles on its own is a big step in your bug out plans. All of them fit the needs we have when we are bugging out as they are have the size we need to pack supplies, gear and fit our loved ones in, they are able to perform well off-road, should we need it to, and they’re fuel efficient and budget options for bug out vehicles. But when you do get a bug out vehicle, there might be some additions you want to consider to really perform the duties that a bug out vehicle needs to. After all, we’re planning on using this vehicle when the SHTF, and whatever that might be, some of these things are going to come in handy.
Lightbars and work lights: having bright LED working flood lights on the side and the back of your vehicle are going to help a lot. There may be situations where instead of bugging out, you might want to provide a helping hand to a nearby town, or your local area, whether it be after a horrible storm or the much-needed repair and assistance after a flood. As some of these incidents can cause blackouts, having working lights for evening work on the side and rear of your bug out vehicle turns it into a workstation. That, and when you are outdoors and are setting up camp or at your bug out location, these lights give you the chance to have an all-around visibility to ensure the area is clear, and to allow you to see your surrounding area to set up camp at night. A good option for work lights on your bug out vehicle is Lite-Way’s Cree LED lights, and Yitamotor’s light bar.
Roofracks – Of course, anything you can do for extra storage space is going to help. Every good bug out vehicle should have roof racks. They’re the perfect way to store extra water jerries, solar panel systems, containers with food supplies or extra fuel. Whatever you are packing consider if you need it on the trip, or whether it’s to use when you arrive at your bug out location. If it is to use when you arrive, pop it on the roof so that you have more space inside your bug out vehicle. Having steady roof racks with a hard surface can also be used to implement a popup tent that you can climb up into and be off the ground.
Storage tanks – If you are bugging out, you are going to need some supplies. As for most of us, staying in the home is the most favorable option. When you do bug out, you’re going to have to take a lot of supplies with you, and most of it is going to be food, water, and fuel. When it comes to water and fuel, some basic additions you should make to your bug out vehicle are jerry cans. Most decent jerry cans can be picked up from army surplus areas, or you can buy them new. They should be clearly marked either ‘water’ or ‘fuel’ so as to not confuse their contents.
In-car organizers – Okay, so this isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you are like me and you’re love having everything organized well, these Smittybilt tactical front seat covers are the perfect thing to use in your bug out vehicle. Even if you don’t carry a firearm, these things are great organizers for your outdoor tools, survival gear, first aid equipment, knives, communications accessories and snack bars for the family and yourself for while you are traveling.
Bug out vehicles are a certain breed, but when you get one, it doesn’t just mean its purpose is for when the SHTF. For me, I am an outdoors regular as I enjoy camping, hiking and exploring the outdoors, and when I first chose a vehicle for that purpose I was not even thinking of a bug out vehicle. So as you can see, the two go hand-in-hand, and whether you are a hunting enthusiast, into fishing, or just love the outdoors like me, one of these vehicles will give you everything you need to do that, as well as to act as a bug out vehicle, should the need arise.
The extra gear that I have mentioned at the end of this post, is also stuff that I use when I go camping, and are things that will no doubt be useful for any practical prepper and survivalist.
In writing this post, I hope I have given you some ideas of what it is you might be looking for in a good bug out vehicle, so that should a natural disaster, or a worst-case scenario warning be aired, you will be ready to jump in your bug out vehicle, and get out of dodge to keep you are your family safe.
If you already have a bug out vehicle, let me know in the comment section below what type you have!