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Bug Out Vehicle

overloaded bug out car

Sometimes, when we’re going on vacation, it looks like we’re moving out. Ok, make that most of the time. Between the baby’s favorite blankie, my laptop bag, clothing fit for at least 3 different seasons and just “a few” snacks, I wonder how long it’s going to be before we’re getting fined for missing the Oversized Load signs.

So, while daydreaming over my computer keyword, I started wondering about what makes a reliable, realistic bug out vehicle. You know, should you need to leave in a hurry and be self-sufficient for a few days.

Table Of Contents

What Is A Bug Out Vehicle

A bug out vehicle is the best means of transportation you can get your hands on in an emergency situation. Also called a survival vehicle, it is meant to take you from a dangerous point A to a safe point B and provide for your basic human needs until you can leave point B.

You can imagine that are a lot of choices ranging from semi-trucks, RVs, armored trucks to your average Prius.

What Makes A Good Bug Out Vehicle?

I have been driving for a living for about 14 years so I am no stranger to living out of a vehicle, be it a semi-truck or a luxury limousine. The open road is both an old friend and an old foe…

There are 3 main criteria that I would use to select and prepare a shtf vehicle:

  • affordability
  • vehicle features
  • enough room to pack the necessary bug out supplies

Affordable B.O. Vehicle

Armored Bug Out Truck

Like me, you might be dreaming about owning one of these bad boys. But, considering the price tag that can run between 7-8k for a tired, old machine to 80k AND how hard it is to make it street legal, you’re probably better off with using the clunker parked on your driveway.

When it comes to budgeting for an escape vehicle, you also need to consider additional costs, such as:

  • initial repair costs to get it ship-shape (used vehicles)
  • purchasing additional equipment
  • purchasing supplies
  • licensing fees and insurance
  • fuel and maintenance costs if you plan to drive it on a regular basis
  • parking costs if you live in a crowded urban area
  • the ire of your wife on spending so much money

As you can tell, that’s a lot of moolah you’ll need to spend if you plan to buy a vehicle for bug out purposes only. But what if you want to trade a vehicle or buy one for day-to-day use too?

Bug Out Vehicle Best Features & Requirements

By design, SUVs and trucks are better suited to be an escape vehicle. That is because they are generally more powerful and can navigate rough terrain better than their sedan counterparts. However, there are also some cons:

  • they are bulkier making it harder to drive through tight spaces, such as in an urban environment
  • they use more fuel

Ultimately, even a sedan will do its job to take you to safety, as long as you keep it on the road and make sure it has the features listed below.

Have A Bug Out Plan Drafted

It’s time. The emergency that you hoped you’d never face is here. People outside are shouting, but you mange to control your breathing and keep your calm. You have a goal, to get your family to safety and the things needed to do that. You could pat yourself on the back, if things were not so dire. 

Everyone is in the car, after just two minutes. Everything’s already packed and ready to go. The engine fires up and the car starts moving. You go past the KFC, avoid the pothole (didn’t they fix that last spring?), take the ramp to the highway and…hit the brakes. There’s a sea, no, an ocean of stopped vehicles ahead of you, both big and small. At least half of them are honking.

Bug Out PlanA bug out vehicle might only take you as far as the highway, or maybe not even that far. It’s usefulness will only live up to the first traffic jam that you cannot go around. You should always have a plan B that assumes that you will hit a traffic jam at some point and that you will have to abandon the vehicle. Here are a few tips how to do that:

  • plan your bug out routes so they take you away from the heavily populated, urban areas and not through them
  • make sure that your bug out vehicle is loaded in such a fashion that the most important things, such as your B.O.B. are easily accessible
  • print maps of the areas you’ll be driving through so you know where to go if you have to get out of the car and start walking

Make Sure The Vehicle Is Big Enough For All Your Family

And friends. When shtf, you have so many more chances as part of a survival group.

Offroad bug out vehicle

Your bug out vehicle should fit everyone from Fido to your mother in-law, if she lives with you. Because, God forbid that you have to make that choice. All jokes aside, I once took a sports car grocery shopping. It took me 15 minutes to try to fit everything in and I was seriously considering to return some of the stuff. Of course, back then I didn’t need a car seat, stroller and didn’t have a mother-in-law.

Keep It In A Good Mechanical Shape

Putting a lot of stress on a vehicle, such as offroading or using it on a farm, takes a big toll on it. Make sure that you check the following on a regular basis:

  • wash it regularly and grease any joints and bearings that might require it
  • look on on the ground for leaks that might indicate a hidden issue
  • pop up the hood and check for loose/leaking hoses, worn belts, low fluid levels
  • check the brakes
  • check the tires (including the spare), rims and make sure the lug nuts are tight
  • check the shocks, axles and the suspension system
  • check the differential and transmission
  • make sure that all the lights work
  • test the windshield wipers
  • make sure the climate control works

These checks shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes but can be a lifesaver. Imagine getting caught in a snowstorm without working windshield wipers. You pull over because you can’t see anything and, just when you thought things can’t get worse your climate control stops working or your engine stalls. Don’t be that guy.

well maintained bug out vehicle

Mick Ohman got stranded in the sweltering Arizona desert weather after his car broke down. It was around 3PM on July 27th 2017. July is the hottest month of the summer in Arizona and Mick had to get out of his car and start hiking in triple-digit temperatures. His only supplies were a water bottle, two beers, a spoiled sandwich, chips and his survivor’s attitude

“It got to the point that I couldn’t swallow and my throat would stick together. I would gag,” Ohman told NBC affiliate KPNX. “I was forced to drink my own urine at this point, in order to swallow.”

24 hours after the wreck, Ohman found a stream nearby. However, he spent a second night sleeping in his vehicle, in the hope of being spotted and rescued by someone. While he was searching for help, he left notes in his car and pointed to the direction in which he wandered off. 

“My legs they were like were a ton,” “Every step I took was painful. My calves were starting to cramp. I was literally running out of fuel.”

Help came on the third day, in the form of a dirt biker. Ohman managed to flag him down and got the ride of his life back to civilization.

Bug Out Vehicle Tires

It is likely that, during your timely departure, you will put your vehicle under a lot of stress. Part of that stress, such as driving over the curb, taking the car offroad, sudden acceleration and sudden braking will be taken over by the tires.

There’s a bit of a debate on which type of tires are better suited for an escape vehicle – all season tires or all-terrain tires. Keep in mind that all-terrain tires might come with an increased gas mileage. Also, their deeper thread might prevent them from handling on the road as well as their all-season counterparts. Ultimately, I would take a good look at my bug out plan, analyze the escape routes, figure out how long it will take me to reach safe haven and decide based on this information.

Always make sure that you have a functional spare, a jack and a lug nut wrench.

Highly Recommended Vehicle Features

Some features that you should consider installing on your vehicle are a hitch, a winch, a CB or Ham Radio and a light bar.

The hitch can be used for towing, for installing a cargo carrier, a bike mount, etc. You can get a hitch installed for $200-$300 and up.

Most winches do not work with the stock bumper and will require you to buy a special bumper with a winch mount. A good winch should be water and dirt resistant and will cost you around $300. You can use a winch in a lot of ways:

  • pull yourself out of snow/mud, etc
  • move around heavy stuff
  • build yourself a shelter

jeep with winchA Ham radio and a CB radio will help you reach out to other people that can help you get out of a tight spot. Keep in mind that the range varies depending on a lot of variables, of which the most important ones are power and height of your radio antenna. So, when in need, boost power (don’t abuse it on a day-to-day basis) and get to the high ground.

LED light bars also have a variety of uses, from off-roading to hunting, fishing and keeping yourself safe from animal attacks. LED transmitters function at 80% efficiency, compared to the 20% efficiency of incandescent bulbs. That means that they will require less energy and have a much longer lifetime.

Bug Out Vehicle Gear

This is the stuff that you keep in your trunk. You will be very glad you took the time to put there when shtf.

✔ A toolbox with a few regular tools and supplies can work wonders when shtf:

  • first aid kit and any prescription or allergy medicine you use on a regular basis
  • fire extinguisher
  • carpenter hatchet (hammer/ ax combo)
  • screwdriver
  • shovel
  • electrical and duct tape
  • zip ties
  • fix-a-flat spray
  • portable battery jumper
  • adjustable wrench and pliers
  • multi-tool
  • knife
  • fire-starter
  • couple of flares

✔ Water, water filter and food bars (just in case that you do not have time to grab your bug out bag).

Your bug out bag. Can be replaced with a bug out box that contains the same gear, but stays in your car at all times.

✔ Water resistant tactical flashlight.

✔ A thermal blanket also called a space blanket.

Mandatory Vehicle Supplies

These are supplies that you need to keep in your vehicle at all times:

  • windshield washer
  • extra oil and coolant (especially if you have leaks that you have not fixed yet)
  • fuses
  • extra light bulbs
  • extra windshield wiper blade
  • bug out plan and maps of the area that you are driving through

You can get creative and add more supplies and tools that you think that you’ll need, based on the climate of the area you live in, most likely emergency scenarios, etc.

There are two choices left unexplored when it comes to choosing a bug out vehicle:

EMP Proof Bug Out Vehicles

An EMP or Electro Magnetic Pulse can be caused by three scenarios:

  • solar flares
  • nuclear detonation of HEMP (high altitude electromagnetic pulse)
  • special, non-nuclear EMP devices

There is a lot of speculation that certain older car models (before 1980s) will not be affected by an EMP. But there is also not much testing done to see if and how an EMP would affect modern vehicles. A 2004 EMP Commission test found that very few of the cars would actually be damaged in such a scenario, as the vast majority of the cars that shut down during the tests were easily restarted right after. Moreover, most modern electronics are shielded to prevent them from interfering with each other. However, the test was done on older models that do not have the myriad of microprocessors that modern cars have and there was some argument between the staff members regarding the test results.

If you want to find out more about protecting your car against an EMP attack, please watch the video below:

Gas vs Diesel Bug Out Vehicle

Some regions in Europe have 50% or more diesel cars. The reason for that is a better fuel mileage, engine longevity, and endurance. Starting with 2006, every car to win the French “24 Hours of Le Mans” sports car endurance race was a diesel (oohlala). It is also easy to make your own bio-diesel, if you have enough vegetable oil, that is.

On the other hand, gas might be easier to procure in a shtf situation, just because there are so many vehicles that use it.

I don’t think there is a wrong or right choice in the gas vs diesel debate, at least not when it comes to your bug out vehicle.

Perfect Bug Out Vehicles

So, what kind of a host would I be if I didn’t include a few pictures of some of the most awesome survival vehicles?


The iconic Jeep was born in times of strife, in 1940 and it is said to have had a crucial role in winning the war. Nowadays, it is one the favorite choices for adventurers, survivalists, and off-road exploration. It’s also lots of fun.

Land Rover

For a mere $1200, you can experience one of these bad boys for a full half a day, courtesy of the Land Rover Experience program. Pitch in $300 more and it is yours for the day. And it might be well worth it.

You can also buy one for about $20k-$30k, as long as you make sure it’s been properly imported.

land rover defender


The Wildtrack is what you get from the <rare> marriage between down-to-earth country goodness and urban sophistication.

Ford Wildtrak


2018 marks a century since the first Dodge truck was built (yay). They are the ones that introduced the revolutionary “Job Rated” concept that had the goal to get the buyer a truck well fit for the purpose or job he was buying it for.

Dodge Truck

And, of course, there’s this:

Custom Dodge RAM

There are a lot of other brands and models that make a good bug out vehicle and we’ll add them in due time.

Feel free to reach out to us with pictures of your custom survival vehicle, monster truck or tips, and tricks on how to equip it.



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