Finding the best bugout vehicle to help you and your loved ones reach your prepper retreat both quickly and safely is not an easy task. There are many important aspects which must be considered – budget being a primary and guiding concern, of course.
A bug out vehicle (BOV for short) must first and foremost, be reliable. This surely does not mean you can’t turn a used vehicle into a durable doomsday escape vehicle, but you must verify its condition either using your own skills or by taking it to a trusted mechanic before purchasing – your life will depend on the bug out vehicle’s ability to run at a second’s notice.
We would all probably love to own an EMP-proof tank or a deuce and a half military truck – but if such an awesome BOV is simply not in your budget, don’t fret, there are plenty of quality alternative options sitting on a car lot near you or for sale online.
Bugout Vehicles Basics
A BOV should be large, fast, and rugged as well. You will not be driving this thing on paved roads and under normal travel conditions. When society collapses, there will be no stopping for gas or pulling off the side of the road to change a tire or deal with an overly-taxed radiator.
Off-road vehicles, or ones which can be retrofitted for off-road use, are highly recommended. A basic 4X4 SUV or truck can enable you to quickly exit clogged and dangerous roadways and cut through fields and wooded areas without breaking down. Off-road vehicles are built with the type of sturdy under carriages needed to help you reach your secluded and secure prepper retreat – or simply get you the heck out of Dodge, without breaking down minutes are making a hasty exit from the highway.
Fuel and Tires
Gas will be in short supply and ridiculously expensive during and after a doomsday disaster. Buying a BOV that runs on diesel is a far more sustainable option – especially if you convert the engine to run on biodiesel you can make yourself. Unlike gasoline, diesel remains stable without a reduction in quality for a far longer time period. Better still, learn how to make a “gasifer” system so your BOV can be fueled by burning wood!
The best BOVs also have a long-range fuel capacity – or at least allow for the attachment of auxiliary gas tanks and/or portable gas storage cans. Carrying more fuel than is deemed necessary to reach your survival retreat of a safe area is highly recommended.
If possible, double the amount of fuel used during your practice runs to safety in or on the BOV. Do not take for granted the exact route, or alternative route, will be feasible to drive upon when the SHTF. You may have to take a 20-mile detour around a dangerous area to get back on the route to the prepper retreat. If you run out of fuel before reaching the desired destination, you will likely be traveling the rest of the way there on foot – and carrying on the survival supplies that can fit on your back!
Do not leave home without a spare full set of tires attached to or toted on top of, the BOV. You should expect to be entirely on your own after the SHTF – pack as if your life depends upon it…because it will! Do not skimp on the quality of tires, that would be a mistake that you might not live long enough to fully regret.
Seating and Storage
The bug out vehicle must be large enough to carry your entire family AND still be able to pack your bug out bags or INCH bags. Being forced to camp out in your BOV for at least a night is a very real possibility. Pitching tents that you have stored in the luggage rack on top of the BOV is one option, but it would be a whole lot safer to recline in a seat and sleep inside the vehicle – in shifts of course – overnight.
Organization and labeling of preps in order of importance is also essential when browsing for BOVs. The ONLY way to know for sure if all of your storage tubs full of preps will fit and if the bugout vehicle is capable of hauling the weight to pack them with all of your survival gear and place them inside or weigh and measure them. Careful packing of survival tools and supplies will allow you to take advantage of all the available space inside the BOV – every available inch of the should be utilized to maximum capacity by either the family or gear.
Location, Location, Location
Where you live will dictate the type of BOV needed every bit as much as the disaster you are prepping to survive. Make a list of common weather and seasonal construction projects in your region before browsing possible bugout vehicles in your price range.
Will you have to cross high water? Will the panicked drivers be reducing to traveling only on one lane to get out of town due to spring through fall routine paving and hole filling? Will I be able to pull a trailer behind my BOV when I drive off-road? These are just a few of the obstacle-related questions you must ponder before selecting a BOV to fit the terrain and environment in your region.
Best Moderately Priced Bugout Vehicles
SUV are perhaps the most popular moderately-priced bugout vehicles. All-wheel drive versions are good, but 4-wheel drive SUVs are far better. The undercarriage should be revamped to make it off-road durable no matter what model SUV you purchase.
The SUV boasts an enormous amount of interior space and a cargo rack already attacked. Both the Chevy Tahoe and the Ford Expedition are SUV BOV all-stars. They have substantial storage and towing capacity, have durable 4-wheel drive systems, are relatively easy to work on (as far as modern vehicles go) and parts are very easy to find.
Recommended BOV Models – Ford Expedition, Ford F350, Chevy Tahoe, Toyota 4Runner, Chevy Suburban, Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Range Rover, and the Nissan Xterra.
A 4-wheel drive Jeep will get you most anywhere you need to go. Although they are not as large as some SUV models, they still boast a better than decent amount of passenger and cargo space.
Thanks to the popularity of the Jeep, a massive amount of after-market parts to customize the vehicle for off-roading already exist. Whenever you can buy something instead of making it – and hoping it will work far into the future, you save a significant amount of time.
If you boast mechanical and welding skills, you could save a better than fair amount of money doing such work yourself – and use the readily available schematics from Jeep parts manuals to guide you along the way.
Recommended BOV Models – Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Jeep Cherokee, the Jeep Liberty, and the Jeep Commander.
Humvees are heavy, rugged, and durable SUVs – making them a great option for a bugout vehicle. Buying a used military grade Hummer from a military surplus or government auction is an even better idea. The GOV Planet website is a great place to begin an online search for a sale in your area.
4-Wheel Drive Trucks
Numerous 4-wheel drive trucks, with dual cabs exist at affordable prices. When a cargo rack and bed cab top are added and the suspension gets an off-road upgrade, the trucks make superb BOVs.
Go old school and purchase a vintage truck. They are not only easier to work on, but have far fewer digital components that can be effected by an EMP. A 1970s era truck, even if it needs a new engine and transmission system, is still a worthy competitor for your allotted BOV dollars.
A quick online search will help you find the parts you need to stock up on to both immediately repair and stockpile for older American-made trucks.
There is absolutely nothing digital or electronically sensitive on such an old truck. Although it will not have a dual cab, additional emergency seating can be created in the truck bed – with the cab cover offering protection from the elements and threatening strangers.
Recommended BOV Models – Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Raptor, Ford Super Duty, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tacoma, and the Nissan Frontier.
RVs – Campers
A home on wheels has many advantages, but using a camper or RV as a bugout vehicle has some distinct disadvantages as well. You can stock a whole lot of gear and people into motor home, and have enough power to pull a trailer with yet more preps.
But, campers are not built for the type of extreme off-roading which could very well be required to reach safety. Retrofitting a motor home to make it more durable is feasible, if you are mechanically inclined or have the funds in your prepping budget to accomplish the task.
Truck campers are the best option for preppers considering bringing their shelter with them when bugging out. They do not have as much storage space as a motor home, but they are self-contained – enhancing safety. They can also be maneuvered around clogged roadways and other dangerous obstacles fare more quickly than a typical camper.
Finding a 4-wheel drive van, either a minivan or a full-size van, is not an easy task – but they do exist. The vans are typically less expensive than a motor home but still offer ample space to transporting both people and preps.
The all-wheel drive Chevy Astro van has become a favorite among preppers who favor vans as bugout vehicles. This Chevy van can carry 10 people, comes with a cargo rack already installed and has a 5,000-pound towing capacity.
Recommended BOV Models – the Ford E Series ES350 XLT van is a 4-wheel drive. The 1991 Mitsubishi van L300 has proven itself to be a dependable vehicle and also offers ample storage and passenger space.
Military Surplus Vehicles
- The Ford F-350 XL Super Duty Aircraft Pushback Tractor is built to withstand harsh terrain and traffic. It was designed as an off-road vehicle for heavy military usage. The “blade” on the front will move both debris and vehicles right out of your road. It boats a Ford 8 Cylinder 7.3L Turbo Diesel Engine, 265/75R16 Tires, Hard Top, and weighs in at 9,900 pounds.
- Stewart & Stevenson’s M1078 LMTV 4×4 cargo truck is a military grade light to medium tactical vehicle. It is an off-road ready 4×4 with a 6 Cylinder Turbo Diesel Engine, a central tire Inflation System, with a hard-top cab and a cargo cover with cargo bows in back – and a tailgate. He military surplus BOV all-star runs on 395/85R20 Tires, has fold don bed sides, and weighs a whopping 22,770 pounds.
- Dodge W-200 4×4 Service Truck has limited seating space, but ample and extremely secure storage space. This military surplus bugout vehicle is 4-wheel drive with an 8-cyliner gasoline engine, the W-2000 series truck runs on 9.50R16.5LT Tires, and boasts both an air compressor and a generator. It weighs 8,000 pounds.
- Oshkosh AS 32P-19 4×4 Fire Truck, and similar models of the emergency vehicle also used by the United States Military, is a true BOV gem. The ability to carry an extensive amount of water with you while bugging out is an enormous plus. The large cab is big enough to carry most families, along with some survival gear. The space on top of an in between the water storage area can also be used as both a portable LP/Op and for storage of preps. Fire engines have ample built-in exterior storage areas as well. This fire truck is designed to traverse rugged terrain – and to push unwanted obstacles out of it way!
- The BMY M923A2 5 Ton 6×6 Cargo Truck is a beast of a bugout vehicle. Interior seating space is limited, but that is really the only drawback to using this military surplus vehicle to bugout. The 6×6 truck weighs 31,550 pounds, runs on a Cummins 6 Cylinder Turbo Diesel Engine, boasts a central tire inflation system, has a both stake sides and fold down bed sides. It runs on 14.00R20 Tires.
- AM General M1045A2 HMMWV 4 Door Hard Top w/Slant Back is a demilitarized Hummer. It has a 6.5L Diesel Engine, a hard top with a slant back, an automatic transmission with park and overdrive. The military Humvee 4X4 weighs 10,300 pounds. It has four hard doors, a tow carrier body, and runs on 37×12.50R16.5 tires.
- The AM General M931 6×6 Tractor Truck will pull just about any trailer or camper you want to haul when bugging out. The 6×6 tractor truck boasts a Cummins 6 Cylinder 855 diesel engine, weighs 58,010 pounds, has a hard top, and runs on 11.00R20 tires. This military surplus vehicle should be able to move some serious weight out of the way when pushing through rubble and roads clogged with disabled or stopped cars.
Luxury Model Bugout Vehicles
If you hit the lottery, this is the mother of all bug out vehicles you should buy!
- The Knight X5 by Conquest Vehicles strike an intimidating pose straight off the assembly line. It weighs 13,000 pounds and will get you virtually anywhere.
The Knight X5 boasts run-flat tires and armor that claims to be able to stop most bullets. The hood space on the vehicle allows for an immense cargo rack to carry your preps. If you want the top-of-the-line BOV that government officials and wealthy folks around the world drive to protect themselves from harm, this powerful baby is it!
The windows tint and return to clear with the simple push of a button. The Conquest Knight X5 is truly like something right out of a James Bond movie. Maybe you will get lucky and find a used one that will only cost about three year’s salary!
- The Rhino is as tough as its name makes it sound – and should be for the enormous sticker price is demands. A 362 HP engine powers the luxury SU. It is built on an 18-gauge steel frame and has a 6.8 L V10 Single Overhead Cam design. The Rhino come complete with vented disc brakes, large and sturdy aluminum alloy wheels, and 38-inch mud tires.
- Unicat Expeditionary Vehicles is a basically a pickup truck on steroids – with lots of extras. The bed topper offers added protections for survival gear while traveling and an ample and relatively safe space for multiple people to camp inside if necessary.
- The only downside to the Land Rover Defender, besides price, it that it seats just two people. If you are not bugging out with more than one loved one or pal, this luxury off-road adventure vehicle is the king of BOVs. The Defender comes equipped with an outdoor kitchen system, ample storage designed to house bulky camping gear, a folding camp stove, and exterior lights.
- The Earth Roamer XV-LT is also a top quality off-grid BOV option. It is the least costly of the vehicles in the luxury bugout vehicle category. It is very similar to the pricey UNICAT and has a long history of being lauded as a prime recreational and camping vehicle. It is built on a Ford 550 Super Duty chassis. It can sleep up to six people in reasonable comfort and can tow at least a 25-foot camper.
Alternative BOV Options
An ATV (4-wheeler) or a UTV (2-4 seater) can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour, quickly traverse creeks, rugged and muddy terrain, and can be equipped with tractor attachments for farming purposes and a trailer to offer extra cargo space. An ATV or UTV will double as a great perimeter security vehicle once you are settled on your survival retreat. Many ATVs and UTVs are able to haul small loads of food, water, firewood, etc. to the same capacity of a small pickup truck. Saddlebags made specifically for an ATV and cargo net attachments for both the front and back, further increase the durable off-road vehicle’s storage capabilities. The Honda 499cc Foreman is one of the most powerful ATV models. The Polaris Ranger and Kawasaki mules are also popular bugout vehicles alternative options for preppers. The Polaris UTV can pull 1,500 pounds and can carry 600 pounds of cargo and still hit up to 45 MPH speeds. A metal shed could be retrofitted rather inexpensively to turn it into a Faraday cage to shield the ATV or UTV from a solar flare or EMP dirty bomb.
- Mountain bikes could be a valuable BOV vehicle or urban preppers. Snarled traffic will be a massive obstacle for city people who are frantically trying to free the civil unrest which will occur quickly after a SHTF scenario. You will not be able to go very fast – but a bicycle will move you along more quickly than on foot – with cargo or child carrier trailers easing the burden of packing your INCH or bug out bag on your back.
- Motorcycles and scooters can also be stored inside a makeshift Faraday cage like ATV and UTV bug out vehicles, and would help you maneuver through the mother of all traffic jams when bugging out from a metropolitan area. Dirt bikes are best for off-roading and will aid in the effort to get away from the masses as quickly as possible. A small cargo trailer, or a Uhaul trailer made specifically for motorcycles will allow you to carry more gear than will only fit on your rucksack and into saddlebags.
- Horses are the ultimate rugged terrain bug out “vehicle.” Rural folks will bug in – until they can’t. A fire, an enormous group of violent marauding attackers, or a pandemic may force even rural preppers from their sustainable homesteads. Riding one horse with filled saddle bag and leading another with a pack saddle, will allow you to bug out without every needing to go anywhere near a road. I road travel does not pose a significant threat, a team of horses pulling a wagon permits far more survival essentials to go along for the journey.
- Boats are a perfect option for preppers who live near a waterway. A 4-Person inflatable boat with a high output air pump keep the cost of owning a bug out boat in the affordable range. Inflatable boats, a canoe, or a kayak really should be a part of almost everyone’s preps. Escaping on the water will require some travel for many preppers, but having a backup plan for your backup plan is always a good idea. The Intex Excursion 5 inflatable boat is large enough to carry the average family and their essential gear and still move about quickly in the water. A sailboat will not require fuel to move, even though many versions of this type of boat come complete with a small auxiliary engine. Wind generators and solar panels can be connected to most boats to provide additional power and to fuel small appliances.
Best BOV Upgrades – Focus Your Prepping Dollars Where They Will Help You the Most!
Relatively simple yet essential aftermarket upgrades for your chosen bugout vehicle will increase both durability and reliability.
1. Cargo Racks
Carrying as much gear and extra water and fuel as possible should be top priorities when upgrading your BOV. Gobi and Baha make some of the largest and most durable universal cargo racks on the market.
2. Winch Kits
If you get stuck while bugging out, calling a tow truck will definitely not be an option. Winch kits are not a high-end item and should be considered an essential BOV upgrade. Even durable winches can snap when too much pressure is applied. When it is fiscally feasible, but a back-up winch kit – you might be very glad you did after the SHTF.
Upgrading both the front and rear bumpers will give you a bit of a budget hit, but can make a huge amount of difference when attempting to reach safety while traveling through an area plagued by civil unrest and obstacles. CBI, Shrockworks, and ARB, are known for their incredibly strong bumpers.
4. Fuel Storage Tanks
Upgrading to either a larger capacity fuel storage tank or having a secondary tank installed – or both, will substantially increase your chances of making it to your survival retreat. Portable fuel storage tanks and vehicle-mounting kits are a less expensive aftermarket BOV upgrade, and should be include in the build even if the existing fuel storage tanks are enhanced.
Even if you have zero desire to talk to strangers while fleeing the chaos sparked by the doomsday disaster, being able to hear what others are saying – especially the government, is still important. Knowing if you are about to enter a dangerous area, government checkpoint, or nearing a clogged roadway will only happen if you have an open line of communication with the outside world.
HAM radios and old school CB radios might already be a part of your at-home preps. Purchase a second device specifically for the bug out vehicle and have it installed and routinely checked to ensure both that is it working and its range in the terrain you will be covering on the trek to the survival retreat. Remember, radios typically work with less clarity and strength during inclement weather and in seasons where the leaves are on the trees.
Embolden the factory installed lighting on your bugout vehicle to extend the range of headlights and light bars. It gets mighty dark out in the woods – and after the power grid fails. LED headlights can cast a ray of 24,000 lumens! The cost varies greatly; you can find 24-inch LED light bars on Amazon for less than $100 but some LED lighting systems, depending upon quality, can cost up to $1,000.
Making the right bug out vehicle choice to suit your family’s specific needs and the terrain you will be driving over after the SHTF, could be the most important decision of your life. The ability to reach safety and supplies will determine if you live through the doomsday disaster, or become a victim to its aftermath.