Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Choosing a Bug Out Vehicle

While I don’t feel that the term “bug out vehicle” reflects precisely what I’m going for in this article, I’ll use it anyway because I think most of my readers will quickly understand what I mean.
The Bug out Vehicle is supposed to be the vehicle used to escape the city when disaster strikes. While some events may force you to do so, what I want is a vehicle that could be used for such scenario, but also covers both several other scenarios that are more likely, and at the same time works for the mode typical mundane use. Maybe  “Survival Emergency Vehicle” would be a broader definition, one that includes the possible bug out scenarios but takes into account other considerations.
Without wasting time lets go right into what we’re looking for.
Financial Crisis considerations: This already being a fact and not a “what if”, there are certain points to keep in mind so that our vehicle responds to the economic crisis part of the equation as well.
*The vehicle should be affordable. I suppose few of us have money to throw away. Without compromising on quality, buying used tends to save you lots of money that can be put to better use. As a rule of thumb if you buy a vehicle that is three or four years old and has less than 40.000 miles you’re still looking at a relatively new car that has many years ahead of it, and you’re buying it for a fraction of what it costs.  10.000 miles a year tends to be standard, be suspicious of cars that have much more or much less than that and check that the general wear of the car insides matches the miles its supposed to have.
*The vehicle should be known for its ruggedness and reliability.
*Repairs should be easy to make, hopefully you’ll be able to do at least some of your own, so easy to understand car mechanics and engines would be best. The model should be popular enough so that mechanics are familiar with them and spare parts are both easy to find and affordable.
*Regarding efficiency, this will be a vehicle that you’ll be using mostly for driving on good roads. Maybe it doubles as your daily driver or commute car, so good millage is very important so as to be affordable to keep it fed. Even in some evacuation scenario or emergency that requires driving long distances, fuel efficiency means you get to cover more miles with less of your scarce fuel resources, or using whatever you manage to scrounge around.
*If possible, manual would be preferred. It uses less fuel, its mechanically more simple and you tend to have more control of the vehicle.  In some situations such as when wounded or when there’s a driver with no experience with manual transmission, then automatics are and advantage, so both have their pro and cons.
*It should be able to deal with some off-road driving, drive across mud, snow and sand. Even if this vehicle will be dealing with paved roads 95% of the time, you don’t want to get stuck during an emergency or if you ever have to drive around traffic or blocked vehicles. Because of this, the vehicle should have the option of 4WD. The chances of you needing it aren’t high, but if possible it would be good to have that alternative. Here we will have to compromise to a degree because off road capability, good road driving and efficient gas millage tend to be mutually excluding. Don’t forget that a fuel efficient soccer mom van may take your entire family and gear twice the distance a fuel thirsty 4.0 4×4 can. Not to mention that its much cheaper to driver on daily basis. Think SUV or light off road capability, you don’t need a monster rock climber.
*The vehicle should be small enough so as to maneuver around debris, car wreck, or whatever may be blocking the road. You want a car that has some muzzle, but agility makes for a more convenient vehicle for daily driving and when you need to move fast during emergencies as well. At the same time, it should be big enough to fit your entire family and your supplies.  Again we’ll have to compromise and go for some medium sized vehicle, not too big, not to small, but something that seats 5 with room to spare. You might get away with a smaller 3-door SUV if you’re on your own but always plan on needing some room later on.
Some Recommendations
Here’s a video I found on the Honda CR-V. This one would be one of my first choices. Honda cars have the same reputation as Honda generators. They just work and keep working after others die.

My second recommendation is the Toyota RAV4. This is a nice little vehicle and has acceptable gas millage. Its also pretty good as an off road vehicle.

Join the forum discussion on this post!



panika2008 said...

Toyotas are *great* cars regarding durability. Unfortunately - at least around here in Europe - spare parts are quite expensive. Yeah, you don't buy much of them over the car's life span because it malfunctions rarely. Just a thing to keep in mind - not the cheapest car to maintain.

OTOH Honda cars, in my and my friends opinion are not quite as great as Honda generators. They tend to fail much more frequently than Toyotas, while spare parts are just as expensive.

I would definitely choose a Toyota, even though the spare parts are quite expensive.

Anonymous said...

Scott Williams wrote a book on Bug Out Vehicles, might want to look that up and see if its worth purchasing.

We own a Suzuki XL7 and Chevy Tracker, both of them have given us great mileage and service and are VERY maneuverable. Their lack of foreign parts is put off in that they don't need them - reliable vehicles they are. But small, not something you would want to transport your people AND take supplies, even with a roof pod just wouldn't carry a lot of items. Thats where a pick-up or van come into play.

Watchful said...

I personally own a 96 Jeep Cherokee for this purpose.
The 4.0 inline 6 cylinder is known for its durability.
It's a Jeep, so can easily handle light off-road. (can actually handle some pretty serious off-road)
There were a bajillion of them made, so parts are easily sourced and cheap. It doesn't stand out as a "prepper" vehicle. It has enough room to get what most folks need, but its still small enough to be easily maneuverable.

Overall, I am very satisfied with my choice.

Anonymous said...

I am looking for an old (70s-early 80s) Ford F-150 with the inline V6. I have several sources that I trust that recommend them as quality vehicles which would be immune to an EMP, have good capabilities off road, can haul and aren't gas hogs (not as efficient as the mini-suvs described here however). Can anyone recommend a website that has good info on these type of vehicles? I am looking for a good forum.

Keep up the good work Ferfal and don't let the whinners get to you.

panika2008 said...

I don't think you guys understand what FerFal means by fuel economy. It might come as a surprise to you, but it's quite normal in Europe for a decent 4WD car (including RAV4's) to be equipped with a 2-liter non-turbo engine that run above 30 mpg on normal roads (<8 liters per 100 km).

You really don't need a V6 in a bug-out vehicle. It's not a tank anyway, just a car. It will not run through swamps even with a 2000 HP quad-turbo ;) A large engine is even more of a liability in times of crisis than under a normal situation.

Anonymous said...

+1 the Jeep Cherokee

FerFAL said...

Yes, that's what I mean. From a practical point of view if we look at it that way we soon see that this vehicle will be used on the road, and verry little off road, mostly as a matter of emergencies. These big 4x4's that are huge but also waste a lot of precious fuel! For real bugging out and sensible SHTF situations that dont specifically imply goign off road acorss the Amazon jungle you dont need those cool huge 4x4s.

Anonymous said...

our 11 year old minivan will most
likely be replaced by this model:
it's wheelbase is narrow enough,
the cargo area holds enough, and
the engine gets enough gas mileage.
(no...i don't work for Ford)

Anonymous said...

I am getting 26-27mpg with my non-turbo ex-mil K5 blazer with a 6.2L J code diesel.

seen here www.opensourcesurvival.com

Honda CRV is fine for a daily driver (we have one) but ours hit an embankment at 20mph or less and was out of service for weeks while we waited on parts. The K5 can be part sourced from junk.


Anonymous said...

I would say don't get a car get a motorcycle or a scooter. You won't get stuck in traffic they get good milage easy to store. If you live in the city and need to get out fast that is the way to go, a motorcycle or scooter can weave in and out of traffic. I heard an ex CIA guy talk about it and he owns a bike just so he can get out of the city.

Anonymous said...

People underestimate the offroad ability of some smaller cars.

When I was a kid, my parents rented a little jeep to drive up a trail on Pike's Peak, Colorado. We had trouble getting to the top of the trail, but when we got there we found a family in a Volkswagon Beetle had parked at the top.

Catawissa Gazetteer said...

Definitely the Cherokee. Ours has 230,000 miles on it, gets 20 miles to the gallon, will literally climb the side of a mountain (done it), drive through a river (done it), pull trees out of the woods after you cut 'em down (done it) and then happily drive you to work every day, 100 miles round trip (do it every week). It's basically built om WWII technology so it can be fixed by anybody with basic car repair skills. In fact, every time I work on it it seems that the way it's designed it was built with repairs in the middle of nowhere in mind. Replacing the front hubs on my 3/4 ton Dodge diesel truck took a couple days; the Jeep, a couple hours. Parts are cheap and available everywhere.

The single biggest weak spot is that they rust.

You can find them used all day long for $5000 or less. Even if they have high mileage I wouldn't be afraid to buy one if it's been decently maintained. I know people with over 300,000 miles on the original engine and drivetrain.

I just saw it in a magazine article a few months ago that rated it one of the top ten most indestructible vehicles ever built. (http://bit.ly/d5Q50M)

David said...

Lots of cars have a following on Internet forums, where enthusiasts discuss repairs and common-sense after-market parts.

Trackers, Jeeps, RAV4's, etc., all have forums (I assume) and getting advice on limited slip differentials, forged internal parts, and such would be a treasure trove of information. People swap parts and tips and all sorts of stuff, making the vehicle owner an "operator," not just a driver.

I would assume most of these vehicles will handle increasingly crummy roads better than the average family sedan.

Anonymous said...

Lots of Subarus here on the East Coast. I have two, one with 130k and still fine. Not super cheap but last a long time and have constant 4WD and go through any weather. Get a used one cheaper. They keep improving the mileage, now about 28 mpg for me.

If I could convince my wife, I'd keep a street legal small off-road scrambler motorcycle in the garage for emergency. You can get them quite cheaply. Ah, well.


Anonymous said...

I can see how little cars would have better than average off road ability. The distance between the tires is alot less and as long as it has sufficient height from the ground it shouldn't get stuck. It being a lighter car would take advantage of an engines power and it's smaller size would come in handy when slipping through tight areas. And mini vehicles like the Mini cooper and Volkwagen Beetle are famous for being very tough. They also have a large fan following which will help with repairs and parts.

Crash test performance and safety features are also important. Car crashes are not that uncommon.

I think if you do the proper research, find a reliable mechanic and keep your car maintained, including buying the most likely parts to fail ahead of time. You should be alright in your car choice. Alot of poor but skilled and honest mechanics, will work for cash and install parts.

NHSteph said...

Subaru Subaru Subaru!!! All-wheel drive, great capacity, durable and good clearance with reasonable fuel economy.

Anonymous said...


When Katrina happened, the bicycle was faster than the auto. A good touring bicycle can hold 4 to 5 pieces of luggage and have enough gears for most situations. It can be brought inside. No gasoline needed. Highly maneuverable and if a diamond frame, easy to pick up by the top tube and haul.