Saturday, March 3, 2012

Van vs. Truck for Bugging Out

Hey Fernando,
First, fantastic book! I’ve read it twice and referred to parts of it many times. Both your book and your website are invaluable.
I have what might seem to be a dumb question, but here goes anyway. I am about to buy a new vehicle. Years ago I had a pickup truck and when I had it always said “I never want to be without a pickup truck”. Well, after many years of good service it died, and I ended up with a minivan, thanks to the family life. After a little while with it, I grew to love it and began to say “I never wanted to be without a minivan”. Anyway, the van has died and I’m now trying to decide which to get. On the positive side for a pickup truck are things like ground clearance, ability to throw absolutely anything in it, and oh by the way it’s a truck. As great as all that is, I found over the years that the minivan was almost better. Taking the seats out gave me tremendous space, and it was all enclosed, all the time. So if I had “stuff” in it and it was raining it did not get wet. If I wanted to stop someplace I didn’t have to worry about someone walking by and taking things out. As dumb as I feel like it sounds, I really cannot figure out which might be better if something bad breaks. Everyone thinks the truck is better, but I’m not sure. Any thoughts??

Hi Terry, thanks for your email. Its not a dumb question, it actually makes a lot of sense.
Sometimes the things you see on the internet about Bug Out vehicles are funny or plain sad when you can tell that a person actually is preparing for real for a fantasy he came up with.
You often see these huge 4×4 tucks, expensive to keep fueled, expensive to repair, that sit on a garage waiting for that “golden horde” and if something remotely like that ever happens and you happen to get to use that said vehicle, it has a 10 MPG efficiency… meanwhile your sissy ecofriendly neighbor covers five times as much distance per gallon on his Prius. It doesn’t make much sense does it, to waste precious and scarce gas on a vehicle designed mostly for off road when a real bug out or emergency situation still means you’re on roads 95% of the time or more.
As always the answer lies in between the two extremes, that place of common sense that survivalists so often miss.
Your points about the minivan advantage are correct. The only thing that I feel may be missing is capabilities in case of that rare 1-5% chance of needing four wheel drive and better ground clearance. I’ve had years of experience living with roadblocks, sometimes you couldn´t avoid at least one every single day. At times it got ugly and violent. What I learned from that was a)I want a vehicle that can go up a boulevard or sidewalk if needed. B) I want a vehicle that can go through dirt, mud, snow or sand if I need to do so. No, not badass off roading, just from a practical perspective of having to go off road for a bit to avoid trouble. I’ve seen cars trying to go across an ordinary grass field with a bit of mud here and there and the guys with 2WD would get stuck while the ones with 4WD sailed right across it without a problem. Yet since this will be done rarely a SUV with 4WD would do good enough, and clever selection may still land you one that is financially viable for everyday driving.
AS you mention, the minvan gives you a lot of space that you can actually use often. What you describe is correct, your stuff doesn’t get wet and you don’t have to worry about anyone stealing from the open compartment. Its not dumb, its a matter of practicality. If you have to sleep in the vehicle, you can move the seats and you can sleep there rather ok. Sometimes you see trucks with these fiberglass or fabric covers, which seems to be a poor solution.
If you consider these things, you see that you need a minivan type car with acceptable millage, ground clearance and 4WD capability. Certain SUVs come to mind, and when I came across your same predicament I ended up with a used Honda CR-V. It wont be winning any off road comeptitions but it gets you almost anywhere. The 2.0 litre isn’t a powerhorse, but well within the speed limit and the speed I usually drive at anyway. It does have a nice amount of cargo capacity for a medium sized SUV and its dry and well secured. Just a couple days ago I had a couple brand new bikes for the kids and various other shopping bags in the trunk, and still we could leave everything in it while we went to have dinner. With a truck you have to be more careful or keep an eye on it while you grab a bite.
Sometimes SUVs can be a pain so choose wisely. Two car dealers that I’ve talked to recently told me they only buy and drive Hondas or Toyotas. These two have been pretty consistent in terms of quality and reliability. Either the Honda CRV or Toyota Rav4 are good models. Toyota’s Land Cruiser is nice as well, but try keeping it realistic in terms of how much engine you need.
Take care and good luck!

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Anonymous said...

A motorcycle accessories dealer I recently met told me, "I only drive Hondas because I can't afford downtime".

Honda makes some really nice minivans!

Being on a budget and having had a Volvo 740 several years ago, I recently got a Volvo 850. Volvo's first front wheel drive model. AWD is best, but in slippery stuff, front wheel drive isn't far behind. Good for slippery conditions. No it can't offroad it with the stacked up 4X4's, it probably can't do Paris-Dakar, but it will get stuck a lot less than many more 'macho" vehicles. If I'm really worried, I guess I could rig a winch for the front, and make sure it's compatible with the barricade-buster bumper that would come next. Or say screw it and move to Ireland and nip off to the pub.

For sheer room as OK gas consumption, minivans can't be beat. But for a lot of all-around stuff, Swedish-made Volvo wagons are worth considering.

For really big hauling, I'd consider a full-sized van, we're talking Ford F250-F350 size. They're big, they're mean, they gobble gas, and they can move a LOT of stuff. You'd better have money to burn, or be in a situation where when you turn the key, you're making money. But now you have the equivalent of a large truck bed, and all enclosed and secure.

Ryan said...

The Hyundia Santa Fe and the Ford Escape are a little bit bigger than the CRV. Both are available in AWD/4WD and with sufficiently powerful engines.

Anonymous said...

Nissans and Mazdas - pretty much anything made in Japan - are pretty good too.

We just went through selecting a new vehicle and one of our requirements was seating at least 7 people at once - we aren't leaving elderly parents to fend for themselves.

One of the main things that would force us to bug out is a severe weather event so "light off-road capability" was a must. We usually get at least one heavy snow a year and one windstorm strong enough to knock down trees.

Hence we needed something with 4 wheel or all wheel drive to better deal with snowstorms and to give the ground clearance needed to go around obstacles or through soft ground after heavy weather.

Our final choice was a mazda cx-9 and I have to agree that fuel consumption is a big issue. Then again that's why they invented jerry cans.

Joseph said...

I have a Nissan Pathfinder...while trucks are great, you really only need them for oversized or heavy cargo. Plus, trucks gulp gas and are expensive to maintain...for bug out situations, I'd think a van or small suv is right up your ally...just be sure to check on reliability, first and foremost.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love my Honda Pilot. I have 4 kids so the CRV is not big enough for me.

Anonymous said...

Recently facing the same choices - I opted for a 1986 Chevy Suburban half ton 4x4 with the 6.2 diesel engine.

It gets 15.5 mpg in town and 21 mpg on the highway and cruises at a comfortable speed.

It's very roomy inside and with the back seats down you've got considerable sleeping or hauling space.

To me it combines the best features of both a pickup and a van.


lemmiwinks said...

Maybe you can have both?

gaga said...

The naming terminology for these cars/mini-SUV is a Crossover. They are based on a car with higher suspension and 4WD.

Another example is the Suzuki SX4/ Fiat Sedici, a CHEAP 4x4.

351wsl said...

I've owned sedans (Ford, Honda, Audi), mini-vans (Honda), and SUVs (Honda CRV), but the best all-around vehicle I've ever owned is a Honda Ridgeline. It's a 5 passanger, 4 door, AWD pickup truck with a water-tight trunk under the bed. It has a unibody so it rides like a SUV. The bed is carbon fiber so scratches won't rust it. It has a 6 cyl. engine. I get 19-20 mpg highway. 139K and still going strong. I'll eventually sell it and buy newer one just like it. FWIW

Anonymous said...

One should consider the total cost of ownership. An old Chevy 4WD pickup does get lousy MPG, but are so simple to work on if you are so inclined, one can restore or repair these vehicles, or afford to have it worked on. In the NW, to be without a 4wd assumes that the road will always be plowed and graveled. However tire chains do work well. Back in the day, most folks did not have 4wd.

BTW. According to the Sec. Def., the U.S military now derives it's authority from the UN and NATO, and no longer from Congress. "We The People..." no longer have a say or actual representation. We are seeing that a comparison with Argentina has limitations.

Anonymous said...

Three observations from Ukraine:

1. Fuel may not be available, and no fuel = no go. Therefore, fuel efficiency is critical.

2. Diesel is generally preferable to gas, as not only is fuel efficiency better, but it is easier to make local diesel substitutes. These may be far from ideal, but the only thing going.

3. Drive whatever it is that the locals drive in your area. That way parts will be available. No parts = no go.

Note that these observations may contradict one another, depending on your individual situation.

Alex said...

I would respectfully disagree that mini-vans are better than a mid size 4x4 pickup. The solution to the rain issue is to put a camper shell over the bed, which generally have blackened security glass. I ride my Tacoma 24/7 this way and never any issue with rain or theft. The truck has great clearance and is going practically anywhere in 4 wheel drive. The Tacoma even has axle lockers in the stock model. I am experienced on off road driving (not an extreme offroader though), and I can say I love the flexibility of this arrangement. Smooth on the road, convenient, and excellent clearance and traction off road.

recon said...

a toyota 4runner or nissan pathfinder, 90's model, is both cheap and efficient. the 4runner is a 4door version of the famous Hilux pickup, which is known for its unparalleled durability. they have plenty of clearance, are offered in 4wd, and get reasonable gas mileage out of their V6 engines, 17-20mpg for a '95 4wd 4runner.

for a larger family one could turn to the '01 chevrolet tahoe, with available 3rd row seating, which is removable for a LOT of cargo space. The 5.3L engine sucks a little less gas than the small block 350 of the model year before, but is slightly less bulletproof. This SUV will cost a few grand more than a 4runner but certainly has its advantages.

For apocalypse-prep (which is rather unrealistic btw) a 87-99 Chevy 1500 Silverado is probably the best bet. Parts are dime a dozen and any mechanic can work on them. They among the easiest vehicles to learn to work on, and are quite reliable. Of course, this is speaking if you are in USA.

For the original poster, i would either go with a 4door pickup with a topper over the bed, or a midsize SUV with good all-terrain tires. minivans have their benefits but they are easy to get stuck when not on pavement.