Bug-out Vehicles: What to Look for When Picking the Right One for You

Preppers have a lot of options when choosing their bug out vehicle. Do you go with something that is large, durable, and can tow a house, or do you opt for something that can go off-road and gets great fuel efficiency? It might seem like the options are endless, but with a quick look, we will see that the options are a bit more limited than you might have thought.

In this article, we will break down what qualities to look for when choosing a bug out vehicle. You will learn what qualities are the most important and why. By the end, you should have a pretty good idea of what makes a good bug out vehicle and what is right for you.


  1. Suspension

This is by far the most important factor to consider when you choose a bug out vehicle because it will ultimately determine where you can and cannot go. Without question, you will want to make sure that you choose a bug out vehicle which can go off-road.

If you do not, then that means you will not necessarily be able to access valuable resources and will have to more carefully plan your routes of approach and escape. Remember, a bug out vehicle is meant to travel through the worst of conditions. The absence of a navigable road definitely qualifies as part of the “worst conditions.”

As such, the ability to go off-road is simply too valuable to ignore. Even more than fuel efficiency, the ability to take routes others cannot follow trumps pretty much everything else. Of course, this affects both the actual suspension as well as the drivetrain.

With the suspension, there are specific off-road aftermarket kits you can get. Many vehicles will come with off-road capabilities. But most consumer cars will only be somewhat capable in a true survival situation. Jeeps and Land Rovers are two makers that are known for providing excellent off-road capabilities.

With the drivetrain, the only one that matters is an all-wheel or 4-wheel drive. Unlike front of rear wheel drive which only uses 2 wheels to move the vehicle and 2 wheels to effectively direct it, all-wheel drive moves and directs the vehicle with all the wheels simultaneously. More advanced all-wheel drivetrains can even make slight adjustments between the wheels to provide even better traction.


  1. Fuel Efficiency

Despite the fact that suspension may be the most important feature for your bug out vehicle, fuel efficiency is still vital. That can be taken a couple different ways depending on how you look at it. The first way to look at it is the most obvious and refers to how far a single gallon or liter of fuel can take you.

How many miles or kilometers to every gallon does the vehicle get. Of course, this will depend on what type of roads you are driving, how fast you are driving, and how much weight you are carrying. That last one is not usually that important, but it is more important for bugging out.

Without running your bug out vehicle through a number of tests, your best guess will be the fuel efficiency on a highway using all-wheel drive (if it is an optional feature). For your bug out vehicle, you will ideally want the fuel efficiency to be at least 40 mpg on the highway. Keep in mind that there are a lot of aftermarket changes you can make to the engine to increase fuel efficiency.

The other way of looking at fuel efficiency has less to do with the miles per gallon and more to do with the fueling options. Most of the time, these alternative fuel sources will not work in a survival situation. However, there are a number of aftermarket alterations that you can make to your bug out vehicle to completely change its fuel source.


  1. Speed

Like a lot of the other considerations on this list, speed can be taken a couple different ways with one of them being more important than the other. The most common way of thinking about the speed of your bug out vehicle refers to top speed. This is the absolute fastest your bug out vehicle can go in the current circumstances.

Despite what it may seem, your bug out vehicle’s top speed is probably not that important. Because fuel will be so scarce, you are going to want to drive slowly to conserve gas. The only time you would drive at top speed is to escape danger. And even then, you would only drive at top speed until you have gotten out of range of the threat.

The speed that turns out to be more important is your bug out vehicle’s acceleration. There are a couple of reasons for this but most dangers will only require a short burst of speed to clear a small threat area. This means that it is more important for your bug out vehicle to get to 30 or 45 mph than it is that it drives up to 120+ mph.

Acceleration is also important because it will affect your the suspension and handling of your vehicle. Specifically, your bug out vehicle’s acceleration can be used to help control the vehicle–especially when you are driving it off-road. If you are a skilled driver, you can even use the acceleration of your vehicle to prevent a spin out or other forms of lost control.


  1. Durability

We are going to keep the dual interpretations but with a more familiar example. In this case, durability primarily refers to two things–both of which are important. With durability, your main concerns need to be with the mechanical reliability as well as the structural integrity.

Mechanical reliability refers to how long your bug out vehicle can work without needing to be fixed. Some of these processes are continuous throughout the life of the vehicle. Things like changing the oil, replacing the brake pads, and other general maintenance will need to be done more to less depending on the vehicle.

Of course, when most people consider the mechanical reliability of a bug out vehicle, they think about the engine. In fairness, there is a good reason to worry about the engine’s reliability the most. Aside from the fact that the engine is what powers the entire vehicle, it is also much harder to fix without modern technology.

The other side of durability, structural integrity, refers to how well the body can withstand abuse. Dune buggies are famous for their structural integrity. While they may seem like little more than toys, dune buggies can often flip end-over-end numerous times without sustaining significant damage. Try doing that in a Prius.

Keep in mind, structural integrity can also refer to how well your bug out vehicle can handle the elements. A large, refurbished truck from the 1970s might be able to take a hit and keep going, but the steel it is made out of will not withstand the elements as well as vehicles made of newer materials.


  1. Carrying Capacity

It might seem a bit odd that we rate this quality so low. The reason for this is because you can always repack and rearrange to squeeze out a little more space. You cannot simply make the engine run better or change the suspension so easily. That is why the factors you cannot control are more important than the one you can.

Still, the carrying capacity is actually a combination of factors. Obviously, the amount of physical space enclosed by your vehicle is one way of looking at it. But many preppers will connect a trailer to their vehicle to increase the carrying space.

Doing this, you do not really need to worry about the physical space in your bug out vehicle if you plan ahead. However, the trailer and all of its contents will still need to be pulled by your bug out vehicle. In this instance, you want your bug out vehicle to have a large towing load.

While there are a number of different things that affect how much your vehicle can tow, the biggest factor will be the engine’s torque. This differs from speed in that it is not how fast the engine can run but with how much force it runs. It is the difference between a quick, light punch and a slower, harder punch.

One thing to keep in mind is that there will always be a trade-off. If you do not want a larger bug out vehicle, the trailer will provide more storage space at the cost of maneuverability. Similarly, a large bug out vehicle will almost certainly have poor fuel efficiency. Good fuel efficiency for a 3-axle vehicle is not good fuel efficiency for a survival situation.



As we can see, there is not going to be a single bug out vehicle that is the best for all people. That does not mean that we cannot still narrow down our search. Ideally, we want a bug out vehicle that can go off-road with superior suspension and all-wheel drive. It also should be fuel-efficient with any additional fuel source being gravy. We are not really worried about top speed, but decent acceleration is nice. Finally, your bug out vehicle needs to be durable inside and out with some ability to tow. With this list of qualities, we are likely looking for a Japanese-made pickup truck or SUV. To learn more about bug out vehicles and all things prepper, check out our in-depth bug-out bags guide.




About the Author:

Conrad Novak is a proud father of two children. His journey as a prepper began when Hurricane Katrina hit and he lost his job due to the 2008 economic crisis. That made him realize that everything can change for the worst in a very short time. This experience was the detonator for him to pursue learning and becoming better prepared to face the kind of unexpected disasters that may occur at any point in our lives. You can read more of his content at SurvivorsFortress.com


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About the Author: Conrad Novak

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