With an uncertain future on the horizon, it’s time to start taking precautions for your family if you have not already. A bug-out vehicle is a crucial part of any emergency or survival plan. This article will teach you how to build your own, buy one, or plan out what type of vehicle would work best for you and your family in various situations so that when shit hits the fan you are ready!
To be fair, I am writing this post, thinking mostly about SUVs, pickup trucks, box trucks, bug-out trailers, etc.  I am not really focusing on Bug Out Bikes, motorcycles, hand-pulled carts, cross country skis, boats, etc.  I just want to set expectations.  I mean your Bug Out Vehicle could be a shopping cart for all I know… But like I said, we’ll focus on the SUV(ish) BOV today.  For most people the car, truck, van, or SUV is going to be the most common mode of transportation, barring an EMP that may disable many vehicle types.

What Type of Vehicle Should I Buy?

A bug-out vehicle is a crucial part of any emergency or survival plan. When I was single, my Bug Our Vehicle was my 1990 Jeep YJ. Now married to Mrs. Prepper, and having Kiddo Prepper running all around the house, today I have a barely modified 2018 Toyota 4Runner as my get out of dodge vehicle. I know some of you are cursing me because you may think I need a pre-1980 something in the event of an EMP. While I’ve written a bit about EMPs in the past, I am less worried about them today than I am a cyberattack on our power grid, or a physical attack on the major substations throughout the country taking down parts or all of our grid. To me, these are more viable options than spreading radiation globally…
There are three main types of vehicles that would be optimal as a bug-out car: The Bug Out Vehicle You Already Own If you have an existing high clearance truck then this could already be the perfect bug-out car solution for you. Be sure to check with local laws on whether it can actually be used off-road because sometimes certain trucks cannot leave city roads due to their height or other restrictions. If you have an SUV or wagon, these can also be great bug-out vehicles as long as they have some off-road capabilities and are able to carry the necessary supplies. If your only mode of transportation is a small car, don’t worry – there are options for you as well! You could consider purchasing a trailer that can attach to your car which would give you more space for supplies. The downside to this option is that it will limit your mobility if SHTF if you do have to go off-road.
A note on other types of vehicles.  Scott B. Williams an author who wrote the book “Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It’s Too Late” is partial to motorcycles due to their agility.  Don’t limit yourself if a lifted off-road vehicle does not fit your needs for yourself.  There are many options out there

Buying a Bug-Out Vehicle

The Bug Out Vehicle You Need To Buy if you have the budget, and do not already own one is a “high clearance vehicle with off-road capabilities.” This is what I did with my 1990 Jeep. It was already lifted… I did put a rebuilt motor and transmission in it. I also pulled out the back seat and put in a steel Tuffy box for security. Put on a new spare tire carrier, rock climbing bull bar, etc.
Your Bug-Out Vehicle does not have to be a monster truck, just one with some ground clearance so that if you do have to go off-road a bit, rocks, stumps, etc don’t take you out of the game of getting to a bug out location. These types of vehicles can often be found used and at a fraction of the price of buying new. Be sure to do your research and find a vehicle that is right for your needs, is mechanically sound, and that you are comfortable driving your family in. Some factors you may want to consider are the size of the vehicle, how many people it can hold, off-road capabilities, fuel efficiency, and storage capacity.  In hindsight, I mostly impulse purchased my Jeep.  Had I done more research, I likely would have chosen a different SUV…
If you have not already built or purchased one, this article will teach you how to build your own, buy one, or plan out what type of vehicle would work best for you and your family in various situations so that when SHTF, you are ready!  Places I generally look these days to find a good used vehicle for Bugging Out would be craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.  I use FB Marketplace more than CL today, but CL is still worthy of looking, in case you find something that is worthy of your cash.

Building a Bug-Out Vehicle

I guess you could say my Jeep was a hybrid of Buy and Build. I think most people will be in the same boar… However, if you are mechanically inclined (I am not) you may want to go out buy your base vehicle and start outfitting it… Building your own bug-out vehicle may be the best option for you and your family depending on the size of your family, the number of preparations you may be transporting, the terrain you are transporting over, etc. This can be a great project to work on with your family and friends – everyone can pitch in and help build the perfect bug-out car for YOUR needs. There are endless possibilities when it comes to creating a DIY bug-out car – from modifying an existing vehicle to constructing something completely new from scratch. If you decide to build a vehicle from scratch, be sure that the materials and tools needed are available in an SHTF situation for repair and replacement. I used to carry spare parts in my Jeep, as well as a set of tools just in case I needed an ad-hoc repair.

What Type of Fuel Should I Use?

Another important factor to consider is what type of fuel your bug-out car will run on. The three main types of fuels for vehicles include Gasoline, Diesel, and Electric Hybrid. In general, gasoline is going to have greater storage capacity than diesel but it’s also flammable so there’s a higher risk if not handled properly or accidentally ignited. A hybrid could actually work well as a bug-out vehicle because they get good gas mileage which would increase the range before needing refueling while still being able to carry plenty of supplies with room over! They can also switch to electric mode if the situation allows for it. So, what’s the best fuel for your bug-out car? I have prepper friends that swear you need a diesel-fueled vehicle, and nothing else. It really depends on your needs and what is available to you in an SHTF situation, what you are comfortable with, and where you may or may not be able to store an additional vehicle and fuel.

What Should I Pack in My Bug-Out Vehicle?

Now that you’ve decided on a type of bug-out car, it’s time to start packing it with gear for the road! The list of items you’ll need will vary depending on your specific needs but some basics include:
  • food
  • water
  • IFAK/first aid kit
  • firearms (local laws apply)
  • ammunition (local laws apply)
  • defensive weapons (local laws apply)
  • shelter
  • tools
  • cooking utensils
  • hygiene products
  • cash
  • extra gas cans
  • Maps of the local area(s) you are starting from and going to
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellent
  • Multiples copies of important documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, etc.
In addition to the basics, some other items you may want to consider include:
  • farming supplies
  • hunting equipment
  • canoes or kayaks
  • fishing gear
  • tools for repairs
  • clothes and footwear
  • blankets
  • road flares
  • etc…
My 4Runner has enough gear in it that my Get Home Bag can also act as a Bug Out Bag, and has many (sans guns, ammo, etc due to state laws) in it ready to go at a moment’s notice. This will likely be replicated with a new Bug Out Vehicle that can better serve the entire family in the future.

A Quick Note on Bug Out Locations

What if SHTF while I am away from home? It’s important that your bug-out plan and vehicle are ready to go, and this includes getting to your bug-out location where the rest of your family will meet after leaving their homes. This is especially crucial if there are children involved – they won’t be able to travel as far so it’s best to have a safe place picked out already for fallback or rendezvous! Have multiple fallbacks and/or bug-out locations in mind just in case one becomes compromised somehow whether by weather, disaster, or human intervention. Your meeting spot should also be easily accessible by whichever mode of transportation you choose – don’t pick an area that would require a long hike from your bug-out vehicle if you can.

Conclusion What should I do now?

So, what are you waiting for! Whether it’s building or buying – get started on creating or acquiring the perfect bug-out car today and always remember to leave yourself an out when prepping because the best-laid plans don’t generally survive first contact with a SHTF situation.
Start thinking about how you’ll create/acquire a BOV of your own right away! You can also begin researching locations where you could meet up after leaving home if SHTF while still at work/school/etc. These places should be easily accessible by whichever mode of transportation(s) is used in case everyone leaves their homes at different times so they won’t all arrive together.
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We’re a group of suburban preppers in the Northeast and live in the NYC suburbs that write The Suburban Survival Blog to talk about preparedness and self-reliance out there to help others prepare for what could be an uncertain future due to economic, weather, and other reasons.